Google Analytics is one of the most powerful tool available today. Best of all, it's free! It is meant to help you measure and improve your website performance. In this article we explain the various key site measurements, how they are calculated by Google Analytic and we will showcase how all this information can be used to continuously improve your website and support your digital strategy.
Google Analytics provides you with a wealth of information about your website's performance metrics. Here are the top 3 reports you might be the most interested in:
- How much traffic is coming to your website
- Where your traffic is coming from
- What visitors are doing once they are on the site
The Analytics Interface
The main Analytics admin page is organized into 5 sections: Visitors, Sources, Content, Goals and E commerce, plus the main overview page called Dashboard, which is the first page you see once you’ve selected a report.
The date range can be selected in the top right hand corner of the screen wherever you are, and this tool can also be used to compare data between different time ranges by clicking 'Compare to' on the date range selection panel.
Visits: The total number of visits in the selected time range, including both new and returning visitors. A returning visitor would be counted twice or more in this number, and so "visits" is a different measurement to "absolute unique visits", which is found under the Visitors tab).
Page Views: The total number of pages viewed in the selected time range.
Pages Per Visit: The average number of pages viewed per visit (i.e. number of page views divided by the number of visits within the selected time range), usually a number is between 4 and 7. Please not - this is quite a tricky metric, as it is not necessarily a good thing if visitors have to look at a lot of pages, nor is it good if they leave the site after only two clicks.
Bounce Rate: The percentage of visitors who leave site without viewing a second page, i.e. they click the ‘back’ button, type a new URL, close the window or session time-out (usually 30 minutes). A good bounce rate is below 20%, 30% is pretty standard, and anywhere over 50% would suggest a close look is needed to why so many people are leaving the site.
Avg time on site: Similarly to pages per visit, Longer or shorter times depend on the website's goals. Expect anywhere between 2 and 10 minutes.
% New Visits: The percentage of visitors who were new in the selected time range; the difference between this and 100% is your percentage of returning visitors.
The Visitors Tab
This tab deals with breaking down how many visitors you have, how many are unique, how many are new and how many are returning. It also gives you an overview of where in the world they are located on the Map Overlay, the main language they use, as well as a breakdown of the software browsers they are using and other technical information.
Traffic Sources Tab
This section deals with where your visitors are coming in from, broken down as follows:
Search Engines: paid and non-paid or natural search traffic, which can be focused in on by clicking the appropriate sub-tab.
Direct Traffic: the number of people who typed your URL directly into their web browser.
Referring Sites: traffic that has come from websites that link to you, and usually also includes the links in emails.
In each case, you can explore more about this visitor segment by source, and compare where your high value customers are coming in from to influence your traffic strategy.
This tab allows you to look at the navigational routes people take once they are on your site, showing which pages are most popular, and where people go from page to page.
The Site Overlay: a great visualization tool for usability enhancement, and can really help to influence decisions in the ordering of content and button placement.
Top Landing Pages: allows you see which landing pages work best for conversion of a particular goal
Top Exit Pages: helps to identify pages that are fail to convince, or do not encourage visitors to stay within the site.
The content Tab also has a section to show the searches are being carried out by visitors within the website, which is a great insight into what people are looking for, but even more so, it tells you which content cannot be easily found on the site, and may need additional prominence within the navigation.
A key concept to understand in Analytics is the 'Conversion' process of a website, which means the key actions you want your visitors to take once they are on your site, also referred to in Analytics as a 'Goal'. In many cases websites will have multiple Goals or Conversion points like buying a product, signing up to a newsletter or creating a user profile.
This section gives us an in-depth look at the various goals / conversion points on your website and helps to identify the pages that may be preventing visitors from converting to customers. A good site conversion rate is said to be 1%, but in truth this varies a great deal depending on the website and the product it is selling.
Funnel visualization: a very useful tool to look at conversion and form sign-up processes, this tool is very useful for identifying the potential problem pages in a step-by-step process that need tweaking. This in conjunction with AB testing and face to face user testing is the optimum method of improving conversion rates.
Using Analytics in the context of strategy
Analytics allows us to accurately measure the performance of a website, and means that a web strategy should be constantly evolving, tweaking both traffic strategy and our conversion processes to optimize the returns for the site. Measure, Learn, Refine and Repeat!