Once you’ve set up your Google Analytics account it’s time to start filtering through the heaps of information now at your fingertips. There are endless ways of presenting the information that Google Analytics provides and it is dependent on your own website which information is more pertinent to you and what you want to see when you first log in.
Google’s web traffic analysis dashboard
The dashboard is the first page you come to and will provide a summary of the traffic information, for the past month as a default. You can customise what you see here depending on what is most important to you.
The Overview allows you to see your website activity over time. Below this are breakdowns of the data by sessions, users, pageviews, pages/session, avg. session duration, bounce rate and % new sessions. A pie chart just to the right of this shows you the breakdown between new visitors and returning visitors. Below this is another breakdown of total sessions which can be filtered by demographics, system or mobile.
The dashboard is designed to let you to get a good idea of your website’s performance in a glance. For more detail on audience and user behaviour you’ll need to drill down into the menus on the sidebar.
Google Analytics Intelligence detects significant anomalies in your traffic patterns and then reports these back to you in the form of alerts. These may be blindingly obvious or quite subtle and can help to prevent you spending hours poring over the data – an algorithm does the stats for you.
There are two alert types in Analytics; automatic and custom. Automatic alerts are generated whenever Google detects a sudden change in the traffic pattern to your website. Custom alerts allow you to define certain parameters yourself.
Analytics Intelligence produces four types of report:
- Daily Events
- Weekly Events
- Monthly Events
Google Analytics breaks your visitors down into multiple categories. You can track the number of absolute unique visitors, the bounce rate, time spent on the site, average and total page views and compare new visitors vs. returning visitors amongst other things. All of these categories will give you insights into how well your website is performing. For example if you have a large number of new visitors this means that many people are not returning to your website – it might be worth working out why.
Sources of traffic
The sources of traffic to a website is key information for SEO. Google Analytics can show you what percentage of your traffic is from direct, referred and organic search and which page your visitors are landing on.
Direct traffic will be people typing your web address directly into the search bar, they will have either visited your site before or read or heard about it offline. Referrals are clicks on links from other websites. Knowing which sites are sending you the most traffic will potentially influence your online marketing activities.
Google Analytics will tell you not only how much of your traffic is coming to your site via search engines, but also what keywords were used. Are these the keywords your site is optimised for? If not you may need to carry out some more keyword research.
Once you have been using Google Analytics for a while you can begin to analyse the keyword data collected so you can understand more about which ones are working for you and identify new keywords you hadn’t optimised for.
Using Google Analytics you can cross-reference traffic sources with the visitor data. This will tell you for example which traffic source has the highest bounce rate. These visitors are not finding what they are looking for on their landing page – why might that be?
Content analysis is vital to understand your top performing content, and where your content is failing to impress. In the content analytics section you can find out which pages get the most views, how long visitors stay on each page and how often they convert.
In the content section of Google Analytics you can also set up experiments to test different versions of web pages to see which get the best results. If your visitors are unable to find what they want on your site quickly they will search within your site. Google Analytics monitors your in-site search so you can tell whether your visitors are finding what they are looking for.
You can also measure site speed and track events like downloads and use of plugins.
Most websites are run to convert clicks into particular action such as buying a product, downloading a text file, or just viewing a particular page. Google Analytics will track these events and compare the actual figures to your customised goals.
The sophisticated multichannel funnel reports track the whole journey of a visitor. This means you can understand exactly how they arrived at conversion, even if they have entered the site via search, navigated, exited and returned directly by typing in the web address. And this can all be presented as visualised graphical data, making it easy to understand.
With so much data provided it’s easy to be overwhelmed. There’s more information on using Google Analytics here but the best way to learn about Google Analytics is to get stuck in and play around with it. You’ll soon pick out the most important information for your own site.