Beginners guide to using Google Analytics & setting goals

Google Analytics on a laptop

“You can only improve what you measure”
Tom Peters

Hopefully you have your Google analytics account already created and connected up to your website. If not, check out Beginners guide to installing Google Analytics and get it set up now.

In this post you are going to learn some basic google analytics terminology and what information you may be interested in checking on a regular basis. As this is beginner analytics I won’t be diving into any advanced topics and will just keep it simple.

The Interface

When you open Google Analytics and login you will be taken to your Audience Overview page. Here you can:
  • Select the date range
  • Change the view
  • Access reports
  • Access administration
 Audience Overview

 

Changing the date range

Data is displayed for a date range. You can select an individual date, select a predefined date range or custom date range. It can also be useful to compare the data to a previous period of time. It is generally best to compare to the same period of time for the week or month before. Comparing a Monday to a Tuesday doesn’t really give you much insight.

Change date - Google Analytics

 

Viewing and adding annotations

There is also an arrow that when clicked will reveal an annotations area. I like to add key events in here. For example, when I added a new feature to my site, moved hosts, changed url structure, put an advertisement in the newspaper or ran a new Facebook ad. Later you will forget these things and it is useful to see what impact they may have had on you analytics.

 

Adding annotations

 

Google Analytics terms

Here are some of the main terms that you will see in your reports.

Session

This is a visit to your website within a given time frame.

Example 1:  A person visits your website, views 3 pages and subscribes to your newsletter. This would count as 1 session.

Example 2: A person visits your website and views 3 pages. They then take a break for an hour and when returning they subscribe to your newsletter. This would count as 2 sessions. This is because any time a person is inactive for more than 30 minutes, if they return it will count as a new session.

User

This is a unique visitor to your website. If someone visits your website 10 times during the month from the same computer, they will only be recorded as a single user. (The session count would be 10 though)

Page view

This is the number of times a page has been viewed. (Note that refreshing a page counts as a new page view.

Bounce Rate

This is the percentage of sessions that only had a single pageview. Eg. A person visited a page on your site and then left again immediately without looking at any other pages. A high bounce rate makes sense on some pages such as a contact page. It is common that a visitor has come to get an address or phone number and then leaves. On other pages it could indicate a problem.

 

The Reports

You won’t need all the reports but explore them to see what they have to offer and save any to your shortcuts that you might visit frequently.

Setup the following:

  1. Add your favourite reports to your shortcuts (Shortcut link at top of report)
  2. Setup key reports to be emailed to you each month (Email link at top of report)

 

Audience

These reports will let you know everything you need to know about your visitors. This includes where they come from, their language, the browsers they use, the type of device, the size of their screen and their demographic.

I regularly check:

Technology -> Browser and OS to see what browsers people are using to make sure I’m testing on those browsers.

Mobile -> Overview to see how many people are accessing my site from a mobile phone.

Geo -> Location to see what countries and cities most of my visitors are from. (Note. If you don’t expect lots of traffic from countries like Russia, Ukraine and India but have visits from those countries it is most likely spam bots on your site.)

 

Audience menu - google analytics

Acquisition

These reports let you know how visitors found your website. Here you can check which social media platforms are sending traffic to your site and which websites are referring traffic.  If you pay for Ads you can link your Google Adwords account and check which ads are driving traffic and gain insight into what those users are doing. Linking your Google Search Console will allow you to learn about what users are typing into Google to find your website.

I regularly check:

Acquisition Overview to see where my traffic is coming from (Organic, direct, referral, social, email) I can also see which of these channels is converting the best.

Social Overview to see which social platforms are driving traffic to my site. Eg. Facebook, Pinterest, Yelp, Instagram etc)

Acquisition menu - Google Analytics

Behaviour

Want to learn about which content is your most popular? In this section you can find your top entry pages (landing pages), most visited pages and where people leave your website. If you have a search feature on your website you can set up the Site Search and see what people are searching for. This may indicate content that can’t be found or give you ideas for new content that may not exist but people are looking for.

I regularly check:

Site Content -> All pages to see which pages have been visited, how long people have spent on them and how many bounced.

Behaviour menu - google analytics

Conversions

To get the most out of these reports you need to set up goals which I will cover shortly. Goals are actions that you want a visitor to take on your website and will be unique to your business and what you are trying to achieve. Once setup you can see who completed the goals, from which counties, devices & landing pages.

Conversion menu - google analytics

Goal setup

It is important to set up goals in Google Analytics. These are goals and actions that you are wanting users to take on your website. For example:
  • Submit a request using the contact form
  • Make a purchase
  • Visit the services page
  • Visit more than 1 page in a session
  • Sign up to your newsletter
Step 1: In your Google Analytics account ensure that your account and master view have been selected.
Step 2: Go to the Admin area.
Step 3: Select Goals which is under ‘View’ on the right side.
Step 4: Select ‘New Goal’
 Create Goal in Google Analytics

Step 5: You can either select one of the template options which will just pre-fill the next section or select ‘Custom’ and then Continue.

Goal set-up in Google Analytics

Step 6: Give the goal a descriptive name. The type of goal will be determined by what you are wanting to measure. Click continue once you have completed the details. You can go back and edit these and create more than one so don’t worry too much.

The following is an example of my goal for when people download one of my content upgrades and get added to my email list. I have used destination type as I direct the user to a thank you page after signing up.

Goal Description - Google Analytics

Step 7: Depending on the type of goal you selected you will need to add the metrics here that you wish to achieve for your goal, or the destination you want people to get to. Select Save once you are done.

Goal details - Google Analytics

Advanced Features

We have covered some of the basic features of Google Analytics. There are many more such as:

  • Adding filters to stop spam from showing up in your reports
  • Enabling ecommerce tracking (if you sell online)
  • Adding segments to allow viewing of data for a specific dimension
  • Creating dashboards
  • Custom reports

If you want to learn more there are courses available where you can learn how to dive much deeper into your reports.

 

Going Forward

What you have learnt is possibly enough for many small website owners. Set a time in your calendar to check your reports on a regular basis or schedule your reports to be emailed to you. Remember – if you don’t know how things are tracking you don’t know what to improve.

Even if you don’t do this, please, please just ensure that google analytics is set up on your site. You might hire someone like me in the future to come in and give you advice on your website and how to improve it. Having all of your analytics will make life so much easier.

 Now that you have Google Analytics set up I also suggest that you set up your Google Search Console.
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