Google Analytics Explained

Google Analytics Explained

The single most powerful free tool available for measuring and improving your website performance.

Google Analytics give us a wealth of information about a website’s performance metrics, but very simply put, it shows us the following:

  1. How much traffic is coming to your website.
  2. Where your traffic is coming from.
  3. What visitors are doing once they are on the site.


How does Google Analytics work?

Analytics works by tracking ‘tags’, which are a small piece of JavaScript code that needs to be installed on every page of your website in order for Analytics to work properly. This data is then collated and shown in a ‘report’ page in the Google Analytics’ admin interface, where you can set up multiple reports for multiple websites within your account.

What do all the numbers mean?

We get a lot of questions on this, so we thought we’d explain:

Visits: The total number of visits in the selected time range, including both new and returning visitors. A returning visitor would be counted twice or more in this number, and so “visits” is a different measurement to “absolute unique visits”.

Page Views: The total number of pages viewed in the selected time range.

Pages Per Visit: The average number of pages viewed per visit (i.e. number of page views divided by the number of visits within the selected time range), usually a number is between 4 and 7. However – this is quite a tricky metric, as it is not necessarily a good thing if visitors have to look at a lot of pages, nor is it good if they leave the site after only two clicks.

Bounce Rate: The percentage of visitors who leave site without viewing a second page, i.e. they click the ‘back’ button, type a new URL, close the window or session time-out (usually 30 minutes). A good bounce rate is below 20%, 30% is pretty standard, and anywhere over 50% would suggest a close look is needed to why so many people are leaving the site on first glance.

Avg time on site: Similarly to pages per visit, Longer or shorter times depend on the website’s goals. Expect anywhere between 2 and 10 minutes.

% New Visits: The percentage of visitors who were new in the selected time range; the difference between this and 100% is your percentage of returning visitors.

What should we be measuring?

We first of all, your traffic and where it coming from. All of this is currently handled on the main Audience Tab, which includes an overview of where in the world they are located, languages, as well as a breakdown of the browsers and platforms they are using. You can use Analytics to accurately track campaign performance through your primary online channels, which are:

Search Engines: paid (search engine advertising or PPC) and non-paid (organic) search traffic.

Direct Traffic: the number of people who typed your URL directly into their web browser, often indicative of offline campaigns or returning visitors.

Referring Sites: websites that link to you, and usually also includes the links in emails.

How do we use Analytics for improving our website?

This Content tab allows you to dig into how people are using your site, showing which pages are most popular, and where people go from page to page. The key tools for this and indicators we look at are:

The Site Overlay: a great visualisation tool for usability enhancement, and can really help to influence decisions in the ordering of content and button placement.

Top Landing Pages: allows you to identify and track the effectiveness of the landing pages that are bringing traffic.

Top Exit Pages: helps to identify pages that fail to convince, or do not encourage visitors to stay within the site.

Search: If you have Google site search installed, this tab shows you which searches being carried out by visitors within the website, which is a great insight into what people are looking for, but even more so, it tells you which content cannot be easily found on the site, and may need additional prominence within the navigation.

Goals and Conversions: this is one of the core concepts behind Analytics. A ‘Conversion’ is the completion process on a website, in other words the key actions that you want your visitors to take once they are on your site. In Analytics this is referred to as a ‘Goal’, and in many cases websites will have multiple Goals or Conversion points like buying a product, signing up to a newsletter or creating a user profile.

Funnel visualization: a very useful tool to look at conversion and form sign-up processes, this tool is very useful for identifying the potential problem pages in a step-by-step process that need tweaking. This in conjunction with AB testing and face to face user testing is the optimum method of improving conversion rates.

So to summarize, Google Analytics is an awesome core tool, that allows us to accurately measure the performance of a website, and means that a web strategy should be constantly evolving, tweaking both traffic strategy and our conversion processes to optimize the site.

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