One of the biggest hurdles with clients is that they are unsure of what they don’t know. Some have never known that they never had Google Analytics setup on their domain – crazy, yes? After setting it up for them, the next question usually is “what am I looking at?”
First off, you can head over to the free Google Analytics for Beginners course and learn a really in-depth knowledge about Google Analytics. I am not Google, but I’ve been working with their products for several years. And I want to share what I’ve learned in this Google Analytics reporting overview article.
If you haven’t already done so, you’ll want to start with the introduction to what Google Analytics is and why you need it post here. If you already know what Google Analytics is and need help installing it on your website then follow this tutorial.
If you’re unaware of what the insides of Google Analytics looks like, then this post is for you. The following is a general look at the overview reports. It should help you navigate within the tool as well as help you think about your marketing goals.
When you login to Google Analytics, you’ll be greeted with this home dashboard view. On the left is the navigation panel where you can access all the reports. There are five reporting views that you can access: realtime, audience, acquisition, behavior and conversions.
Realtime: Realtime is what is happening right now. These numbers will be logged into the rest of your data after a period of time.
Audience: Who is your audience? You can find various metrics of information in this report.
Acquisition: Where is your audience coming from? You can track this by organic or direct traffic, or you can track your campaigns with custom parameters.
Behavior: What is your audience doing? You can see how long they are on your website and funnel them into a conversion.
Conversions: Check if you are achieving goals or tracking if people are completing a purchase.
Realtime reporting allows you to monitor activity as it happens on your domain. The reports are happening real time. The best use of this view is to make sure that your Google Analytics is live on your domain and recording hits properly. If you are using UTM Parameters to track your marketing efforts, then you can test your campaigns to verify your tags.
In this report, you’ll be able to see how many users have been on your website during the period of time selected in the upper right-hand corner. You can toggle the dates to review different data, but at the bottom you’ll need to know what the metrics mean to interpret the data.
New Users: If no cookies exist in a user’s browser, then a new cookie is created. From the screenshot above, there were 51 cookies in total, but only 34 of them are brand new cookies.
Sessions: Sessions are the number of visits to your domain. This means that some of the users visited your domain more than one time. For example, a user visits your domain then closes their browser but eventually loads your domain again. These are counted as two different sessions per the Unique ID firing upon page load.
Number of Sessions per User: This is the average number of times each user visits your domain.
Pageviews: The number of pages that have been viewed during the time range selected. Every page that loads counts as a pageview. If a user reloads, refreshes, or hits the back button a pageview is recorded for that user’s session.
Pages / Session: This is pageviews divided by visits. This metric shows the average number of pages viewed per a user’s visit on your domain.
Avg. Session Duration: This metric is recording the time when the user’s session starts until the session ends. If you have a high bounce rate, then this metric will generally be low since all bounces are calculated as zero seconds. A bounce will be recorded if a user lands on one page then immediately leaves.
Bounce Rate: A bounce is a visit with only one pageview. Length of time spent on the page isn’t factored into this metric.
The acquisition report shows where users are coming from. This report is sorted by default channel groupings:
Direct: This is traffic where the referrer or source is unknown. If you type a URL into the browser, this traffic is direct.
Organic Search: This is traffic from search engine results page. If a user conducts a search on Google and clicks a URL, then the user shows as organic traffic the your domain.
Paid search: These are visitors that come to your domain from Google Ads or other paid search
Social: These are visitors that came to your website from a social platform.
Referral: These are visitors that come to your domain from another domain by clicking on a link.
Email: If you’re tracking your links within an email using UTM parameters, then the traffic linked to those is listed here
Other: If you’re tracking your links using UTM parameters, then the traffic linked to those is listed here. A lot of times I see incorrectly tagged UTM parameters show up under the Other channel. This should give you some insight and how to clean up your UTMs. See below for erroneous UTMs:
The Behavior section is one of my most frequented reports. I am always viewing the Site Content > Landing Pages report for my clients. Not only can you view the URL traffic, but you can also switch over the Page Title. I like this because it can give you a glimpse of the what is appearing in the tab of each page.I can see that I have errors from this view in how I’ve setup the titles, which is something I need to fix.
Unique Pageviews: Unique Pageviews is the number of sessions during which the specified page was viewed at least once. A unique pageview is counted for each page URL + page Title combination.
Avg. Time on Page: The average amount of time users spent viewing a specified page or screen, or set of pages or screens.
Bounce Rate: The percentage of single-page sessions in which there was no interaction with the page. A bounced session has a duration of 0 seconds.
% Exit: %Exit is (number of exits) / (number of pageviews) for the page or set of pages. It indicates how often users exit from that page or set of pages when they view the page(s)
There is no Conversions Overview on an Google Analytics accounts. There are extra steps that you need to setup in your Google Analytics account for data to appear in this section: ecommerce tracking and Goals.
You need to spend some time reviewing your data and understanding it throughout the various reports within Google Analytics. So get in there! Google Analytics is a very powerful tool for you to have in your toolkit.
Insight: If you have high direct traffic to you website, then you probably aren’t using UTM parameters in your marketing efforts. I would seriously look into starting to add UTMs. Also, quickly review the Other channel to review mis-managed UTM tags. I will have a post on this in the future.