Tutorial on How to Use Google Analytics
This tutorial on how to use Google Analytics is geared towards those new or not that familiar with Google Analytics. Some points may be useful for moderate users as well.
Google Analytics is free and it is complex. It tracks an incredible amount of data, but also is limiting on how well you can use this data. For example, you can not directly follow the path of a single customer from entrance to purchase. Nor can you see what keywords people are using to reach your website. These failings are largely due to privacy concerns. But it is unfortunate because keywords used to be included in early versions of Analytics.
The best way to use Google Analytics is by exploring it. The interface is fairly easy to use once you get over the initial data shock. Reports are broken up into 5 main sections: Realtime, Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, & Conversions.
The Realtime section is pretty self explanatory. It shows how many visitors are currently on your website. The section lets you view by location and traffic source. The view also lets you see the specific pages that your visitors are on as well as events and conversions, if you have those set up.
All of these segments can be viewed not only as the realtime visitors but also from the last 30 minutes. This is an area that could be improved greatly if you could extend that timeframe. Hopefully, this will be added in future updates.
Comparing Timeframes of Data
Before diving deeper into these reports, it is important to take note about time frames. All of the following sections can be viewed in a period of time of your choosing. This is essential when you want to know data from last month, last 90 days, or year to date numbers. Then, you can choose “compare” and select a similar time frame.
I use this a lot to compare a month of data with the previous year’s data to see how things have improved (or not!).
Under the audience section, the most useful areas are Geo, Behavior, Mobile, and Demographics. Geo lets you see where your visitors come from. You can go from country, state, city, and metro area. This is a great way to see what regions you are strong in and where you are growing traffic. This can help assist where you could increase marketing and sales efforts.
The mobile segment shows how much of your visitors see your content on desktop, mobile, or tablets. Behavior shows new versus returning traffic. Demographics breaks down your visitors by age and gender. These can be useful if you want to target adverts or create special offers for particular segments.
This section lets you see what channels are bringing the most traffic. These channels are broken down by organic search, paid search, social, direct, referral, and email. As long as you have it set upt, Acquisition also ties in your Google Ads and Search Console data. To have this data in Analytics is highly useful as it can tie in your eCommerce numbers. Under Search Console, you can see how many impressions you content pages are receiving, and possibly what pages you need to improve or expand on.
A caveat to these numbers, especially in terms of eCommerce. Depending on how your site is setup, the numbers may not be all that accurate.
Search console is also the only place in Analytics where you can view organic keyword information. This can be a potential gold mine for keywords you have not yet focused on.
Behavior reports has two great sections: site content and events. Site content shows you activity the actual pages on your website. Here you can see metrics like entrances, exit %, bounce rate, and more on the content pages of your site. This is the single best place to see where on your site people are most active and in turn, where you need to focus or improve. You can break your data down to top landing pages and top exit pages as well.
Events, which are best set up in Google Tag Manager, provide a unique way to see activity on specific pieces of your website. Here you can see what links, images, buttons, etc. are being clicked and where. This area, when done right, is one of the only ways to circumvent Analytics’s lack of path following. By setting up events on specific pages, you can accurately see what a visitor does next. Unfortunately, you can’t follow the path after that.
This is an area that should be more useful than it is. This is where Goals, Ecommerce, and Multi-Channel Funnels reside so there is definitely some value here. Ecommerce’s most useful function is Product performance. This is especially useful when you add a secondary dimension like source, medium, or device category. The other useful of this report is if you want to track a product or type of product over a period of time.
Under multi-channel funnels you can see the assisted conversions and top conversion paths visitors take on your site. The conversion paths show the sources that lead to conversions. For example, a visitor may reach your site with a paid search and then a reach your site a second time via an organic search. This can help justify (or not) your paid search campaigns.
A Few Bonus Reports to Check Out
Under audience there is a segment called technology. Here you can see what browsers and operating systems your visitors are using. While this mostly assists in the technical side of your website, it can still be interesting to know as it can lead to a better understanding of who your customers are.
Another place to check out is referrals. This is found under All Traffic under Acquisition. Here you can discover if any blogs, news sites, forums, etc. have been sending you traffic. The one large flaw here is that it includes traffic from social sites, which are also found under Channels.
Help Using Google Analytics
This tutorial on how to use Google Analytics is meant to only scratch the surface of this free service. Each report has multiple metrics and dimensions to consider. On top of that are the time frames you can observe.
The best approach to learning Google Analytics is to first familiarize yourself with as many of the reports as you can. Then, ask yourself some key questions that matter to your business. Did organic traffic go up for the first quarter of the year vs last year? How much revenue is from social media?
Don’t fear getting too specific. If you advertise on Facebook, then filter down to only the traffic from Facebook. Analytics works best in two opposing analysis ideas. First, look at big, raw numbers over a large period of time. And secondly, get granular and seek out highly specific data to unlock hidden areas where you are doing well, improving, or in need of improvement.
As always, if you have questions or need help using Google Analytics, feel free to contact me.