Google Analytics: The Basics

everything you need to know about google analytics by wonderland media

Just as I mentioned last week, having a website for your business is key in today's world; the majority of the population will search online for contact information, product specifications, and other information about your company or industry. In order to ensure that your website is efficiently providing the public with quality information, you have to understand how people interact with your site.

In order for you to make sense of the data, we need to start with the basic statistics that you're going to encounter, and how they work.

basic stats screenshot google analytics wonderland media
basic stats screenshot google analytics wonderland media

A bounce is when someone lands on your website, takes no further action, and then leaves. For example: while I am on Facebook, I click on a link to an article on Creative Market that seems interesting. Once it loads, I can see right away that it's not what I was looking for, so I close the tab. Because I did not scroll, click a link, submit information, or interact in any way with the site, my visit is recorded as a 'bounce'. Bounce rate, therefore, is the average percentage of bounced clicks versus non-bounced clicks.

Caution: bounce rate is a stat that shouldn't be taken too seriously on it's own. Although a high bounce rate might mean that people are landing on pages that aren't relevant to them, it can also mean that they found what they were looking for (such as a phone number) immediately upon landing on your site. And that's a good thing!

Average session duration is an important statistic, and usually goes hand-in-hand with pages per session. These two complimentary stats are important, because they indicate how informative your users find your site. Generally, sites with a ton of content (ie blogs, new sites, etc) aim for a higher average duration and pages per session--especially if you have monetized your site. Monetizing is a popular way to bring in money from your blog; all you have to do is place ads on your site using networks such as AdSense. This is a topic that will be covered in a later post.

Now, we have reached the quagmire of goals and conversions. A goal is an action that must be taken on your site by a user; a conversion is when an end user completes that specific goal (or series of goals) that you have determined to be of value to you. Completing a goal triggers a conversion for you to track in Analytics. Don't worry if you're confused--conversions will be discussed in-depth in a later post. 

Referrers are sites that link to your blog post or website, and there are four basic categories: social, organic, direct, and referral.

  1. Social networks are generally a substantial referring source for blogs and businesses, and can be broken down to find out how many users were sent to your site from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.
  2. Organic search means that the click came from a search engine
  3. Direct referral means that the user typed your URL directly into their browser (or clicked on a bookmarked link).
  4. Referrers in Google Analytics is a generalizedgrouping of any URL that referred users to your site that don't fall under social, organic, or direct. For example, Yellow Pages or Goodreads would be listed in Referrers, as would a blog post referencing your site.

If you are running digital marketing campaigns on platforms such as Google AdWords or Bing, you will find these listed as well.

Enabling more features in Google Analytics will result in a ton more information for you to analyze, but these cover the most basic areas that any business owner or blogger should be aware of. In subsequent posts we will break down the different category tabs in Analytics, and explain how to understand the data that they contain. The resulting data will allow you to analyze your site performance and create actionable steps to improve it.

Click here to re-read the introduction to this series.