In our digitally-driven landscape, data is king — but only if you understand what it means and how to use it to your advantage.
Google Analytics is an extremely powerful tool to analyze traffic to your website, learn about your audience and their behaviour, and then optimize your content to ensure your web content goals are being met.
The following breaks down the Google Analytics dashboard into six key performance metrics you should start leveraging today.
Within the “Audience” section, you’ll find the “Overview” tab that shows a report on the “Sessions” of your website.
A session is the period of time during which a user is actively engaged with your website — whether it’s scrolling through your homepage, visiting a specific area of your site or making an ecommerce purchase.
At a glance, your number of sessions is a strong indicator of how many people are interacting with your website during any given timeframe.
You may look at your analytics dashboard and see that your number of “pageviews” is higher than your number of sessions during the same timeframe. This is because a pageview does not take into account any action a user is making on the website and also counts repeated visits to a specific page.
For example, if a user unintentionally clicked through to your website but closed out right away, their visit is still counted as a pageview, even though that website visit was of no value to your business.
2. % New Sessions
Also in the Audience Overview tab, this metric indicates what percentage of sessions were from brand new visitors who have never been to your site before. This is particularly useful if you’re running ads for a specific product or service, or you’ve just written a new blog post shared to social media.
For example, you may decide to run a promotion for one of your products and target a new audience on Facebook. You offer a 20 per cent discount for the month of December, and promote it with Facebook ads. Within those ads, you include links to your website. Now, there’s a good chance you’re going to see a spike in your “New Sessions” since the audience is getting exposure to your brand for the first time.
While the Facebook Ads analytics dashboard will tell you how many people clicked on your ad, there’s value in being able to check further within Google Analytics and see if the number of people visiting your website is increasing based on the promotion.
3. Bounce Rate
Are your website visitors sticking around to explore your website, or are they clicking out as soon as they get there?
The “Bounce Rate” is an important metric because it tells you what percentage of people are leaving your site on certain pages (also found in the Audience Overview tab). This metric could be an indicator that you should make some improvements on that page, like improving calls-to-action or offering another piece of content that keeps them engaged.
Unlike other metrics, a lower bounce rate is better. If your bounce rate is high (anything above 45 per cent is typically considered the red zone), then it’s time to take action.
First and foremost, make sure all functional aspects of your site are working properly, including hyperlinks, page links, videos, images and general format. Don’t forget to scan the mobile version of your site, too. Broken links and slow load times are the surest way to make people lose their patience and leave your site.
Secondly, consider whether your content is relevant to the audience. Keep your content aligned with what your product or service is actually about, and use targeted keywords so that searchers are more likely to find you. (Irrelevant website content will also negatively impact your Google ranking).
It’s worth noting that bounce rate will vary based on your website infrastructure. If your website is a one-pager with all the info people need to know on the home page, your bounce rate will likely be higher than that of an ecommerce site for example, with multiple pages and sections.
4. Avg. Session Duration
Another key metric from the Audience Overview tab, “Average Session Duration” translates directly to the length of time visitors are spending on your website — right down to the second.
According to a study conducted by Wolfgang Digital in 2016, an average session duration is three minutes and 37 seconds for ecommerce websites.
It’s safe to assume that the longer a visitor spends on your website, the better. This means that your website’s content is compelling enough to make people not want to ‘bounce’ straight away.
That said, similar to bounce rate, it’s not always black and white — and it depends on what your objectives are. If a visitor gets all the information they need within a minute, they won’t need to stay longer.
5. All Pages
Now looking at the “Behavior” section of Google Analytics, you’ll be able to see which pages on your site are performing best and worst. Within Behavior, navigate to “Site Content” and then “All Pages.”
All Pages will show your top-performing pages in terms of traffic volume, number of pageviews, avg. time on page, bounce rate and entrances (if the user started a session on that page). These are all excellent indicators of your website’s success. Similar to “% New Sessions,” knowing which of your pages are performing the best will give you good insights into what you’re doing right, and where you can improve.
For example, if you’re running an awareness campaign for your brand, high traffic to your ‘About’ page is a good indication that people want to learn more about your business. Similarly, if you’re running a Google AdWords ad for women’s running shoes, a spike in visits to your ‘Women’s Shoes’ page during the same timeframe that the ad is running can indicate success of the ad.
Head to the “Acquisition” section and click on “All Traffic.” The data within this area is essential to understand where your traffic is coming from, and what external sources (i.e. other websites, social networks and search engines) are contributing to your site activity.
Traffic within Google Analytics is broken down into five main categories:
- Direct: traffic from people going directly to your website’s domain
- Search: traffic from people who find your website via search engines
- Referral: traffic from other websites
- Social media: traffic driven via social media ads or posts
- Paid search: traffic from people visiting your site via a pay-per-click search ad
If you recently struck a deal with a blogger for example, and their audience clicks through to your website via a mention in their post, that hit will show up in your “Referral” traffic.
Are you running a social campaign, or posting content that leads back to your website on Twitter? You’ll see those visits in your “Social” traffic.
Keep a close eye on this data, and optimize your content accordingly. If you’re finding success with one method, you can ramp up the activity on that content and promotion. Likewise, if you’re finding that another traffic source is providing a solid return, then you can shift resources or change tactics.