Have you dabbled in Google Analytics occasionally to check the number of views to your site but never taken the time to fully explore Google Analytics? Maybe this is your first venture into the world of website analytics and you want a better understanding of the data in your Google Analytics dashboard? If you have never ventured deeper down the analytics rabbit hole then this beginners guide will help you learn the basics and have a better understanding of the metrics for your website.
What you will you gain from this beginners guide to google analytics:
- A basic understanding of Google Analytics dashboard
- A basic understanding of how to refine the data provided
- The confidence to start using the data to help improve your website and content for your users.
- You already have a live working website
- A google account has been created and the tracking code added to the header on all pages of the website
- You have been provided with login details to access your Google Analytics account
What is Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free indispensable tool for small & medium organisations who want a well-performing website. It provides invaluable data which allows you to understand how users access and interact with your website. With a small snippet of code added to every page header on your website, Google Analytics can track user sessions when interacting with your website.
What data is collected by Google Analytics
Google Analytics can track a variety of different metrics which are essential to help maintain a well-performing website. These include:
- The number of new users & returning users,
- Pages visited, time on pages, popular landing and exit pages
- Where the visitor came from to access the site
- Network location and IP address
- Type of operating system and browser
With some customisation, Google Analytics can also track:
- Completed enquiry forms
- PDF downloads
- Completed checkouts
- Clicks on video
Google Analytics Properties and Views
It is good to understand the structure of a Google Analytics account to ensure your viewing the correct view and data.
The structure of a Google Analytics:
Organisation > Properties > Views
Organisation > Company or organisation account.
Properties > Each website or app is assigned a property. A small business will usually have one property. A large organisation may have several properties for each of its websites and apps.
Views > Each property can have multiple views. A view can have filters applied to show specific data. Its is good to have a minimum of three views; a raw data view (an unfiltered view), a master view (usually with your office IP address filtered out). A test view, to test new filters and not corrupt the original raw data. More information on Setting up views
When a Google analytics account is created, one organisation > one property > and one view of the property is automatically generated.
When accessing your metrics, you want to use your master view (which should exclude internal employees) to provide more accurate data. If you want to learn more about creating and applying filters to views, visit Google Analytics Help.
Overview of the Dashboard
Once logged into Google Analytics, you’re presented with the google analytics menu on the left-hand side and the dashboard (which displays the metrics for your website) on the right-hand side. Depending on what you choose from the menu, the dashboard will change to show the relevant metrics. The dashboard menu offers you several options:
Customisation > Create custom reports and dashboards to quickly access metrics which are essential to your organisation
Real-time > Provides an overview to real-time user data accessing your website.
Audience > Information about your website visitors, data is segmented into type of user, location, device and demographics.
Acquisition > Metrics for how the visitor came to your website.
Behaviour > How visitors interact with your website.
Conversations > Shows data for specific conversations you want to track, i.e. video plays or completed contact forms.
At the top of the page in the header, you will find the property view (where you can select which property you wish to view). The search bar is located next to the property view, use this to quickly access metrics or google analytics assistance. On the far right are options for your google account (not relevant for this guide).
Metrics Dashboard and Display
The dashboard on the right-hand side of the screen is an overview of data collected from your website, showing a variety of metrics with visual graphics. When you first access Google Analytics you’re provided with the insights dashboard. Each insight provides different metrics to indicate how your website is performing, including the number of users, bounce rate average session time. These metrics can easily be customised to display more refined metrics by changing the relevant settings within each insights panel.
The Dashboard Menu
The menu running down the left-hand side is your go-to allowing you to dive into more specific metrics or to display custom reports and dashboards. When you click into each of the dashboard menu options the main window to the right will change to show the chosen metrics or settings.
Customisation allows you to create customised dashboard views and reports. Dashboards display visualised data from your chosen data sets.
Create custom reports to display specific metrics which are essential to your organisation. An example could be a mobile performance report with metrics for the number of users, sessions, bounce rate and the average time spent on the website. Custom reports can be applied to different views within your account and also shared with colleagues or external partners. Creating custom reports
Custom alerts create warnings when specific criteria are met. An alert could be triggered when a high volume of traffic is accessing the website. Alerts can be sent to a selection of different emails. How to create custom alerts.
Real-time reports give you real-time information about the visitors using the website as soon as Google Analytics receives a new hit.
The Real-time data you can access includes; the number of users using the site, their location, the page they are viewing and where the user came from. There are additional options to drill down into more specific data, for example, rather than just seeing the countries and regions you can view the particular cities your users are located when accessing the website.
The audience reports tell you everything you need to know about your website visitors, how many visitors are accessing the website, the number of returning visitors vs new, the technology they are using to access the website (browser and device). For websites with appropriate volumes of data Google Analytics can provide more detailed information about your audience to understand their age, gender or interests.
Active users provide metrics on how many unique visitors were active over a given period which can be refined to 1, 7, 14 & 28 days. Unique visitors are the actual number of users that visited the website as opposed to the number of visits (a user could make more than one visit).
Date ranges work as follows:
If the date range is 1st March to 28th March.
1 day active users are unique users who initiated sessions on the last day 28th March.
28-day users are users who initiated session from 1st March through to the 28th March, across the entire 28 days.
Active users metrics can help you measure the impact of a campaign and how successful your website is at retaining the level of user interest.
Demographic Data & Interests
If demographic data reports have been activated you can receive detailed information about your audience. This data includes the age of users and their gender which could be crucial for marketing campaigns. Find out how to enable Demographics and Interests reports.
User flow provides visual data to show user journeys/paths interacting with the content on your website. Like other data in Google Analytics you can refine the metrics to target specific data, for example, you may want to compare the user journey of new users vs returning users. By clicking on one item in the user flow you can highlight that segment of traffic to easily study the journey through the website.
Acquisitions dashboard provide metrics about how visitors are arriving to your site and what sources the users are arriving from. Accuqisutions are broken into three groupings:
Channel – Groups sources of traffic together for your website, these may be organic searches (search engines), social, direct, referral (links from other websites), paid search (Google Ads) etc.
Medium – Is the subcategory or grouping of sources. This can be organic (search engines), CPC, email, referral. You will notice some crossover of groupings between channels and mediums.
Source – Provides more information about the medium; for example, if the medium is social, the source would be the specific social media platform the user visited from for example Facebook.
Acquisition metrics help you understand what channels are performing well and which ones require improvement or are not providing you with the right level of return for your investment.
In Google Analytics, you can link your search console account to get more information into Google Analytics around keywords used from search engine traffics. More information on Creating a Google Search Console Account and Linking Googel Search Console and Google Analytics
Behaviour reports provide comprehensive data on how users interact with your website content. This data helps you understand the top-performing landing pages, pages with the highest number of exits (pages where your losing visitors) and how visitors navigate your website. You can find out how long a typical session lasts, how long pages take to load and which require optimising.
Conversations are completed activities which are vital measurements of the success of your organisation. The metrics could include the number of the completed enquiry forms, the number of sign-ups to the email newsletter or for e-commerce websites the number of abandoned carts. Conversations are separated into two categories: goals and eCommerce. Goals are easy to set up and can track four categories:
- Destination – a specific location load, i.e. track the number of visitors to a contact page
- Duration – The length a session lasts, i.e. spend 5 minutes or longer on site
- Pages/Screens per session – A user views a specific number of pages, i.e. track if users have viewed 4 pages or more on your website in one session
- Event – An action defined as an event is triggered (these have to be set up_. I.e. video play or a completed enquiry form. More about creating events.
Creating a goal
- Click admin bottom left corner
- Navigate to your chosen property and view (master view if this already set up) and click goals.
- Click new goal. Select either template (choice for pre-created goals by google analytics), smart goals or custom.
- Name your goal and then select the metrics you want to track
Refining your data can help you uncover some real insights which will help you have a better understanding of how visitors interact with your website. Refining your data will help you uncover areas of the website which are performing well or areas which need improvement.
Dashboards and reports data can be adjusted to show data within a given timeframe. This can be useful to see if improvements you’re making to the website are having the desired impact or to see if there are peak times during the course of a year which your website performs better or has more visitors.
Segments are groups of analytics data which you can isolate to allow you to focus on specific groups. For instance, you may want to isolate mobile and tablet traffic or traffic from a specific city. By isolating the data you may uncover issues with your website or high performing types of content or page design.
Segments can be easily applied by clicking on add segment. Up to four segments can be applied.
Table reports can have a secondary level for sorting. Secondary dimensions display an extra row for the secondary dimension you choose. For example, you may want to understand what are the top landing pages via organic search acquisitions (users accessing the site via a search engine). By choosing organic search traffic as the primary dimension (accessed via the acquisitions menu) you can apply a secondary dimension of ‘landing page’. The data shown will be search engine traffic and an additional row will be added to show landing pages urls.
Quick Reference Google Analytics Terms
A significant hindrance for beginners using Google Analytics can be understanding some of the terminology used within the dashboard. The terminology if not known can make it challenging to understand the data presented. Below is a glossary of some of the common unknown terms.
Session – A session starts the moment a user interacts with your website and can be a group of interactions within a given time frame. One session could contain multiple page views, events and e-commerce transitions. A session ends after 30 minutes of inactivity, at midnight or a campaign change (users could access the website via one campaign, leave and then revisit the website via a different campaign).
Bounce rate – Bounce rate is the percentage of sessions where users view only one page and then exit without any further interactions. A low bounce rate is good, and a high bounce rate is bad. The approx average for b2b is 61% and b2c 54.24%.
Direct – Refers to users who accessed your website directly. This may be typing in the website URL into their browser, clicking on a bookmark, or visiting via a link on a non-web document (a link in a pdf). Direct data can be misleading as it is the fall-back option for when there is no data on how a session arrived at the website.
Not provided – Google does not share keyword data of logged-in Google users to protect their privacy. This is lifted for search results acquired through paid advertising Google Ads.
IP Address – Every user has an IP address assigned to the network their device is making a connection to the internet from. It effectively acts a like a digital address for the network. Find out more about IP Addresses.
URL’s – A URL is the website link (address) for a page/directory on your website i.e https://www.yourwebsitedomaain.com/about_us
For each website, specific metrics will be important depending on the goals of the website and organisation. It’s important to think of your website as a tool and what specific jobs it needs to do to be effective. Understanding the goals of your website will help you understand what groups of data are important to track, and then you can begin to customise your dashboard accordingly.
Send us an enquiry if you require additional support for Google Analytics training and customisation services.