I always get questions about Google analytics so I thought I’d make a reference guide, going from basic use to the more complex functionality.
If your using this as a tutorial then it would probably be useful to get Analytics open in another tab so you can flick between this page and that.
Okay, this is going to be a long one….deep breath….here we go : )
Getting your statistics
There are two ways to obtain statistics about your website visitors. The first is by analysing log files created by the web server. These are text files that to the layman are fairly hard to decipher, so log file analysis software processes the files into graphs and tables that are easy to understand.
The other method is to use analytics software. This works by placing extra code on each page – this sends information back to a remote system, which then processes the data into statistical reports.
In this series of articles I am going to be looking at the most popular analytics application: Google analytics. I will explore the the basics of how to use it, explain some of the more complex functionality, and finally, how to use it as a tool to increase conversion.
Setting up Google Analytics
As with all Google services, you need a Google account to setup Analytics. Once you have one you can setup an analytics account here.
Analytics uses page tagging – that means adding some code to every page of your website. If you’re unable to access your pages to make such a change, you will need to contact your web developer to do so. Google Provides information about this as part of the setup process.
You can find all the instructions for setting up analytics at the following location;
Basic Statistics + functions
When you login to analytics for the first time, you will see a dashboard. On the right taking up most of the page are your headline figures – you can customize these and move them around as and when you require. Over on the left is the main navigation.
It is important to understand some of the key metrics here;
- Visits: the number of times your website has been visited in the time period, regardless of whether some people made multiple visits or how many pages they saw
- Absolute unique visitors: the number of identifiably unique visitors your website had in the time period.
- Page views: Total number of pages viewed by all visitors
- Average Page views: Number of page views divided by number of visits
- Time on Site: The average length of time on the website before leaving
- New visits: the percentage of visitors who hadn’t visited the website before
The Map overlay shows where visitors have come from around the world. This is displayed as both a map and a table listing the countries in order of number of visitors. You can click on a country on the map to zoom in for more details. Most countries can be broken down into towns and cities.
This report is useful in identifying countries that are particularly interested in your products or services.
New vs Returning visitors
The new vs Returning report can be used to compare the behaviour of new visitors against that of people who have been to the website before.
The bounce rate represents the percentage of initial visitors to a site who “bounce” away to a different site, rather than continue on to other pages within the same site. If this is high you may need to explore methods to entice your visitors to stay.
Similar reports are available for the regularity of visits ( the number of days since users last visited), the length of visits and the depth of visit ( the number of pages viewed by visitors).
The browser capabilities menu provides various reports about the technical specification of the machines your visitors are using. You can check out information like users screen resolutions,what browsers they use, what operating systems and the network speeds people access your site with.
This is also useful information when determining how you design your site and what content to include.
The traffic sources section provides details of how people found the website. Direct traffic means that people who types in the address directly, had it in their favourites or clicked a link in their email.
Referring sites means that they clicked on a link from another website and search engines means that a search engine was used to find the website.
For each type of traffic, you can see what the behaviour is – the average length of time they spend on the website, their bounce rate, the average number of pages per visit and the percentage of traffic from that source who are new visitors.
These statistics help identify the most valuable sources of traffic – those who spend longer on your website, with lower bounce rate and higher number of pages per visits are more likely to become customers. If you are keen to reach new customers, traffic sources that deliver a higher percentage of new visitors will be of particular interest.
This page shows websites that sent traffic to you, meaning they must have a link to your website. Clicking on a website gives more details including the page(s) that sent traffic to your website (IE the ones containing the link).
Using the dimension menu ( in the heading of the table), you can view data on numerous aspects of the visitors who came from referring sites. For instance, you could see which countries they come from. If you only do business in the UK, knowing that a website sends traffic mainly from the US tells you that it is not worth spending money advertising on it.
The all traffic sources option in the main menu displays the same information for all traffic sources and indicates whether they are organic searches, pay per click searches or a referring ( linking) website.
This page shows the number of visitors each search engine sent to your website. By clicking on one of the search engines in the list, Analytics will display all the keywords ( search terms) that have been used to find your website, in order of popularity. You can also access this information using the Keywords option in the main menus ( left hand side), which will also display keyword popularity across all the search engines.
Information on visitor behaviours is displayed ( bounce rate, time on site etc.) and various dimensions are available, including technical information and geographic location. Notice that whenever you see a table like the one above, you can click on a column heading to re-order the table by that criteria.
If you use Google Adwords, Analytics can display the same visitor behaviour statistics on a campaign, ad group and keyword level. It also adds in additional Clicks tab, Which displays the number of clicks, click through rates (CTR) and cost per click.
Analytics also reports, for any given keyword, how many times the advert it triggered appeared in each of the available positions on the Google search results page. Analytics is also able to tell you about visitor behaviour for each position, so for example users clicking on an advert in the top position might have a higher bounce rate than users clicking on an advert that appeared in position three.
The content section provides information about visitor activity – the pages viewed, the paths taken through the site, which pages arrived at, the pages they leave from and the links they clicked on each page.
One very important report in this section is the The landing and exit pages report. The landing pages shows you the pages people arrived at, in order of popularity. Similarly, the exit pages report shows the pages that people leave your site from. This can be a very important report - you want to know if your buy now page is scaring people away!
The Site overlay function launches a new window that displays your website and overlays statistics about the percentage of users that clicked any given link on a page. You can navigate around the website in this window, thus getting click overlay information for any page on your website. If you hover over one of the percentage bars, Analytics will tell you that the total number of clicks that link received.
Okay, that’s the basic functionality covered. In the next article I’ll cover some of the more advanced functions. See you next time!