By Monica Pitts
Google Analytics is an amazing tool, it lets you see how people are using your site – for free. I install it on every site we build. Clients get reports. I’m filled with joy by sharing all this amazing data and you know what they say to me?
“That’s pretty Monica, but I have no clue what any of it means.”
And that’s the question I’m answering today – how to tell what people are doing on your site using Google Analytics.
What’s Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a free program offered by Google that tracks visitor behavior on your site. You place a line of code into your website and then it can report things things like:
• What pages people go to
• How long they stay
• How they go to your site (was it via social media, email, search, etc.)
• Where your visitors are physically located
• If they’re using a desktop or mobile device to view the site
• And way, way more.
Before you start reviewing your data.
Set a date range.
If your website doesn’t have a ton of visitors, you’ll choose a broader date range. You need a large enough sample of visitors to analyze their behavior.
Sort data for service area.
You want to review traffic from qualified site visitors. And if you don’t serve people in India but half of your site traffic is from there – you’re making decisions using a crappy set of data. Which may lead to crappy decisions. Sorting by state is usually a good place to start.
Reviewing Your Google Analytics Data
Review sessions and users.
Google analytics calls the people (or devices, because really it doesn’t count people it counts the number of times a site displayed on a specific device) sessions. Users are the number of unique devices that viewed your website.
This data tells you how often people see your website. You want to see a fairly consistent pattern of visitors coming to a website month after month.
• If you’re doing lots of marketing you should have regular web traffic.
• If you just started a new type of marketing you should see a jump in web traffic.
• Traffic may be seasonal, that’s OK, no need to freak out, but good to know.
Check returning visitors.
If your goal is to deepen relationships with your audience and you are using your website to do so you should keep an eye on the “returning visitors metric”.
If you are publishing regular content to your website, updating events, job posts, or publishing a blog, then you should have some returning visitors – especially if you’re doing social media or promoting your site content via email.
• This metric fluctuates based on how often you send people to your site during the course of your business tracations and marketing activities.
• If return visitors are low and you’re actively trying to drive people you already know to your site, you need to take another look at your marketing – it’s not working right.
Average time on the page.
If you have a ton of sessions that feels really good. But if people only stick around for 10 seconds and leave, that doesn’t feel so good. For most pages on your site visitors should spend a minute or more on the page. And average time on site (a different metric) should be over a minute.
Low time on page can be a reflection of any number of things.
• The page name might not accurately reflect the contents of the page. People think they’re going to get other information than what you’re giving them.
• Or maybe your page is poorly formatted or even broken. (Please go out and look at your pages and make sure they’re not broken.)
• Or maybe the page is loading super slow and people aren’t sticking around long enough to read the content.
Entrances reports the page people entered the website on. These are usually the pages that Google serves most in search results. And should pair up with your most popular services or our current marketing initiatives.
% Exit is the opposite of Entrances. It’s the percent of people who leave your site from a particular page. %Exit may be higher on pages with email forms, your contact page, and your homepage. Thank you pages, where you send people after they complete an email form for example, also have a high %Exit.
Bounce rate records when people enter and leave from the same page without going to any other pages. The main pages of your site should have a lower bounce rate than blog pages or job posts. This is not a metric to freakout over. Use it to help you understand how people are using your site and assist you in your troubleshooting for usability improvements.
To learn what brought visitors to your site look at the Channels report.
This report breaks traffic down by organic search visitors, referral visitors direct email, social and paid search. It tells you how each segment of traffic is behaving on your site and is a good indicator of whether your marketing is working or not.
Last but not least – look at your mobile traffic.
Good mobile site traffic should be relatively similar to the behavior on the desktop version of your website. If you serve the general public or you’re hiring employees regularly your mobile site is as important as your desktop site.
Reliance on smartphones for online access is especially common among younger adults, lower-income Americans and those with a high school education or less. 28% of adults age 18-29 rely on their smartphones for online access, according to Pew Research Center.
Watch the video tutorial on Facebook.
If you want to learn more about how people are using your website I gave an in depth review of the topic recently in a Facebook live: https://fb.watch/5lj78zd92x/ . The video will show you how to find the data I mentioned in this article in Google Analytics and how to sort your report to see the data you really need to understand what people are doing on your site.
Monica Pitts is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of MayeCreate Design. She spends her days constructing a marriage of form and function; creating art with her design team to grow businesses through websites and online marketing. Monica considers herself an artist, marketer and web dork with the ability to speak geek and English.