Your website is all set up, but now you want to know who is looking at your website. This is where Google Analytics comes in. Google Analytics is an online program that tracks statistics on website traffic. The program can look daunting, but we’re going to help you figure out the basics so you can get a general idea of how Google Analytics works. This section provides a helpful starting point in understanding the data of your site.
We previously introduced you to the process of using Google Analytics to install a Google tracking code on your site. If you haven’t done this yet, please complete that process, and then you’ll be ready to review your site’s statistics.
In order to simplify Google Analytics, you need to understand the different functions of your property. A property is a term Google uses to refer to your website’s file within Google Analytics. Some users have multiple sites (or properties) that they track through one overall account, so each website you want to track will appear as a file within the program.
Once you log in to Google Analytics, your property homepage appears with My Dashboard at the top. If you can’t access My Dashboard, click Dashboards, followed by Private, and then My Dashboard. On the left-hand side, a navigation bar appears with areas providing you with different data information about your site. More information about each area is detailed below.
The Dashboard provides some basic statistics about your website. If you are starting with a new website, more than likely, you want to begin by understanding the data behind all the widgets on the page. The dashboard is a summary view of many of the other features within Google Analytics. At the top of your dashboard, there are two widgets with information about users. These widgets compare new users to total users that came to your website on a specific day. Next, your dashboard provides a couple of widgets with information about sessions, A session is a metric that tracks all the activities a user performs on your site during a specific period of time (e.g., 30 minutes). Your dashboard also discusses the bounce rate. For example, a 100% bounce rate indicates that your website visitors only look at one page before leaving the site. Finally, there are also widgets for revenue and goals. If you want to customize your dashboard, click + Add Widget and select the metric you want to appear on your dashboard.
By customizing your dashboard, you can create a quick, one-page view of analytics that will help you judge the health and popularity of your site.
Shortcuts allow you to place any bookmarks so you can quickly access them later. This tool is helpful when you need to mark data you frequently access.
The Intelligence Events tool gives you a very broad overview of sessions (i.e., what a site visitor does and how long it takes him/her to do it), but this tool can also be configured to give you more information on specific types of sessions. You can also use Intelligence Events to set up custom alerts, such as when users from a different country try to access your site. This can be useful for sites that are selling things or looking for a certain type of action from a visitor.
The Real Time tool shows real time information about everything currently happening on your site. This tool gives you an overview of where site visitors are, what sources brought them to your site, and what page of your site visitors are currently on. This data is useful for event tracking, or seeing how your site is being used at different times of the day.
The Audience tool is very important to most website owners. It helps you understand many different aspects of the audience visiting your website. It gives you day, week, and month tracking data of sessions on your website, and provides you with additional information, including how visitor got to your site, and also visitor demographics, interests, geography, and behavior. This is useful for anyone looking to better understand how people use and navigate his or her site.
The Acquisition tool allows you to view the ways that visitors arrive at your site, and then the actions each visitor takes. This information is presented in the form of goals attained. You can set a goal for any kind of action you want a visitor to take. Once you set a goal, the Acquisition tab keeps track of how many visitors complete that action. For example, it could be that the main reason you want someone to visit your site is to eventually contact you with the websites contact information form. Anytime a visitor clicks the submit form button, your goal count rises. Google Analytics uses the term conversion as any action that a visitor does (e.g., clicking a submit form button). So, your goals are based on the actions you want visitors to do, and when they do them, you achieve a conversion. This information is very useful for viewing your visitors’ engagement on your site, and it will also help you understand what paths visitors take before they finally commit to your product or service.
The Behavior tool focuses on visitor behavior on your site. The information provide you with the number of pageviews you’re receiving, the bounce rate of your site, and other metrics, such as site speed and user flow. Behavior also allows you to create experiments to test different methods of advertising and communication on your site by monitoring user behavior.
The Conversions tool allows you to focus on just the data surrounding your conversions, or the visitors that complete actions on your site, such as submitting a form or clicking a link. Setting goals and tracking e-commerce data enables you to focus on specific features of your website and how they can be improved over time. If you are selling something, this information ensures you’re selling your product effectively and efficiently.
We hope you’ll take some time to explore the different elements of Google Analytics. Even thought you may feel Google Analytics is complex, the information contained in these tools is really help and can help you evolve your site into a compelling user experience. For more information about Google Analytics, review Google Analytics Academy, which is a free collection of online courses on how to use Google Analytics more effectively. You can also review in-depth tutorials from Google’s Analytics Help Center.