Google Analytics is a comprehensive set of tools that tracks visitor behavior on a website. How do people find you? What pages do they visit, and for how long? Where are they browsing from, and on what device, and so on? The data provide direct feedback that will help focus your marketing and outreach efforts.
To log into your Google Analytics dashboard, go to https://www.google.com/analytics, and start exploring (clients, I can provide your credentials – please ask!).
Five reports to pay attention to. Remember, the information should be used to improve your website or your marketing efforts.
(1) On the dashboard you will see an overview of traffic to your site, which includes:
- Number of sessions (visits) to the site each day
- Average number of pages visited per session
- Average duration of the session
- Bounce rate (A bounce occurs when a visitor departs the site immediately – a 40% bounce rate is not uncommon)
- Percent of new sessions (visitors)
Note the time period of the data (upper right), which is usually one month as a default. Consider selecting the entire period that your website has been active, to observe any general trends in the data through time.
(2) Audience > Mobile > Overview. This section will show how many people visit your site using a desktop, mobile, or tablet device, and basic differences in behavior. This might also prompt a test of the responsive design of your site (see Testing Responsive Website Design), to make sure the delivery is good on all platforms.
(3) Aquisition > Overview shows how people arrive at your site, whether by
- organic search (e.g. Google search queries)
- direct inquiries (URL is typed in by user)
- referrals from other sites (e.g. yellow pages online, trip advisor, etc.)
- social platforms (e.g. Facebook)
In the example below, nearly 70% of traffic to the website is from organic search, 17% from direct inquiries 11% from referring sites, and 2% social platforms. You should drill down to find out more about the data. The organic search data may show some keywords that are used to find you, and the referring sites show who is sending your traffic. The data show the importance of different channels for sending people to your site.
(4) Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. What pages do people visit on your site? This section shows
- Page views; which pages are visited most?
- Average time on each page; how long do they spend on the page?
- Bounce rate; how many people leave the page immediately
- Percent exit; how many people leave the site from this page
The data show what people are actually looking for when they visit your site.
(5) Behavior > Behavior Flow. This gives a graphical and intuitive feel for the flow of traffic on your site, showing how people move from one page to the next. The metric shows graphically what visitors are looking for on your site.
The Google Analytics reports provide a wealth of information; we’ve only touched the tip of the iceberg. Combined with Adwords reports, the Analytics are a powerful tool for reaching your customers.
You should check these reports regularly!
Post updated, January 24, 2017.