Preface: To learn how to setup Google Analytics, check out our previous blog | How To: Setup Google Analytics
Now that you’ve learnt how to properly setup Google Analytics for your website(s), let’s now take a look at how we can use and read the information that they provide to us. Don’t be scared! I know it cam seem overwhelming with the shear about of data that is available to you, and the numerous ways that it can be displayed, but we are going to help walk you through the steps on getting to all the valuable information you need in the easiest way possible from a small business point of view. In this tutorial we will be using the Analytics from one of our clients – LoveCollide. Big thanks for allowing us to share this information!
1. Access Google Analytics
The first step is to access the Google Analytics site. The address is: http://www.google.com/analytics/. Once there, click on the “Access Google Analytics” button in the top right corner, then you simply log in with your Google account and you will be taken to your home dashboard.
2. Your initial landing page
Once you log in and access Google Analytics, you’ll land on your regular home page. This is the listing of all accounts and properties you have added to your account, with a quick snapshot of how many visitors you’ve had in the initial time-frame, which is a one month period. If you’ve just added your site and don’t see any hits, don’t worry! You’ll have to give it some time before you’ll start to see your traffic here.
Under each property, unless you’ve setup additional views, you’ll see a view called “All Web Site Data” and this is where you’ll access all of your site’s analytics. From the homepage you’ll be able to see the number of sessions, the average time spent on your site, the bounce rate and your goal conversion rate. We’ll explain what these things mean further down. To get to your Reporting Dashboard for your website, simply click on your view, or “All Web Site Data”.
3. Reporting Homepage
Once you are at your reporting homepage, the first page you’ll be greeted with is your Audience overview. This gives you some quick and valuable information without having to dig into the analytics if you want to get a general idea of how your website is performing.
The first section is a plot graph of your sessions broken down by the day. Each dot on the graph represents a day in the timeline that has been selected.
The next section gives you some raw data on website traffic, with a pie graph and new visitors vs. returning visitors. Here is a general explanation of what all this means:
Sessions: This is the total number of times people have came to your site. So, let’s say I go to the site now, go to a few pages and then return to the site in 20 minutes and go to a few more pages, that’s 2 sessions. It’s not the total number of visitors, but the total number of times all of your visitors have come to your site.
Users: This is the number of unique visitors to your site. So in this instance, there have been 771 visitors that have been to the site a total of 1,088 times.
Pageviews: This is the total number of pages visitors in total have been to on your site. So, 771 people have been to the site 1,088 times and have viewed 2,306 pages in total.
Pages / Session: This is the average number of pages that each user viewed in a session. So, for instance, on average people visit the site and view 2 pages on the site before leaving.
Avg. Session Duration: This is the average amount of time a user is staying on your website when they visit. So, a person visits the site, views 2 pages for around 2 minutes.
Bounce Rate: This is the percentage of people that hit your site, and instead of navigating to another page, they simply close out of the site or navigate away to another site.
% of New Sessions: This is the percentage of your sessions that were from a new user, and not a user that has already visited your site.
The final section here gives a quick view of raw data for basic demographics, systems and mobile devices. We won’t go into detail here, because we do that down the page! Just know that once you realize what this data is, it’s a quick way to access it without navigating away.
Segments are Google’s way of breaking up data to be more useful to you. When you first access Analytics, you’ll start with one segment, All Sessions. We can add segments to show additional data to help you visualize certain things like sessions vs visitors, or sessions vs device type. In the segment bar you’ll see a button called “Add Segment”, click there to get started in adding segments.
Next you’ll be presented with a screen that list all segments, and allows you to check which ones you’d like to display. There are several options, and the best way to determine what segments are best for you is to just play around with them!
After you are done selecting segments, you’ll need to scroll down and find the blue “Apply” button, which will set the segments to be viewed in the system.
Now that you’ve done that, you get taken back to the same page as before, but with all the segments you’ve selected in the view, instead of just “All Sessions”.
To remove a segment, simply click on the little drop-down icon in the segment box in the top and in the drop-down, click on “remove” and it will clear out. I’d like to point out that segments are system wide, so whatever segments you have selected, they will be available throughout all of the Google Analytics system.
5. Changing the Date Range
Google Analytics provides a date range picker that is system wide. So, if you’d rather see your data for 2 months at a time instead of 1, you can. You can even view a year’s worth of data at once! The date picker is across the top of the system and is on every page. To change the date range, click where the date is and you’ll see a drop down box with a date chooser. You have two ways of changing the date. You can manually type in the date into each field, or you can click on a start date on the calendar to the left, and then click on an end date and it will fill in the fields for you. After you click apply the date range will be set system wide until changed again.
If you’d like an easy way to change the date back, once you click on the date box again, you’ll see an option that says “date range” with a drop down. Click there and it provides several quick options for changing the date. To get back to the standard view, just click on “Last 30 Days”.
Metrics can be scary because there are A LOT of options, but don’t be scared! There are only a few that you will probably use, and they are mostly used to compare two in the same view. At the top of every page, there is two drop downs to select the two metrics you’d like to view. By default, only one metric is selected and that is Sessions. To change the metric, simply click on the drop down for it and select the metric you’d like to use. You can do this for both sections to view the comparison between the two.
7. Time View
The date range, metrics, and segments are all system wide settings that affect how data is viewed. There is one final setting that affects this and that’s the time view. In the top right corner on each page you’ll see a button bar with the options “hourly | day | week | Month”. This defaults to day and allows you to change how you view the data. So for instance, if you were to choose hourly, you’ll see data broken down by the hour, instead of the day.
This is beneficial if you are viewing different date ranges. Like, if you are viewing only one day worth of a date range, you’d want the data to be presented by the hour. Comparatively, if you were to view the data by the year, you’d want the data to be displayed by the week or by the month.
The audience tab in the left hand side menu is where you’ll find all the information about the users that are visiting your site. Where they are, what device they are using, how they interact with your website, etc. We’ll break down the important sections for you.
Geo offers geographic information about your visitors. Under the geo drop down you’ll find the Location drop down, which will give you actual location based information about where your visitors are visiting from.
You’ll start with a world map. The number of hits are coded by shades of blue, the darker shade of blue, the more hits that country has gotten. You can click on a country to drill down into that country. You can also just hover your mouse over any section to get a quick view of the number of visitors for the section you are hovering over.
Once you drill down to a country, it’s the same thing. You get the same style map with the same color coding and hover ability. You can even drill down further to the state level!
Drilling down to Florida we can see that there are several different locations with different number of hits and that overlapping together. To make it easier to navigate, you can hover your mouse over the section and Google will pop out the information into a bigger panel.
If you’d like to see the raw data instead of viewing it on a map, you can do that as well. At the top you’ll see two tabs, Map Overlay and Explorer, click on Explorer to get to the raw data view.
As you can see, this shows you the same type of information from your overview page, but broken up the location.
This view shows basic behavior of your visitors, such as new vs. returning visitors and the number of sessions and page views that each visitors have. For instance, on the second screen shot, 726 users had 1 total session each, viewing 1,570 pages.
This next screen shot shows the “engagement” or basically the amount of time and pages viewed per number of sessions a user has.
This section gives you information about what technology your visitors are using. What Operating system, browser and what internet network they are on. Pretty valuable if you notice that most of your visitors are using Internet Explorer but your website isn’t Internet Explorer friendly!
This section shows you the number of visitors coming from desktop, mobile and tablet computers and then a break down of what the actual device type was! Again, valuable if you have a high number of a certain device, but your website doesn’t display correctly on that device. This is usually a big driving force in convincing people that their website needs to be mobile friendly, because as you can see, the majority of visitors are on a mobile device.. and these trends will only continue to grow.
The acquisitions section shows you were your users are coming from. Google search? Social Media? Who knows?!? Google does, kinda. They give you an overview of this information on the landing page here which shows you a pie chart of your highest traffic sources, as well as a bar chart of those sources,
Under “All Traffic”, you’ll see an option called channels. This will list the “channel” that was taken to get to your site. I.E. the search term used. If you’ll remember, I said Google “kinda” knows where users are coming from, and this is why. You’ll see that the largest portion of visitors are from (not provided). I’ll explain why.
This used to not be the case. Google used to show this information without problem… But, because of new rules and regulations, any person that is using Google to search with SSL enabled (90%) they are not allowed to show the referring search term in their analytics reporting, as that information is “supposed” to be encrypted, even from themselves. So, while you’ll see “some” of the search terms that are used to get to your site from Google, you won’t see the majority of them, and to me make this section not really that useful. The next section shows the actual referring site, which is very useful. You can see what social platforms people are using to get to your site, or what sites might have back-links to yours.
Under “Search Engine Optimization” there is a section called “Landing Pages”. This gives VERY valuable information as it shows where visitors are entering your website. You can see your most highest ranked content by the number of entries, or how well a social promotion of a blog post is doing based on the number of direct entries into that page.
While we haven’t gone over every aspect of how to use your Google Analytics, we’ve hit on the most important parts and given you the information you need to set things up in a way that will be most useful to you. We will be doing a more in-depth walk-through of every section of Google Analytics in the coming weeks, so stay tuned for that! If you have any questions or feedback feel free to drop us a comment and we will get back with you shortly!