Google Analytics is the industry standard for knowing what’s going on with your website. Anyone doing SEO or digital marketing in general likely uses analytics in some way, whether it’s a direct read of the analytics reports or interpretations from other tools or people.
If you’ve ever taken a look at a Google Analytics report, you’re probably aware that it’s not always easy to understand what you’re seeing. But, the report itself is one of the best sources you have for pure, unadulterated data about your website and how it’s performing with users. It’s worthwhile understanding Google Analytics reports, what you can find out through it, and what to do with the data.
Understanding Google Analytics Reports
People are the driving force of every market. You have to learn how they are interacting with you to serve them better. According to research by GetVoIP, customer experience is a strong driver for conversions. If you want people to have a better experience on your site, you have to know what they’re doing there in the first place.
The purpose of Google Analytics is to track, record, and analyze traffic to your site. Using this data, you can make better decisions based on actual facts. If you’re going to get ahead of your competition, you need the right facts straight from the source. Google Analytics is the best place to get traffic data from your site.
Connecting to Analytics
Anyone can get connected to Google Analytics. It’s a simple and straightforward process, and you don’t have to be a Google Analytics expert for this.
If you have a Gmail or Google account already, you can use this to sign up for Analytics. If not, make a new account to access the service.
Select if you’re tracking analytics for a website or a mobile app. Then, choose whether to allow Google to access the data collected on your site or if you prefer not to share it. On this same screen, you have the option to change the name of the account to whatever you want.
The tracking code is copied and pasted into the source code for every page you want to be tracked. Most websites allow you to put this code snippet into a centralized code that’s distributed to all website pages automatically. You can manually put it on every page, but that would be a time-consuming and challenging process.
Reading the Data
What does Google Analytics track? There are seven metrics captured in the audience data reports:
1. Visits – This is a measure of how many users viewed your website. It’s a raw measure of all user views, whether they’re from unique users or repeat viewers.
2. Unique Visitors – As a filter to the first measure, the unique visitor’s metric shows how many unique users viewed your site. Unique visitors are only counted once. They’re differentiated by IP addresses so that the same user is not recorded multiple times.
3. Pageviews – The pageviews metrics shows how many pages were viewed on your website in total. Just like the visits metric, this is raw data that’s not filtered according to unique visits or any other measure.
4. Pages / Views – To get an average of home, many pages are viewed per visit, the total number of pageviews is divided by the total number of visits. This gives an average of pages per view.
5. Average Visit Duration – This metric divides the total time spent on site (a statistic you’re not given) by the number of visits. It’s a rough calculation of the average time each user spends on your site once they get to it.
6. Bounce Rate – Google has an unknown time frame that defines when a user “bounces” out of your site and when they’re staying for a legitimate reason. Your bounce rate is the percentage of users who are bouncing from the site.
While Google does not clearly define this metric, the basic idea of a bounce rate is that the user bouncing took some sort of action to leave your website shortly after arriving.
7. % New Visits – This percentage shows how many people from this session are visiting your website for the first time ever. It’s not directly related to the number of unique visitors in the same period.
Interpreting the Data
All data recorded by Google Analytics is tracked from the moment you implement the tracking code. The longer it tracks, the more flexibility you have to look at the data from different time periods. If you compile enough data, you can get very thorough reports that show trends in user visits and activity on site.
Other reports and data are available, but even with the basic audience reports, you can get a number of important insights into your website and marketing efforts. For example, an increase in your bounce rate over time might show that users do not find your content as helpful as other sites.
A high bounce rate indicates that people are not satisfied with what they find on a page. The exception to this would be if you have a site where getting answers as quickly as possible is beneficial.
Through the Google Analytics interface, you can get reports on real-time interactions with your website, visitor acquisition, conversions, user behavior onsite, and more. By connecting Analytics to your SEO campaigns and integrating as many tools and services as you can into it, you can generate even more useful and complete reports.
Even without full integration into your site, Google Analytics itself gives anybody a clear look into what’s happening with their website. Marketing gurus and newbies alike can glean useful information to help make better decisions.
Limitations of Google Analytics
While it’s a useful source of information, Google Analytics doesn’t tell you everything you may want to know. Because of the secret nature of Google’s search algorithm, the company does not give away every bit of data to users. It’s a good source, but not completely transparent.
Analytics also doesn’t give you any insights into why people take the actions that they do. It’s good to know your bounce rate or the page users usually leave your website from, but it doesn’t build a solid explanation for that behavior.
You may be able to supplement the data you get from Google Analytics with data from other tools or services you’re using. Certain other services will allow you to fill in some of the gaps to get a fuller picture of why people are interacting with your site the way they are and what you can do to get closer to the results you want.
Whether that means beefing up customer service support (through click-to-call, visible phone numbers, live chat, etc.), making better content, changing your landing pages, or otherwise is up to you. The data is there for you to decide how to respond to it. Google Analytics is a great place to start gathering your data.
Overcoming Google Analytics Limitations
Remember that Google Analytics is only the starting point. There are things you can do to supplement what you get and cover up some of the gaps in the data. Try some of these solutions to get the data you need.
Page Analytics is an extension you can add to the Google Chrome browser (product has been deprecated and will no longer receive updates). While it used to be part of Google Analytics, it was removed in 2017 and converted into a separate extension instead. With this extension, you can get analytics information directly on any page you’re visiting.
It connects to your Analytics dashboard and shows you a snapshot of the data measured for that specific page. This is extremely useful when you’re onsite trying to solve problems or make changes. Instead of going back and forth between your Analytics console and your pages, you can get the data about your bounce rate, time on page, exit rate, CTR, and other page data in real-time.
Seeing the data in context can help you get insights into why people behave as they do and what you might be able to do to change their behavior.
Where Google Analytics fails, you can get a plugin (if you use WordPress) to fill the gaps. Certain plugins for WordPress give you more specific data or put your data into the right context for you to use it for decision making. Here are a few plugs in that can help you get more out of Google Analytics:
Monster Insights plugin, allows you to see website Google Analytics data directly from the dashboard, allowing you to see what’s happening without having to leave the backend of the site.
The free version of this plugin has a few other handy features, like tracking outbound links, but for more advanced features like scroll depth tracking, author tracking, track file downloads, see what keywords are driving traffic, set enhanced eCommerce tracking, etc. you do need to pay for the pro version.
2. GA Google Analytics
If you just need simple assistance, GA Google Analytics is a useful plugin for many bloggers or small business owners. This plugin makes it easy to put the Google Analytics tracking code on every page by just pasting your unique code into the box on your dashboard.
Beyond that, you have a few options for managing Google advertising and analytics, with the most useful features being the ability to exclude admin IP addresses from analytics tracking.
3. Site Kit by Google
In a move to get in on the plugin action, Google released their own Site Kit plugin for WordPress sites. This plugin helps you connect Google Analytics and five other Google services (AdSense, PageSpeed Insights, Search Console, Optimize, and Tag Manager) to your dashboard for quick access to all the data in one place.
Now, because this is an official Google plugin, it doesn’t do much beyond what Analytics itself does. But, it’s still a convenient and free option that does offer you the information you want directly on your dashboard, as well as handy features like including search query terms in the main dashboard. This is a great insight when you’re doing anything SEO.
Extra Data Sources
If Google Analytics isn’t giving you what you need, look for your data elsewhere. Alternatives include Matomo, Woopra, GoSquared, and many others. These alternatives supplement or replace the data provided by Analytics, giving you either a more complete picture or a better snapshot of what’s most important to you.
Tips for Utilizing Analytics
Even if you don’t supplement your Analytics with another program, plugins, or extension, there are things you can do within Analytics itself to make the data you get more usable. Depending on what you’re doing, some of these tips will make your life a lot easier:
Customize Your Dashboard
The simplest thing you should do to start out is to customize what you see on your main dashboard. Not all the data that’s there by default matters to you. Customize your Analytics dashboard to display the most important things on the homepage, so you don’t have to go digging for data regularly.
Seeing how many visitors you’re getting is fine, but if you want to know more about specific types of visitors, you should segment your visitors. Doing this allows you to group specific types of visitors and get separate data about that segment alone.
This way, you can monitor and respond to specific groups of people instead of making every decision based only on top-level site visit data.
Measure the Middle of the Funnel
Most of what Google Analytics shows you by default is either top of the funnel or conversions at the end of the funnel. What you want to do to compensate for that is set up tracking and goals for those middle of the funnel activities as well.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to get up goals on the Analytics platform that are associated with the middle of the funnel activity. This will vary depending on your business model. For some, the middle of the funnel is clicking on a CTA, seeking contact information, or searching for more information.
The exact strategy you use will depend on what your funnel looks like. But, Analytics will likely have a way you can set up a goal to watch that middle space more closely and keep track of what’s happening there. When you’re more aware of movement in the middle, you can do more to help push people further down the funnel.
Understanding Google Analytics Reports Conclusion
Some estimates say Google Analytics is used on more than 53% of all websites. With this kind of usage, the platform has got to be doing something right! Take advantage of this popular tool and learn how to use it as best as you can. It’s a great free source of data you can use to improve your website and reach your goals.
Start here and see what you accomplish with all the new data you’re able to collect and utilize!
Georgi Todorov is a digital marketer, specializing in Outreach strategies, International SEO, and Influencer Marketing. He recently started his own blog about digital marketing called DigitalNovas and joined GetVoIP to provide his marketing expertise.
DISCLOSURE: My posts may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, I might get a small commission, without any extra cost to you. Read more about it here.