The best thing about Google Analytics is that it is 100% free. The bad thing about Google Analytics is… it is difficult to learn how to use.
Google Analytics is literally a data dump.
For the ordinary person who wants to understand basic information about their website, it’s not worth investing the time to learn how to change all the terminology and how to customize the application and to set up conversion measurements.
However, if you can understand the basic things to look for, you as a casual user can extract a lot of useful information.
First things first, be sure to go to Google Analytics’ website, sign in with the account with permissions to access the analytics account (located at the top-right corner), and select your website from the top left drop-down.
Here are 5 useful points you can understand about your website:
Point 1: Learn HOW MANY people are visiting your website and HOW MANY pages they view
Look at the image below. You can see that there are a couple of numbers that tell you how many people visited your website and how many pages were viewed. The default interval for me is 1 week, but you can change it using the top-right dropdown.
This is useful as a general metric of popularity. It becomes more useful when you begin to compare popularity month-to-month or compare to the prior year or see how it changes when you begin advertising for your website.
Point 2: Learn HOW engaged your visitors are
“Engagement” in marketing is important — it tells the owners if users are actually paying attention or are they just skimming through and ignoring things. A great example of low engagement are commercial breaks — your TV might be on, but you might use commercial breaks for the bathroom or send emails.
Some engagement metrics we see are “Pages/Session”, which tell you how many pages were visited by the person during a visit. “Avg. Session Duration” tells you how long people were on your website. “Bounce Rate” is a term I have only seen in online marketing — a “Bounce” is when a user visits one page, then does not visit any other page. Finally, New Visitor vs Returning Visitors is another important number, especially for e-commerce stores where it is common for users to visit a website, contemplate a purchase but don’t, then return and make a purchase later.
Point 3: Learn HOW your visitors ended up on your website
For marketers, it is very important to know how people get to your website. By calculating the cost of the ad divided by the number of visits or the number of sign-ups (or “Conversions”, which will not be discussed here), you can see how effective certain channels are.
There are 4 general channels where your visitors come from :
Organic Search – search engines results (does not include search ads)
Direct – the URL was typed in or it was bookmarked
Referral – your page was linked to from another page or from a newsletter
Social – your page was linked to from social media
and another bonus one: Google Adwords, if you’re using ads by Google. This is so that you can distinguish those visits and determine how effective your ads are.
Point 4: WHAT are your most viewed pages?
The 80/20 rule applies to your website: not all your pages are created equal and not all of them will receive an equal amount of attention. In fact, you will see that certain pages, such as the homepage, will receive 10x more traffic than some pages, which means not all pages are as important.
Point 5: Learn WHAT your visitors use to visit your website
This point will help you understand if you need to possibly optimize your website for mobile viewing. As the cost of mobile devices and tablets has decreased and as the cost of mobile data has come down to affordable levels, we have seen more and more of internet usage on mobile devices, with mobile traffic exceeding desktop and laptop usage in 2017. For that reason, you need to start testing your website for various mobile devices, touch navigation, and for smaller screen sizes. Contact us for help with this!