26th June 2018
At Studio Republic we use Analytics daily. It’s installed on every site we build, so we thought we we’d share some of our knowledge in our Google Analytics guide. The guide is an introduction to the basic features, we’ll expand on some of the finer reporting functions in future articles.
Though not unique in its functionality (other website statistics tools are available), Google Analytics has become the go-to tool for understanding how people behave when they’re visiting your site. At the most basic level it gives insight into how often your site is visited, what pages are viewed, and time spent on site etc. Once you delve beneath the surface you can discover demographic information of your users, exactly how they progress through your website, which pages work and which don’t, and so much more. It can provide all the KPIs you need to determine whether your website is working for you or not.
Setting up is the only part of using Google Analytics that will either require some technical knowledge, or the help of a web developer. Once you have a Google Account (any Google G Suite or Gmail account will do) you will be able to sign in to Analytics here. Click on Admin > Create Property and follow the on-screen instructions. When you click on the Get Tracking ID button you’ll be presented with the Analytics Tracking code. This needs to be added to every page of your website; you can do this if you have access or ask your developer. It’s a 30 second job so don’t be put off if your developer tells you it’s hard to do – it really isn’t.
Once the code is installed, it will take 24 hours or so for statistics to begin to show up in your reports.
Google Analytics splits reports into five sections. We’ll give an overview of each, but the first thing you’ll see is the dashboard, accessible by the Home button.
This is a great place to see a quick overview of your site and can be fully customised (we’ll cover this in another guide later). The first panel on the standard dashboard gives a great overview of the last 7 days of website traffic, split into:
Users - how many individual people have visited the site?
Sessions - how many times has the site been visited?
Bounce rate - what percentage of people just view one page and leave?
Session duration - how long on average do people spend on the site?
The ideal is to see an upward trend in users, sessions & duration, and a downward trend in bounce rate. Other useful at a glance info includes what pages are most popular, how your site acquires users, where your user are and what times they visit.
On the left, under the home link, you will find more in depth options for analysing your user data. Let’s take a closer look at them.
This feature is most informative on busier websites that tend to get constant traffic. This will show you what’s going on with your site right now, with data only stretching back 30 minutes. When you click on the real-time heading some sub options are revealed, let’s go through and see what they show.
This shows how many people are on the site, what page are they on, where are they and where they came from. As with Overview in the other sections that we’ll get to shortly, this view gives a very basic display of information, you’ll need to go into the other headings to get a more in depth idea of what’s going on.
This view goes deeper into where your users are currently, you can see what country they’re in or focus in to see what city they’re in.
Here you can see how your current users found your site, for example from a Google search or a link on Facebook.
This is the page that allows you to see what pages users are viewing, it lets you know how many people are on your different pages. You can see them as they change between different pages.
These two relate to each other as they’re dependant on the custom events or goals that you’ve set up to monitor. Here you can see what events and conversions that you previously defined are being triggered. See the conversions section below for all past conversions in the site’s history, not just those that are happening now or in the last 30 minutes.
The audience panel is the best place to find out the type of people who are using your website. You can see information here about the location they’re viewing from, what kind of device they’re using to use your site, even the age, gender and interests of your users if your analytics are set up properly.
Additionally, you can break things down even further using the Secondary Dimension dropdown at the top of each table of data, this allows you to add extra information to compare against. For example, if you’re looking at the gender of your users you can also choose age from the dropdown, to see how many men and women from each age bracket are viewing your website.
The acquisition pages show you where all your site’s traffic comes from. The overview page will give you a very basic idea of how people arrived at your site, breaking traffic down into the main channels so you can see what methods are performing better than others. We’ll quickly explain what each of those main channels are.
Traffic that falls into this category comprises users that have arrived at your site having used a basic search from a search engine like Google.
Direct traffic is people that have come to your site by putting your URL into the address bar.
Referral traffic is made up of users that have arrived at your site from a link on another website, not including search engines or social media, which brings us to our next channel.
All these users come to your site via links from social networks eg LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook.
You’ll only see traffic in this area if you’re running paid advertising on Google (Google Ads).
As well as the overview page under Acquisition, there are further ways to drill down to see how your users find your site. You can see more specific information about the social traffic, users from paid advertising or specific campaigns you may have set up. As with the data in the Audience pages, you can compare the data in these tables with other data using the Secondary Dimension dropdown.
Here's a video from Google themselves about how to use the Audience panel.
The behaviour pages give you lots of information about how your users interact with the content on your site, and what pages are the most popular. You can see how long they spent on specific pages, what specific pages they left from or whether they progressed to reading something else.
It’s not just information about your users though, you can see how your pages perform when users are on them, like the speed it takes content to load for example. This is useful as it will have a direct impact on the way a person uses that page.
Using Behaviour pages to monitor is important for the next section; Conversions.
When talking about your users behaviour, a conversion is when the user ‘converts’ from being just a user to completing an action that is useful to you. These actions could be purchasing a product, send you an enquiry or signing up to your newsletter for example.
These pages in your analytics will be the most benefit to you if you know these clear targets that you want your users to complete. Then once you’ve set up some goals in your analytics to track your users’ activity, you’ll be able to monitor them on these pages. We’ll go into how best to set up these goals in a future post.
We hope this beginner's guide to using Google Analytics has been useful. Stay tuned for some future posts that go into these points in more detail.