A first glance at Google Analytics may be confusing. We admit sincerely, it can be downright overwhelming, as there is A LOT of information to dive into and digest. However, we found that with a few quick pointers you can be well on your way to creating meaningful value from the data Google Analytics presents. To illustrate this, we’ve boiled down some of the key uses for Google Analytics into a simple guide for you to begin actually using the tool in an effective way. Starting with the metrics you should start watching.
Initially, you’ll want to create a simple report to track performance, changes, and share with others. To get started, make a copy of this Google Spreadsheet that you can use for your report.
Metric to Watch: Pageviews
We’ll start by looking at page views, This tells us how much traffic our website is getting. This is important because everything on Google Analytics is calculated and shown by how many people visit the site and what pages they visit during their session.
Note: There are differences between the metrics Google Analytics shows for this. Users are calculated by the number of people that actually go to the site within a given timeframe. New users are pretty self-explanatory, and sessions are the individual visits to the website. The difference is that any given user can generate multiple sessions within a timeframe, i.e. an individual user will only be counted once in a month, but if they came to your site five times they will have generated five separate sessions during that time.
Metric to Watch: Acquisition Channels
The next super important metric is with acquisition channels. In order to get a solid bird’s eye view of website traffic, it’s important to know where people are coming from specifically. There are several ways that one can get to your website, and they are defined by the following categories:
Traffic that comes to your site by typing in the URL directly in the web browser.
Traffic that comes to your site via organic searches (i.e. search engines).
Traffic that comes to your site via SEM (Search Engine Marketing) campaigns, i.e. Google Ads.
Traffic that comes to your site via Display Ads that can be served using Google Ads and other Display Ad campaign resources.
Traffic that comes to your site from a link on another website (backlinks), for example a website hyperlinking to your home page or other web pages on your domain.
Traffic that comes to your site via Social Media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc) posts / links.
Traffic that comes to your site via email marketing campaigns with links provided in the email broadcasts.
The distribution of where your traffic comes from is important, as it gives an idea of where you have presence. For example, if you are getting a lot of Direct Traffic, that shows that people know your brand and already have it in their minds to go to your website directly. If you have a good organic presence with many ranking keywords for your site, that will contribute to a healthy flow of Organic Traffic, and so on and so forth.
Metric to Watch: Conversion Rate
Conversion rate is the percentage of visitors that complete an action (aka goal) on your website when they visit the site. This could be filling out a contact form, downloading a white paper, or making a purchase on your website. This could be considered the most important metric of behavior that Google Analytics provides, but why?
This is the metric that actually provides value (or potentially provides value) to your business vis-a-vis income. It’s what actually delivers an initial, direct touch with a potential client / lead. In order to maximize Conversion Rates, it is imperative to first and foremost define the action(s) that are most important to your business. The next step is to set up Conversions on the site. There are several methods for doing this, but one of the most direct resources is provided by Google Analytics already with their Goals feature.
Metric to Watch: Bounce Rate
Bounce rate is the percentage of people who land on a page of your website and then leave without exploring the site more by going into other pages.
This is certainly an important metric, but it is relative to the purpose of the website / landing page. Sometimes having a high bounce rate is not a bad thing at all. For example, if you are sending visitors to a landing page with a specific CTA (Conversion), then the goal is not to have someone discover more about your company, but rather to accomplish the specific goal of completing the Conversion (filling out a form, making a purchase, etc).
Note: If a website visitor completes a Conversion on a webpage before leaving, Google Analytics does not consider it a Bounce.
*Bonus* Action to Take: Compare Over Time (Period vs Period)
The trends of diversity of traffic coming from the respective channels can be best observed and analyzed over periods of time. In order to truly get perspective, data is needed, and it will take time to collect.
Month-over-month comparisons, year-over-year, etc can provide a better idea of what marketing efforts are providing the best returns. For example, if you notice that the proportion of Direct Traffic vs Organic Traffic starts to grow over time, it means that more people are already aware of your brand and go directly to the source instead of finding you via relevant keyword searches.
It goes without saying that conclusions drawn are merely conclusions based on observations on collected data, but data tells stories. That is one of the incredible aspects of Google Analytics, you can literally dive into many aspects of visitor interaction. This allows you to learn not only about what clients think about your business, but also give you a direct perspective of what your business is, period.
Conclusion of Top Google Analytics Metrics
This running list of important Google Analytics metrics serves to empower people to use it and give an idea of the incredible amount of information this resource provides. While the previously listed metrics are really important, there are certainly others that can give people a better idea of how visitors interact with their website, and ultimately the digital representation of their brand.
We felt it would be appropriate to help you navigate this powerful software, so you can draw your own conclusions from the data for future marketing campaigns and / or website modifications.
Ultimately, the metrics that are important to you and your company are dependent on the type of business you run. If you are an e-commerce company, for example, you may want to dive deeper into the Demographics or Geo metrics Google Analytics provides.
We will expand on this list in the future, but we thought this would be a fitting and applicable starting point. In the meantime, we are curious to know, what other metrics do you find valuable and look at frequently?
If you want to dive even further into your website's statistics you can find out more in our post about Valuable Data Points in Google Search Console.