Using Google Analytics to Understand Your Website Users

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As marketers, business owners, and website admins, we have more access to data than ever before. Even better is that much of this powerful data is available to use for free. All we need to do is add a simple tracking code to our sites, and Google Analytics will begin to collect insights on our users. The problem is that this data can sometimes be hard to break down and understand. If we are going to be able to understand our users, we first need to understand the data.

In this episode, we answer a question from Craig Lewis of He asked, “How should a beginner use Google Analytics to understand how people are using their website?” In the video below, we’ll take a look at Google Analytics and a few of the great tools inside the platform that can help you better understand your website visitors.

Video Transcript

Today’s question comes from Craig Lewis from He wanted to know how can a new site or somebody just getting into online marketing use Google Analytics to understand more about their users and really grow their traffic over time. Instead of me sitting here and talking to you in a camera, I’m actually going to do a demo. We’re going right into Google Analytics right now and taking a look at how we can use a few of the key components to better understand the people coming to our website.

Hi, welcome to the breakdown of Google Analytics. Right now, we’re on the audience overview page, and this is often where you’re going to land when you log into Google Analytics. Now you can do a lot of manipulation inside Google Analytics.

You could build different dashboards and customize reports. You can really do almost anything you want inside of here to manipulate the data to get the details and the metrics that you want to see, but we’re not going to get into all that. We’re just going to see how we can use the basic setup of Google Analytics to make better decisions for a small business, better decisions about our website, and how to drive traffic and engage with our visitors as they come. The first thing you want to look at over here is the timeframe in which you want to see the data. We can customize this to today, yesterday, last week, month, seven days, whatever. You can build custom frames just by clicking and dragging. We’ll look at the month of January. We’ll set the date there. Hit apply.

You can also compare it to the previous period. It’ll just take those same data mounts and apply them. We’d look at the whole month of December. We’re not going to get into comparison, but it’s really helpful to see and judge how you did versus another time period. In order to keep the data clean and the page clean, we’re just going to look at January. We hit apply. As you can see now, it’s going to look at our session data. What this is doing is pulling in the number of visits that we had on each day and the month. Audience overview isn’t going to break down your traffic sources. It’s just going to give you a big overview of how many people came to your site, what was the average engagement of those people who came to your site, and their overall interaction.

Underneath here, you see some of the data breakdowns. 563 sessions, so 563 visits to the site. The next users are 459 users. Out of those 563 sessions, there were 459 users. Some of those people came back and engaged with the site again or maybe they’re multiple people using one IP address but still went to the same site. That’s kind of how that breaks it down. Users is the amount of actual different people that came to your site, in essence. Page views are the number of pages that were viewed over that course … The timeframe that you set and then pages per session is just a breakdown of what’s the average amount of pages a user saw. The average session duration is the amount of time they spent on the site.

The bounce rate is the percentage of people that came to your site and then immediately left. You want to have a lower bounce rate. A higher bounce rate, a bounce rate in the upper 60s, 70s, or 80s, is an indication that your site’s not engaging enough with your audience. Maybe you have a content-driven site where you do blog posts, and people come to your site, read the post, and leave. That can also drive up your bounce rate. You want to pay attention to it because if it’s too high, that means people aren’t really engaging with your content and going deeper. The percentage of new sessions is pretty self-explanatory too. If you actually scroll over these, Google will give you a little bit of a blurb about what it means.

Some other helpful data inside of audience is the demographics and the interest. If we look at the demographics, we can get a baseline of the age of the people coming to our site and their gender. This is helpful for just a number of reasons. It’s helpful to understand who your customer base is, who are the people that are engaging with your site, and who are the people that are interested in the stuff that you’re posting. As you can see here, the site has dominant female traffic, and it’s in the 25 to 34 age group. When you’re building your messaging out, when you’re looking at the design of your site, you probably want to gear it towards them because, again, they’re you’re dominant user. To go even deeper, you can click interest.

We see the overview here. Now this breaks down how those people interact not just with your website but with things as a whole. You have their affinity category. What are the things that they’re interested in? Movie lovers are the number one affinity for this site, then shoppers, shopaholics, TV lovers, and technophiles. It kind of breaks it down there. It tells us what are some of the things that they’re interested in outside of our site. Again this is going to help you understand your personas a little bit better. It’s going to help you understand what they like and what they don’t like. Again as you’re building out your marketing campaigns and your strategies, you can kind of use some of the things that they like outside of the industry to promote your products as well.

In market segments, these are related categories within the same market that again would show what they like: travel, hotel accommodations, employment, and real estate. This data isn’t always 100% because the site we’re looking at is technically in that market, but again we can still pull some data and understand what our audience is interested in. Other categories – Again, just more data on the things that they’re interested in: arts and entertainment, celebrity news, movie lovers, shopaholics, travel, and hotel accommodations. We can take all that data and start to really add it to our buyer persona research because this is real data from real users who are engaging with your site. You can get more information.

Geo Target makes sure that you’re targeting the right location in the right language. Again predominantly the United States, which is what we want to see. Predominantly in Florida, which is what we want to see for this business as well. We can look at technology. We can look at behavior, new versus returning, frequency, and engagement. All of these are very helpful to understand when you’re building a site when you’re designing a site, and when you’re tweaking your site to better fit your user’s needs. As you can see, most sessions are zero to 10 seconds. That means people are coming and maybe leaving pretty quickly. Then as you go down, it’s 11 to 30, 31 to 60. You can read it and see. Again this will help us understand how long people are on the site.

For this business, a lot of people will probably come into the site to get the phone number because of what they do, which is probably why you see that smaller duration period. All right. The second area we’re going to look at is acquisition overview. The acquisition is where your traffic’s coming from. Again we’re in the same timeframe looking at January. I do have a filter setup because, in this account, there was some spammy traffic coming, so we actually want to remove that from the acquisition. We actually saw data that made sense. Right here, you’re going to see a nice overview. Top channels. Organic is the top channel. Direct traffic, referral traffic, and social traffic. Again as you go under here, it’s going to break it down right here on the main acquisition overview page.

It’s going to show us organic search and all the data behind that. The new visitors, their bounce rate with organic search, the conversion rates, which we’ll talk about in just a little bit. Then we’re going to look at direct traffic. Direct traffic is people that actually typed in your website’s URL. Underneath that is referral traffic. Referral traffic is people who came to your site from another site. Maybe they saw a link on another site. Maybe they saw a link on Yelp or an industry-related article. They clicked that, and then they came to your site. The last one is social media traffic, and these are the people obviously that are coming through social channels. If you want to dig a little bit deeper, you go all traffic. You could do channels, tree maps, sources, and mediums.

Let’s go to source and medium. Now to show us again, Google organic search. Again all the fun data with that. Direct traffic, being organic, Yahoo traffic, Insider Pro referral, Facebook referral, StumbleUpon referral, Facebook medium. This will start to give you the exact source. What was the site, and what was the medium? How did it find you? The source was Google, and they found us through organic traffic. This was direct. It had no medium because they typed it in direct. That’s basically how to understand that data. The majority of this site’s traffic is coming from search. It’s always good to hook up your search console because, again, it will pull in more data. I’m not going to open up this right now because I don’t want to give away any of this customer’s information.

All right. Now we’re under behavior. This is the behavior overview page. Now as you see here, you’re going to see a list of landing pages. It’s going to break down the page view. The percent of page views. We’re also going to see site content. You can also adjust the page title as opposed to pages so you can actually start to see some of the keywords that are associated with that. You can even just toggle over here to search terms. Again there’s no data. Now Google masks a lot of that data. That’s another benefit to having your search console tied in because you’re going to get a little bit more of that keyword data. For the most part, most of your search term data is going to be masked by Google. They do that for a number of reasons.

If you want to get all that data, you can definitely pay them for that. If you’re just looking at Google Analytics, you’re probably not going to see a ton of that. That, again, is why page title is helpful because we start to get an idea of the keywords because of our title tags. Behavior’s nice because it’s just going to show us again what pages are working better and how people interact on specific pages. We can break down site content and all the pages on the site and how those individual pages were interacted with. Maybe one page had a higher bounce rate than another page, and we can try to find out why. Another great thing that you can do here in behavior is look at the behavior flow.

This is one of my favorite things inside of Google Analytics because it helps me visualize where people are on the site as they’re coming to the page. The number one landing page is the home page. Where do they go after that? Do they drop off? What’s the percentage of drop-off between each interaction? This is very helpful to see how people again are engaging with your site. All right. The final thing we’re going to look at is conversions and, specifically, goals. Right now, we’re on the goals overview page. What goals are helpful for is to determine whether or not users are taking the actions you want them to take. If your site’s trying to drive a sale, you want to kind of get the thank you for purchase page tracking that someone gets there.

You want to see if they’re abandoning your site before they get that conversion and how many people are actually doing the things that we want them to do. This site isn’t an eCommerce site. It’s actually a local business site. There are a couple of different goals that are set up from different behaviors that we want to see from the users online to make sure that we’re getting contacts, that we’re getting leads, that we’re getting users that are engaging in the right way. This will show you how many goals were completed. The goal value. You can put an estimated dollar value if you want to see how much that goal is really worth to you. That helps you understand how much a lead is and the cost per lead, and all of that kind of different metrics that you can make down the road.

The goal conversion rate shows you how many people are actually converting on your site and then what are the kind of different completions of the specific goals. You can also break this down over here. This is the goal completion location. You can actually break it down by source and see what source is actually converting the best. For this client, again, organic search is converting the best. What does this tell you? This tells you that SEO is important for this client. That this client needs to have a good search presence because their visitors are coming to their site. They’re finding the information that they want, and then they’re actually converting. Search is actually delivering a very, very positive ROI for this specific client. All right.

That’s a very, very brief 3,000-foot overview of some of the tools inside of Google Analytics that can be very helpful to small businesses. The key now is getting into the tool and tracking your site and trying to put the pieces together, and seeing which pages are working better. See what types of channels are working better. See where you can make some adjustments and tests and then continue to track. You’re not going to always get it right the first time, but it’s great to have data as a baseline, and then you can make adjustments, then you make recommendations off that. Hope that you found this video helpful. If you’ve got any questions, please feel free to reach out. Until next time, happy marketing.

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