5 Tips for Understanding Google Analyticsby Valerie Noel, Bayshore Solutions Digital Marketing Account Manager

Google Analytics is a free tool available for use on any website. After a simple installation of the analytics script, all activity on your site will be recorded and ready to be analyzed. The team of marketers at Bayshore Solutions utilizes Google Analytics regularly for all of our customers. Analytics provides transparency so that the way visitors interact with your website can be reviewed by anyone. The tips below are just some of the many ways you can use Google Analytics.

Analytics Account Hierarchy

The Admin menu houses all of the settings for your Google Analytics account. Each account can have up to 50 website properties, and each property can have up to 25 views.

A website property is a unique domain or subdomain and a view is a configuration within Analytics that changes what data is displayed.

For example, if you only had one website and no subdomains, your account would be your Company Name and your property would be your domain name. You do not need additional properties but Analytics makes it easy to track within the same account if you do.

Google Analytics profile set-up

Importance of Views

Analytics provides multiple ways to change the way you view the data it records. The easiest is to configure a View that filters out specific traffic you do not wish to track. The most important version of this is internal traffic. How often do you view your company’s website? Do you keep the window open for extended periods of time? Even if you only visit your website rarely, since Analytics tracks everything, the times you go to your company’s site will be recorded and that could skew the data since you are unlikely to take an action on your own site.

Analytics automatically creates a View in your account that will capture all of the visits without any exclusions. You should always leave this view in your account so that it provides a reference point. As a best practice, Bayshore Solutions recommends filtering out your own company’s IP addresses so that internal traffic does not skew your analytics stats.

Audience Overview

The default page you land on when you visit your Analytics account is the Audience Overview Even if you don’t look at any other reports within Analytics this screen will provide a 20,000 foot look at your website traffic based on the metrics below.

Google Analytics main website statistics

  • Sessions – represents the number of visits to your site; this can include the same visitor returning to your site within the selected time range.
  • Users – displays the number of unique visits to your site.
  • Pageviews – the cumulative number of pages across your site that were viewed.
  • Pages/Session – shows the average number of pages visited per session.
  • Average Session Duration – the average amount of time each session lasted.
  • Bounce Rate – a metric that causes a lot of headaches for many website owners! A session is considered a “bounce” when a visitor leaves from the same page they entered. This metric on the Overview page is the average bounce rate across your entire site and doesn’t take into account that sometimes a high bounce rate is automatically a negative indicator.
  • % New Sessions – represents the percentage of sessions that were not repeat visitors.

All of these stats can also be viewed in different areas within Analytics based on where the traffic originated (the “Source”) and how they interacted with your site.

Always pay attention to the date range!

Google Analytics Screen ShotThe date range can be found in the upper right corner of every report within Google Analytics. You have the opportunity to view any amount of time you choose, as well as compare it to previous periods of time (which is a great tool when analyzing trends on your site). As you navigate around Analytics it is important to make sure you are comparing the accurate time ranges that you think you are comparing. It seems obvious, but there have been times when changing a date range has caused temporary panic until it was realized. So as a best practice always glance in the upper right corner and make sure you’re viewing the data for the time range that you want.

Conversion Definition

You may have gone through the exercise (when your website was in production) of defining what action you want your website visitors to take. Is it to complete a purchase? Fill out a form? Make a phone call? It’s important to tell Google Analytics what those actions are so that they can be recorded properly.

The type of action you want visitors to take depends on the kind of site you have and that will affect the way your conversions are configured. If you have an e-commerce site there is specific tracking for that. If you have forms visitors will fill out they will need to be setup so that they can be tracked. The Admin menu is where you would identify your Goals so that Analytics knows what you wish to track.

Google Analytics Conversions reports menu

After your settings are configured, the Conversions menu houses all of the data surrounding your goals. You can easily see how people found your site, what pages they visited, etc.

The information above represents just the tip of the Google Analytics iceberg. For each menu in the navigation there are many sub-menus and other areas to view and interpret the data captured in Analytics. However all of this data shouldn’t scare you away from a high-level understanding of your analytics account.

If you have a website you’d like assistance interpreting and understanding how people use via Google Analytics, contact us today to find out how our marketers can use your analytics data to work for you.

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