Google Analytics (GA) is an amazingly powerful tool. Better yet, it’s free! Even some paid packages don’t offer the level of data or flexibility of the mighty GA.
With many clients though, we find that GA has been installed on their site –after being told by their SEO team, PCC specialists and company director that they need it – but that they aren’t taking advantage of the many insights and data it offers. These can really help you understand what’s happening with your website and in turn, how its performance is affecting your business.
Some of you may be thinking that GA is only useful for big corporate or e-commerce sites, but that’s simply not true – companies of any size can use it to find out how worthwhile their website and its content is. This is important, given you’ve probably paid to have it built, have it hosted and then promoted via SEO, PPC and social media.
So, where you do start? What does it all mean?
Let’s assume your GA has been set up and you’re logged in, ready to go. The first thing you will see is your ‘Accounts’ page. Normally, you will have one profile showing here which will be named after your website’s address, or appear under the label of ‘All data’.
After clicking through to the profile, you are automatically taken to the ‘Audience’ section. Here, you are presented with an initial summary of what has happened in the last 31 days.
This is a screen grab from a brand new website (hence the low traffic), but what is important here is those key results – or ‘metrics’, as they are known as in the digital world – which is what I want to cover off today.
Key metrics to focus on
These stats will include:
Visits: This is simply the total amount of visitors your website has had, but is often mistakenly referred to as ‘hits’ – which is the technical term for server traffic, not actual people, which is what we’re dealing with.
Unique Visitors: A unique visitor refers to someone who visits your site for the first time within your reporting period. When they return for a second time, they won’t be recorded as one. As you can see from the above, we had 8 actual visits from 6 individual unique visitors; meaning we have repeat visitors coming back for more – which is great!
Pageviews: This statistic shows the total number of pages viewed during all visits to your site during that period. So, we can see from the above graph that throughout 8 visits to our site, 12 pages were viewed.
Pages/Visit: Referring to the average number of pages viewed per visit, this stat is important for two reasons. A high number of pages/visit could indicates that visitors know exactly where to go to get the content they need, whilst a low number could show that the content they need is immediately in front of them when they enter the website.
Avg Visit Duration: This metric indicates how long your visitors are staying on your site. Bigger isn’t always necessarily bigger in this case, though. Just like with Page views and Pages per visit you need to gauge just what is happening. For example, if you can see a low time spent on site and a high number of pages/visit, then this could show your visitors are zipping around the site as they’re unsure of where to go for what they need.
Bounce Rate: Often, this is viewed as a negative metric – when in fact it’s a useful variable to have. Simply put, bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors that didn’t proceed to other areas on the site after viewing the page through which they entered it. Basically, they came, they saw one page, they left.
A common misconception is that in order for a ‘bounce’ to be recorded, a person must’ve been on site for under 10 seconds. This isn’t true, as even if they stayed for 20 minutes, this would still count as a bounce.
% New Visits: This demonstrates how many of your total visits were from people that are new to your site. Of the 8 visits we’ve recorded above, 6 (8×75%=6) were from new visitors. GA labels ‘new’ visitors as those who haven’t visited the site in the last 6 months… or ever! This can be changed though, by recoding the cookie set by GA. Until you understand your visitors’ habits and typical buying cycle, however, making this change isn’t recommended.
As you can see, you can learn an awful lot from just one GA screen. Why not get comfortable with these metrics and monitor your visitor trends, working out when your traffic is highest/lowest, or which weekday is most popular with your visitors? Most importantly, never make a snap decision based on a small time period. Gather data over a longer period before making any changes to your campaigns or website.
I will go through further sections of GA over the coming weeks and months, to ensure we have covered each section of it properly. We’ll then move on to some additional steps!