Here’s a serious question:
Do you need a better understanding on how to use Google Analytics?
There is no doubt that Google Analytics reports are valuable sources of data.
From website traffic insights and conversion tracking to marketing campaign optimization and budget allocation, Google Analytics is a reliable partner towards commercial success.
Learn how to use Google Analytics in this article as we divide it into five essential parts – a glossary of essential terms you need to familiarize yourself with, how to set up the website that you want Google Analytics to track for you and how to setup your Google Analytics tracking code.
We will also cover the different parts of the dashboard, the reports you should use and the essence of goal setting.
Google Analytics basics and terms
So, what is Google Analytics all about?
Google Analytics is a web analytics service that tracks and provides information on website traffic. It is a widely used web analytics tool by businesses and it is expected since Google is also the widely used search engine in the world.
To ease your way into Google Analytics, it is important to be introduced to some basic terms you will often see and use as you navigate your way around the tool.
Will you be able to remember at least five of them?
- Dimensions. A dimension is a characteristic or attribute of your data. It can be given different values. Examples of default dimensions on Google Analytics are Session Duration, Screens, Exit Page and Browser.
- Metrics. A metric is the individual element in a dimension. It is quantitatively measured as a sum or a ratio. Some default metrics on Google Analytics are Average Session Duration, Screen views, Pages and Sessions.
- Sessions / Visits. A session or a visit is the length of time a user is engaged on your website. It is defined by a date range. All usage data such as screen views and events is associated with a session.
- Users. Users are people engaged on your website. A user can be new or a returning user.
- Pageviews. A pageview refers to the total number of pages viewed by your users. Countless views of a single page are counted.
- Unique Pageviews. These are different from Pageviews because this combines the pageviews of the same visitor in the same session. For instance, if a user visited product page x 10 times, it will only be counted as one visit.
- Pages / Session. This refers to the average number of pages viewed within a particular session. Similar to pageviews, countless views of a single page are counted.
- Average Session Duration. It refers to the average length of a session.
- Bounce rate. This is the percentage of single page visits or visits where a user abandoned the website from the homepage without performing any interaction.
- Goals. Goals allow you to measure how often your users take to complete particular actions on your website.
- Conversions. Conversions refer to the number of times your goals were accomplished on your website.
- Campaigns. Also known as custom campaigns, these allow you to create parameters to any URL from your website to gather more information about your referral traffic.
- Acquisition. This refers to the ways you acquire users.
In terms of understanding traffic sources on Google Analytics, below are the following terminologies you need to be familiar with as well.
- Source. A source is what referred a user to your website. A source can be a search engine, a direct traffic or your landing page.
- Medium. A medium refers to how a user arrived on our website. A medium can be organic search, paid search, a referral or an email.
- Campaign. Provided that you are using AdWords to drive traffic to your website, a campaign will let you know if a user arrived on your website via that route.
- Keyword. This tells you the keyword used by a user to arrive to your website. Unfortunately, Google Analytics does not provide as much data as it used to when it comes to your website keywords. While there are still some keyword data available, these have been limited especially when it comes to unavailable keyword data due to a user’s search privacy protection.
And finally, in terms of the different types of search traffic, know the differences between some key terms:
- Direct traffic and referral traffic. Direct traffic is when a user types your website URL on their browser. Traffic sources that Google cannot clearly identify are often tagged under direct traffic. Referral traffic is when a user arrives on your website from sources outside of Google.
- Organic traffic and paid traffic. Organic traffic means a user arrived on your website by doing a search and clicking on your website link as it showed up on the search results. Paid traffic is when a user arrived on your site after clicking on one of your paid search ads.
How to set up your website for tracking
To get accurate and reliable results from Google Analytics, it is essential that your website is properly set up for tracking.
But, how can you get that done?
Go to the Google Analytics website and sign up for a free account. If you already have one, simply log in to your account.
Click ‘Sign in to Analytics’ and follow the instructions.
Once you have created an account, you need to ‘Set up a Property’ or tell Google Analytics the websites or the mobile apps you want it to track for you.
We’ve outlined the basic steps here on how to set up your website for tracking.
- On your account, click on the Admin tab.
- Select the account you want to add the property, which in this case, is your website.
- Once you have chosen the account, go to the Property column and click on ‘Create new property’ from the dropdown menu.
- Select ‘website’
- Enter the name of your website
- Enter the URL of your website
- Choose your website’s industry category and reporting time zone
- Click on ‘Get Tracking ID’
What’s next after adding your website as a property?
Set up the tracking code so Google Analytics can start collecting data on your website.
You can add as many as 50 properties (mobile apps and websites) for Google Analytics to track for you.
How to setup Google Analytics tracking code
What is the Google Analytics tracking code?
It is automatically generated for every web property you have so all you have to do is copy it from your account and paste it to the different pages of your website.
There are two ways that you can set up your Google Analytics tracking code:
One is to use the Google Tag Manager to add Google Analytics tags.
Second is to manually add the tracking code into the HTML structure of the different pages of your website.
And here’s a tip – this second option is the easiest to do.
Here’s how to do it:
- Sign in to your Google Analytics account.
- Go to the Admin tab and select the property you are working on from the Account and Property columns.
- Next, click on ‘Tracking info’ and then ‘Tracking code’
- Make sure not to change anything on your tracking code snippet. Copy and paste the code as is into the HTML for every web page that you want to track. Your tracking code should be placed before the closing head tag in the page code.
Below is an example of a Google Analytics tracking code.
Google Analytics basics of the dashboard
What is the Google Analytics dashboard?
It is a collection of widgets that gives you an overview of the reports and different metrics you care about on your website.
If you want to know how your website is currently performing, what’s not working, and the areas where you can make improvements, the dashboard is the best place to find the answers.
Aside from the wealth of data and the correlations it easily provides between your different reports, the Google Analytics dashboard is also intuitive and easy to create and customize.
Once you have selected the account and property you want to study and after clicking on Reporting, the dashboard will immediately show numbers, graphs, charts and percentages from the last 30 days.
The dashboard also displays the following information by default:
- Pages / Session
- % of New Sessions
- Average Session Duration
- Bounce rate
- Percentage of new visitors in a pie chart
While the information provided on the dashboard may already be relevant to what you need, you can customize it by adding more widgets, rearranging them, adding reports or filtering the data displayed.
And there’s more:
You can add more dashboards that reflect different and more specific aspects of your website traffic.
If you want to see statistics from a different time period, you can easily change the date range.
Reports can be narrowed down according to month, week, day and even hour if you want to be specific with your data.
How to use Google Analytics dashboards
Apart from examining the different data presented and interacting with the elements by hovering your mouse pointer over it, there are tons of other things you can do with your dashboard.
First is you can change the name of a dashboard.
You can do this by clicking on the dashboard’s title. This makes referencing data easier on your end.
Second is you can easily adjust the date picker.
If you need to change date ranges or simply want to compare data between 2 date ranges, you can do the adjustments accordingly by expressing your desired date range.
Third is you can add widgets (or mini-reports), share it and customize it using the action bar.
Just the same, you can also rearrange the position of your widgets.
Simply drag them by its title bar while bringing them to their new locations. Default and added widgets can also be edited or deleted using the controls that appear when the widget’s title bar is hovered over.
All dashboards that you use and create are set out as private. It means only you can see them.
If you want to share your dashboard data with other people, you can easily do so by clicking on the ‘Share’ option.
Dashboard data can also be emailed or exported in a PDF file, making data sharing and collaborations definitely smooth and easy.
Google Analytics reports to use
The beauty of using Google Analytics is it puts all your raw performance data in a way that is easy to understand.
The reports are not only filled with valuable insights, but these are easy to customize in plenty of ways as well.
We’ve already wrote about the different important reports you need to look at learn from your Google Analytics account and we will run through them again real quick here:
This report shows the different activities going on your website as it happens.
It shows the current number of active users on the website, pageviews, top viewed pages, where active users are located in the world, keywords and so on.
The Audience report provides information on the users who visited your website. There are plenty of sections under the Audience report, but for starters, you can focus on the overview, demographics and mobile reports.
The Overview report tells you your total number of website users, the percentage of your users that are new and are returning, and data on Sessions, Users, Page views, Pages per session, Average session duration, Bounce rate and New sessions.
The Audience Demographics report tells you the age and gender of your website users. This can be a practical source of information when creating, optimizing and targeting your marketing campaigns.
And finally, the Audience Mobile report tells you the mobile technology your visitors used when they browsed your website. If you want to make sure that your website is usable and friendly on mobile devices, this report is a valuable source of information.
The Acquisition report tells you where your users are coming from.
Are they coming from search engines, your landing pages or your referral sites?
Once you know the different channels and sources that are driving the most traffic to your website, you can have a better idea at optimizing them so they are more effective.
Of the five reports you can view under Acquisition, you can focus your attention on the Channels and Source / Medium reports.
The Acquisition Channels report tells you the summary of all your user sessions. It also summarizes all your traffic sources grouped according to channel. These groups are Organic Search, Direct, Social and Referral.
On the Source / Medium report, you can see the content your users are viewing prior to arriving on your website. It describes whether they arrived on your site via search engine, social media or another referring website.
If you want to know what keywords your users are using on search engines to arrive at your site, then this report is worth referencing. This report also tells you how long they stayed on a particular web page after searching for a keyword.
Cohort Analysis report
This report helps you identify your like-minded groups of visitors. If you are keen on segmenting your users to come up with targeted and personalized marketing campaigns, the Cohort Analysis report can immensely help you.
How to set up goals on Google Analytics
What are Google Analytics Goals for exactly?
Goals are helpful if you want to track data related to how your users complete actions on your website, like making a purchase, adding a product to the shopping cart or submitting a contact form.
To access Goals, go to ‘Admin’ and then click on ‘Goals’ under ‘View’.
Google Analytics Goals can be applied to specific pages on your website.
It can also have a monetary value attached to it so you can identify its worth to your business.
There are four different types of goals that you can set up on Google Analytics:
Destination, Duration, Pages / Screens per Session and Event.
Destination goals are probably the simplest of goals you can set up in Google Analytics. It tells you when a user completes a specific goal upon reaching a specific page on your website.
If you have a registration page and want to see how many of your users have registered, you can create a thank you page that will load after users have submitted their information.
Duration goals tell you the amount of time a certain user session has lasted.
An example of a duration goal is Google Analytics telling you that your users spend an average of 30 seconds on your contact page. If you are looking to optimize your contact page and realize that your users are only spending half a minute on it, you might want to optimize it so they stay longer on it.
Pages / Screens per session goal tells you the specific number of pages your user viewed on your website.
And finally, the Event goal tells you whenever an action defined as an event is triggered.
Goals allow you to evaluate the performance and effectiveness of your website. Set up Goals properly on your Google Analytics account.
Once you have clicked on ‘Goals’ under ‘View’, click on the ‘+New Goal’ button.
You can enter as many as 20 goals.
Next, define your goal setup.
This is where you can select a pre-filled template to start configuration or you can also select the custom option if the goal you have in mind is not listed.
After Goal setup, accomplish your Goal description. Name your goal, identify the type (destination, duration, pages / screens per session or event) and then click on ‘Continue’.
Use intuitive names for your goals so you won’t get confused when reading reports later on.
Finally, define your Goal details. Make sure to test and verify the goals you have set up just to make sure that it is properly working.
Always click on the ‘Verify this Goal’ link before saving. You will get a confirmation that your goal was properly set up if any users have completed your goal in the past seven days.
Now that we’ve covered the basics on how to use Google Analytics, we hope this can give you a good feel as you navigate your way around your Google Analytics data.
While a free account can already give you loads of website data to use, you can also pay for the premium version if you need more functionality to understand your website users better.
This can be a good investment in the future as well.
Also, as Google never runs out of improvements to make its tools more immersive and valuable to its users, make sure to drop by our blog regularly as we cover the latest changes and updates on Google Analytics.