What is analytics?
At its very simplest Google analytics is a way of tracking users who visit your site. It lets you know when people arrived, where they went and how many pages they clicked on. However, it can actually tell you far more than this, the amount of stats contained within analytics is pretty overwhelming so it’s important to try and focus on getting useful and actionable information out of it first.
Not got your own website set up yet? The best way to learn Google Analytics is reading and doing. Set up a website today:
Why use analytics?
It’s free. The only time you would need to pay for Analytics is if you start getting millions (or more) visitors per year. Don’t waste your budget on fancy tracking software that you probably don’t need.
You can use analytics to track almost any aspect of your site, and there are already a huge number of “how to” guides on the web; and definitely don’t forget to check out the various apps you can download, a lot of them can speed up the basic questions, such as how many visits did this page get, and keep you from spending too much of your day chasing numbers.
Common site questions analytics can answer
Below is a list of questions that can help you understand how your website is performing and what you can do to make it better, but here are a couple of quick things you need to know to understand what the different measurements mean:
- Sessions – When a user visits your site it creates a session, during this session a user can visit multiple pages and perform lots of actions. A session ends after 30 minutes so any visits after that would be a new session. To make it easier you can think of a session as an actual person.
- Pageview – When a user visits a page it is marked as a pageview, it's possible and fairly common for a user to visit the same page more than once, these are counted as separate page views
How many people visited my site?
People visiting your site can be seen in the “Acquisition” section on the left hand side of your analytics.
If you click on this section and then on all traffic -> channels you will be given a total and a breakdown of all the visits to your site and what “channel” they came from. That leads us on to the next question:-
Where are my visitors coming from?
You can now see all the channels that people came to your site from, depending on how many visitors your site gets it might look a little like this:
Most of these are self-explanatory but the most important ones to understand are Organic search and Referral. Clicking on any of these headings will take you deeper into analytics and give you more detail about the channel.
Organic search means any visits that came via a search engine, this is where a lot of web masters spend a lot of time trying to optimise their site and grab as much of that traffic as possible, this is usually called SEO.
Referrals are where someone has linked to your site from theirs and users are clicking on the link. It’s generally a good idea to keep a close eye on this as it can help you both build your audience and understand what they might want.
Paid search, Social and Email are exactly what they sound like, visits from social networks or any emails will be filtered into the respective groups. Paid search is mostly made up of AdWords and similar advertising. All of your other paid advertising should group under (other) and everything that Google can’t work out where it came from gets dumped into direct.
What is my most popular page?
To answer this we need to go back to the sidebar and select behaviour.
From here you can click on the overview and see how many page views your entire site is getting. Underneath the graphs you can see a list of your 10 most popular pages, you can also see more pages by clicking “view full report” at the bottom of the list.
You made a change, has it improved the page?
This is the big question! There are a lot of ways that a page might be improved but generally if you are getting more visits to the page that’s good. For most people they want to get more new users to their site so when they make a change they are most interested in if it got more people to their site.
To answer this question you need to go back to Acquisition->All Traffic->Channels and change the primary dimension to “landing page”. You need to click on other first.
You can then enter the URL of the page you want to look for into the search bar.
You won’t need all of your URL just the bit after the first forward slash – so if I wanted to find the page www.example.com/testpage I would just need to enter testpage into the search box.
This will show you a graph of visitors who got to your site via that page and give you an easy way to see if there is a difference before and after you made your changes.
If you want your site to get better you need to track what your users like and what they don’t like. Google Analytics lets you do all this for free and makes it easy to answer common questions website owners have.
Why wouldn’t you use it?