Are you just getting started with Google Analytics?
Do you know how Google Analytics can help in improving your site's performance (traffic and conversions)?
In this guide, we will cover how to understand different reports and data provided by Google Analytics to improve your site's performance and make intelligent decisions based on its analysis.
Let's get started.
Here I assume that you already have your Google Analytics account set up. If not, then follow this get started with analytics guide to set up your account first.
It's a fully functional account with real business data from Google Merchandise Store & a great way to learn by experimenting with Google Analytics features.
I will be using this demo account in this guide to go through different reporting features of Google Analytics.
Use this quick navigation to skip to a specific section of the Google Analytics guide below:
Let's first get familiar with the terms you will see often in your Google Analytics account. It is important for you to understand all these terms very well.
User - User is a unique visitor who visited your website at least once within a specific date range and it includes both new and returning visitors.
Session - It is the duration of time a user is active on your website. One user can have multiple sessions on your site or app and a new session starts after the inactivity of 30 minutes or more. Original session continue if a user leave your website and return within 30 minutes duration. Please note that '30 minutes' is default duration which can be changed in Google Analytics.
Pageview - It is defined as the total number of pages viewed and it is an event which triggers when a page is loaded (or reloaded) in a browser.
Average Session Duration - It is the average time duration spent by a user on your website or app during a single session.
Pages per Session - It is the metric for average number of pages visited during a single session by a user.
Bounce Rate - It is the percentage of single-page sessions i.e. when a person left your site from the entrance page without browsing any other pages on your site.
Dimension - A dimension is a descriptive attribute that can be given different values. There are few default dimensions available such as Source, Medium, Traffic Type, Browser, City etc. and you can also create 'Custom Dimensions' for additional data you send to Google Analytics.
Metrics - Metrics are specific elements of a dimension that can be measured as a sum or a ratio. Screenviews, Pages per Session, and Average Session Duration are few examples of metrics in Google Analytics.
Goals - It allows you to track important actions that users take or complete on your website or mobile app. You can create specific Goals to track user actions, such as e-book downloads, product purchase, blog subscription etc. in your Analytics account.
Conversion - It is a completed Goal on your website that is defined by you such as newsletter sign-up, purchase transaction, landing page visit etc.
Source - It tells you the origin of your traffic such as a search engine (Google, Bing etc), Direct, or a domain (like facebook.com).
Medium - It tells you the general category of the traffic source such as Organic, CPC (cost per click campaign), Referral, Email, Social etc.
Segment - It is a subset of sessions or users that share common attributes. It is used for doing better analysis by isolating a set of users having similar behavior.
This is the home screen you will see when you log into your Google Analytics account.
You can see the list of all websites you have set up on home screen with some basic stats such as number of sessions, average session duration, bounce rate and goal conversion rate.
You can select a specific date range to see the data for that particular time period and you can also compare the data for two different date ranges and see how it has changed.
I have compared Nov'16 with Oct'16 data in this example and you can see how the websites have performed in Nov'16 Vs Oct'16.
It will give you a bird's eye view of your website's performance in terms of traffic and goal conversions.
Clicking on a particular website link will take you to the 'Reporting' section where you can view more in-depth stats.
The main Google Analytics reporting page display your 'Audience Overview' data.
The left sidebar has a search box to help you find specific reports and there is a list of important report sections such as Dashboards, Audience, Acquisition etc.
We will discuss each of these report sections in detail below.
As the name suggests, you can see the real time stats of your website visitors in this section such as number of users, their demographic details, traffic sources etc.
This dashboard gives you a bird's-eye view of the real time activity of users on your website.
This section gives you the break down of the real-time visitors on your website by countries and cities.
You can click on any country name to further drill down to see their respective cities from where you currently have the visitors on your website.
The dashboard in this section give you the insights on all the traffic sources of your real-time website visitors.
Here you get the breakdown of traffic sources such as Organic, Direct, Referral, Social, Google CPC etc.
Get the behavior insights of your website visitors here including the device type such as Desktop, Tablet or Mobile they are using to access your website as well as the top active pages of the website.
If you have any analytics events configured on your website then you can see which events are being triggered by your real-time visitors here in this section.
Learn more about setting up of event tracking and type of events here in this article by Google.
If you set up any Goals in analytics for your website, then you can see them in this section and track how many visitors have completed those conversion Goals.
Learn more about setting up of goals in your analytics here.
The analytics reports under the Audience, Acquisitions, Behavior and Conversions sections are the ones you are going to use most.
You can analyze historical data and compare site's performance over a period of time for different data metrics.
Let's first dive into 'Audience' data.
This is the default report you will see when you select a web property in your Google Analytics account.
It gives you the most important stats of your website such as number of sessions, users, pageviews, bounce rate, pages / session, average session duration over a period of time.
You can compare your site's performance between two time periods by selecting the 'Compare to' date range.
You can also change the data timeline and see your report in Hourly, Daily, Weekly or Monthly view.
By default, you will see sessions graph but you can plot the graph for different metrics such as Users, Bounce Rate, Pageviews etc. by selecting it in the drop-down option.
You can also compare two different data metrics such as Sessions Vs Bounce Rate or Users Vs Pageviews and plot the comparison graph.
Google analytics show the reports on all your users as a whole by default and you can use +Add Segment option to see the report for a particular segment of your website visitors such as mobile traffic, organic traffic, referral traffic etc.
You can create your own custom segment under +Add Segment section by using the +NEW SEGMENT option and then selecting your own criteria based on their demographics, traffic sources, user behavior etc.
This report lets you see the number of active users who interacted with your site or app and started a session within a period of 1, 7, 14 and 30 days.
This report gives you the demographic details of your website visitors which includes their age and gender.
The age and gender section gives you the detailed breakdown of your visitors along with few key stats associated with them such as bounce rate, pages / session etc.
This information is extremely useful to get insights on the age group and gender of your audience which has the highest affinity towards your product.
This report shows you the interests of your website visitors - the overview section list down the top-10 interests in Affinity Categories, In-Market Segments and Other Categories.
This is a very straight forward report which gives you the break-up of location and language of your website or app users.
In 'Location' report, you can click on any 'Country' name to get the next level break-up of visitors by cities.
The behavior report give you the insights on you how your users are interacting with your website or app.
New Vs Returning report segregate the users who are visiting first time and those who are returning back again during the time period you have selected.
Higher percentage of returning visitors means users are finding value in your content or offer and they are returning back often to refer to it.
The engagement report list down the number of sessions and pageviews by time duration. Use it to understand how your users are engaging with your content or offering.
This report give the insights on browser, operating system and network being used by your visitors while accessing your website or app.
Use this report to find out the most used browsers, operating systems, screen resolutions etc. by your users and then test extensively to ensure your website is 100% compatible with them.
Use the highlighted 'Primary Dimension' navigation to get more insights such as Screen Colors, Flash Version etc. to get more data for your compatibility testing.
This report gives you the percentage break-down of your users by the type of device they use to access your website or app i.e. Desktop, Mobile or Tablet.
The percentage of users accessing the web over mobile is increasing exponentially so always ensure that your website is mobile optimized.
This is my favorite and one of the most important analytics report which shows you how the users are coming on your website.
It list out all the traffic sources such as Organic, Direct, Social, Email, Paid etc. from where you are getting your visitors.
Through this report, you can also find out how successful are your marketing campaigns in bringing the website visitors and completing a specific goal such as product purchase.
This report gives you the overall snapshot of your acquisition channels and the insights on user behavior and conversions from each channel.
This report give more detailed insight of users coming through different acquisition channels such as number of sessions, new users, bounce rate, conversion stats etc.
Use this report to understand which is your best traffic source with good user engagement as well as top conversions.
Click on any 'Traffic Channel' to get the next level details such as clicking on 'Social' will give you further break-down of social channels i.e. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ etc.
This report is useful only if you are running AdWords campaigns and linked your AdWords account with Google Analytics account.
It gives you great insights on the performance of your AdWords campaign and you can see campaign wise performance.
The benefit of linking your Adwords & Analytics account is you can see the user behavior data against all your campaigns like bounce rate, pages / session along with conversions.
It helps you understand the effectiveness of your campaigns and analyze if you are driving qualified paid traffic to your website based on their engagement rates.
In this section, you can measure the performance of your campaigns by various other metrics such as targeted keywords, user search queries, hour of day, destination URLs etc.
You can see the data from your Google Search Console here in this section if you have linked it with your Google Analytics account.
Read my ultimate guide on Google Search Console on how to quickly increase your website traffic through this awesome free SEO tool.
The landing page report shows you the user stats such as impressions, clicks, sessions etc. for each of your website landing pages.
Similarly, you can also see the report on Countries, Devices and Queries under the Search Console section of Google Analytics.
Queries report is really important as you can't see over 90% (comes under 'not provided') of these search terms in 'Acquisition' report of Google Analytics.
This report gives you the list of actual user search queries along with their key stats like clicks, impressions, CTR and average position.
Get the breakdown of your website visitors coming through all the different social channels in this report. The social channels here include:
Social > Landing pages report list down your top landing pages receiving the most website visitors from social channels while the Social > Conversions report give the number of conversions and its value from each social channel.
Get the insights and measure the effectiveness of all your campaigns on different channels such as Email, Social, AdWords etc. here in this section of the report.
Your AdWords campaigns data will show up in this section if you have linked your AdWords account with Analytics account.
If you are using UTM parameters to track your campaigns, then you can see and analyze the performance of all your campaigns in this report.
Campaings > Paid Keywords report lets you analyze your top and worst converting paid keywords and give you the insights to further optimize your campaigns based on this data.
Similarly, you can analyze the performance of your keywords ranking organically in search results under the Campaigns > Organic Keywords report.
Behavior report helps you in tracking and analyzing how your visitors interacts and move through the different sections of your website and these insights enables you to optimize it for better performance and conversions.
The Behavior Overview report gives you an overall behavior metrics of your visitors such as pageviews, bounce rate, % exit, avg. time on page as well as list of your top content (most visited pages), search terms and events completed.
The Behavior Flow report gives you the visual overview of how your website visitors are interacting with your website.
It lets you know the exact path your visitors take from the page they enter your website to the next set of pages they visit till the last page from where they exit your website.
Site Content report gives you the detailed insights on the performance of your website pages in terms of most visited pages, bounce rates, average time spent, number of entrances, exit percentage etc.
Site Content > All Pages report enable you to see top pages of your website along with few key metrics associated with them.
Use this report to identify your worst performing pages which you can work on optimizing further - here are few metrics to help you identify these pages:
Site Content > Content Drilldown report enables you to see the performance of website by subfolders like authoritypanda.com/blog, authoritypanda.com/reviews or authoritypanda.com/deals.
You can see your top folders getting the most number of visitors and then further drilldown to see the top pages within each folder.
Site Content > Landing Pages report list down your top entrance pages from where your visitors entered your website.
In this report, you can also see the conversion metrics of each of your landing pages and analyze your top and worst converting pages.
Along with conversion metrics, you can also see other performance stats such as sessions, bounce rate, average session duration etc.
Site Content > Exit Pages report gives you the list of last pages visited by your users before leaving the website.
The pages with high exit rates are the ones you should look to work upon to stop the visitors from leaving your website and make them stay longer.
You can try to add more engaging content such as images, videos etc. or add the links to other related pages so that they don't exit your website.
This report shows you the performance of your website in terms of the speed and loading times. Use it to find out the performance areas that needs improvement as it directly correlates to your website's user experience .
Site Speed > Overview report gives you the overview of few key performance metrics such as average page load time, server connection time and server response time.
You can also see your site speed by different browsers, country and pages. Use it to identify which browsers or pages of your website has high page load times and work on optimizing it.
Site Speed > Page Timings report compares the load time of all your pages (sorted by most visited pages at the top) with the overall average page load time of your website.
It quickly tells you the pages which has below average performance that you need to prioritize for optimizing to improve their page load times.
Site Speed > Speed Suggestions report gives the PageSpeed Score for each of your website pages based on their loading speeds and also give detailed insights & suggestions on what needs to be done to improve it.
Clicking on total suggestions link (like 7 total) under PageSpeed Suggestions will open a new window showing your website's speed score on mobile and desktop devices along with the detailed instructions on how to fix and improve it.
I would recommend to list down your top traffic pages with low speed score and prioritize them to fix the errors reported and improve their page load times.
Site Speed > User Timings report enables you to track the load times of the different elements on your website pages such as time taken to load by certain images or resources, response time for button clicks etc.
You are required to configure and add custom codes to your website to enable and see 'User Timings' report metrics.
If your website has a search box to help your visitors easily search for a specific content and it is configured with Google Analytics, then you can see this user data under 'Site Search' report.
Refer to this official support article by Google to enable and setup Site Search in your Google Analytics account.
Site Search > Overview report displays the overall metrics of the site search usage on your website by the visitors such as total unique searches, time spent after searches, search terms etc.
Site Search > Usage report display the number of sessions your website received when someone searched through the search box on your website in comparison to the number of sessions when search box was not used.
You can see the search terms typed by your visitors in website's search box under the Site Search > Search Terms report along with few other key metrics like total unique searches, pageviews per search, time spent after search etc.
You can get the list of top pages where highest number of searches are generated through the website search box under Site Search > Search Pages report section.
This section allows you to track the user interactions with different elements on your website such as clicks on buttons, links, images or video plays, form submissions.
Please note that you are required to configure the event tracking on your website to be able to use this report in your Google Analytics account.
The Events > Overview report provides the summary of total number of events triggered on your website along with other metrics like unique events, event value, sessions with event etc.
You can also put the event value (not mandatory) against each event while setting up your event tracking. For ex, for a product of $20 price, you can set the value as 20 for this product purchase event.
Events > Top Events report list down your most triggered events along with the event values. You can look into the events by category, action or label as highlighted below (these are defined while setting up event tracking).
Events > Pages report list down your top pages where most number of events are triggered along with the event value.
It helps you in identifying your most valuable pages where most of your important events are happening such as product clicks, file downloads, video plays etc.
Events > Flow report shows the path of your visitors from when they visit your website to the completion of the different events set up by you for tracking.
You should be visiting this section very often to track the performance of all your campaigns and optimize them based on your findings.
It gives you key insights that enables you to improve the conversions of your website.
It lets you analyze what are your best performing campaigns and which one needs to be optimized further or may be shut down.
This section gives the in-depth insights on the completion of all your goals that you have set up in the Google Analytics account.
Goals > Overview report list down the key metrics such as total number of goals completed, conversion rate, abandonment rate etc.
You can also see the goal completions by pages or by source / medium to find out your top performing pages and traffic sources.
Goals > Goal URLs report displays your top URLs where most number of goal completions have happened along with their goal value.
This could be your thank you or success pages where you direct your visitors after completion of a goal if you are using a a 'destination page' goal type.
Goals > Reverse Goal Path report shows you the previous pages (up to 3 pages) visited by the users before completing a goal.
This gives you important insights on the most common path taken by your visitors before completing a goal.
Goals > Funnel Visualization section allows you to visually see the steps taken by your visitors to complete a goal.
You will be able to see this report if you have a multiple steps conversion funnel and you have set up the steps involved in it while setting up your goals.
In the below example funnel for completion of a purchase, there is a big drop-off of 59% of visitors from 'Cart' page and only 22% and 18% drop-off from Billing & Shipping and Payment pages respectively.
This means that 'Cart' page needs to be optimized to minimize the drop-offs and increase the conversions.
You can also see the entry and exit pages at each step of the funnel and work on optimizing the funnel pages with higher number of exits.
Goals > Goal Flow report shows the path taken by the visitors to enter in your conversion funnel.
You can also select various dimensions from the drop-down option such as traffic source / medium, pages, social network, country etc. to analyze what type of audience is more likely to complete a goal.
This report is meant for the e-commerce companies that sell their products or services online through an online shopping portal.
It gives in-depth insights on the shopper's behavior and interaction with your website at different pages of the funnel such as product listings, product page, checkout page, payment page etc.
You need to set up and enable the e-commerce tracking to generate and see these reports.
Ecommerce > Overview report provides the overview of the important metrics such as number of transactions, conversion rate, revenue, top selling products / categories / brands etc.
Ecommerce > Shopping Behavior report display the behavior of your shoppers and compare the total visitor sessions with number of sessions at various pages of the funnel like product, checkout or payment page.
It also compares shopping behavior of the shoppers by New Visitors Vs Returning Visitors .
Similarly, Ecommerce > Checkout Behavior report shows the shopper's behavior throughout the checkout funnel steps which includes billing & shipping page, payment page, order review page and transaction page.
Ecommerce > Product Performance report list out the top selling products along with the product revenue, number of purchases, quantity sold etc.
Ecommerce > Sales Performance give the details of the individual transactions (sorted by highest revenue transactions at the top) such as total revenue, tax value, shipping charges, refund amount and quantity.
The report under Ecommerce > Product List Performance shows how a group of products are performing on your ecommerce online portal.
The products are grouped as product Categories (such as shoes versus handbags), Related Products (like table is a related product for person who is looking to buy a chair), Search Results (products put under a list for a particular search term).
Google Analytics by default attributes a conversion to the last traffic source (like organic or paid) through which a user visits your website and completes a goal.
This somewhat gives you a misleading data in conversion reports!
As it does not give any credit to the traffic channels that brought your visitors for the 1st time or 2nd time etc. through which a user discovered your product but did not complete a goal at that time.
It's a well known fact that most of your visitors will not convert at the very first visit but over multiple interactions during a period of time.
That's where Multi-Channel Funnels helps you in understanding the contribution of various traffic channels and marketing campaigns in getting the final conversions.
Multi-Channel Funnels > Overview report provides you the overview of all the traffic channels that works together to bring in converting visitors on your website.
In the above example, there are 73 conversions where a shopper visited site through Direct, Referral as well as Organic channel before making the final purchase so all these 3 traffic sources here contributed to this conversion.
Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions report list out the number of conversions where a channel has appeared anywhere in the conversion path except the final interaction.
It shows how different channels are assisting you in getting the final conversions and understand the importance of each channel's contribution.
Multi-Channel Funnels > Top Conversion Paths report display the path taken by your visitors on your website for completing a conversion.
The report is sorted by the path with most conversions at the top and helps you understand how visitors are interacting with the website while completing a conversion.
Multi-Channel Funnels > Time Lag report shows the time difference in days from when a visitor visit your website for the first time to when they complete a conversion.
The below report shows that 70% of the conversions are happening on the same day and only about 3% of conversions are taking place with time lag of 1 day.
Multi-Channel Funnels > Path Length report display the number of interactions made by a visitor before completing a conversion on your website.
The report below shows that it takes only 1 interaction to complete 57% of the conversions and 2 interactions for about 20% conversions.
Google Analytics by default works on last interaction attribution model which means it gives 100% credit to the last channel a visitor interacted with before completing a conversion.
Model Comparison Tool report enables you to compare the different attribution models such as last interaction Vs first interaction.
There are different attribution models available for the comparison such as first interaction, last interaction, linear (where conversion is evenly attributed to all contributing channels) etc.
The below report shows the comparison between the last interaction attribution and first interaction attribution.
Google Analytics is a critical tool to measure your website's progress and track the performance of your campaigns.
It gives great insights to help you in improving your website's performance in terms of traffic, conversions, speed and user experience.
I hope you would be able to find some useful nuggets in this guide to effectively measure and improve your site's performance.
I am going to cover more advanced features of Google Analytics in upcoming posts.
Do let me know your feedback in the comments below. Over to you!