Understand Your Google Analytics

How do you know your campaign is getting the traction you need? How do you know if your message is reaching the right people? How do you know you’re communicating effectively with your target market corresponding to their needs? How can you determine whether you need to make any tweaks to a campaign to enhance its efficacy?

The glib answer would be… “Why, Google Analytics of course!”. Yet, while Google Analytics is a comprehensive and effective reporting tool, it can be extremely opaque to those unfamiliar with its interface and workings.

As a digital marketing company, we believe that our clients deserve to be kept in the loop so that they can see the results in which they’ve invested. Clients will often reach out to us to help them better understand their Google Analytics. With this in mind, we’ve prepared this guide to understanding your analytics to spot yearly trends and put yourself in the driver’s seat.

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Getting to Know the Interface

Google Analytics’ homepage offers you an overview of your website’s performance within your chosen parameters. Think of it as a birds’ eye view of your business’ performance. All the data it presents to you can be a trifle bamboozling, however, which is why we’ll discuss what you need to look at to get a clear picture of your performance shortly.

First, let’s take a look around the interface so that you can access the information that’s important to you.

Understanding the Reports Menu

Successful Website & SEO Management Starts with Strategy

The Reports menu on the left-hand side of the page gives you access to detailed reporting in the following areas:

  • Real-time - See real-time interactions of users with your website. Find out where they have come from and what content they’re accessing.
  • Audience - Here you can find out more about your audience. You can see the demographics of your visitors, what devices they’re accessing your website through and how they’re engaging with your content.
  • Acquisition - Find out which links or social channels are driving traffic to your site and how each traffic source influences user behaviors on your website.
  • Behavior - Learn more about how users navigate through and behave while on your website. This includes data on bounce rates, page views, time on page etc.
  • Conversions - Here you can track users’ specific actions and how your website’s UX prompts users to take those actions.

The Google Analytics interface also includes some cool features which give you more control over your analytics experience. These include …

  • Search - A quick and easy way to access specific reports and help documentation.
  • Customization - If you find the default dashboard too opaque or diffuse, you can set up your own report dashboard and produce custom reports.
  • Discover - This is a cool feature that can help you to teach yourself more about Google Analytics and its tools.
  • Admin - This allows you to access and make changes to your Google Analytics account including changing settings.

So, now we know a little more about Google Analytics’ suite of tools, let’s look at how we can interrogate this tool to find the information we need.

Setting Your Date Range

Here we’re going to look at the big picture with yearly reporting. Google automatically shows the last 30 days of your website activity. You can report within a 24 hour window (to see, for example, how the SEO measures you implemented yesterday are working out for you) or cast your net wider to give you an overview of how you’ve performed this year. To change the default date range just open up your account and click on the three little dots next to your profile picture in the top right corner of the interface. Then click on User Settings and edit your user settings to encompass a 12 month time period. Don’t worry, you can always change the settings for more granular reporting at a later date.

Why Am I Looking Out for Yearly Trends?

We understand that our clients want to be as agile as possible when it comes to managing their digital marketing efforts. However, trends need time to emerge. This is why we recommend looking at the stats from a yearly perspective rather than on a monthly basis. This can be like trying to view a huge mural through a keyhole and present an unclear (or possibly misleading) picture of your performance.

The best, or only time you would need to look at monthly data is when reviewing campaign driven numbers. This will allow you to spot areas in which your campaign can be bolstered by a change of tactics.

So, where should you be looking to ensure that your site has the optimum impact on your target market. Pay close attention to the following metrics…

How to understand your google analytics

Acquisition and Social Overview

The acquisition overview allows you to see which sources drive the most traffic to your website. It encompasses a range of different traffic sources including organic searches, referrals, direct hits where your URL is typed directly into the address bar, referrals from other sites (i.e. backlinks) and referrals from social platforms. This can help you to identify whether your attempts to leverage a social influencer are resulting in the clicks you’d expect or that referrals from other brands are paying dividends in terms of site traffic.

Within the Acquisitions feature you’ll find a Social Overview tab which will show you how much traffic is coming from your social platforms and how much of that traffic leads directly to conversions. This can help you to determine whether you’re investing your time and attention in the right platforms.

Bounce Rates

Bounce rates should be mitigated at all costs. While all websites experience some bounce, disproportionately high bounce rates can point to a problem at the back end resulting in a poor user experience or long page load times. A page load time of just 7 seconds can increase your bounce rates by over 30%.

Page Engagement

Page engagement gives you a clear understanding of what pages, posts and content are performing well and which pages are seldom visited. You can see how long users spend on the page and there’s even a plugin for measuring scroll depth. This may be a more telling metric than time on page. After all, you need to know whether a user was actually engaging with your content or simply left the browser window open while they grabbed a sandwich.

New and Returning Users

It helps to know which users are brand new and which have been to your website before. Returning users are more likely to keep returning and hopefully someday soon convert into customers. Once again, this brings us to...

Conversion Rates

Possibly the most important metric there is. After all, if your users aren’t converting, a lot of these metrics can simply become little more than vanity metrics. When you know your conversion rates better, you can put measures in place to promote Conversion Rate Optimization.

How We Can Help

Once you know your Google Analytics reports a little better you can better track how your website’s performance measures up against your goals. We can help you to put an actionable strategy in place to meet those goals while tracking your progress towards your defined parameters for success. And with a fuller working knowledge of Google Analytics, you’ll always be in the driving seat!

Need help setting up, configuring or just have questions about your website's Google Analytics? Contact webmarkets for a free consult.