Google Analytics is probably one of the best website tools you’ll ever use and its FREE! Generally speaking, Google Analytics tracks how users interact with your site, but really it can be so much more.

In this guide, I will review the Google Analytics platform in detail. You can follow along in your account or with a demo account by clicking here.

To begin, let’s talk about how Google Analytics works. To get any data, you’ll need to put a tracking pixel on your site. If you want to learn how to install Google Analytics, you can go here.

Once the tracking pixel is in place, this will send data to Google Analytics from your website and how users interact on your site while browsing. This information can be broken down into four areas – Audience (users), Sources (Google, Facebook, Youtube), Content (About Page, Blog), and Conversions (Inquiry, Phone call, Newsletter signup). There are also many dimensions as well as metrics used for interpreting how people interact with your website and measure activity too.

Audience
The audience overview shows the number of all visitors, unique visitors, and, pageviews (along with the average pages/visit) in a given time. The dashboard also contains the average time spent on your site, the bounce rate, and the percentage of new visits (a pie chart comparing new and returning visitors). This dashboard gives you a good, high-level overview of how visitors respond to your site. High pages/visit, high average time on your site, and a low bounce rate are useful metrics to understand.

You’ll also see that there are reports on basic demographics, system, and mobile reports as you scroll down further. You can view visitors by language, country/territory, or city; by a browser, operating system, and service provider; and by a mobile operating system, service provider, and screen resolution.

From a practical standpoint, it’s easy to see whether or not users prefer to view your products and services on a mobile device or a desktop computer. You can also determine what locations show more awareness and interest in your company.

Additionally, this information can be used to find out how well your site loads on different browsers and devices, an essential factor for ranking well on search engines. These reports can identify errors on your site.

For business owners, your primary interest will be demographics; the rest can be looked at by your webmaster.

You can view more details on demographics by clicking the drop-down on the left navigation. There you can see detailed information about your visitors’ location or language, as well as set up user-defined and custom variables for custom reporting. If you click on any state or country, you’ll drill down with more information about where your visitors are coming.

On the left under the Audience Tab, you’ll find many new beta items including Lifetime Value, Cohort Analysis and, Audiences. These items require additional information like revenue or other modifications that are not a part of this blog.

Just past the Beta items, there are additional demographic reports on age and gender. This information is compiled in meta by Google based on basic website history of users and then matched with people who visit your site.

When a visitor arrives on your website, Google can match general gender and age information as well as affinities (hobbies/interests) and share that in these reports.

This section follows another on geographic location which tells you the places where your site is accessed. Next, Behavior will show you how frequently visitors return to the site and the total number of visits.

The last of the audience section is technology which is a more detailed report providing the type of device and browser when viewing your website.

Acquisition
Your traffic sources overview is one of the most critical parts of your Analytics account. Finding out who sends traffic to your site, incoming links, and AdWords and other advertising campaign data are all vital to understanding your site. You will want your traffic coming from a variety of sources so that your business or website is not heavily reliant on a single source that’s beyond your control.

For example, if most of your traffic comes from organic search results, and suddenly your site ends up on page 2 instead of the top of page 1, you’ll see a considerable drop in traffic. But if only half of your traffic is coming from organic search, it’s easier to compensate (in this case you might increase your advertising to compensate for lack of presence in organic results). The first All traffic tab will show this breakdown.

If you use AdWords, in the next tab below, you can view specific reports for traffic driven by your ads, including campaigns, keywords, day parts, destination URLs, placements, keyword positions, and TV ads. These reports show the number of visits generated, how many pages/visit, the average time spent on the site, % of new visits, bounce rate, goal completions, and revenue generated.

The next section requires integration with a tool called Search Console. The purpose of search console is to show how your website interacts with Google’s search engine. In particular, what pages show up on Google and what queries people are typing to find your website. This information is critical to learning how Google perceives your site and when they decide to show it in search results.

The Social tab is after the Search Console tab. Social reporting includes a high-level overview along with a breakdown of each social network, the pages people arrive on your site when coming from social media as well as conversions and the flow users go through from start to finish.

Behavior

The Behavior section is a fantastic way to look at how users interact with your site. The overview section highlights some of the overarching metrics like the number of times pages were viewed, average time on web pages, the bounce rate, and exit rate.

Behavior flow shows which pages users navigate through when browsing on your website. This tab can help businesses understand the flow of traffic and provide insight on how people enter the site and the pages they navigate to and ultimately where they decide to exit the website.

Site content provides a thorough breakdown of all the pages on the website. Similar to behavior flow, but supplied in tables instead of graphics charts. There are a total of four additional breakdowns in the site content section to highlight all pages, landing pages, exit pages and a drill down on content.

Site Speed helps webmasters understand how the website loads on browsers and devices. In this section, you can also find suggestions to improve your speed on the website. Enhancing your site speed and maintaining a fast load time is crucial. Just 1 second of extra load time can lead to 11% fewer page views or 7% fewer conversions.

Site search allows a webmaster to understand what users on the site are searching. This information can help determine which information needs to be front and center that users cannot find at first glance on your website.

Events record actions that users make while browsing your site. These actions can be done with a developer or Google Analytics professional. Some activities include clicking on social media icons, submitting a form, watching a video or completing a transaction.

The publishing section provides data on pages that contain an ad exchange on your website. Some webmasters offer space on their website for advertisers. This section presents data for publishers who have advertising linked on their site.

Conversions
The conversions section compiles reports on events (defined actions on the site) that are set up as Goals. These goals are the most important metric for understanding how well your site encourages users to take the desired action you want. Several tabs focus on different areas related to conversion. The overview is a general dashboard for all Goals. Goal URLs provides information on which pages the goal occurred. Reverse goal path displays a path from conversion to site entry. This pathway is also available as a funnel under Funnel Visualization. The same can be said for Goal Flow as well.

The multi-channel funnel provides visualization for breaking down your web users interactions with the website from a variety of referral sources. The overview gives a breakdown of conversions related to the origins of traffic. The assisted conversion report shows when users convert through multiple channels (i.e., Google, Facebook, etc.) and convert on your site. Top conversion path gives a breakdown of the order your conversions happen. Time lag measures the amount of time between each conversion for a user. Path length shows the total pages navigated leading to the goal.

The final section, attribution. The Model Comparison Tool can compare and contrast how different models impact your marketing channels.

In Summary
Google analytics is a powerful tool. It helps businesses understand more about users, their site and the way they interact with each other. Ultimately this will tell you more about yourself, and the customer base served.