What does Google Analytics actually tell me?

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Out of the sixteen million data points that Google Analytics provides me, what should you actually be focusing on?

Google Analytics can seem overwhelming at first. Fear not, friend, as I am here to help you cut straight to the good stuff.

The Key Questions

  • How many visitors did I get?

  • Where do my visitors come from?

  • What content is most popular?

  • Are things getting better or worse over time?

  • Are there any problems with my site?

How many visitors did I get?

Go to: Audience > Overview

This simple report shows how many users you received over a particular time period. It also shows you how many pages those users looked at (pageviews) and simple math indicates how many pages each user looked at on average (pages/session).

TIP: The time period you are looking at is shown in the upper right of the screen. You can change it to anything you like.

Where do my visitors come from?

Go to: Acquisition > Overview

This report will show you which channels your visitors come from. This is broken out into the following:

  • Paid Search. Traffic from ads you ran.

  • Direct. People who typed your website address into their browser, or clicked one of their own bookmarks.

  • Organic Search. People who searched for something, saw a link to your site, and clicked it (e.g. through Google)

  • Social. People who clicked a link from a social media website (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.)

  • Referral. People who clicked a link from a website (e.g. a blog, directory, etc.)

Clicking into a channel will give you more detail.

TIP: If you want to know which searches on Google provided traffic to your website, you’ll need to set up Google Search Console. Google Analytics won’t tell you by default, but it will if you have Google Search Console set up, and have connected it to Google Analytics.
That’s in the
Acquisition > Search Console > Queries report.

What content is most popular?

Go to: Behavior > Overview

This will list the web pages that received the most pageviews. Expect to see your home page at or near the top. What follows can be insightful as to which pages are popular, and which are not.

Are things getting better or worse over time?

Utilizing any of the reports noted above, you can compare one date range to another. This will show how your data has changed over time. Very useful to see if things like pages per session, time on page, or bounce rate is changing for the better.

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Are there any problems with my site?

The following data are ones to keep an eye on for trouble:

  • Bounce rate. Go to: Audience > Overview. If you have a one page website, this isn’t a problem. But if you have multiple pages on your site, keep an eye on this. You likely want to encourage people to visit at least one page and then a contact/conversion page. If they bounce, they’re only looking at one page.

  • Average session duration. Go to: Audience > Overview. This is the average time people spend on your website. Consider how long a reasonable amount of time is to consume your content. You can work to increase session duration by adding more content, better content, and media such as images and video.

  • Geography. Go to: Audience > Geo > Location. Are your visitors coming from countries, provinces and cities you expect? If not, you may want to look into the targeting of any campaigns you have on the go, as well as the keywords you’re targeting in your SEO efforts.

  • Site speed. Go to: Behavior > Site Speed > Speed Suggestions. Google will suggest improvements you can make to speed up your site. Site speed is an important ranking factor on Google, and critically important to mobile visitors, so pay attention!

Clearly, Google Analytics offers a lot of data about your site. The rabbit hole goes very deep indeed, my friend. My hope is that this article will help get you started. Good luck!