Understanding how to use Google Analytics is one of the main skills you need to become an ace digital marketer. It’s a powerful tool that can provide comprehensive data about your website’s performance, but it can be confusing and daunting to a newcomer who isn’t familiar with the tech lingo.
In my daily work, I monitor analytics across all of USGBC’s digital properties to understand what’s working on a webpage and what isn’t; for inspiration on article topics (for instance, if there has been a spike in searches related to energy efficiency, perhaps it’s time to write an article about that); and to help other departments understand what content our audience finds most useful. The information Google Analytics provides a true north, if you will, in what I need to spend my energy and time on as a digital marketer.
If you’re just beginning to dip your toes into the digital marketing field or need a Google Analytics refresher, here’s what you need to know to get started in collecting data reports.
Navigating Google Analytics
Let’s say you already have Google Analytics installed on your website (if not, check out Moz’s guide on how to set up the tool). Once logged in, you’ll see an overview of your website’s performance regarding number of users, sessions and bounce rate—we’ll discuss these terms later on—and on the left-hand navigation bar, you’ll see several tabs, including “Real-time,” “Audience,” “Acquisition” and “Behavior.”
This section will show you real-time data, including how many active visitors are currently on your website, how many pages they’re viewing, the most active pages and where your users live.
This is my favorite section of Google Analytics, because it shares useful information about your online audience on a macro basis. The Audience report will give you a ton of demographic data about your users, including their ages and interests, but it also will show you how many pages a typical web user visits after coming to your website, the average amount of time they spend, what devices they’re using and if they’ve been on your website before.
This section will show you where your web traffic is coming from, such as organic searches (if a user types “flowers” into Google and then arrives at a flower shop’s website, that’s an organic search), emails, social media or paid searches. If you’re analyzing whether your marketing campaign is effective at driving traffic to your website, this is the tab you’ll use most often.
Curious how much traffic a web page is getting? Look no further than the Behavior tab. This is where you’ll find information about pageviews, unique pageviews and bounce rates.
Terms to know
As you work your way through Google Analytics, here are the common terms you’ll run across.
Pageviews:When a page is loaded in a web browser. If a user views a page multiple times, it’s counted in this metric. (If you’re looking for information about how many times a PDF document has been downloaded, those are designated as “events” and not pageviews, since they’re not HTML files.)
Unique pageviews: Unique pageviews essentially show how many times your page has been visited at least once in a given session. When a user views a page multiple times, each visit is counted as a pageview. With unique pageviews, if a user visits a page more than once during a session, this will only count as a single unique pageview.
Bounce rate: The percentage of users who visit only one page of your website. Learn more about lowering your bounce rate.
Session: A group of actions—such as a transaction, pageview or PDF download—that a user makes on your website within a given time frame.
Conversion: When a user makes a purchase on your website during a session.
Medium: Where your web traffic is coming from, such as Google or an email.
- Google Analytics for Beginners course by Google
- Google Analytics Solutions website
- The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics
- Google Analytics videos
- Google Analytics blog