11 Jan A Beginners Guide to Google Analytics
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We get lots of requests from clients asking us to help them understand Google Analytics. Unfortunately, the initial onslaught of information, charts and graphs when you access Google Analytics can be a bit daunting to say the least. In this article we will look at some basic concepts that will help you to start using Google Analytics as a meaningful part of your marketing strategy.
For those of you that may be entirely new to this, Google Analytics is a set of tools provided free of charge by Google, that gather information about visitors to your website.
Setting it up
Getting Google Analytics up and running is a pretty simple affair. The only pre-requisite is a Google Account (Gmail address or a Gmail hosted mail account).
Head over to http://www.google.com/analytics/ and click the Access Analytics button.
Sign in using your Google Account credentials when asked and then hit the sign up button on the next screen.
Fill in the required fields on the following form including the main URL for the website you want to track. At the end of the form click Get Tracking ID.
You will then be given some lines of code that need to be added to every page of your website. The easiest way to do this is to email the code over to your developers and have them add it to your website templates. Most content management systems have settings for adding Google Analytics tracking IDs, so if you are maintaining your own site, have a look at your documentation.
Once you have added the tracking ID you may need to wait up to 24 hours for data to started being collected.
What’s this all about then?
Lets take a closer look at the essential elements of Google Analytics. There are four key areas and reports that we will look at; Audience, Real-time, Acquisition and Behaviour. I’m afraid we won’t be covering goals, conversions and ecommerce in this article but I will cover these in a separate article.
- Real-Time – Shows you what’s happening on your site right now.
- Audience – Tells you more about who is on your site and what devices they are on.
- Acquisition – Tells you how your visitors found your site.
- Behaviour – Tells you what content visitors interact with.
It is worth mentioning that Google Analytics defaults to the last 30 days when generating a report. You can change this using the date selector at the top right of the page.
- Sessions – The total number of visitor “sessions” to your site
- Users – The total number of unique visitors to your site
- Pageviews – The total number of pages viewed on your site
- Pages per Session – The average number of pages viewed per session (visit)
- Average Session Duration – The average amount of time visitors stay on your
- Bounce Rate – Percent of visitors that leave your site after viewing only one page
- New Users – Percent of total visitors who arrived at your site for the first time
The Audience reports provide you with information about who is visiting your site. The initial graph shows you how many Sessions (visits) your website is getting per day over the time period selected. You can also change the report to show hourly, weekly or monthly figures. The report also defaults to Sessions rather than Users. Sessions is the sum of all visits to your page including returning visitors. Users on the other hand only tracks unique visitors once and is a more accurate traffic indicator in my opinion.
You will also see some other useful figures. Bounce rate, is the number of people that view a single page and then leave your site. Generally a high bounce rate is bad, as it shows Google that a lot of people arrive at your site and don’t find it useful enough to engage them in viewing multiple pages. Bounce rates do vary a lot between different industries so it is hard to give a good target. As a rough guide, anything over about 50% should be of concern.
The Audience overview also shows you the average time a user spends on your site before leaving, the average number of pages they read and the percentage of new visitors vs returning visitors.
There are a number of sub-reports available under Audience. The ones you will most likely want to look at are Demographics, Technology and Mobile.
Demographics lets you see all kinds of interesting data that Google gathers. At a basic level, it will show you the gender split of your website traffic as well as the age ranges of your visitors.
Under Technology you can access the Browser & OS report. This lets you assess which browsers your visitors are using right down to the exact version number if you click on each one. This is great for determining how much time and effort you spend on legacy support.
Finally for this section you have the Mobile report. Mobile browsing is fast overtaking desktop browsing, so you need to keep an eye on this one. If you start finding two thirds of your traffic are using mobiles and tablets, then maybe it’s time to bite the bullet and have that Mobile First Re-design that you’ve been putting off.
This should give you enough to start gathering and analysing information about who visits your site and what devices they use. It may also throw up some interesting insights. For example, you may have assumed that your target market was 25-34 year old men only for the data to show a much higher percentage of 18-24 year old women using your site. This would allow you to start readjusting your marketing and content strategy to engage more effectively with this market.
Real-Time shows you information about visitors currently connected to your site. The report shows you where in the world your traffic is coming from, how many pages are being viewed per minute along with information about traffic sources and pages being accessed.
This report might seem like a bit of a gimmick at first but it has real value when tracking the impact of your marketing efforts. You can watch the traffic roll in after starting a special offer, or after posting a new blog etc. If you don’t see the results that you had hoped for, you can adapt your marketing effort to try and increase traffic straight away.
Acquisition tell us about the sources of traffic to our website. Generally there are four sources of traffic, Direct – where the visitor typed your address into the address bar, Organic – where the visitor found you using Google’s search results, Referral – where the visitor clicked a link from another website that led to your site and Social – which is almost the same as Referral but is limited to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
As a general rule you want Direct traffic to be the bottom source. If this is high, it is indicative of not enough social media output, SEO content and link building to build significant traffic from the other three core traffic sources.
If we look at the other sub-reports in Acquisition, you will notice the Keyword report. This is, unfortunately, less useful than it sounds. If you take a look, you will probably notice the majority of Keywords are (not provided). This report really comes into its own when used as part of a PPC campaign. Don’t worry though, we can find more useful Keyword information a little lower down in the Search Engine Optimization report under Queries.
This report shows you where your website ranks in Google’s organic results. The report shows you the average page position for each search term as well as how many times someone clicked through to your website. This is great for tracking your SEO efforts.
Just under Queries you can view a report called Landing Pages. This shows you which pages people are landing on when they first arrive at your website. Again, this is great for tracking and measuring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns that have an associated landing page attached to them.
The last set of reports we will look at are the Behaviour reports and we will focus on two important sub-reports.
The first is Site Content – All Pages. This report gives you a breakdown of page views for specific pages of your website. It also tells you how long people spend on each page and what percentage of people leave after any given page. This report is great for revealing problems with content. If you have a long blog article with a very low average time on page, then people are not engaging with it properly and you may want to revise it. If you notice a page with a particularly high exit rate, then it may contain something that is putting off potential customers from contacting you or making purchases. This is often seen on eCommerce site T&Cs and Shipping Information pages.
The second report worth your attention is the Site Speed – Page Timings. Page loading times are important for SEO so you need to make sure that your site is as optimised as possible. If you notice a particular page has a higher than normal average load time, then it may indicate an issue with content that you need to address. This is commonly seen in content managed sites where images have been added without appropriately resizing first.
Google Analytics is an amazing tool for website owners and we have really only scratched the surface in this article. Hopefully this guide has given you enough insight to start using some of the core reports and metrics available to you. Stay tuned to our blog for our Intermediate and Advanced Google Analytics guides over the coming weeks.