Understanding Google Analytics For Beginners

If you are looking for Google Analytics basics, then this article is for you. This is our guide to understanding Google Analytics for beginners, aimed to show you the most important data that every website owner should know.

When it comes to understanding how your website is performing, there is no better tool than Google Analytics. Not only is it the best form of website analytics software available, but also the basic version is free to use (and in my opinion, there is no real need to look beyond the free version as it has everything that you will need).

However, there is only one downside to Google Analytics; it has so much data that it can be hard to extract the most important information. This is one question I get asked all the time from clients, especially those who may not be technically minded, as they find understanding Google Analytics overwhelming and confusing.

Understanding Google Analytics For Beginners

So, in this Google Analytics for beginners article, I thought it would be a good idea to give Google Analytics basics by briefly explaining the main areas of the software and highlighting the most important data that you should be looking at to understand how your website is performing overall.

Google Analytics Basics

Google Analytics is broken down into reports, which come under the following 5 different headings, all found in the menu on the left of the screen:

  1. Real-Time – the reports within this section all relate to real-time data, which shows the visitors who are currently on your website right now and how they are interacting with your pages.
  2. Audience – the reports within this section give all kinds of information on the people who have visited your site including their location, their interests, the devices they use and how they engage with your content.
  3. Acquisition – the reports within this section give all kinds of information on the traffic your website has obtained including where the traffic originated from (the Source), the keywords used by people to find your site and how many of your website visits came from social media.
  4. Behaviour – the reports within this section give all kinds of information on how your site is performing including the most popular pages, the load speed, how people search within your site and how many actions people have taken on your site (Events).
  5. Conversions – the reports within this section give all kinds of information on the conversions that have happened on your site including goal tracking (tracking enquiries, signups, downloads, etc) and sales performance of e-commerce websites.

Understanding Google Analytics

Now we have got our head around understanding Google Analytics basics, it is time to extract the most important data that you need to know as a minimum. However, before we dive right in, make sure to set the date range that you want to see data for, by adjusting the dates in the top right of the window.

Once the date range has been set, it is time to start understanding Google Analytics by going through each of the below reports:

How Many Visits Am I Getting?

The first thing you will want to know is how many visits you are getting. To get a quick glimpse, go to ‘Audience’ – ‘Overview’. On this screen you will see:

  • A graph that shows the number of visits to your website over time
  • The total number of visits for the period (known as Sessions)
  • The total number of people that made up those visits (known as Users)
  • The number of different pages that were viewed on your website
  • The average number of pages viewed per visit
  • The average time people spent on your website per visit
  • The percentage of single page visits, where the visitor has left your website without browsing any further pages (known as Bounce Rate)
  • The percentage of visits that are new, where the visitor hasn’t been to your site before (during that period)
  • A pie chart comparing the number of new visitors against returning visitors

Google Analytics Basics

From the above data, you will not only see how many visits you have had, but data such as the page views, pages per session and average session duration will tell you how interested people are in your content. The more pages visited, and the longer people spend on your site, is a good indicator that people are finding your pages interesting and want to browse around to find more information.

Knowing what to look at beyond these Google Analytics basics will really depend upon your business and what is important to you. For example, if you are considering having a mobile or responsive website built, take a look at ‘Audience’ – ‘Mobile’ – ‘Overview’. In this report, you will be able to see how desktop visits compare to mobile. If your mobile visits are generally low, then you will need to weigh up whether having a mobile website will be worth it.

If you are marketing to a certain country, for example, you may sell a product or service that you can only deliver to the UK, then you will need to ensure the majority of visits are coming from that country. Take a look at ‘Audience’ – ‘Geo’ – ‘Location’ to see a breakdown of your visits by country to ensure you are reaching people in the right location.

Where Are My Visits Coming From?

Once you understand everything about the visits that are coming to your site, it is time to find out where those visits originated. This is one of the most important things you should be looking at on a regular basis, especially if you are investing in any forms of online marketing.

To get a quick glimpse, go to ‘Acquisition’ – ‘Overview’. On this screen you will see:

  • A graph showing the number of visits
  • A pie chart showing the top places where those visits came from (known as Top Channels)
  • A graph showing the number of Conversions (this requires Goal Tracking to be setup, which I will cover in another article)
  • A table showing Acquisition, Behaviour and Conversions for each channel

Understanding Google Analytics

From the above data, you can get a true picture of how your marketing efforts are paying off by seeing what method is delivering the most visits. The main channels that you will see are:

  • Direct – the number of visits that have come from people typing in your website address manually to find you (i.e. already know your website exists)
  • Organic Search – this is the number visits that have come from people carrying out a search using a search engine (important to look at if you invest in SEO)
  • Paid Search – this is the number of visits that have come from people clicking a paid ad such as Google AdWords
  • Referral – the number of visits that have come from someone clicking on a link from an external website
  • Social – the number of visits that have come from a social media website (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc)
  • Email – this is the number of visits that have come from any email marketing campaigns you maybe running

Again, looking beyond these Google Analytics basics will depend upon your individual business and the marketing methods you are investing in. For example, if you are investing in SEO, you will want to look under ‘Acquisition’ – ‘Search Console’ – ‘Queries’ to see what organic keywords are bringing you traffic (you must have your Google Analytics account linked to a Google Search Console account to see this data).

Alternatively, if you are investing in Google AdWords, you will want to look at ‘Acquisition’ – ‘AdWords – ‘Keywords’ to see what paid keywords are bringing you traffic (you must have your Google Analytics account linked to a Google AdWords account to see this data).

What Are The Most Popular Pages On My Website?

The last and final thing you will want to see, when understanding Google Analytics, is which pages on your website are the most popular. To get a quick glimpse, go to ‘Behaviour’ – ‘Overview’. On this screen you will see:

  • The number of pages visited in total for the period (known as Page Views)
  • The number of pages visited by the same visitor during the same visit (known as Unique Page Views)
  • The average time people are spending on your pages
  • The percentage of single page visits, where the visitor has left your website without browsing any further pages (known as Bounce Rate)
  • The percentage of visits that resulted in the visitor leaving your website after browsing previous pages on your website (known as Exit Rate)
  • A table of your website pages in ascending order by the number of times someone has visited that page (Page Views). Page Title, Search Term and Events Category (if Event Tracking has been setup on your website) can then break down this table.

Google Analytics For Beginners

The above data is good to know when understanding Google Analytics basics, as you will have certain pages on your website that will play an important part in converting visitors into customers. For example, if you are selling a product this could be the product page, or it maybe a blog article that you are using to encourage newsletter signups. By looking at the above website analytics stats, you will be able to check that your main pages are getting in front of your audience.

Google Analytics For Beginners

So there you have it, my full guide to Google Analytics for beginners. Once you have got your head around these Google Analytics basics and feel ready to delve deeper into the statistics, it would be time to look at Event and Goal Tracking.

Event and Goal Tracking involves additional setup work to function correctly, so can be quite technical, but once done it enables you to track conversions or actions taken on your website. This can be used to track things such as contact form submissions, PDF downloads or newsletter signups, as well as where the visits came from that generated those conversions.

To find out more, read this follow-up post: How To Setup Google Analytics Event Tracking.

Other Posts You May Find Of Interest

You may also find this article helpful, which talks about the spam traffic that you can get in Google Analytics and how to remove it easily: Removing Referral Spam From Google Analytics.

I have also written an article on the new reporting tool from Google, which helps you get more from your Analytics data by presenting it in a more visual way. If this sounds of interest to you, then take a read here: What Is Google Data Studio?

I hope you have found this guide to understanding Google Analytics for beginners helpful and do remember to leave me your comments below. I would be interested to hear about the experiences you have had as a beginner to Google Analytics and which reports you have found the most helpful.

Michael is a successful entrepreneur with a strong background in all areas of web development, online marketing, graphic design and IT. As the current owner of Improve Position, as well as a small range of other related businesses, Michael's enthusiasm shines through with his passion to help others understand and succeed in the world of online business marketing.

Leave Us Your Comments
  • pvirravi

    Thanks for sharing.. It’s really helpful and informative information.. I read all things,it’s good way to explain but I want whole information regarding all Google Analytic functions..

    • Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my post. I am glad you found it of interest. This article has been written for those people who just want to know the basics. I am planning to follow up with a more in-depth post in regards to things like event and goal tracking for those people who want to know more. I would be interested to hear what features you would like to know more about, and I would be happy to include it in a future post? Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

 

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