No One Ever Said Reading Google Analytics Was Easy!

How the heck do I read the results? How do I apply this information to my business? 

Maybe you’re like other business owners and know about this great tool, but have no idea how to interpret the information you receive, or find it overwhelming and confusing. Well, today is your lucky day, because I’m going to try to make it as easy as possible for you to get some use out of Google Analytics and discover the goldmine it is to your online marketing. 

But, before we can learn how to improve your marketing, we need to look at your current marketing. One of the best ways to determine this is Google Analytics. I suggest you check it regularly (weekly, monthly) to see how your site is performing.

Get yourself set up with Google Analytics

The first step is to set up an account and install the tracking code on your website (If you have a webmaster, save yourself some headache and have them set it up for you). If you have a WordPress site, setup is a cinch! So, set aside the time NOW to get your analytics set up and functioning correctly.

Resources:
Sign up for an Analytics account
Install the tracking code ~or~
Install this plugin in WordPress

Next thing to do is filter out all of the visits you make. Go to whatismyipaddress.com and copy your IP address. Log into your Analytics profile. Click Admin>Profiles>Filters. Click New Filter and select options to Exclude traffic from the IP addresses that are equal to…then enter your IP address. Click Save and now you won’t see your own visits to your site in the results.

Then, we just sit back and wait for the data to start coming in.

Tweet this to your followers and help them become more analytical:

There’s all sorts of information out there talking about the Analytics Dashboard and what each section means, but if you’re like most people, it’s wayyy too technical. I suggest you read Smashing Magazine’s article: A Guide to Google Analytics and Useful Tools if you want to go that deep, but I’m guessing you don’t. This was supposed to be simple, right?

Ask yourself these questions about your site

Here are some important things that Analytics can track for you. All of the fancy lingo in the tool is simply telling you answers to the following questions:

  • How many visits is my site getting in a specific time period?
  • Where are the visitors coming from?
  • Are there some basic things I can learn about the visitors?
  • What pages are they looking at when they’re on my site?
  • How long are they spending on my site?
  • Are there any pages that make people boomerang off the site right away?

Now, how to find the answers to those questions

Let’s start with some basic terminology you should know to interpret the data. By the way, in your dashboard, if you hover over the words RIGHT below the blue graph that appears on most every page, a tooltip pops up and defines the confusing words.

  • Pageviews/Visits – The number of pages viewed or number of times people visited your site.
  • Unique Pageviews – If a visitor comes twice, it’s counted as an additional visit/view, so unique means the number of actual people that visit.
  • Bounce Rate – the percentage of people that enter and exit your site from the same page (they’re coming to the site, then boomeranging off from the same page – you want this number to be low)
  • Impressions – The number of times your site appears in search results.

The 5-minute browse through your Analytics

I’ve numbered a shot of the areas you can quickly go through to get a good snapshot of how your site’s doing. Click to enlarge the image.

Section 5 is where you’ll find most of the data you want to look at. The most common confusion is about what the columns in this section mean. They can be different, depending what section you’re looking at. Hopefully I’ve covered the most important terms above. 

  1. Select the dates you want to know about. It’s really easy to miss this box and be totally confused by the results because a strange date is being displayed. I do this all the time! Once you select a date range, all data you look at is adjusted to that range until you log out.
  2. Look at your audience. Click the Audience menu and go to Location. Hey look at that! A color coded map of where you visitors are coming from. Under that same menu, look at Technology>Browser & OS. Did you know websites look different on different browsers? This will give you an idea of what browser your visitors are using, so work with your web developer to be sure your site works in different browsers. Lastly, click Mobile>Overview. This tells you how many people are visiting from a mobile device. Should give a good indication whether or not you need to optimize your site for mobile.
  3. Now, check out where they’re coming from. Click Traffic Sources>Sources>All Traffic. The list of urls shows sites that link to yours and how many people are clicking on those links. Direct means that someone actually types your URL into their browser. Back on the side menu, click Search Engine Optimization>Queries. Here you’ll see what people are typing into search engines to find you. Notice the relationship between impressions, clicks, and average position. If your site is being viewed a bunch (impressions are high), but nobody’s clicking on it (clicks are low), it means you should see if that keyword is relevant to your audience and make your META information more appealing for them to click on. If your average position number is high, it means your site is listed way too far down in results, so people have likely visited another listing before yours.
  4. What is popular on your site? Click Content>Site Content>All Pages. A slash (/) means the root, main URL of your site, or your home page. Take a look at your most popular pages and figure out a way to add content to those pages that directs people toward the rest of your site and the content you really want them to see.

By looking at these basic areas of Google Analytics, you should have some really great information about your site. Once you’re comfortable with these areas, dig a little deeper. For now, this will at least give you enough information to start making some decisions about improving your site.

Let me know if you have any comments or questions below. I’d love to help answer your questions!

Author: Kelly Garrett

President and Founder, Ekcetera Stylish and Smart Advice for Business Owners
Kelly helps small business owners and entrepreneurs overcome their fear of technology and marketing their small businesses by providing articles and resources through her self-titled blog. She uses easy-to-understand language, examples, videos, and other visual aids to break down the frustrations people have when working on their graphics & branding, website, marketing, social media, and technology in their businesses. With Kelly’s help, you can stop saying, “Someday I'll,...” and become the master of your own marketing universe!
As President of her marketing agency, Ekcetera, she also serves as Creative Director and works with her team of designers and developers to meet the needs of her clients and their businesses. When client, Susanne Ballard speaks of working with Kelly, she says, "You make it easy!"
Be sure to follow Kelly online: www.ekcetera.com Ekcetera's Facebook Page Twitter LinkedIn Pinterest Google+

  • Walkwithlindy

    Love the look/feel of this site, congratulations on simpler is better!
     

    • Hi! Glad you like the site. We’re excited to have a fresh look.

  • Love it. Think I am going to find your blog very helpful!
    Found you on SITS!fortheirtenderhearts.com

  • This is so helpful. Thank you! I have Google Analytics, and I understand the basics, but this definitely gave me some specific information to focus on.

  • aimee @ shugarysweets

    Great information! Thanks for breaking this down!

    • @ea0b657cb40b7353a28516c2e18606ed:disqus glad to help.

  • This was so helpful! So glad to have found this on SITS today!

  • Visiting from SITS. Thank you for simplifying this mess! I was exceedingly confused about it!! ALLL of it!!

  • This is just what I’ve been looking for. Thank you for simplifying this for me; Google Analytics has intimidated me for quite some time!

    Stopping in from SITS 🙂

    • @twitter-156749392:disqus fantastic! Thanks so much for the compliments.

  • Dawn @ comeoverforcoffee.com

    Thank you so much! You really made those confusing graphics make much more sense. I do have a question though. When I looked at the SEO/Queries, I got this error: This report requires Webmaster Tools to be enabled. Do I want to do this? Thank you so much for your help!

    • Amy @ A Little Nosh

      I’m having the same issue. I tried to enable it but nothing changed. Hmm.

      • @f6ebd72584d233b096a9a84ebf5b6222:disqus, be sure to verify your site with Webmaster Tools and be sure everything’s working properly there. Then, link Webmaster Tools and Analytics.

    • Dawn, yes, you want to get a Webmaster Tools and hook it up to your Analytics account. This enables some additional options for how your site appears in Google.

  • This is an awesome post – thanks for this!!

    Sarah
    http://acatlikecuriosity.blogspot.co.uk

  • Leslie, the cleaning coach

    Thanks for your help. I’ve had the Analytics but never knew how to use them. Now I’m dangerous!!

    • Leslie, It’s amazing what you can learn from it.

  • Mrs. Monologues

    Stopping by from SITS today to read this post. FANTASTIC! I just started to use analytics and this was exactly what I needed. Thanks!

  • Sandra Foyt

    This is great! I’m coaching several new bloggers, and this is just what I need to explain the mysteries of Google Analytics!

    • Sandra – awesome! Hope your bloggers like it too.

  • How did you know exactly what I needed.

    • Candi, ha ha! You’re not alone – so many people have trouble.

  • Shirley@motivatedmommyoftwo

    Visiting from SITS, this is great information thank you. I did not realize I needed to filter my IP address out. Have done that now so I cannot wait to see my true numbers.

  • Karri Reiser

    Visiting from SITS, I really needed this. I was having such a hard time figuring it out. I have a question, How do you get a lower bounce rate. Mine is 49% which I think is too high but I’m not sure what to do to change it.

    • Karri, it could be caused by a number of things. Without seeing your site, it’s hard to tell. Could be that you don’t have enough valuable links to other pages on your site. I have a blog post coming up about bounce rates. Watch for it.

  • Nicole

    I have been trying to figure out the basics of google analytics for awhile now … You are awesome! Now I am starting to understand the info and filtering out my IP address should help a lot. Thank you – found you through SITS.

  • Sheila

    Today I started with Google Analytics. I clicked on the plug in reference and am listening to the video. Easy directions. Thanks.

  • I’ve been looking for someone who could help me with this. I thought that Google Analytics was installed on my blog. But, after my blog was redesigned awhile back, it no longer seems to be working. I’m too scared to touch anything that involves coding because I know absolutely nothing about it. Is this a service you guys perform or can you recommend someone who could troubleshoot and/or reinstall it for me? Thanks!

  • Kim

    I didn’t realize that my re-design changed my tracking so I had to re-add the GA code to my blog in Genesis. It’s still not showing tracking has been installed but as of this post it’s only been about 5-10 minutes and I assume GA needs to “read” my site before it starts tracking again. Once that works, it’s back to reading this again to understand. =)

    • Kim, Yep, that sounds about right. There is a trick to get it to re-check for your code, but it’s complicated. If it doesn’t work for you, let us know and we can help: info@ekcetera.com

    • Are you still having problems?