Once you have Analytics set up for your site for the first time, you’ll want to give it some time to gather initial data on site performance and audience. How much time you need will vary based on your volume of traffic, but 30 days is probably a good minimum baseline. The amount of insights you can discover will increase over time (such as being able to produce month-over-month or year-over-year comparisons in performance).
Google Analytics can produce a huge variety of reporting, and there are advanced operations that can deliver incredibly granular custom reporting. But, it’s a mistake to try and do too much too soon. For new users, sometimes the biggest hurdle is knowing where to look first amidst all of the opportunities that exist inside of the platform. In this article, we’ll break down a few of the basic sections of reporting to help you find good starting points for understanding your data.
The label says it all for this section of reporting. You can find a variety of snapshots of the action happening on your site right now. You can see how many active users the site has, their locations, and the most active pages on the site all in one place. This section is particularly useful if you’re monitoring results of an active campaign, or dealing with rapid response to an event, for example. But this isn’t the area you want to be in if you’re looking for comparative data, for example. It’s more of a window than a doorway.
The Audience reports cover a huge range of insights about the people using your site. It’s a good idea to start with the Overview, where you can adjust the date range of your chart view to see traffic trends over different time frames, visualize your ratio of new versus returning visitors, and learn about your audience’s location, language, and device type, among other nuggets. The sections below the overview offer deeper dives into various components of your audience as well, so as you get comfortable with the types of information you’re seeing, start to dig in deeper with individual facets.
FYI, some of the reporting in this section requires additional setup, so either plan to get it all done during the initial implementation or get comfortable with the basics (which offer plenty of detail), and then decide whether you need the extra features. There may also be sections of this report that aren’t relevant to your specific business needs, so don’t feel like you need to use everything (tools like “Lifetime Value” are more useful within the context of ecommerce sites, for example). If you’re just getting started, try to focus on the things that seem most helpful to you rather than trying to understand every part and piece.
If you want to get geeky about your digital marketing efforts then this is the section for you. This section of the site provides amazing detail about the different sources of traffic to your site and the quality of that traffic. At a glance, you’ll be able to understand how much traffic to your site arrives via search results, paid advertising or social. You’ll also be able to compare the engagement you’re getting from those different channels. For example, do people arriving by search spend more time on the site than those who arrive via Facebook? Do people who clicked on an ad end up completing sales more frequently or less than other places?
You can get a lot of information by starting on the Overview page, and you can adjust the date to look at different periods of time. You might try looking at dates when you ran paid advertising or a digital campaign, and then compare site performance to the previous period before it ran and see whether you notice any differences. In subsections, you’ll find detailed breakouts on different sources where you can really dig into what drives results based on your goals.
Tip: If you really want to maximize the depth of data you have in Analytics, make sure to implement campaign tracking codes on links in social, email, your Google My Business listing and other channels.
If the Audience report covers “who” then Behavior has everything you need to answer “what” they did during their visit. From landing page flow visualizations that illustrate the paths most frequently taken on user journeys to important performance metrics for site content, site speed and other factors, this is a section where you can really dig into the strengths and weaknesses of your site’s content.
While this report is full of good info, the Landing Pages section under the Site Content tab can be particularly helpful for marketers because it will provide insights into which pages on the site are most effective at engaging visitors and pushing them toward goals or conversions. If you have a top landing page with a high bounce rate (i.e. one where you receive a lot of campaign traffic, for example), then that is a sign that the content on the page might not be aligned with the expectations set by your campaign creative. Or, the page might be unnecessarily complicated and users aren’t finding their way to what they need fast enough. These types of findings can be key to deciding how and where to optimize.
The last section among the basic reports requires a little more work to really deliver value because you’ll need to have goals (and/or ecommerce) set up inside of Analytics in order to get meaningful data here. That is something that will likely require assistance (the set up of the goals themselves, not choosing goals) because it can be a bit more technical in nature. If you’re working with a website developer or other digital marketing help to get your Analytics set up, then talk to them about getting goals set up as part of your initial installation.
Goals can be any of a variety of things that happen on the site. If you were interested in tracking the success of your content, you could have a goal set up for readers who scrolled to 100% depth or who visited multiple pages on a visit. If you were more transactional, then you could have goals for people who made a purchase. Or, you could have a goal for when a user subscribed to your email newsletter or downloaded a brochure. There are lots of different possibilities for goals, and you can have more than one running on the site so that you can track different types of engagement separately.
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