Understand what the different areas of analytics mean and how they affect your business.
Every month, I look at all our marketing stats - everything from website visits to social media followers. This data helps me determine what marketing activities are working and what aren’t. It also helps me determine what trends can be repeated or what was a one-time event. One of the best tools I use to monitor website data is Google Analytics. This system helps you to understand your audience’s behaviors and intentions.
If you are a marketer and you use GA regularly, you will likely have seen that UA (Universal Analytics) is being discontinued in 2023. It’s important to start your migration to GA4 sooner rather than later. Still, for this article, I will talk about different success metrics in general terms that can apply to both GA options.
Audience metrics help you determine how many unique users are visiting your site, how many pages they are viewing, and how long they are staying on your site. GA breaks these down into the following terms -
- Users - A unique individual visiting your site with at least one session.
- Sessions - A session is a given period of time a user is actively engaged with your site. This figure can include multiple visits of the same user. GA includes all usage data (screen view, events, eCommerce, etc.) into a session. Google does give you the option to exclude bot traffic from your analytics data. You can do this by going to Admin > View settings > Bot Filtering. Note: this does not block bots from your site. It only removes the data from your analytics view.
- Pageviews - The total number of pages viewed with repeated views counted.
- Avg. Session Duration - This figure is the average length of a full session (start to finish).
- Bounce Rate - A ‘bounce’ is when a user comes to a single page on your site but has no interaction with it. The bounce rate is determined by dividing the single-page sessions by all sessions, which gives you a percentage.
GA gives additional audience data, but these are the primary areas I look at on a monthly basis. If there is a particular event or a large increase in sessions on a particular date, I might look past these initial metrics and search for more specific information.
Acquisition is one of my favorite metrics to measure because it tells you where your audience is coming from and how they found you. GA gives you information in a few different ways here. You can measure your acquisition against conversion goals, set up smart goals, or just look at the traffic as a whole. In the Acquisition Overview view, you can get a quick glance at the top channels, sources, and mediums of your users in graphic form and measures against behavior and conversions. Here are some definitions of each of these areas.
Top Channels: Where your users are coming from, i.e., Paid Search, Display, Direct, Organic Search, Social, Referral, etc.
Sources: Specific sites or locations online where your users find you, i.e., Google, Facebook, Bing, LinkedIn, etc. “Direct” is still included in this metric as it means users are entering your URL indirectly.
Medium: This metric describes the general category of a source, i.e., CPC, organic, referral, social, etc.
Behavior: These measurements are data captured about your audience grouped together. On the Acquisition Overview page, the Behavior area shows bounce rate, pages/session, and avg. session duration so that these items can be measured against the Acquisition Dimension (channel, source, or medium).
Conversions: A conversion is a completed activity on your site. For example - if a user signed up for a newsletter or filled out a form. That is an active interaction, and it shows that the user is engaged in your content in some way.
As a content developer, one of the ways that I draw people into our site is by creating compelling content - like this blog article - so that they want to visit and interact with our site. GA has several ways to look at the different areas of content you have on your site. The first is on the Home page of GA. There is a module called “What pages do your users visit?” This shows you the top pageviews for the given time period shown in the module. This is a quick look at the top-performing content, and from here, you can go to your Pages Report.
The Pages Report gives you every piece of content on your site and how it performs. This page allows you to customize the date range into a more precise time period and gives you additional data such as unique page views, avg. time on page, entrances, bounce rate, etc. You also have the option of searching for specific pages to see how well they did on certain dates. For example, if I wanted to look at all the blog posts in a given date range, I would type in ‘post’ into this search field because all of our articles have ‘post’ in the URL.
GA also gives you a look at the landing pages that are getting the most traffic as well as the exit pages. Knowing the exit page can be very valuable because it can sometimes tell you why a user leaves your site. Maybe they got all the information they needed, or they needed additional information and couldn’t find it.
This is a really cool tool that Google has integrated into Analytics. It’s *intelligent* feedback on the data that’s being collected, and it will show you different statistics based on how those analytics answer specific questions. Example: How many users did I have last week? Insights will provide the exact analytics that shows you this answer. Insights explain trends, changes, and opportunities in your data that can provide valuable information about your marketing efforts. If you are unsure about how to read your data, this is a great place to start until you get used to how it all relates to your business.
While Google Analytics is typically the ‘gold standard when it comes to website data collection, there are other options for analytics available, and most of the terms above are interchangeable with other services. I would advise that you refer to any documentation any analytics service has just to ensure that you are getting the data you need.