How to use Google Analytics to gain insight
Google Analytics is a great way to understand how your website is performing and how well it’s optimised for search and user experience. It can also give an indication of how well your other marketing activities are working in driving traffic to your site. If you aren’t experienced in how to use Google Analytics to gain insight for SEO it can be difficult to know what the terminology means, what the statistics are telling you and what the key reports are you need to look at to benchmark your site’s performance.
Timeframe / reporting period
When analysing website metrics, you need to consider the timeframe that you want to look at and consider the time period you want to compare the latest results against. This helps you to benchmark progress. You may be trying to compare and contrast the analytics after certain changes have been made on the site such as implementing SEO at a certain point in time. You could compare current statistics to the preceding period, e.g. previous 30 days. Alternatively, you may get a more accurate comparison comparing current statistics to the same period last year. This will take into account any seasonal influences in visitation.
Homepage – Traffic Overview
When you first log in to Google Analytics, it presents you with an overview of the statistics for traffic to your site, but what do these mean?
Sessions – this was previously called ‘Visitors.’ A session is defined as a group of interactions one user takes within a given timeframe which is 30 minutes by default. So whatever a user does before they leave counts as one session.
Users – used to be called ‘Unique Visitors.’ This shows the number of unique individuals that have visited your site. Repeat visits from the same user will only count as one visit.
Pageviews – shows the total number of pages viewed in the chosen time period. This includes repeated page views and site users.
Pages/session – this shows the average number of pages that were viewed in a session, including repeated page views. The more pages viewed per session, the more engaging your site is and the more visitors are exploring it.
Avg Session Duration – looks at the average amount of time people spend on your site in a session. The longer people spend on your site, the ‘stickier’ and more engaging it is.
Bounce rate – this is the percentage of visitors that arrive on your site and leave without interacting or looking at any other pages. The lower the bounce rate the better. 26 – 40% bounce rate is excellent, 41 – 55% is average. 56 to 70% is higher than average. However, the nature of the website needs to be considered and 70 or over is not good, though this does depend on the nature of the site and content.
% New Sessions – this shows the number of sessions that came from new users to the site, so gives an indication of how many new users are finding your website.
The most useful reports
Audience – We all want lots of traffic to our website, but are you getting the right traffic to your site? Do your visitors fit the description of your ideal customer? Can you gain insight on the converting visitors that can help you target look-a-like audiences?
Audience > Mobile > Overview – People use mobile phones or tablets more than ever to browse the internet. Therefore it’s vital that your website is responsive, compatible offers a great user experience with these devices. Not only will it lead to greater conversion but as Google is now taking a ‘mobile-first’ approach to their search algorithm. This means it will also boost your SEO and rankings. This report shows what devices people are using to access your website and how it is performing on each platform.
Understanding where your visitors are coming from is very important. It can show how effective your marketing and promotion are in driving traffic to your site. It gives insight to what’s working and what isn’t and whether your site is optimised to be found by the people you want to find it.
Acquisition > All traffic > Referrals – Referrals show you exactly where the user came from, whether they were referred by your social channels, pay-per-click, organic search, etc. It allows you to filter out spam and see what the best referral sources are for your site.
Acquisition > Search Consoles > Queries – The queries report shows what search terms are bringing visitors to your site. It gives an insight into whether your site is optimised for the right search terms and which search terms are working. For a deeper dive into search terms, you may want to refer to Google Webmasters and their Search Console.
Acquisition > All Traffic > Source / Medium – This report will help you to understand the pages that are working well and showing up in the Google search results, though you will need to drill down further into the analytics by clicking on ‘google/organic’ and then adding a secondary dimension of Behaviour > Landing pages.
The Behaviours section offers useful insight into how well your website is performing from a user experience perspective. This ranges from loading speeds to how users move through the site under Behaviour Flow and where they are dropping off.
Conversions and Goals
Goals are a great way to measure how well your site is achieving your targeted objectives. You can set up individual Goals for particular actions like content downloads, sessions to certain pages, a minimum session duration, or a specific purchase amount. By setting up Goals you can measure conversions or completion rates. If you set a monetary value for a Goal, you can also see the value of conversions.
Google has now built-in Analytics Intelligence which gives you answers to your questions in plain English. For example, you can ask questions like “Which channel had the highest goal conversion rate.” and Analytics will show you a ranked list of goal conversion rates by channel. However, it is very useful to know how to interpret the full range of reporting in Google Analytics and that this information is reviewed regularly.