How to Read Google Analytics Reports

Google Analytics reports are very comprehensive and in-depth.  Ironically, that is also why the reporting interface can be overwhelmingly intimidating to most of us. So let’s get a handle on how to read those reports.

Google Analytics Reporting

How to read GA Reports

How to read GA Reports

This article aims to familiarise you with the basics of navigating Google Analytics reports and how they are laid out. We will not be talking about specific reports yet.  Rather how to read, use, and adjust the tools, graphs, and reports.  That knowledge will be essential in being able to later tap into the goldmine that is Google Analytics reports!

Note:

For this section, instead of using our Account example of Charlie Brown (see: Create new Account in Google Analytics), I will be referring to another website I had set up some time ago which has more data.  If you already have your own GA account and website set up, please use that as a reference.

How to get to GA Reports
First, specify which website you want to see reports for.

Log into your Google Analytics >> Admin

Select the Account >> Property >> View you want to see reports for.

Then click on the Reporting link at the top of your Admin page.

Click on GA Reporting link

Click on GA Reporting link

This will bring you into the GA reporting interface.  The reports here will be for the account/property/view you specified above. By default, it will show the Behaviour >> All Pages report.

Default report in Google Analytics

Default report in Google Analytics

 


Google Analytics Reports Interface

In the GA reporting interface, you will immediately see that there seems to be 2 major parts.

At the top half of the screen is a graph. In the bottom half of screen is tabular data. They present the data in different ways; in different depths.

Google Analytics Reports – Overview

Account/Property/View selection

At the top right of screen, you can see which Property/View that is being reported on.  Without going to the Admin screen, you can just use the dropdown arrow to change your selection.

GA active Property/View or select to change

GA active Property/View or select to change

Reporting Date Range
Also at the top right, you will clearly see the date range of the reports you are viewing.

GA Reporting Date Ranges

GA Reporting Date Ranges

By clicking on the dropdown arrow next to the date range, you can change the date range for your reports.  You can use the calendar tool or enter your own dates in the boxes.

Change reporting date ranges in GA

Change reporting date ranges in GA

Comparing Data over different Date Ranges

You can also check changing trends in your data by comparing it over different date ranges.

Using the date tools as above, check the “Compare to” checkbox. You can then specify the comparative date range. The comparative date range will be in a different colour.  Which will reflected in the plotted results (see following image).

Selecting comparative date ranges in GA

Selecting comparative date ranges in GA

When you click the “Apply” link, your data will be plotted and might look something like the following:

Viewing data over different date ranges in GA

Viewing data over different date ranges in GA

Uncheck the “Compare to” and Apply to remove the comparative date ranges.

Note: The date range and the comparative date ranges will affect both the graphical and the tabular reporting (lower half of screen).


GA Reports – Graphs

The graphical reporting can be viewed by day, week, or month.  You can also choose to see either line charts (default) or Motion charts.

Options in graphical reporting

Options in graphical reporting

When you hover over the nodes on a line chart, you can view more details for that node.

Hover over node for more info

Hover over node for more info

Adding Notes to Graph

You can even add notes.  For example, you might notice a particular spike or depression on your graph due to some event (e.g. a marketing campaign or server downtime).  You can then add an explanatory note for your records.

How to add note: Below the graph, click on the (very subtle) down arrow:

click GA graph down arrow for more ..

click down arrow for more ..

A little section drops down. You will now see where you can add your notes. Set date of the particular event you are making a note about. (Just clicking in the date box will bring up the calendar tool). Add your note and then click “Save”.

Adding annotations to GA graph report

Adding annotations to GA graph report

Once you have saved your note, you will see an icon marker at the bottom of your graph, at the date you specified in your note.

icon marker and edit option for notes in GA graph reports

icon marker and edit option for notes in GA graph reports

You can click the “edit” link to edit the note and/or change the date. You can also delete the note from there.

While there are many more options and settings to the graphical reports, you now have a good grip on the basics of the graphical reporting interface.


GA Reports – Tabular Interface (Data table view)

In the lower part of your screen, you can see the tabular layout of the on-screen reports.  Information is laid out by rows and columns.

Google Analytics: tabular data on-screen report

Google Analytics: tabular data on-screen report

Primary Dimension

At the top of this section, you see Primary Dimension.   (Remember that we are currently viewing Behaviour >> All Pages reporting, as noted above).

You can choose to select another as Primary Dimension.  For example, if you select Page Title, the second column (“Page”) will become “Page Title”.  And the page titles (instead of file names) will be shown in that column.

Secondary Dimension

You can choose to add another column to your report via the Secondary Dimension.

add another column via Secondary Dimension dropdown menu

add another column via Secondary Dimension dropdown menu

Sorting

Note the down arrow in one of the columns.  That indicates that the data is sorted on that column, in descending order.  If you wish to sort by another column, you just click that other column.

 Reporting Layout Types (using Table display buttons)

There are a number of ways that your data can be presented: from data (tabular), pie charts, pivot tables, comparison bar charts, performance bar charts.

different ways of viewing your data in GA

different ways of viewing your data in GA

Number of Rows to Display

By default, GA shows 10 rows.  You can choose to display more.  At the bottom of screen, click the up-down arrow next to “Show rows”.  Select the number of rows you would like to see.

specify number of rows to display in GA

specify number of rows to display in GA


Summary

We are now at least familiar with:

  • how to get to the reporting section of GA
  • how to change which website data (Property and View) you want to look at
  • some basic layouts of the on-screen Google Analytics reports – the graphical and the tabular data layout.  And that there are other representations of the data: from motion charts, bar charts, pie charts.
  • how to change time ranges you want to look at for the reporting
  • how to compare trends over two different time ranges
  • how to add notes to the nodes in your graphical reports
  • how to set data in your tabular data reports

 

Next …

Now that we are more familiar with some of the options, layout, look and feel of Google Analytics reports, we will move onto looking at some of the very core and basic reports that GA provides.

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