Google Analytics: Interpreting Data

Just as physical stores need to keep track of their sales and walk in customers, organisations with an online presence need to understand how visitors are interacting with their site. Google Analytics provides the tools to measure and interpret your audience interactions. However, the prospect of reading and interpreting all your websites data can be intimidating at first. This article shows you the main components to look for so you can hit the ground running.

Quick Breakdown of your Google Analytics Dashboard

Once you’ve logged into your Google Analytics account, you’ll see the dashboard, the central hub which contains snapshots of several reports generated by Google Analytics. These include visitors, traffic, site usage, and browsers. You can customize this page by changing what is shown as well as by using the drag and drop feature.


The Help Section

In bottom left hand column you’ll find a section which explains some of the features on your dashboard

  • About this Report (Offers brief descriptions on reports)

  • Conversion University (Provides tips for interpreting data

  • Commonly asked questions

The Graph:  Shows the number of visitors per day for a given period of time. By default Google shows you the last 30 days but you can change that or compare two months for example June and July.

Near the top you’ll see the “site usage” section, it includes these metrics:

  • Visits:The total number of visitors on the site, both new and returning visitors.

  • Pageviews: The total number of pages viewed on the site. For instance, if you first go to the “home page,” then you click on “gallery,” then you click “about us.” This is 3 pageviews (but only 1 visit).

  • Pages/Visit:The average number of pages all your visitors have viewed per visit. This number allows you to see if people are essentially using your site or if you’re losing their interest too quickly.

  • Bounce Rate: A “Bounce” means the visitor went to your home page and left. Usually indicates they didn’t find what they were looking for. A good bounce rate ranges between 20% – 50%. If you can keep the interest of more than half your visitors, you’re in fine shape.

  • Avg. Time on Site:Shows the average time spent on the site. Closely related to the number of pages/visits

  • New Visits:The percentage of total visits that are brand new. (on the other hand, the remainder are returning visitors)

These Metrics are important to get comfortable with while starting on Google Analytics and here’s why:

When analyzing your data, don’t focus on one single metric. For example, if you’re looking at your pageviews result by itself there’s not much you can infer from it because you don’t know what that number really means in the context of your website. To get a clearer picture you could look at pageviews in the context of other metrics like your bounce rate or the site average. By comparing the pageviews to the site average you can see which page contributes the most to the overall page views and which ones contribute the least. Similarly, you can compare how much the performance of the page changed over time. For instance, if the page is receiving 30% fewer visits than last week and the bounce rate has doubled, you could assume that people are no longer finding what they need on this page.

You can also create context by taking advantage of the visualizations Google Analytics offers:

Here we are looking at the content by title report. You can use the “compare to site average” visualization to see which pages have higher bounce rates that the site average. The red bar shows that it’s performing worse than the site average.

The metrics you choose to focus on and compare are completely dependent on your type of website and the goals you want your website to achieve.

Let’s look at another example:

The graph mode allows you to look for trends by measuring over periods of time. For instance you can see when a certain metric peaked or like in this snapshot, you can see that page views and visits have increased proportionally.

You could also compare sources of traffic over a span of a few days. Although many avenues may have led people to visit your site there might be certain websites which had a substantial impact on revenue. Therefore, we can establish that several sources may have increased your sites overall visits but only a few resulted in actual conversions. This kind of information is important because it helps you decide where to focus your promotion and site content resources.

Analyzing your Goals

You can use the Goals Overview report under the Conversions section to see how your goal completions happen over time. This will allow you to develop a sense how often a Goal conversion happens, and look to identify relationships between different Goals.

For example, you can select a single goal and use the date range selector and compare the goal performance from month to month. This way you can compare trends and determine the growth rate or decline over time.You can also select two goal metrics next to each other to compare their relationship over time.

Understanding the way your users interact with your website allows you to make critical decisions about site content and your advertising resources. Along with the goal overview report, site usage and traffic overviews, there’s a lot more that Google Analytics can offer you that I have not touched on in this guide. Visit the Google Analytics Blog for more helpful tips and guides.