So you’ve added Google Analytics to your website, but now what? You know the importance of website analytics, but the sheer volume of data that Google Analytics tracks can be overwhelming. And not everyone knows where to begin or what they are looking at.

Understanding the Basics of Google Analytics Reports

Previously we deciphered the terminology of Google Analytics.  There is a lot of jargon in Google Analytics that may be foreign to you. So now we want to help you understand the basic information that is collected and have a general idea to determine the performance of your website. So here are some basic areas to understand and keep an eye on.

Date Range: Set before you begin

Data analytics mean nothing without context, so you need to set the date range before you start analyzing. Do you want to see today’s data or last month’s?  When you open Google Analytics, the first step is to set the date range in the upper right corner. You can set a custom date range or choose Today, Yesterday, Last Week or Last Month. Then, you can also compare it to another date range. By doing this, Google Analytics will automatically calculate the percent increase or decrease in all metrics, which is extremely helpful, especially when performing monthly analytic reports.

Audience: Know who is visiting your site

This tab gives you the ultimate basics to know if your web traffic is increasing or decreasing. It will tell you the number of visits, unique visitors, pageviews, pages per visit, average visit duration, bounce rate and percentage of new visits. Further, on the same page, you can view demographics by language, country or city. Knowing the system browser can also help you determine which browsers your website should support and how heavily to focus on mobile users.

Some of the most important audience engagement metrics to consider are:

Pages / Visit – tells you the average number of pages viewed during one visit. The more pages a person visits, generally indicates their level of interest in your company.

Avg. Visit Duration – tells you the average length of time a visitor spends on your website within a specified period of time. Obviously, the longer a visitor spends on your website, the more informative and interactive your site is.

Bounce Rate – this is the percentage of single-page visits, usually people who visit your homepage and then leave the site quickly. You want this number to be as low as possible, but if you have an integrated blog that generates a lot of organic traffic, your bounce rate is likely to be higher.

% New Visits – this is the percentage of visitors that have not previously visited your website. Typically you would want a balance of returning and new visitors to show both outreach and engagement.

Traffic Sources: See where visitors are coming from

The traffic sources tab is important for knowing how your website visitors are getting to your site. Are they coming from a search engine, another website, social media or directly? First, look at the percentages between search, social, direct and referral traffic. Here are some helpful metrics to view:

Search Keywords – tells you which search terms correspond with your website.

Referral Traffic Sources – know where your website traffic is coming from and measure the success of banner ads, guest blog posts or online press releases.

Social – shows the impact your social media activity is having on your website traffic by identifying the networks and content that generate the most engagement and activity.

Direct Traffic Landing Pages – shows where visitors are landing when they come to your site.

By understanding these metrics, you will have a better idea of how people are getting to your website. For example, if you placed a banner ad on a certain site and it is one of your top referral sources, then it may be worth it to continue advertising on that site.  Also, you’ll have a better gauge of which social media channels are giving you the greatest return, in the form of website traffic.

Content: View which web pages interest your visitors

Knowing the top 5 to 10 pages on your website that are being viewed is very important. Is your team page visited often? If so, you’ll want to make sure your team bios are up to date. The Content Overview tab will provide you with most of the information you need. Are there any pages that should be (pricing, contact, resources, etc.) in the top 5 but aren’t? Maybe you need to change the link structure on your website to try to get visitors where you want them or develop new and improve content to replace what you currently have.

If you have videos or premium content downloads on your site, then the Events tab under Content will be valuable. You can view which videos were viewed the most or how many times something was downloaded.

Real-Time: Monitor visitor activity as it happens

Real-Time is a fairly recent feature update in Google Analytics that allows you to monitor visitor activity as it happens on your website. The Real-Time reports are updated continuously and each pageview is reported mere seconds after it occurs on your website. Real-Time allows you to see:

• How many people are on your site right now
• What pages they’re viewing
• Where they are located
• Traffic source that referred them
• Keywords they used to find your website

Conversions: Go beyond pageviews and visitor counts

The Conversion Suite in Google Analytics allows you to see whether or not your digital marketing efforts are working by setting specific goals related to your website and measuring the success of those goals. Conversion allows you to go beyond the basic visitor metrics by:

• Setting up conversion goals and measuring visitor activities that are important
• Learning how visitor behavior leads to sales and conversions
• Improving online sales through Ecommerce reporting
• Seeing the impact of all your digital marketing activities through Multi-Channel Funnels
• Following the different paths that visitors take on your website

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If you are just beginning to dive into Google Analytics or you don’t have a firm grasp of how to make sense of the reports, hopefully this post will give you some basic guidance. We’ll continue to dive deeper into getting the most out of Google Analytics in future posts as we aim to take you beyond the basics and into the key data that will help you understand how your website is performing and what changes need to be made to maximize the effectiveness of your website.