Whatever your industry, Google Analytics is a great tool for your website. It will help you get a better understanding of your audience, their flow through your site, and their engagement with your product or service. Simply by adding a piece of code to your website, you have the ability to monitor your visitors and how they’re interacting with your business.
All of this vital information not only means that you can improve your user experience, it means you can analyze marketing and website data to determine which metrics are important for your business; then you can see what’s working and what’s not, and adjust your business goals to drive results and boost your sales.
To get you well versed in the world of analytics, here are some of the most valuable pieces of metrics to discover as you dig into the Google Analytics interface:
a. Number of users and sessions
Let's start from the basics. Users represent individuals that visit your site. If a user leaves your site and comes back later, Google Analytics will remember them, and their second visit won’t be counted as a new user. On the other hand, sessions represent a single visit to a website. Whether a user lands on a web page and leaves a few seconds later, or spends an hour reading every blog post on your site, it will still count as a single session. If that specific user leaves and then comes back later, it doesn’t count as a new user, but it will count as a new session.
In other words, if you have 1,000 users and 2,000 sessions, this means that each user visited your site two times on average during the specified time period. With these metrics you can determine how your campaigns drive traffic and how many many user interactions are required before a user becomes a customer.
b. Average session duration / average time on page
An average session duration measures the average length of sessions on a website. Analytics will start counting a session from the moment a user lands on your site, and continues counting until the session ends. It is defined as the time frame during which there are regular active interactions occurring from a user on a website. The session is timed out when there is no activity from the user for a predefined time duration (usually 30mins). In addition, a session-duration will take into account the time period that a person spends on a website. It is effectively the sum of the time-on-page for the different pages that a person visits on a website during a single session.
While the time-on-page can never be greater than the session-duration for a single session, we see the opposite when considering the averages for multiple sessions. This is because Google does not take into account the number of exits when calculating the average time-on-page, whereas all visits are taken into account for calculating the average session-duration.
It’s important to mention that both metrics indicate user engagement and therefore a key point we can derive from this is that marketers and businesses should not only focus on these time-based metrics to judge the performance of a page or a website, but most importantly on the number of actions taken during a user’s sessions.
c. Average pages per session
Pages per session is the average number of pages a person views in a given session. This metric is calculated by dividing the number of pageviews by the total number of sessions. Pages-per-session is helped along by page design, how easy they are to navigate, and if readers click because they want to. One way that news sites and other content sites best maximize this metric is by making use of functionality like ‘related stories’ links, motivating users to stick around and interact with more of the site’s content. This is actually called organic recirculation, it gives people an easy means to continue loading pages without leaving your site.
d. Ratio of new to returning visitors
Both metrics are very important for marketing and sales efforts as returning users indicate an increase in lifetime value (LTV), while an increase in new users can indicate growth. Google Analytics defines a new visitor as anyone who has never been on your website before. While returning visitors are defined as the number of users who have visited your website in the past, using the same device and within the last 2 years.
Why is it important to increase your returning visitor rate? Because returning visitors will tell you how successful your marketing campaigns are, who your loyal customers are, and how powerful your brand is. Also, recent statistics show that returning visitors have a 75% higher chance of making a purchase than a new visitor. As a result, you can expect a higher ROI on your marketing campaigns.
Many people would wonder what a good returning visitor rate is. Well, this depends on the industry you’re in, but a good returning visitor rate is 30% on average. If you can balance your new and returning visitors with 50% each, then you’re in an ideal situation.
e. Bounce rate
Google defines a bounce as a single-page session on your site, while a bounce rate is the percentage of single-page sessions compared to all sessions on your website. For example, if a user clicks through to read a blog post but doesn’t visit any other page on your website before leaving, that’s a bounce. If nine out of ten people who visit your website do the same thing, your bounce rate is 90%.
High bounce rates may mean that there are significant issues that have to do with technical problems, irrelevant content with imprecise user targeting, or a page with no internal links or calls to action (CTA) that motivate users to keep moving through your website.
f. Organic vs. paid sessions
The difference between organic search vs. paid search is simple - the later costs you money while the former does not. Organic traffic helps you determine how well your content performs relative to other organic content on a search engine results page, while paid sessions have to do with your paid marketing efforts.
Organic search comes with zero upfront costs, thus your organization doesn’t need a monthly ad spend. What is needed for organic search is time. This time commitment can range from researching SEO rich keywords, to designing a strategy and creating optimized content. One of the greatest advantages of organic traffic is that it increases your website’s credibility. Whether a user is searching for a new car or for a relaxing holiday, if your website makes it to the top of organic search results, it will surely make a positive first impression, not to mention be the first to get clicked on.
So what about paid sessions? Paid search gives you a boost without the wait time. When your business advertises through paid channels, you will see results as soon as your ads go live. In most cases, advertising platforms like Google Ads will approve your campaigns and ads in a matter of minutes.
What’s more, when you advertise online, you receive helpful pieces of user data, like keywords, location, age, gender etc. In most strategies, paid search focuses on audience members with a transactional intent - users who are ready to buy a product or need to find a service provider. All that’s needed are ‘the directions’ (the ad) to a reputable company that offers what they need. Targeting your ads to ready-to-buy users and transactional searches will help your business to generate immediate results and boost your sales!
g. Top queries in search
Google Analytics allows you to inspect site search data from your website to track queries and customer information by looking at the terms entered in the search bar. This is an indicator that can potentially help you optimize your product offering by making it more relevant to what users search.
Words and phrases that people type into a search box in order to pull up a list of results are commonly divided into three different types of search queries:
- Navigational queries: A search query entered with the intent of finding a particular website or webpage. For example, a user might enter "Backbone" into Google's search bar to find our website rather than entering the URL into a browser's navigation bar or using a bookmark.
- Informational search queries: Queries that cover a broad topic (for example: Athens) for which there may be thousands of relevant results. When someone enters an informational search query into Google or another search engine, they’re looking for information. They are probably not looking for a specific site, as in a navigational query, and they are not looking to make a commercial transaction. They just want to answer a question or learn how to do something.
- Transactional search queries: Indicate an intent to complete a transaction, such as making a purchase. Transactional search queries may include exact brand and product names like ‘iPhone’ or be generic like ‘nike shoes’ or even include terms like ‘buy,’ ‘purchase,’ or ‘order.’ In all of these examples, you can understand that the searcher is considering making a purchase in the near future, if they’re not already pulling out their credit card. In other words, they’re at the business end of the conversion funnel.
h. Top 10 landing pages
Landing pages are the pages through which visitors enter your site, i.e. the first page that is visited. The landing pages metric can help you to determine which pages are more popular (this could also be closely related to your paid efforts), but it can still give you a good idea about your user experience, content quality, and marketing effort efficiency.
This metric is very useful as it tells us where users are landing (what they’re engaging with) on your website, but also whether a given landing page is working or not. How can you tell? Check the bounce rate. If the bounce rate is very high, it might mean that people who visit that specific page do not find the content relevant and leave the site immediately. In the case of an ecommerce website, it is critical that landing pages are optimized so that they encourage visitors to remain and perform an action - like fill in a form or buy a product.
Regardless of the kind of site that you have, paying attention to your top 10 landing pages can provide a lot of insight into your audience and their engagement with your business. It’s always a good idea to check these pages to see what can be improved in terms of load times, content and images.
j. Goal conversion rate
Typical goals include a number of pageviews, a purchase or a user registration. While the actual number of conversions might not give great insight about performance, the conversion rate can determine how well marketing efforts lead to goal conversions.
Goal conversion rate is the percentage of user sessions that have led to goal conversions. A goal is a predefined user action that takes place during a user session on a website. Most website analytics tools allow account owners to set website goals that can be tracked. A goal for a website is any action that brings value to the audience and ultimately generates interest in the website, forming relationships with users. During a session, if a user performs an action that is tracked as a goal, this counts as a goal conversion. The number of goal conversions divided by the number of sessions, expressed as a percentage, is known as the goal conversion rate. Tracking this number helps measure how effective the calls to action are on the website.
All in all, while getting Google Analytics up and running on your site is easy, understanding the data that it gives can be challenging. However, once you understand the basics and have a keen understanding of your site’s goals, the picture becomes much clearer. Reach out to us to learn more!