Simplifying Google Analytics for Websites

By January 13, 2016Blog, Learn
Google Analytics - Leafcutter

Google Analytics is one of the most powerful tools for understanding how your website or web app is performing. However, it can become a time-consuming, complex tool to work with and can be very difficult for non-technically inclined roles to understand.

To make the process of reviewing reports easier for non-technical roles, we generally recommend that you use the following 5 metrics as a base to start from. These will change depending on your needs and the level of analysis required, however they are good all-round metrics relevant to most marketing websites, internal websites, web apps and mobile apps. It is good to have an understanding of these metrics because whilst they rarely show the cause of change, they very much show the aggregate of these causes i.e. the combined effect of marketing and social media efforts.

These 5 key metrics are:

  1. Sessions
  2. Bounce Rate
  3. Conversion Rate
  4. Source/Medium
  5. Site Content

1. Sessions

What is a session?
Sessions are the starting point for understanding the size of your audience online. A session represents a single visit to your website by a user that has come to the site for the first time or returned after one or more visits.

How to access from a property view
Audience > Overview
Also accessible from the Google Analytics homepage

Why are sessions important?
Sessions are a good baseline metric because they show very quickly change in the number of users visiting the site (or alternatively the same users coming back more frequently).

What would I be looking for?

  • Steady growth, decline or stability over a number of months, indicating the effects of marketing and the natural cycle of user interaction.
  • Spikes in line with key marketing activities e.g. EDMs, social media, etc.

2. Bounce Rate

What is bounce rate?
Bounce rate is a measure of how ‘sticky’ your content is. The bounce rate represents the percentage of users who visit a page your site and then leave without visiting an additional page (they ‘bounce’ off your website).

How to access from a property view
Audience > Overview
Also accessible from the Google Analytics homepage

Why is bounce rate important?
In almost all cases keeping users on your site for more than one page shows higher engagement and should lead to higher conversion rates.

What would I be looking for?

  • Sudden increases in bounce rate can indicate a spike in traffic to a news article, from a social post or marketing activity. This should be mirrored by a corresponding increase in sessions.
  • Gradual changes over many months (positive or negative) are commonly a reflection of the quality of your navigation, content and website design, and require a more considered and extensive approach to improve.

3. Conversion Rate

What is conversion rate?
Conversion rate is a measure of how many users take action (e.g. a purchase) vs those that do not. Conversions are manually configured in Google Analytics – depending on your organisation, you may see you may see conversion as a purchase, a donation, an enquiry or even spending a certain amount of time on site.

How to access from a property view
Conversions > Goals > Overview
Also accessible from the Google Analytics homepage

Why is conversion rate important?
Conversion rate is the core metric determining how effective your site and content is in getting people to take action once they are there. Arguably it is the key metric for determining how effective the user experience of the site is.

What would I be looking for?

  • Conversion rate should ideally remain constant or improve over time. In reality change to website design, seasonality and other factors can cause this to change, in some cases quite drastically.
  • Conversion rate has no magic number, and will vary depending on your site and what you are tracking.

4. Source/Medium

What is Source/Medium?
Source/Medium is an aggregated view of where your users are coming from.

How to access from a property view
Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium

Why is Source/Medium important?
Source/Medium gives you an understanding of which digital marketing channels are working for the organisation. In more advanced setups you can also gain greater feedback about other marketing channels.

What would I be looking for?

  • What sources provide the highest number of visitors, and how this changes over time
  • There is always an important distinction of organic traffic vs paid traffic vs direct vs social – this helps separate the effectiveness of each channel and determine how the mix is working

5. Site Content

What is Site Content?
Site content is a breakdown of the key content on the site.

How to access from a property view
Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages

Why is Site Content important?
Understanding the key areas of the site that are performing and underperforming give insight into the content that users are drawn to, both due to the on site experience as well as through other channels.

What would I be looking for?

  • What pages are the most visited; trying to understand what is the user’s path to these pages, why they perform well, and how this success can be improved or emulated across other content
  • What pages are the least visited; determining the factors why these pages are visited, and whether they are useful or not.

How we use these metrics in our work

As an initial starting point in working with our clients, we regularly ask for these metrics, and once the project has started use them as a initial point of investigation for how to best improve or rebuild the site. For clients that also want to have a handle on how their site is performing who may not be ready for ongoing CRO, SEO, SEM & strategy services we advise them to start with understanding and monitoring these metrics.

If you’d like to know more about going beyond these metrics or improving the experience of your website or web app, get in touch with us and we’d be more than happy to help you create a better digital experience for your customers.