Google Analytics 101: The Basics

By: Caitlin Baker  | 11/30/2016

In two weeks, our marketing team is hosting a Google Analytics 201 workshop that focuses on account best practices beyond the basics. Sometimes we forget that not everyone spends their whole day in their Google Analytics (GA) account, looking at trends and numbers for their sites. We want to make sure everyone who wants to join our workshop can. So, we thought now would be a good time to quickly help you brush up on the basics.

There's a lot of information available in Google Analytics. A lot. It can actually be really overwhelming when you're first getting started. After you've added GA to your site and you start reviewing your data the first couple months, these are important metrics to focus on:

Sessions. Or visits. A session is a group of interactions that take place on your website in a given time frame. Sessions can consist of multiple page views or events within your site. It measures visitor intention. If a visitor comes through on a specific keyword and visits 10 pages, it's deemed one session as the user's intention is likely the same through their whole visit. If a user browses on their phone and then later in the day goes back to the site to purchase or make an inquiry, that's considered two different sessions because the intent was different in both instances.

Pages per Session. This metric represents how many pages a user visits on your site within one session. This number can sometimes be a little tricky to gauge. You want users to visit more than one page of your site so you know the content and information you're providing is useful to them. But you don't want to a user to have to go through too many pages before they reach a final conversion point. It's a delicate balance that your content really helps drive.

Bounce Rate. A bounce rate is the percentage of sessions where a user left your site from their entrance page without interacting with it. There are multiple reasons why a bounce rate is on the higher side. Not all reasons are necessarily bad; a user can get to a page and find what they're looking for right away, which means your content is great. A high bounce rate can also mean that a user has a usability or design issue. If a page is too hard for someone to navigate, they're likely to leave immediately. It's important to use other analytics tools (like Hotjar) to make sure users have a good site experience.

Goals. Goals are a really great way to track results on your site. You can put goal tracking on any of your pages or forms to see how many users converted on or visited them. You can also create more complicated goals such as tracking users who visited the homepage but then also visited your capabilities page. No matter what way you set them up, goals are a great way to track conversions, leads and more.

Google Analytics also has a great library of reports for you to choose from to gain additional insights. Some of the most basic reports are ones that we use every day for all of our clients. When you're first getting started (or just want detailed but not granular information) in Google Analytics, these are the reports that will be most helpful:

Audience Overview. This is the report you see when you first log into your GA account. It gives you the following information about the people visiting your site:

  • Sessions
  • Pages per session
  • Session duration
  • Bounce rate
  • Demographic information
  • System information
  • Mobile information

Traffic. You can find this report in the "Acquisition" tab on the left-hand side of your GA account, under "Overview." This report can tell you all about where the traffic from your site is coming from and how users from each channel or medium behaves (i.e. how many pages they visit, bounce rate, etc.).  

Pages. This report is in "Behavior" under "Site Content." This report is great for showing what pages users are visiting. You can see what pages are working and maybe which ones aren't. It often times helps dictates what really isn't necessary on your site or pages that may need refreshed or cleaned up. It also gives additional information like which percentages of visits were entrances or exits, as well as the user's behavior.

Overall, Google Analytics has tons of information for you to drill into. These are some of the basics that will help you get started. Once you start using the tool more and more, you'll see all the different ways you can view, segment and use the information it provides.

To dig a little deeper and learn more advanced tools and skills for Google Analytics, make sure you join our digital workshop on 12/14!


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