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What to Look For in Google Analytics Reports

Analytics

Amber Toro-Keech

December 21, 2021

By Saunder Schroeder

What Is Google Analytics?

Wouldn’t it be nice to have an idea of where your website is doing great and where it’s losing users? That’s what web analytics software offers, and Google Analytics is by far the most popular option.

Google Analytics is a service used to track and analyze website traffic. It monitors data on things like sessions duration, referring website, browser type, and bounce rate. That data can then be distilled into 78 different reports so you can make the best marketing decisions possible regarding your website.

Google Analytics reports are amazing at telling you what is happening on your site or app, but they’re not so good at telling you why. The quantitative data that you can get from a Google Analytics Report can be extremely insightful if you understand it. If you want an even deeper dive into Google Analytics and how to use it to improve marketing, you can hire an expert.

How Does Google Analytics Work?

Google Analytics works by adding a little bit of Javascript code to every page on your website. This code runs invisibly in the browser while the user moves through the website. Then Google Analytics turns that information into useful reports. The information below explains some of the terms and how the software works. When you understand how the data is collected, you can make more informed decisions.

Properties

Properties sounds like it would be obvious, but in this situation, the property ID tells the software how to break up the data. A property in the web analytics sense is an identifier tag added to the code. Several sites can use the same property ID if that’s what works best, or they can use more than one on a single site, app, or blog.

This is similar to the way addresses are broken up in a strip mall. Each unit can receive its own mail individually or several stores with the same owner can receive mail at one storefront location. 

Views

A reporting view is where you can see the data and access reports in a Google Analytics account. Google Analytics automatically creates an unfiltered view with all of the data on it. You can create as many views as you like to help you see traffic data for visitors from certain countries, formats like apps or websites, or restricted views that only people with certain permissions can see.

Making multiple views is encouraged. If you use a filter to exclude data on the original view, that data isn’t tracked or stored at all. If you delete a filter, the historical data is gone as well. The best practice is to copy and create multiple views.

Primary Dimensions

A dimension is an attribute of the data. The primary dimension is the default attribute by which the data is sorted. The report will make a row for each of the dimension’s values. If the primary dimension is “city,” then the data for New York, Denver, and Los Angeles will be separated into rows for each of those locations.

Custom Dimensions

Custom dimensions are attributes of the data that can be tracked. However, Google Analytics does not have a default setting for this. Custom dimensions require at least one app view. There are limited spots for these, and they cannot be deleted. They can be disabled, though.

You can also add in data tracked outside of Google Analytics, like from Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. This allows a comprehensive and nuanced view of the data.

Audience Segments

An audience is a group of users based on any dimensions that make that group’s data meaningful to your business. Segments break up an audience by using non-destructive filters. You can look at audiences based on who has made a purchase from you before or who has not. Or you can create audience segments based on where the traffic originated. For instance, you can compare traffic from website A and website B to one another.

Business Goals

Business goals measure how often users perform certain actions. That can be making a purchase, but it can also be something simpler, like signing up for a newsletter or clicking on an ad. Goals are based on what you need for your business to be successful. If you run a mobile game app, then email sign-ups are not nearly as important as users completing levels.

Content Marketing Metrics Available Within Google Analytics

You can have a Google Analytics account and access to the reports, but do you know what the collected data is measuring? These are some of the metrics that Google Analytics uses to create reports.

Conversion Rate

A conversion is a completed activity, but it’s not limited to transactions. It can be email sign-ups, downloads, or anything that is related to the goals that you’ve established. These smaller, non-revenue conversions are called micro-conversions. On the opposite side, macro conversions are the transactions that keep your business going. These are the revenue-producing conversions. 

The conversion rate is the rate or percentage of users who convert out of all the users who visit your site or app. There are a number of ways to increase conversion rate without increasing traffic or marketing budget, like creating landing pages

Organic Search Traffic

Organic search traffic refers to the group of users who end up at your site from search results as opposed to those who click on ads or links from other sites. They should be the easiest to convert. A low conversion rate with them may indicate that your site needs work, while a high conversion rate for organic traffic and a low rate for other sources may mean that you need to rework some ads.

Average Session Duration

Session duration is how long a user stayed on your app or site. This includes all of your pages. There isn’t a different metric for average time on each unique page. The longer they are there, the more interested they might be and the more of a chance you might have to advertise your business. A short user duration that doesn’t result in conversion would mean that your site isn’t engaging. 

Longer isn’t always better, though. Users who spend a long time on your site but don’t convert may be having problems finding what they need. Being very familiar with your customer’s journey through the sales funnel and making it easy for the user is the best way to get an optimal average session duration.

New vs. Returning Users

There are two types of users — the ones who have never been to your site or app before and the ones who have. This only includes users that Google Analytics has seen before. It can only recognize users if they have a cookie on their device. This means that it won’t be very accurate right when you get started, and there will be some errors when people block cookies or erase them.

Bounce Rate

Google Analytics counts a bounce when a user visits one page of your site without moving to any others. The system also counts this as a zero-second session because, without another page view, it doesn’t have a way to calculate the time spent there. 

The bounce rate is the number of users that only visit one page of your site as a percentage of the total number of users. If your site is a single-page site, then a high bounce rate isn’t a bad thing. If you need users to view more than one page to reach your goals, then bounce rate is a metric you can work on lowering. You can use specific report types below to see if the users who leave quickly have other things in common, for instance, if they all come from the same website.

Average Pages per Session

This measures the average number of pages of your website that a user visits. An optimal number of pages will be different for different sites. If you follow the customer’s journey through the sales funnel, you will see the number of pages they need to visit to have a successful conversion. If your average number of pages is lower than that, it could be an engagement issue. If the average number of pages is higher than what you would expect, then the funnel might not be clear enough for the customer to recognize the next step.

Google Analytics Reports Examples

Google Analytics turns raw data from the metrics into visual representations so that it’s easier for you to interpret. Below are a few of the over 50 kinds of reports you can run and view in Google Analytics along with an explanation of them. 

Real-Time Reports: What Are They?

With Google Analytics you can get information about hits within seconds of they actually occur. This means at any moment you can see how many users are on your site or app, what they are interacting with, and if there are any goal conversions. This feature is available on all accounts and all reports.

Audience Reports and the Insights They Provide

As stated above, an audience is a group of users based on the criteria you choose. The main metrics for audience reports are acquisition, behavior, and conversion. These are where your users are coming from, what they do on your site or app, and how many lead to successful transactions.

You can use these reports to find weaknesses and strengths in your marketing. If a lot of your successful conversions are coming from a single ad, then you can increase your budget on that ad. If every user of a certain age bounces, then you may want to reconsider why your ads are bringing them but the product isn’t converting.

Acquisition Reports and What They Tell You About Your Business

Acquisition reports tell you how users arrive at your site or app. It also includes session duration, bounce rate, and pages viewed. This way you can compare engagement and conversion rates from different sources. 

If the majority of your successful conversions are coming from search engine traffic, then you can either consider reevaluating your ads or reducing ad spend all together. If your conversion rate from a specific site is high, then you can consider extending the time that your ads run on that site.

Behavior Reports and What They Uncover

Behavior reports are about how users interact with your site or app. It shows total page views, unique page views, and time spent on those pages. Depending on your business goals, short amounts of time on a page could indicate that the page needs to be more compelling. This report may show users leaving the sales funnel at a certain point. That information will save you months of testing and help you create a funnel that effectively leads users through the buying process.

Conversion Reports: What Information Is Included?

Conversion reports give you data on every goal you are tracking for your site or app, not just macro conversions. These reports show you the overall success of your sales funnel and the rate of goal abandonment. You can also look at multi-channel funnels, which will show you the conversion rates for different attributes that you select. 

How To Get Started With Google Analytics Today

You can start a Google Analytics account today for free. The newest version is Google Analytics 4. One property is automatically created. You can create additional properties after the first one now if you need to or you can come back later. Select your time zone. All the data recorded will be shown in your timezone. Next, select your industry and business size. Click “create.” 

Now that you’re armed with the right knowledge and all set up to get started using Google Analytics reports, you can use this information to create the most effective marketing possible, whether that means increasing traffic or increasing conversions from the traffic you have.

What to Look For in Google Analytics Reports

Amber Toro-Keech

Author

Amber is a Marketing Data Scientist who is driven to develop solutions to complex questions that deliver high impact. She utilizes Adobe and Google Analytics, Python, and Machine Learning Models to help companies understand their market, forecast future sales, optimize advertising impact and improve customer experience. Amber is a strong believer in using tech for social good. She believes that as tech professionals we have the power to change the world. Amber grew up in Seattle with a great love of the outdoors. She now calls Utah her home and when she is not coding you can find her biking, hiking, camping in the mountains with her family or curled up with a good sci-fi/fantasy book.

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