Google Analytics is a wonderful, useful, yet sometimes overwhelming tool that is the gold standard when it comes to tracking and analyzing your website’s performance. From understanding user behavior, to identifying key demographics and measuring onsite traffic, Google Analytics plays a fundamental part in growing your online business, blog, or brand.
Below is a complete beginner’s guide, defining the confusing analytics terms and highlighting what metrics you should be paying attention to. But before we dive too deep into the analytics pond, let’s start with the "why."
Why every website needs Google Analytics:
As a business owner, blogger, or manager, there are a lot of questions you’ll want answered in relation to the performance of your website. In short, Google Analytics is how you get the answers to those questions. The benefits of the tool are vast and can provide you with everything from understanding which marketing initiatives or campaigns are performing the best, to which content captures the most interest, to what pages are keeping users engaged with your brand.
Google Analytics offers a plethora of information, all of which can help you implement changes that could double or even triple your website’s effectiveness. If you’re looking to install the tool, Google Analytics offers a wonderful tutorial for beginners, which you can find here.
Terms to understand:
A pageview is counted each time a page with a Google Analytics tracking code is viewed. More technically, a pageview is recorded each time the Google Analytics tracking method is executed – this includes hitting the back button, refreshing the page, and opening the page in a new browser, regardless of whether it has been cached.
Sessions and Page / Session
A session is defined as a series of page views that a single user makes within one visit to your site over a particular timespan (Google defaults that time frame to 30 minutes, however you can modify the timespan to fit your interests). Simply put, this means that whatever a user does on your site before they leave equates to one session.
As mentioned above – Google defaults sessions to 30 minutes, however you can modify the timespan from as little as one minute, to as long as four hours. That being said, the length of a session differs depending on the nature of your site. Google recommends taking the following into consideration when changing the time of a session:
- If your site automatically signs a user out after being inactive for a certain amount of time, set the session timeout to match that length of time.
- Lengthen the session time if you have a lot of content and expect users to take a long time reading and engaging with that content. Conversely, shorten the session time if the site has a small amount of content.
‘Pages / Session’ is simply the average number of pages visited per session. The higher the Page / Session metric, the more engaged readers are with your content, and the more they are navigating throughout your site.
Bounce and Bounce Rate
A ‘bounce’ is when the user comes to your site and visits only one page before leaving, regardless of how long they spent on the page itself. Technically, it’s a visit to your site with only one interaction. ‘Bounce Rate’ is the percentage of visitors to your site that ended up with a ‘bounce’. For example, if your bounce rate is 80%, that means 80% of sessions to your site only viewed one page before leaving. The lower the bounce rate, the more engaged your audience is, and the more pages they are visiting during their time on your site.
UMV, or unique monthly views, is the number of individual users that visited your website. If you’re a blogger, or sell advertising on your site, it’s a metric that brands will ask for before doing business with you. It’s also a great way of tracking growth on a month over month basis.
User behaviors you need to pay attention to:
The first behavior it pays to pay attention to is your traffic, and more specifically, where your traffic is coming from. It’s vital for you to know which sites are referring you the most traffic, and from there it’s possible to maximize your efforts towards those channels. Work on what works.
While all traffic is important, three of the core types of traffic that many company’s regularly measure include direct, organic, and referral traffic. Direct traffic measures how many users visit your site by directly putting your website URL into their browser. Organic traffic identifies how many users are conducting a Google search and landing on your site after clicking on a search result. Referral traffic examines the users coming to your site from other outlets such as press placements.
What do people do once they arrive on your site? Are users leaving quickly, or are they poking around for more information? If so, what pages are people viewing the most? It is important to understand what content is performing well and providing users with a positive site experience. From there you can leverage that audience interest, and expand your content offerings to provide users with similar resources that they have already proven to be interested in.
Once you’ve analyzed what’s working for your site content-wise, and how people are getting to that content, it’s time to explore how users are then engaging with that content. Two metrics to dive deeper into are pages per visit and session duration.
Pages per visit indicates the average number of pages visited by users who come to your site. Naturally, the higher this number is, the more engaged your audience is, and the more they are exploring what your site has to offer.
Session duration is the average amount of time that these visitors spend during a given session on your website. Once again, the higher the number, the longer the session, the more engaged people are with your brand and your website!
Google Analytics is far more than a simple ‘hit counter,’ and although everything we explored in this blog post is extremely top level, the limit to analytics and it’s ability to help you understand user behavior is impressive. Not only does the tool help take the guess work out of running and analyzing online campaigns, it allows businesses the opportunity to lower marketing costs, and drive more business purely based on the information gathered through Google Analytics.
Although initially overwhelming, not utilizing this tool will ultimately stifle opportunities for success. Do you have Google Analytics installed on your website? Need help understanding your website's performance or setting up online monitoring efforts? We’d love to chat! Leave a comment below, or contact us today!