Google Analytics Overview

WHAT IS ANALYTICS?

Web Analytics, in general is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of web data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage. Ultimately, you want to measure the performance of your site and identify how to improve.

GOOGLE ANALYTICS

Google Analytics is the market leading web analytics tool with over 80% of market share. Talk about a monopoly! This isn’t by accident. Google’s real-time reporting and historical analysis tools are unparalleled. Understanding Google Analytics can provide you an in depth knowledge of your customers than ever before.

  • Audience and their needs

  • Track the routes people take to reach your site

  • Devices they use to get to your site

  • Learn what people are looking for when they come to your site

GOOGLE ANALYTICS IMPLEMENTATION

With all of the data Google Analytics provides you about your site, what takeaways can you use use to better optimize your site for your customer? Utilize your Google Analytics data to tailor your marketing and site content for maximum impact.

ANALYTICS ANSWERS

Website analytics offers answers to questions you never even knew you should've been asking about your site from the beginning! When using Google Analytics, make sure to keep the below questions in mind in order to fully optimize your site.

  • How many people visit my website daily, weekly, monthly?

  • Where do my visitors live?

  • What type of device are my visitors using?

  • Am I receiving traffic from other websites? Track the routes people take to reach your site.

  • Which of my marketing campaigns is driving the most traffic to my site?

  • Which of my website pages receive the most traffic?

  • Which of my website pages have the longest touch time?

  • How many visitors have I converted into leads or customers?

  • Of my converted visitors, which pages did they interact with on my website?

  • How can I improve my website's speed and load time?

  • What blog content do my visitors like the most?

DESIRED OUTCOMES

What you take away from Google Analytics and how you implement changes depends on what industry your business is in and what your desired outcome is. Based on your business, you can determine what you specifically need to be paying attention to within your analytics dashboard.

·       E-commerce: Sell products or services

·       Lead generation: Collect potential leads

·       Content publisher: Increase engagement & frequent visitation

·       Online information: Help customers find information

·       Branding: Awareness, engagement & loyalty

The Key Components:

In these next sections, we'll break down all the components of Google Analytics and describe what they do and how they help your business, along with giving key tips and information regarding how you can most effectively make use of Google Analytics. For example, did you know a lot of marketing and SEO specialists will make a Google Analytics account for you under their name? In these next sections we'll tell you why you should never allow that to happen and much more.  Simply choose which of the six components you'd like to learn about first:

  1. Creating an Account

  2. Goals

  3. Users, Page-views, Sessions, and Segmentations

  4. Dimensions and Metrics

  5. Attribution

  6. Reporting

Creating an Account

It may sound simple, and in many ways it is, but there are a few things small businesses need to know when creating a Google Analytics account that, if overlooked, could be costly. 

An Account you Plan To Keep Forever

When setting up your new Google Analytics account, be sure it's an account you plan on keeping and that only you can access. You can always give access to your Google Analytics account later on down the road (with less than full clearance), but you never want someone else to have full control over it, even a consultant. For all of our clients, they simply send us an invite to manage their Google Analytics. Although this has never happened with our business, there are horror stories of small businesses allowing a consultant to fully control their Google Analytics account, and when the time comes to part ways, the consultant takes all their data with them.

Don't let ANYONE create your Google Analytics Account

We don't care if it's your web designer, web developer, SEO consultant, marketing guru, or your mother do NOT let them create your website's Google Analytics account under their own account so that they can "manage" it for you. You'd like to think that you'll never need to part ways with this person, but in reality there will be a point when you're working relationship expires and they will take your Google Analytics data with them, leaving you to start all over from Point A.

3 Steps to Creating your Google Analytics Account

1) SIGN UP

All you need to do is provide Google with some basic sign up info. This step is pretty simple and self-explanatory.

2) ADD TRACKING CODE

Once you signup for Google Analytics, you'll get a tracking code to paste onto your pages so Google knows when your site is visited. This must be installed on every page on your website. How you install the tracking code will depend on what type of website you have. For website builders like Squarespace or Wix, you simply put your tracking ID in the header code of your site and it'll appear on every page. If you're using a custom site or a site built from scratch by a developer, have them insert the tracking ID everywhere. For small businesses we typically don't recommend custom sites as it's labor intensive, capital intensive, and maintenance intensive. However, Google Analytics will work with any site.

3) LEARN ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE

In only a few hours, you'll be able to see all of the data about your site, the entire reason you setup your account in the first place! From there, begin to learn about your audience and use these insights to improve your site.

What are Goals?

Goals allow you to tell Google Analytics when something important has happened on your website, usually a purchase or email signup. If you have a website where you generate leads through a contact form, you will want to find (or create) a thank you page that visitors end up on once they have submitted their contact information. If you have a website where you sell products, you will want to find (or create) a final thank you or confirmation page for visitors to land upon once they have completed a purchase.

Let’s say your ultimate goal is to get the user to sign up for a service on your site. The only way for you to know when they have signed up is when they have reached the “Thank You” page. Google will track every-time a user reaches that page, and will show you what source they came from and the path they took on your site before their reached the “Thank You” page.

Goal Types

Goals fall into one of four types:

  1. Destination: A specific location loads (Thank you for registering!)

  2. Duration: Sessions that lasts a specific amount of time or longer (10 minutes or longer spent on site)

  3. Pages/Screens per session: A user views a specific number of pages or screens (5 pages or screens have been loaded)

  4. Event: An action defined as an event is triggered (social recommendation, video play, ad click)

Pre-set Goals

Within the admin section of your Google Analytics account, you will see the tab for goals. Your first step will be to setup your goal. Google has the below as pre-set options for you to choose from, primarily Destination and Event goal types. If none of the below apply to your goal, then simply create a custom goal and Google will walk you through the simple steps to do so.

REVENUE

  • Reservations: Signed up for a tour, rental or reservation

  • Make a payment: Completed online payment

  • Make an appointment: Scheduled a visitor or meeting

  • Become a partner: Requested or submitted partner, affiliate or dealer information

ACQUISITION

  • Create an account: Successful sign up, account or view created

INQUIRY

  • View more: Viewed product or service details

  • Contact us: Viewed phone number, directions, chat or email

  • Get estimate: Requested price or time estimate

  • See available: Checked inventory or schedule

  • Find a location: Viewed located or dealer information

ENGAGEMENT

  • Media play: Played interactive media, like a video, slideshow or product demo

Multiple Goals

You can create up to 20 different goals on your website, allowing you to track similar goals and conversions for all aspects of your business. Be sure that the goals you create are highly important to your business, you don’t want to waste your time and your finite number of goals tracking something that doesn’t move the needle for your company. These goals, for most businesses, will include lead form submissions, email list sign ups, and purchase completions. Obviously, depending on your website and its purpose, your goals may vary.

Users, Page-Views, Sessions, and Segmentations

Analytics has an answer for...

  • How many people visit my website?

  • Where do my visitors live?

  • Do I need a mobile-friendly website? (YES)

  • What websites are sending traffic to my website?

  • What marketing tactics drive the most traffic to my website?

  • Which pages on my website are the most popular?

  • How many visitors have I converted into leads or customers?

  • Where did my converting visitors come from and go on my website?

  • How can I improve my website’s speed?

  • What blog content do my visitors like the most?

User

User is Google Analytics best-guess of an anonymous person

  • Used to understand the overall size of your audience

  • You can segment users into new users and returning users and we would highly recommend doing so

Pageview (“hit”)

A page view is an instance of a page being loaded, or reloaded, in a browser. Pageviews is a metrics defined as the total number of pages viewed.

Session

A session is a collection of hits, or page views. In other words, a session is a container for all of the actions a user takes (type, click, touch). Sessions will time out after 30 minutes, meaning if you are inactive for 30 minutes the session will close out. For example, if you visit a website, click on 7 pages, and then get up from your computer and walk away, that would be 1 sessions, 7 page views.  

  • Session duration = first hit and last event

  • Time on page = time from when you landed on a page until the time you hit the next page.

BOUNCE & BOUNCE RATE

Bounce rate is the percentage of sessions with only one user hit. This means your visitor landed on a page, but instead of continuing their session on their site they then clicked the back button or exited out. You will want to monitor which pages have the highest bounce rates on your site as you will want to improve these.

EACH SESSION WE CAN ANALYZE…

Everything in Google Analytics is derived from sessions, NOT users, this is important to understanding before you can properly interpret all the data. 

  • Operating system: Whether the sessions was from a computer or a mobile device

  • Geography: Country, state, metropolitan area, city

  • Traffic source: Where the session came from - direct, search, e-mail, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

  • New vs. Returning: How many sessions are from new visitors vs. returning visitors

  • Frequency & recency: Number of sessions, and when the last session occurred.

  • Depth (or lack of ): Number of pages during the session, and which pages were visited. Ideally, the more pages visited the better, but in some instances if you can direct your visitors to your conversion page (lead signup or purchase) and get them there quickly, efficiently, and at a high conversion rate that is also good.

  • Outcome: Did the session result in the action your company wanted?

  • Date & Time

CHANGING THE TIME PERIOD

Select dates and time periods with seven-day weeks starting on a Sunday and ending on a Saturday. Simply click on the desired dates, or enter them. Don’t use calendar months because each month has a different number of days, and a different number of days of the week (weekends vs. weekdays). Seeing the data by day isn’t useful for some companies. You can look at hourly data, daily data, weekly data, or monthly data.

Segmentation

Click the “+Add Segment” circle above your data overview to get the trended data to compare segments. We recommend initially segmenting based on sessions from new users vs. sessions from returning users. Ask yourself, is the trend different for sessions/visits from new vs. returning users? Is your site lacking return users? What caused that spike in new users visiting your site?

COMMON GOOGLE ANALYTIC METRICS TO COMPARE SEGMENTS…

  • % new sessions: Which segment has more sessions from new users? A high number isn’t necessarily good, it depends on your goals.

  • Bounce rate: Did your site have what people thought they would find?

  • Pages per session: On average, which segments led to the most multipage sessions?

  • Avg. sessions duration: Really weak metric, don’t use!

  • Conversions (custom set-up): Which segments had the highest sales? If not sales, whatever your company defines as a conversion, such as a sign-up for more information.

Deceiving Data…

We don’t know whether more pages views is good for our website or whether fewer page views are bad. On the one hand, more page views means that are visitors go to lots of pages so they must like your content. On the other hand, people could also be going to a lot of pages because they aren’t finding what they want. In other instances, after an SEO friendly website redesign your visitors may begin to find what they want and are looking for much more quickly. Or, after adding dynamic content, you may see a drop in page views. What is always bad? Visitors coming to your site but bouncing immediately!

In addition to whether or not more or less page views is a good thing, understand that unique users does not mean actual unique different people can be challenging. For instance, 1 actual person with 5 different devices will be counted as 5 unique users, once each for her laptop, tablet, iPhone, desktop, and iPad. Whereas 14 actual people can be counted as 1 unique user, at schools and libraries, where 14 people use 1 computer and 1 browser.

It's important to not misinterpret the data Google is serving with you. With all of the information provided it's hard to separate the noise from actionable insights, but if you're able to do so your site will be miles ahead of your competitors.

SO HOW CAN WE REACH AND ENGAGE THE AUDIENCES THAT WILL SUPPORT US?

  1. Acquisition

  2. Behavior

  3. Conversions

These are the 3 main Google Analytics Reports with which you should familiarize yourself with and use to improve your site.

Dimensions and Metrics

Google Data Basis

Google Analytics data is based on two aspects:

  1. Dimensions: labels that describe data (characteristics of your users, their sessions, and actions)

  2. Metrics: numeric measurements (quantitative measurements of users, sessions, and actions — numbers)

All reports, including standard reports, custom reports, and APIs are based on Google Analytic’s dimension and metrics. Standard reports are pre-aggregated, meaning the numbers are pre-calculated before you even look at the report. Non-pre-aggregated reports,  such as a custom report or a standard report with an added segment, can be sampled, meaning that the numbers are calculated on the fly from a subset of the data if the dataset is large.

DIMENSIONS

Dimensions are labels that describe data, typically appearing as the rows of reports.

  • URLs: Hostname, Page, Landing Page, Exit Page, Previous Page, Next Page

  • Traffic sources: Source, Medium, Campaign, Keyword, Referral Path, Social Network

  • Geography: Country, Region, City, Metropolitan Area

  • Demographics: Gender, Age

A dimension is the attribute of visitors to your website. For example, a visitor of your website could have the following attributes and values:

  • Gender: male

  • Age: 25-34

  • City: Chicago

  • Source / Medium: Instagram / Organic

  • Keyword: Small Business Consulting

  • Browser: Firefox

  • Device Category: Desktop

  • Operating System: Windows

METRICS

Metrics are measurements, or in other words a metric is used to measure one of the characteristics of a dimension. They are always numerical and will typically appear as the columns of reports.

  • User metrics: Users, % New Sessions

  • Session behavior metrics: Bounce Rate, Pages/Sessions, Avg. Session Duration, Conversion Rate

  • Campaign metrics: Impressions, Clicks, CTR, CPC

A dimension can have one or more characteristics. For example, a visitor of your website could have the following characteristics of the Source/Medium dimension called 'Instagram/Organic':

  • Sessions: 340 

  • % New Sessions: 73%

  • New Users: 50

  • Bounce Rate: 15%

  • Pages / Sessions: 7.74

  • Avg. Session Duration: 3:45

  • Goal Conversion Rate: 10%

  • Goal Completions: 34

  • Goal Value: $40

Differences (Dimensions vs. Metrics)

DIFFERENCE #1: CONFIGURED, COLLECTED, PROCESSED, REPORTED, QUERIED

Dimensions and metrics are both characteristics of your website visitors, but the way they are configured, collected, processed, reported, and queried in Google Analytics is different. For example, you can't use dimension as a metric or vice versa.

DIFFERENCE #2: STAND-ALONE MEANING

 A dimension provides context to a metric so without a dimension a stand-alone metric is meaningless to analyze and report. For example, the metric 'sessions' is meaningless on its own until you use it together with dimensions like 'source/medium', 'country', etc.

DIFFERENCE #3: THREE METRIC CATEGORIES

  1. Acquisition: How visitors arrive at your website (sessions, % new sessions, new users)

  2. Behavior: How visitors interacted with your website (bounce rate, page/sessions)

  3. Conversions: How visitors completed conversions on your website (goal conversion rate, goal completions, goal value)

Attribution

Macro & Micro Conversions

  • Macro: Action that is inherently important to your business

  • Micro: Action that in indicative of a user moving towards a macro conversion. This doesn’t directly contribute to your bottomline like the macro conversion.

So why do we care about micro conversions? These are indicative of a customer's steps towards making a macro conversion, highlighting the early actions of a customer's digital journey before a purchase. Now that we know the different types of conversions, how do we go about attributing them to the proper sources to know what's working and what isn't?

Attribution

Attribution is assigning credit for a conversion, whether it be a search ad, display ad, social ad, etc. Attribution allows you to better understand the value of each marketing channel to your company and how multiple channels work together to drive conversions.

Utilize attribution models to better understand your ROI on investment through your various marketing platforms and better inform your next marketing budget decision.

To find the attribution reports, go to the menu options Conversions --> Attribution --> Model Comparison Tool. 

Once you are on the report, there will be a drop-down menu from which you can choose the model you want to view or compare. There are quite a few options, but we're going to dive into those now

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ATTRIBUTION MODELS

  • Last-Click attribution: All the value associated with the conversion is attributed to the last marketing activity the user experienced, but how do you understand the value of all the other marketing activity for your company?

  • Last AdWords Click attribution: This one is pretty self-explanatory after reading the last attribution model. This attribution model gives credit to the last AdWords campaign that the customer click on, no matter what. For example, even if they clicked on an email you sent out, it would still attribute their conversion to the AdWords campaign. Use this attribution model to easily generate a return on spend for your Adwords campaigns. You have all of the Adwords costs readily available at your fingertips.

  • First-Click attribution: All the value associated with the conversion is attributed to the first marketing channel the user interacts with. This is a good way to understand the best channels for initiating conversions. The First-Click attribution model is a great option for new companies & websites because exposure and getting your name out in the market is your most important goal. 

  • Linear attribution: Assign the value associated with the conversion spread across equally to all the marketing channels that were part of the customer’s journey to conversion. This attribution models work great with larger conversion cycles because there is a much longer period of exposure and consideration that goes into conversions. For example, if your customer clicked on 1 Facebook ads, 3 Instagram ads, and 1 email over 3 months before converting, then each one of those would get 20% of the conversion credit.

  • Time Decay attribution: This is very similar to the linear model, except that it attributes credit based on how long ago the interaction was. For example, the oldest interaction gets the least amount of credit while the interaction that directly led to conversion will get the most credit. This is a great model to account for the fact that historic marketing efforts become less and less important as time goes on. People tend to forget about something they interacted with 6 months ago, even though it may be in the back of their mind.

  • Positioned Based attribution: Last-click attribution and First-click attribution combined into one! By default, the first and last interactions receive 40% of the conversion credit, while the remaining 20% is spread amongst the middle interactions.

Now that you know and understand all the different types of attribution models what should you do next? Use it! Now you can run tests to compare your instagram efforts with your email efforts, and better inform your marketing spend in the future!

Reporting

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Standard Reporting

Almost all of Google Analytics standard reports resemble the above picture. If you have multiple websites or are managing multiple websites, you can click on the drop-down arrow in the top left next to your website to switch back and forth between your different Google Analytic properties. For example, as a marketing consultant, we have all of our clients websites in the dropdown menu that we go through to track and manage.

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DATE RANGE

If you want to change the date range, in the top right report you can click on the dates to do so. This will change the data range of whatever data you are currently viewing. To get a little more in-depth, you can even compare your data from a selected timeframe (i.e. last week) to a previous timeframe (i.e. the week before last week).

google-analytics-more-information

MORE INFORMATION

If you're confused about what any of the data on your Google Analytics screen is, you can hover over a majority of areas within the reports to get more information. For example, if you are in your Audience Overview, you can hover over the line on the graph and it will tell you the number of sessions for a particular day. In addition, you can also get more information on the metrics beneath the graph by hovering over each data point. Google will tell you what each one means.

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Location

Within your location view, hover over each state to see the number of visitors from that specific state. If you hover over the column name, Google will provide you with more detail on each metric. If you want to go more in-depth, click on the name of each state (i.e. Illinois) to see visitors from cities within the state (i.e. Chicago).

As a rule of thumb, anytime you see a '?' next to something, you can click on it or hover over it to learn more. Get curious with your analytics. The deeper you dive into your data and the more effort you put into understanding what it all means not only will you be able to find more interesting information but you will be able to make calculated decisions and optimize your site based on data.

Audience Reports

Learn anything and everything you want to know about your visitors through Audience Reports. You will find detailed reports for your visitors’ age and gender (Demographics), what their general interests are (Interests), where they come from (Geo > Location), and what language they speak (Geo > Language), how often they visit your website (Behavior), and the technology they use to view your website (Technology and Mobile).

Acquisition Reports

What drove visitors to your website? These reports will tell you everything you want to know (All Traffic). You will see your traffic broken down by main categories (All Traffic > Channels) and specific sources (All Traffic > Source/Medium). You can even segment to learn everything about your social network traffic (Social). You can also connect Google Analytics to AdWords to learn more about PPC campaigns and to Google Webmaster Tools/Search Console to learn more about search traffic (Search Engine Optimization).

Behavior Reports

Analyze your content through behavior reports. Find out what the top pages are on your website (Site Content > All Pages), the top entry pages on your website (Site Content > Landing Pages), and the top exit pages on your website (Site Content > Exit Pages). These are our personal favorite reports, as they have clear actionable insights. These are invaluable insights, as you can work to understand what makes your top pages different from your exit pages. Unless it’s a conversion page, you will want to focus all of your efforts on improving your exit pages.

If you set up Site Search, you will be able to see what terms are searched for (Site Search > Search Terms) and the pages they are searched upon (Site Search > Search Pages). You can also learn how fast your website loads (Site Speed) as well as find specific suggestions from Google on how to make your website faster (Site Speed > Site Speed Suggestions)

Actionable Insights

So why do these reports matter? You can use all of the reports above to further optimize your marketing campaigns, your website, your content, and anything else you think the data shows. For example, you see in your acquisition reports that Instagram is your greatest performer amongst all the other social platforms. Why not divert some spending away from some of the other social platforms and double down on Instagram?

Conclusion

Google Analytics is the market leading web analytics tool with over 80% of market share. Talk about a monopoly! This isn’t by accident. Google’s real-time reporting and historical analysis tools are unparalleled. Understanding Google Analytics can provide you an in depth knowledge of your customers than ever before.

  • Audience and their needs

  • Track the routes people take to reach your site

  • Devices they use to get to your site

  • Learn what people are looking for when they come to your site

Google Analytics will help your business gather data and create actionable insights.

As always, please reach out with any questions!