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Google Analytics for beginners. A whirlwind tour of reports

How to use Google Analytics for beginners
Nadya Pak
4 years in the Analytics

My name is Nadya, I’ve been working with Google Analytics for the last 4 years. In this article, I’m going to tell you how to use Google Analytics for beginners and about the basic tools and reports that will be helpful for every website owner and give a detailed explanation of terms and concepts.

Google Analytics (hereinafter GA) is a free service for website analytics. It is a counter or a pixel that is installed on every page of your website at the very top, under the <head> tag. Once you configure the integration of your website with GA, the system will start monitoring all visits and interactions with your website, and you’ll be able to analyze this information. The GA profile can be found at https://analytics.google.com/.

If your website was created with Vepp and uses WordPress as its CMS, the GA pixel will be installed automatically once you sign up to Google Analytics and press special button.

The profile review and terms

On your first visit, the GA profile might seem very complicated but don’t let it stop you, on the contrary, may these difficulties encourage and inspire you!

Google Analytics, working zone

The working zone is always divided into the following parts:

  1. The standard report menu
    Each one contains specifying reports and the general overview ones. This is top-level navigation, we’ll be switching between sections here. This menu can be accessed at all times, from any section.
  2. Segment selection
    You can view a detailed report for the selected audience, there are many standard segments but you are also able to create your own super flexible segments.
  3. Analysis period selection
    Nothing difficult, just choosing particular dates we want to analyze. It is important to note one feature: the longer the period, the more generalized and less accurate the data. But it’s easy to track lows and highs on the long distance.
  4. The main working area where the meat of the matter is displayed
    Here, you can select different charts, add parameters for comparisons, configure the displayed fields... At first, I advise you to leave everything as it is and view the reports that are set by default, in most cases, they will be more than enough.

In my opinion, for beginners, Google Analytics is a powerful and universal tool that will share a lot of helpful information with them and will also give professionals much to think about. In short, start with standard reports and then introduce specifying configurations, you’ll become an analyst guru in no time!

Primary reports

Let’s go to the Home tab in the main left menu. This is where the dashboard is located with a few primary reports. It is built by GA automatically. And again, to begin with, let’s see what we’re dealing with by default:

  • report on users, sessions
  • traffic sources and referral channels
  • three reports: when, from where, how
  • website page analysis

User report

User report

The first and most important report tells us about the number of visits. Note the bottom left corner, this is where we choose a period. There are 4 tabs at the top, you can switch between them in order to look at the chart and analyze data in dynamics. Let’s delve into each of the metrics.

Users. I would be glad to say that users are people but this is not the case. GA tracks people’s behavior on the Internet by their «online tracks» — cookie files that every browser has. That’s why when a person visits a website from one browser, the system counts him/her as one user. If the same person gets back to the website from a different browser, the system will consider him or her «the second user».

Nowadays, we all have 2-3-5 devices we go online with: a desktop, a tablet, a smartphone, a work laptop, etc. All these devices have a browser installed on them, even if it’s the same Google Chrome, GA considers them different browsers with different «cookies».

Sessions. It’s the number of visits from one user. If he/she visits your website once (from one browser), the system will show one session. If they get back after a while from the same device and browser, the system will count 2 sessions. Repeated visits are counted as new sessions if at least 30 minutes passed between them.

Look at the graph above: 4000 users have visited the website in a selected period, however, 8400 sessions were recorded.

If you come to the conclusion that every user has visited your website exactly twice, you’ll be fundamentally wrong. It’s an oversimplification. It’s quite possible that some users visited your website only once and sone did it 2-6-10 times.

Bounce rate. GA considers a bounce visiting of one website page without transitioning to other pages or other interactions (buttons, filling forms, video views, etc). In that case, the system is unable to calculate the time spent on the resource correctly and assigns such sessions a duration of 0 seconds.

You should worry about bounces only in case you expect your user to navigate your website. It’s relevant for online stores where a user is supposed to browse categories, open different product pages, open the cart, etc.

 

You can simply ignore the bounce rate if you own a single page landing.

Session duration shows how much time an average user spends on your website. As well as the bounce rate, this metric can only be taken seriously for multi-page resources. Session duration is calculated poorly in case of landings. More often than not, it shows 0 seconds.

A more detailed report can be viewed in the «Audience» tab.

Traffic sources and referral channels

Traffic sources and referral channels

To begin with, I want to declare that Google knows practically everything. When a user gets to a website, GA is already aware of where he/she came from, from what link or banner exactly, what this user did a few clicks before getting to your website, and whether he/she clicked on any ads, etc. So, there’s a lot of information, the main thing is to be able to decipher it correctly and draw conclusions.

Referrals. This shows a particular website a user came from: instagram.com, facebook.com, google.com, my.ispsystem.com, etc. This report makes it easy to understand what resource brings you the most traffic.

Traffic channel. GA sorts all transits into several traffic channels. This is what’s encrypted in them:

  • direct — direct transits to the website: when a user entered your domain into the address bar or your domain is saved in his/her bookmarks.
  • organic search — transits from Google search.
  • social — transits from social networks.
  • referral — transits from any website except for social networks and search engines.
  • other or none — transits that GA was not able to identify.

You can view a more detailed report in the «Acquisition» tab.

Three reports: when, from where, how

Three reports: when, from where, how

Then GA offers reports for some user metrics:

Time of day. This report makes it easy to understand what time of day the most traffic comes from. For example, if the peak activity occurs at 7pm-9pm, you should be prepared to actively respond to people’s requests. Or you’ll be able to plan technical works on the website when the traffic is at its lowest.

Sessions by country. The report is helpful to those who have visitors all over the world. You can add an additional language and consider cultural specificities. But local businesses that aren’t really interested in foreign visitors won’t get much out of this report.

Sessions by device. Here, we can see the percentage ratio between smartphones, desktops, and tablets. If you are not sure whether you should make your website adaptive or launch separate ads for mobile devices, just analyze your audience in this report first. If you have a significant share of mobile traffic, take care of your website’s mobile version’s convenience: pages need to load quickly, buttons should be bigger, phone numbers should be turned into clickable links for a fast connection.

Website page analysis

Website page analysis

This report shows what pages of your website are visited more often. In order to view a detailed report, go to the tab Behaviour — Site content — All pages. I strongly recommend taking this report into account in order to understand how interesting and convenient it is for users to navigate your resource. Let’s look at a few cases:

For instance, you write many articles but users don’t read them for some reason. Maybe, you have complicated navigation, then you should think about the page layout logic.

Or maybe everything is the other way round and you see that a page containing some legal information that is hardly interesting gets lots of views. Try making the link to this page less noticeable, hide it in the footer.

I also advise you to check TOP-20 pages for their availability. It’s quite possible that some error made it impossible to view these pages by the URL users use to reach it. Then you need to fix the address or configure a redirect.

From the author

It’s easy to start using Google Analytics. The tool is free, available for everyone, gives insight into making your website better, more convenient and interesting. Learn new possibilities and reports for yourself. View reports at least once a month. I also recommend visiting Google Analytics help if you have any doubts about metrics, calculation algorithms or you just don’t understand some terms.

I also want to remind you that Vepp allows you to track the major graphs described in the article. The reports are not detailed, they are designed as a quick reference. If you see any weird deviations, you can access the GA interface directly from Vepp and view more detailed reports there.

I wish you pleasant conversions and pretty graphs!

Nadya Pak
4 years in the Analytics