Google Analytics: The Metrics That Matter
In my previous post we reviewed the importance of Google Analytics. Today, I would like to cover a few metrics that are critical to digital marketers.
Google analytics (GA) is arguably the most popular web analytics platform to date. It's free, easy to setup, and packs robust reporting features. However, I'll be the first to admit, the GA can be intimidating. Hopefully, this post will help identify some of the most important reports and metrics.
Google Analytics Reports
GA is organized into 5 categories of reports:
- Real-Time - These reports can be interesting to watch as they provide data on users in, as you probably guessed, real-time. Track metrics such as the number of users on your website right now, where they are located, and what pages they are viewing. These reports are particularly useful if you recently launched a promotion.
- Audience - I find Audience reports to be helpful as they provide insight into the characteristics of your users. Using audience reports you can track how active your users are, their location, and what technology they are using.
- Acquisition - The Acquisition report provides insight into how users found and interacted with your website. If you are managing digital marketing efforts (i.e. search engine optimization, Google Adwords, display ads, social media, email, etc.) you are going to want to keep an eye on your Acquisition reports.
- Behavior - These reports provide more granular information into how visitors are using your website. Maybe you would like to analyze the path a user took from a website search to an online sale. Behavior reports will provide that data.
- Conversions - In GA, Conversion reports provide data on predefined actions such as an email newsletter sign up, a download, or a sale.
Dimensions & Metrics
All GA reports consists of two types of data: Dimensions and metrics.
Dimensions are an attribute of a website visitor. For example the browser they are using, what search engine they used, or even their age.
Metrics are quantitative measurements of each dimension. Examples of metrics include sessions, bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration.
Let's review these dimensions and metrics to help give your reports more meaning.
Metrics that Matter:
When reviewing your analytics, it is important to understand what metrics are relevant and actionable. The following are some of the most important:
A session is the period time a user is actively engaged with your website within a given time frame. For example, one session can include multiple page views, events, or interactions. A session lasts until there is 30 minutes of inactivity, although this can be adjusted in GA's settings.
Users are individuals that are actively engaged with your website. Each website visitor is assigned a unique anonymous identifier so that GA can determine what traffic belongs to each user.
Please, please, please do not refer to these as "hits" (what exactly are we hitting ;). Pageviews are simply the total number of users that visit a page on your website. Why is this important? The Pageview metric can provide insight into which pages of your website generate the most traffic.
Number of Pages Per Session
The pages per session metric provides the number of pages per session visited by a user. Reminder: Sessions expire after 30 minutes of inactivity (although this can be adjusted in GA's settings). This metric is a good way to gauge how engaged your audience is.
Average Session Duration
Average session duration measures the average length of time of each user session for a period of time. There are no hard and fast rules for average session duration. In general, the longer the session the more engaged your users are.
Bounce rate may be one of the most misunderstood metrics. This metric measures users who entered and existed the same page without interacting with our website. Bounce rate is very important to uncovering pages that underperform, user interface or technical issues, and content problems.
Goal & Ecommerce Conversion Rate
Is the purpose of your website product sales? Or maybe collecting email addresses for lead generation? If so, you will want to keep an eye on goal or ecommerce conversion tracking.
As you can see, Google Analytics is a powerful tool that provides almost any metric you want. And, to top it off, it's free!
With this overview, you will be able to identify, understand, and act on the metrics that matter.