Google Analytics is by far the best analytics tool for websites. If you’ve ever wondered how your website is performing online, signing up for Google Analytics (GA) will tell you virtually anything you want to know regarding your site’s traffic, rankings, consumers and so much more.
For those of you already set up with GA, you’ve probably spent some time trying to figure out which reports are most important. And if you’re like most people, you left the tool feeling confused because you couldn’t figure out how to get all of the great data that everyone talks about seeing in GA. This is normal.
Many of our clients come to us asking how they can use GA to find out how well their site is performing, and so I decided it was time to write a step-by-step guide in order to demystify the glory of GA.
So, let’s get started…
What Google Analytics Tells You
By the time you’re done reading this beginner’s guide to Google Analytics, you’ll be able to find out:
- The number of people who visit your website each day, week, month, and year.
- Where people who visit your site come from, such as Google’s search engine, social media, or another website.
- The websites that have linked to yours, which can also bring you traffic.
- Web pages that are visited by the most people.
- How long people spend on each web page.
- The number of visitors who have converted in some way.
All of this data will help you understand what you need to do to improve your site for your consumers. The first step is to find out how many people come to your site each day, week, month, and year.
How to Find Traffic Information with GA
Website traffic information is on your Home page of GA. This page is likely the first page you’ll see when you login to your Analytics account. Once you log into Google Analytics, and on the left side, you will see a sidebar with the word “HOME.” Click that, and you should see your Google Analytics Home.
This dashboard shows you:
- Traffic for the last seven days (default time frame).
- What time people are most likely to visit your site.
- How many people are on your site at that moment.
When you scroll down a little, you will see:
- Where people are coming from when they visit your site. You will likely see “Direct,” “Organic Search,” “Social Media,” and then “Other”.
- You will also see which countries people are coming from when visiting your site.
Scroll again, and you’ll see:
- Your most popular pages.
- How many active visitors you’ve had over time.
- What types of devices people use to visit your site (mobile vs. desktop).
The last section is your user retention, which is how many people come back to your site.
As you can see, the dashboard gives you a preview of just about everything you want to know about your site’s traffic. You can then dive deeper into the information.
Scroll back up to the top of the page until you see the traffic information from the last 7 days. You will see this on the bottom left corner of that section. Click on the arrow to reveal different time frames, such as today, yesterday, last 7 days, last 28 days, and last 90 days.
There’s also an option for a present range, which lets you choose from: quarter to date, last 12 months, this year, and last year. If you click on “Custom,” you can select specific date ranges to see the traffic you’ve had during that time.
If you click on AUDIENCE OVERVIEW, which is on the bottom right hand side of this same section, it will bring you to a bigger view of your traffic.
You can then select to see traffic numbers from each hour, day, week, and month. You can also see how many sessions people have had, the number of pageviews, average session duration, bounce rate, and how many people return to your site after visiting the first time.
As you scroll down, you will be able to learn more about the demographics of your traffic. For that information, simply click on:
- Browser (Desktop)
- Operating System (Desktop)
- Service Provider (Desktop)
- Operating System (Mobile)
- Service Provider (Mobile)
- Screen Resolution (Mobile)
To the right, you’ll be able to see what languages your visitors speak. This can help you decide if you should include content written in different languages.
Want to learn even more about your visitors? You can do that in the demographics section.
Learning More About Demographics
Once you’re done browsing the traffic information section of GA, you can learn more about your visitors in Demographics. Look to the left side of the screen for the sidebar and click on Demographics. This will bring down three options: Overview, Age, and Gender. This information can help you determine if you’re targeting the right audience.
Here’s an example:
If you sell women’s clothing, and you have mostly men visiting your site, you know there’s something wrong because your website is not attracting the right consumers. The same goes for age. With this information, you can make changes to your site to better target the right audience.
You can also learn about your audience’s interests, location, and behavior on the site. Click on each of those sections, and then click on one of the menu options that drops down. As you look over these, you will be able to see how many people for each interest visited your site, where they came from, and what they did while on your site.
Knowing about your visitors is just as important as knowing where they are coming from online. That’s what ACQUISITION will tell you.
Where People Find Out About Your Business
Knowing where people are finding your website helps you decide what you need to focus on when it comes to promoting your business online.
Look over to the left side where the sidebar is, and click on “ACQUISITION.” This will drop down a menu with Overview, All Traffic, Adwords, Search Console, Social, and Campaigns. The overview gives you a snapshot of the top channels where your audience comes from, such as whether they typed in your site’s URL directly, found you through organic search, social media, or another channel.
Click on All Traffic on the left side of the screen under ACQUISITION for even more information. This will break down how many people visited your site from each channel, and all of the details of their visit, such as how many sessions they had, bounce rate, pages per session, average session duration, goal conversion rate, goal completions, and goal value. You can select the date range you would like to see this information for as well in the right hand upper corner of the chart.
If you are using AdWords, you can see how those campaigns are performing in respect to the people that visit your site. The Treemaps and AdWords sections on the left sidebar will show you the traffic numbers and the details of what that traffic did while on your site.
Still under All Traffic, you will see Referrals. This is what you want to click to see what websites bring you traffic. This can be helpful if you’ve been focused on link building and want to see which sites have helped you grow your website traffic. This section details which sites people came from, and then what people did when on your site. Again, it tells you how many sessions, bounce rate, average session duration, and pages per session.
You can find out how well your social media campaigns are working for you by going to Social on the left sidebar. This will show you how many people visited your site from each social network, how many pages they visited, how long they stayed on the site, and and if they converted.
Getting the information on where your visitors are coming from can help you adjust your Internet marketing plan. Before you do that though, it might be helpful to know how people behave on the site, so you can increase the chances the new visitors will convert.
What You Can Learn from Visitors’ Behavior
To tailor your site to meet the needs of your visitors, take some time to analyze the BEHAVIOR data on GA.
GA tells you which pieces of content have been the most popular on your site. Simply click on BEHAVIOR, and then click on Site Content. Click on All Pages to see a list of the pages people have visited. They are listed with the most popular ones first.
Go back to the left and click on Landing Pages to see how well your landing pages have performed. This is a great way to see if your landing pages have been effective in converting people.
You may want to check out Exit Pages too (again on the left side under BEHAVIOR > Site Content > Exit Pages). This tells you which pages people abandon. Use this information to see what you can do to save that consumer. The page might be missing something that your consumers are looking for, or you may just need to turn up the heat and provide an attractive offer on the page to help them make their final decision.
Spend Time on GA to Make the Most of It
Google Analytics is full of information you can use to improve your website for your consumers. Start off slowly with it, so you can digest all of the data. As you become comfortable with it, you can move on to more detailed reports. Google Analytics will deepen your understanding of what people are doing on your site, and what your website is doing for people. Before you know it, you’ll understand why GA is THE most important tool to anyone who is interested in running successful digital marketing campaigns.
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