I don’t have to tell you just how central a role Google Analytics should play in your day-to-day activities, but if you’re just starting out, all those metrics can be overwhelming. So let’s dissect some basic information for you.
Once you are acquainted, here are our top seven Google Analytics metrics to watch:
1. Bounce rate
Put simply, bounce rate is when a user visits only one page on your site before heading to another site altogether, i.e., “bouncing” off your site.
However, marketers and site owners alike often misinterpret the reason behind a bounce. Although a bounce might mean that a user isn’t finding the information or products he or she had hoped for, it’s often an indication of a poorly optimized landing page that lacks clear calls to action.
The site may, for example, have the best content in the world, but unless there’s an easy-to-spot Web form right above the fold or a service to buy at the end of that long sales page, the user will have no motivation to explore the site, let alone move further down the conversion funnel.
Clarify those calls to action with a good copywriter and Web designer, and that bounce rate should go down.
One common misconception about avoiding bounce rates is that sites should avoid linking to other pages, as that will send visitors away. True, if you provide too many, but a few helpful links here and there position your site as a resource that has the authority to recommend other helpful resources. Plus, you’d do well by linking to internal content or products that drive visitors deeper into the site.
If you’re providing valuable content, you needn’t worry about losing them.
A conversion is when a visitor goes beyond casual viewing into taking measurable action. This might be a newsletter signup, a banner click, a sale, or more. In other words, conversions should be among an Internet marketer’s primary goals.
Start your foray into tracking conversions by setting goals. As Google defines them, these could be anything from a “Thanks for registering!” screen to a minimum visit duration.
From there, you’ll want to dig even deeper by setting up a sales funnel to give you further insight into just how your visitor got from point A to the point of conversion. This can also give you a better idea of just where visitors are tripping up. Does one sales page have a more appealing layout than another? Is one customer inquiry form too lengthy and involved? Look behind the goals with funnels for savvy insight into what is and what is not working along the way.
3. Traffic sources
As you might discern from the term, traffic sources refers to where, exactly, site visitors are coming from. This is a key indicator, as it will help you determine just what platforms are best for reaching the majority of your audience.
Let’s say, for instance, the site is receiving a slew of visitors from Facebook, but next to nothing from LinkedIn. This indicates that a higher percentage of your target audience is on the former site than the latter, and that this is where you should concentrate your social media campaigns.
Traffic sources can even be a key indicator for physical activities. You may, for instance, see that the site received a number of hits from a profile on a website for a recently attended conference, indicating the event was a success.
We all know that great content strategy is key for attracting new visitors and keeping established ones. That goes both for blog posts you create, as well as static Web copy. The Analytics content tool is important for determining just how well your content is working, and whether there are gaps. By looking at your most popular pages, you’ll get a better sense of what your customers are interested in.
The average visit time will help you determine how useful they feel your content is. You’ll see where visitors are exiting your page as well, which, when combined with a look at your conversion funnel, should tell you just where you’re losing audience attention.
5. Social reports
Beneath the traffic source tool you’ll find the ever useful social metric. Here you can see just how many people are finding you through designated social media sites, and whether they’re going there directly or are returning later.
Though this helps you determine the effectiveness of immediate campaigns, it also can give you a sense of fuzzier factors, such as the kind of impression you’re creating on Twitter when a visitor returns to you several weeks after the initial referral to convert. This tool can provide in-depth metrics and can fuel powerful experiments, so we recommend taking a look at this guide to the process.
6. Percentage of new visits
New visitors are a good thing, right? Not if they’re dominating the percentages. The percentage of new visits metric helps you determine both how effective your marketing strategies have been in piquing visitor interest and whether they’re converting or becoming brand loyalists.
A high percentage of new visitors immediately after you’ve launched a marketing campaign? That’s a very good thing, but several months after you’ll want the numbers to have evened out, with returning visitors engaging by doing things like commenting and sharing.
7. Landing and exit pages
Located under site content in the content menu, landing and exit pages are two key indicators of visitor interest. The landing page will tell you just how many visits each of your most popular pages have gotten, how long visitors have stuck around, and how many pages they’ve visited while there. This will give you a good sense of whether your visitors find your content engaging and whether your calls to action are pulling them deeper into the site.
Pair this with stats from the exit page to determine the overall bounce rate. If landing pages match closely with exit pages, visitors are most likely finding what they need once from a Web search and aren’t finding any reason to return.
Google Analytics can provide powerful insight into any site’s marketing efforts and optimization. But with all of that power comes a plethora of tools, some simple to master, some more complex. One thing’s for sure: With these seven basics you’ll be off to a great start.
Need to see it to absorb all this info? Here is an embed of that beginner’s analytics guide that Simply Business created. Good luck!
Adria Saracino is the head of outreach at Distilled. When not consulting on PR and content strategy, you can find her writing about style on her personal fashion blog, The Emerald Closet. You can follow her on Twitter @adriasaracino. A version of this post first appeared on Big Leap Creative.