Breaking down and understanding Google Analytics (Pt.1 of 3)

When it comes to Google Analytics, most website owners know it is important but usually don’t understand what it is or how it works. They often think of it as a way to see how many people are visiting their site (which it does), but Google Analytics is far more than that. 

When you understand the data Google Analytics provides, you can start to understand how viewers not only find your website but also interact with it. Armed with this information, you can discover new ways to fine-tune your website so it works smarter and harder.

Google Analytics is, in a nutshell, a tune-up expert for your website.

When Bob Smith gets his car tuned up, he looks for an expert to tell him what is working well and what needs to be improved. Google Analytics provides the data for website owners to do just that. However, you have to know how to interpret that data and understand what it’s saying.

Unfortunately, Google doesn’t make the data easy to understand for the beginner. With that in mind, we put together a handy three-part guide to understanding Google Analytics. Today we’ll focus on the Audience section and what you can learn from looking at this data.

Audience

How many people are coming to your website? Where are they coming from? And what devices are they using?

Every business, whether online or brick and mortar, relies on traffic. More importantly, high-quality traffic. High-quality traffic is essential to a successful business. With any website, your goal is to create content that attracts the type of customer you want to convert. The internet sets up a digital touchpoint that is largely anonymous, however Google Analytics assists with gathering as much information about those visitors as possible. 

The question becomes what can we learn from Google Analytics about your website visitors? 

Let’s take a look.

First, we will look at Overview located under the Audience drop-down menu in Google Analytics.

Users vs. New Users

When studying the Overview of the Audience section of Google Analytics, two of the first columns are Users and New Users. While the difference between these two is easy to grasp, it’s important to understand the reason Google presents these side by side. 

Users represent a single individual who comes to your website.

New users represent individuals who come to your website for the first time.

For most websites, you want to create a good ratio of new users to returning users. Customer or reader retention is often just as integral as getting new visitors.

A key point to remember is that not every website is the same. Your particular website may provide a specific need that only pulls in small numbers of high-quality visitors, like our friend Bob Smith, and may not need to attract large numbers of people. If that’s the case, perhaps increasing returning visitors best fits your goals, while other websites may only care about getting large numbers of visitors. 

Sessions

If Users represent an individual using your website, a Session represents each time they use your website. This number represents every single instance a specific user visits your website. 

Let’s say Bob visits your website on Wednesday and Thursday. Google Analytics records that as one user but with two Sessions. 

Google Analytics also breaks this down into the Number of Sessions per user. This gives you an average number of sessions per user.

Why is it important to know this? 

Simply put, if your website has quality content that someone like Bob wants to come back for time and time again, you’ll see an increase in your sessions per user.

Page Views

When a user visits your website, that’s considered one session. Google Analytics also tracks each page they view to calculate the number of page views. 

This data helps you analyze if your website is funneling traffic properly. If you have a specific sequence of pages visitors interact with to convert or perform a specific action, then you would want your page views to reflect that.

For instance, if your website has a three-page conversion funnel and it is working perfectly, then your page view number would be on average three times the number of Sessions. 

Not all visitors will move down your funnel, but your goal is to maximize those page views for your ideal funnel.

Bounce Rate

Probably the most cryptic data point Google Analytics provides is Bounce Rate.Bounce Rate is all single sessions where a visitor only visits one page divided by the total number of sessions. 

A high bounce rate can mean the quality of the content on the page is low. That there isn’t anything for the user to engage with or do. If that is the case, creating more engaging content is in order.

or

It could also mean you aren’t attracting the correct audience for the page. Perhaps you ran a series of ads that attracted the wrong audience. Consider reviewing and updating your ad content or your method of attracting people to your website.

or

It could be that visitors found the information they were looking for, but your website is purely informational. In that case, a high bounce rate makes sense.

As with all of the different data points, each website is different. High bounce rates should be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Interests

The Interests section is another area that requires extra setup but can be extremely helpful if you plan on running Google or Facebook ads. It helps you identify other interests of your audience that can help you narrow down your audience for your ad buy.

For instance, Bob may also like movies and video games. So showing your ads to other people who enjoy movies and video games could be a good idea.

Technology

If you have a specific browser experience in mind, you may want to take a look at this section. This area tells you which browsers visitors are using when looking at your website. Chrome and Safari typically dominate, so much so that most other browsers are considered outliers. If your website works well on Safari and Chrome you probably will not need to use this data often.

Mobile

This section is vital if you value a mobile experience for your readers. Google prefers websites with an easy-to-use mobile experience, so giving this section your attention is key. The Mobile section provides a breakdown of the type of devices used to view your content. If your mobile percentage is low, it could mean it’s hard to read on mobile. Overall, desktop still outpaces mobile. However, mobile usage has increased dramatically year to year, especially with younger audiences. If your target demographic is younger, you should expect to see a higher percentage of traffic from mobile than you would if your demographic was older. There are other areas you can look at and dive deeper into within the Audience section of Google Analytics, but these are by far the most important and easiest to dive into for most website owners.

In Part 2 we'll review Google Analytic's Acquisition tab and learn more about where your website's traffic is coming from. Receive the information before our article goes live by signing up for our biweekly newsletter.