August 7, 2017

Demystifying Google Analytics Metrics

seo, digital marketing

Understanding Google Analytics can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to metrics. Even if your role doesn’t require you to work within the platform, it’s likely you still hear phrases such as “bounce rate” or “sessions” thrown around in your daily meetings. You probably would like to learn GA, but haven’t found the time or a helpful resource that simplifies everything – that is, until now.

Why is Google Analytics so valuable?

Gaining insights into your website visitor’s behavior spells out the areas of your site that work, and the areas that don’t. Why is this important? Well, although it’s often considered just one factor of your overall business, your website technically functions as a standalone entity — and needs to be monitored as such. It’s not enough to just keep your site from breaking or to monitor e-commerce sales; a successful site requires frequent ongoing maintenance dictated by thoughtful data analysis.

What is Google Analytics & How Does it Work?

Google Analytics is a free analytic platform that tracks your website behavior, offering insights into audience demographics, user behavior, overall site health, SEO and Paid Search performance, and even e-commerce metrics. Using a unique snippet of tracking code that you manually add to the backend of your site, Google Analytics is able to collect site usage data.

How to read your website data

So how do you turn meaningless numbers into valuable data? By understanding these basic metrics:

Sessions v. % of New Sessions
Sessions is the number of times your site is visited on an internet browser, while Users counts the amount of people that visit your site.

Users v. New/Unique Users
Number of first time visitors on your site v. the approx. amount of new visits. Although Sessions and Users are important metrics to measure against, many find % of New Sessions and Unique Users to be more valuable, as it measures your brand and website’s growth. If one person visits your site 4 times in one day, it will read as one user and 4 sessions.

Pageviews v. Pages/Session
The amount of pages that were seen in the given time frame v. the average number of pages seen in each visit to the site.

Avg. Session Duration v. Avg. Time on Page
The average amount of time spent on each visit to the site. When looking for engagement metrics, you will be referencing Pages/Session, Avg. Session Duration, and Bounce Rate.

Bounce & Bounce Rate
Bounce rate is one of the most prominent metrics in reporting, and for good reason.

Putting it All Together

The report says – “This month, we a total of 50 users (50% of which were unique users) generated 300 sessions (67% of which were new) and 1,200 pageviews on our site. At an average of 6.54 pages/session, an average session duration of 3:45, and a bounce rate of 45%, we saw overall growth in new visitors to the site.”
How you should read it – “This month, half of our site visitors were brand new to our website. Since they spent above average time (relevant to our industry) per visit and viewed multiple pages on the site without automatically leaving the pages they landed on, it’s likely this traffic is not only new, but a qualified audience.”

Understanding The Bigger Picture

In order to translate your data into actionable insights, you’ll need to understand how it context together in each GA report:

These reports focus on who your audience through demographics, geographic location, what devices, internet browsers, and operating system they access your site on, and even what subjects they are interested (based on their past internet behavior)

This area of reporting focuses on what digital channels are driving users to your site. The most common channels are:

  • Organic Search – Visitors reached your site via Search Engine Results Page (SERP).
  • Direct Traffic – Visitors landed on your site by typing your web address into the URL bar.
  • Referral – Visitors reached your site by clicking on a referring link on another website.
  • Social – Visitors reached your site via Social Media Platforms.
  • Email – Visitors reached your site via a link in Email.
  • Paid Search/Display – Visitors reached your site by clicking on a Paid Search or Banner Ad.

This category can best be understood as “Site Usage”, as it explores performance metrics of each individual page on your site, usage of features like on-site search, and also health checks like site speed.

This measures your onsite conversion goals, while helping to identify the paths they take leading up to the conversion and which channels contribute to the process. This area will only work if you set up conversion goals or e-commerce goals in GA.

Other Nuances

Lastly, here are some other non-GA specific reporting terms that will help you understand these metrics in their natural habitat:

WoW, MoM, YoY
While this may look like a typo, these acronyms serve to give context to analysis through time measurement. Week over Week, Month over Month, Year over Year shows how your metrics have changed compared to a previous relevant time frame.
Ex. Session volume increased by 37% MoM. This means there were 37% more sessions to your site in the current reporting month, compared to the month prior.

Just a fancy way of saying sessions. Ex. A dip in traffic to the site, would read as “decreased session volume to the site”.

Landing Page
The page upon which a user first enters your website. Landing pages can vary based on what source/channel or search term the user typed into Google. The most common landing page is usually the homepage.

Engagement is just a fancy was of saying “interaction”. Engagement metrics refer to anything that measures user interaction on the site – bounce rate, pages/session, avg. session duration, etc. Engagement metrics are not – users, sessions, pageviews.
Ex. Session volume increased by 37% MoM. This means there were 37% more sessions to your site in the current reporting month, compared to the month prior.

In Conclusion

Analyzing your GA data is just another way to calculate your most basic business decisions. For example, let’s say you own a concession stand. You notice you continuously sell out of hot dogs, while you end up tossing out half of the burgers you make each night. Wouldn’t you start buying more hot dogs and fewer hamburgers? Well, ignoring your GA data is kind of like throwing away thousands of hamburgers, when you could be making money and growing your business by buying more hotdogs. So ignoring this is wasting money.

Understanding the basics is just the tip of the iceberg of the wealth of capabilities and insights Google Analytics can provide. If you want to learn more about how to get the most out of your website data, give us a call!