While reviewing people’s websites I have been pleasantly surprised by how many people have Google Analytics installed. But only a few of those people are then taking the next step and regularly looking at their Google Analytics reports, often because they don’t know where to start.

Google Analytics is a very powerful tool which can tell us all sorts of details about the people visiting our websites and what they do there. Unfortunately this wealth of detail can also make it quite overwhelming to begin with.

It’s good to have it installed because at least it’s collecting data but the real fun starts when you begin digging into it. If you rarely (or never) look at Google Analytics here are 3 good places to start exploring.

1. Basic measures of your website traffic

The first page (or ‘report’ in Google Analytics lingo) that you see when you look at Google Analytics for your website is an overview (Audience | Overview). You can adjust the period of time you are looking at using the date drop-down in the top right-hand corner.  I like to record the following stats on a weekly basis:

  • Sessions – the number of visits that have been made to your website
  • Users – the number of unique people who have made those visits
  • Pageviews – the total number of pages that have been viewed by those users during those sessions
Basic stats in Google Analytics

I also keep my eye on the Bounce Rate (the number of people who only visit one page of my website before leaving) and Average Session Duration.  For most websites it’s good to see a low Bounce Rate and a high Average Session Duration, which shows that people are engaging with your site (but this does depend on your specific objectives).

2. Where your website traffic is coming from

Now you know how much traffic you’re getting, it’s good to explore where it’s coming from. This will give you clues as to which marketing methods are working best for you, which social media platforms are most effective for your business, etc.

Choose the following options from the left-hand pane: Acquisition | All Traffic | Source/Medium, to see a list of the sources of your website traffic.

Sources of website traffic in Google Analytics

If you want to drill down further go to Acquisition | All Traffic | Referrals and click on any of the referral sources, e.g. pinterest.com or t.co (Twitter) and you will get a list of the specific pins or tweets that sent traffic your way. This is great for working out things like what kind of social media posts your audience respond to. You start to see just how powerful the information from Google Analytics can be.

3. Which of your pages are most popular?

This report can be one of the most fascinating and surprising. To see a list of your top 10 most popular posts or pages choose the following options from the menu on the left: Behaviour | Site Content | All Pages. Don’t forget that the dates set in the upper right corner still apply and it is the most popular during whatever period you have set there.

These are some results from my food blog and it is really interesting to see which recipes are currently the most popular. Where it just shows ‘/’ as the page (number 2 in my list), this refers to the home page.

Discovering your most popular pages in Google Analytics

Knowing which of your pages or posts are most popular gives you an insight into your audience’s interests and needs, and can inform what you do in the future. You can also ask yourself whether there are any obvious reasons for a particular page’s popularity, e.g. ranking well in Google for a related keyword, social media shares, advertising you have done or press attention you have received. And then you can do more of what works.

Going further with Google Analytics

We’ve only dipped our toe into the water looking at these 3 reports. If you want to take it further a good next step would be to explore your audience demographics from the Audience section in the menu. Check out the numbers under Audience | Mobile | Overview if you’ve ever wondered whether it’s really important for your site to be responsive (mobile-friendly)! And if you get hooked, Google offer a number of free courses in their Analytics Academy.

I hope you enjoy exploring your Google Analytics reports and watching those numbers go up week by week. If you have any questions please ask them in the comments below and I will do my best to answer them.

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