Google Analytics Reporting
We are provided with some basic GA reports. They are automatically set up. And they can be very useful without doing anything else. As long as you have embedded your GA tracking code into your website, GA will immediately start collecting data. Which will be available in the Google Analytics reports.
To access GA reports for a specific Account/Property/View:
When you are in the Reporting screen, note the navigation menu on the left.
The most common and core reports are grouped for convenience:
- Audience reports – information about your audience (visitors). Including how many sessions (visits), how often, how long per session, geographical locations, types of devices they use, and more.
- Acquisition reports – how you acquire visitors. In other words, what are the traffic sources that help people find your website (e.g. email, social media, organic searches)
- Behaviour reports – how your visitors interact with your website: what are the most popular content, what they look at, how they move between pages (their flow); what they search for on your site
Clicking on these links will drop-down a menu with more specific reports and sub-grouping in each of the main groups.
So let’s see which reports answer some of the most common website questions.
Questions that GA Reports can Answer
Q1. How many visitors/users? (Audience reports)
That is probably one of the first things we want to know.
The Analytics concept of “Users” and “Sessions” are closely related.
Session: a block of time when a user was actively engaged on your website. By default, after 30 minutes of inactivity, a session is considered closed.
- if person A visits your site over 2 separate days, ==> counts as 2 sessions
- if person A actively uses your site for 10 minutes, is inactive for an hour (e.g. gone for lunch), comes back and continues actively moving on your site, ==> counts as 2 sessions
Users: a visitor who has a session at your site. This count/metric includes repeat visitors.
- if person A visits your site on Monday. And on the following day, he visits again ==> counts as 2 users
- if person A and B visit your site ==> counts as 2 users
The question “How many sessions and users on my site?” only makes sense within a timeframe. So the actual question would be “How many sessions and users on my site from this date to that date?”
The report needed will be in the Audience reports
On the top half of your screen, you will see a graphical report which plots the number of sessions over the timeframe you specified.
On the second part of the screen, you get even more Audience information. Let’s go through some of these metrics.
Tip: hovering over any of the metric terms will give you a definition.
You may immediately notice that there are more Sessions than Users. This probably means that some of your users had more than one active session/visit within the date range you specified.
Pageviews: total number of pages visited (in the date range specified) including repeat visits to the same page.
Bounce Rate: gives percentage of single-pageviews to total page views. Single pageviews are when a user visits a page, doesn’t visit any other page, and leaves the site.
% New Sessions: percentage of first-time visits to total number of sessions.
Q2. Who is sending traffic to my site? (Acquisition reports)
To see where we are acquiring our traffic from, we go to our Acquisition reports:
The Acquisition report (overview) will give you top-level information on where your traffic is coming from, by channel.
Have a look around the metrics. For example, getting lower bounce rates is a good thing. In the snapshot shown here, you can see that traffic from Email, Direct and Referral have lower bounce rates than the others. But they are not the ones that bring the most traffic. So finding ways to increase traffic via these channels would probably be advantageous.
Q3. Which social networks brings me the most traffic? (Acquisition >> Social reports)
These days we all invest a lot of time and/or money into social networks. So it is not surprising that we would want to know if all that effort is paying off and which networks give us the biggest return.
From the information, you can determine which social networks are producing the most traffic. And whether you should invest more into other social networks that seem to be resulting in users who will spend more time on your site (see. Avg. Session Duration or Pages/Session).
Q4. What are the popular pages on my site? (Behaviour reports)
At the simplest level, the answer to this question gives you an idea of what kinds of content your users are looking for so that you can tailor more of the same. All the reports in the grouped Behaviour reports provide interesting insight into what your users are looking for, what keeps their interest, what doesn’t, and even how they flow/move through your site.
The All Pages (Behaviour) report will show you your most popular pages by Pageviews (default). You can sort them by any of the other column metrics (just click at the top of each column to sort by that metric). From this report, you can see which page seems to be the most popular (have the most pageviews). It if also has a very high Bounce Rate, it might indicate that the topic is something that people are interested in but your page is not providing the right content they were hoping for.
Or look out for any page that has a good Avg. Time on Page but with a high Bounce Rate. That may indicate that the page’s content is what users are looking for and willing to spend time on. The page’s high bounce rate could indicate an opportunity here to provide on-page links to lead them to other relevant pages on your site (which will lower the bounce rate for that page).
None of the reports mentioned above nor the deductions you can make from them, are exhaustive nor in-depth. However our purpose is to give you an top-level view of the many types of questions that Google Analytics reports can answer. And to show that the information contained therein can be explored further to give you actionable insights on what you can do to improve site performance either through the social networks you focus on and/or the site content you could focus better on.
For now, this short Google Analytics 101 series should suffice to get beginners over the initial hump in the learning curve. Hopefully the ease of this series will pave the way for most busy site owners into understanding and later, digging more into the goldmine that is Analytics.
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- analyticsacademy.withgoogle.com: Audience reports
- analyticsacademy.withgoogle.com: Behaviour reports
- bplans.com: The 6 Most Important Web Metrics to Track for your Business Website
- colorlabsproject.com: The Key Metrics to Measure Your Website’s Success
- coschedule.com: 5 Big Questions About Your Site That Google Analytics Can Answer
- support.google.com: How a session is defined in Analytics
- support.google.com: Overview of Audience reports