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Google’s free web analytics service, Google Analytics, provides a dizzying array of insights into site performance and customer behavior. While paid tools offer similar insights on silver platters, you can still get much — if not all — of the information you need with a little grit and determination in Google Analytics. It’s one of the most important tools featured in our Marketing Audit ebook

We won’t insult you by calling this Google Analytics for Dummies. Instead, what follows is a beginner’s guide to all the metrics you should zero in on when first tapping into this powerful tool: 

For more information on getting started with Google Analytics:

Getting Started With Google Analytics

Average Pages Per Session

This metric displays how many pages a visitor viewed after clicking through from the search engine results pages (SERPs). Google Analytics allows you to track pages per session by the overall site, as well as individual pages. This gives insight into how users are engaging with your content. You may not be able to convert every site visitor right away, but the longer they stay, the more familiar they will become with your brand, which bodes well for your relationship in the future. 

Breakdown of Organic Traffic From Search Engines

With more than 92% market share, Google dominates search. But it’s not the only game in town. Bing comes in second with a respectable 2.5%. That may seem like a drop in the bucket, but it’s still millions of daily searches. And that could include your brand’s customers and prospects. That’s why you should keep track of how much organic traffic comes from both search engines. This can reveal insights into where you can improve your organic presence — especially if you’re not seeing much traffic from often-ignored Bing. 

Dwell Time

While you’re looking at traffic figures (see organic traffic below), you’ll also want to check out dwell time, or the average time visitors spend on your site. This will help determine whether your content is providing real value or whether you need to readjust your content strategy.

Goal Conversion Rate

Setting up goals in Google Analytics helps keep tabs on what you want site visitors to do, such as signing up for a trial or subscribing to a newsletter. Once you establish these goals, you can track how many visitors actually took the plunge via goal conversion rate. Once again, this helps keep your finger on the pulse of site performance and whether or not you are gently nudging consumers closer to conversion. It also helps you see which content is most successful at bringing about a desired action. 

Keywords Ranked in Google

Keywords became tricky in Google Analytics after an October 2011 update in which Google began encrypting search data. The change made search safer for users, but it means 99% of the organic keywords you rank for are now displayed as “not provided.”

Frustrating, yes, but not an impossible roadblock. If, for example, you cross-reference landing page data from Google Analytics with data on search queries from Google Search Console, you can find these keywords. Or you can just work with an SEO platform, which offers paid tools.

Either way, once you know the keywords that are driving traffic to your webpages, you’ll also know which keywords are not and can focus on the latter in future SEO campaigns. 

Local Visibility

If your business has a physical presence, you’ll want to pay attention to local visibility, or how likely your brand is to be found in local search. Google Analytics will show how well your site fares in local 3-packs, or the three featured business results highlighted under a map on the first page of local queries. If your brand isn’t showing up here in relevant searches in your area, you’ll want to invest in local SEO to boost your profile. 

Organic Bounce Rate

Organic bounce rate shows how many site visitors clicked on your site in the SERPs, but didn’t immediately find what they were looking for and clicked right back out again, or bounced. A low bounce rate shows visitors are at least initially happy with what they see on your site and it meets the needs of their queries. A high bounce rate, however, indicates some room for improvement to retain site visitors. Once again, Google Analytics lets you drill down further so you can see bounce rate by each landing page and determine which ones are working and which are not.

Organic Conversion Rate

Organic conversion rate displays how many site visitors actually converted, or finalized a transaction. Google Analytics makes it easy to break down conversion rate by: device, which reveals whether you’re effectively appealing to mobile users; landing page, which shows how well each page is or isn’t closing the deal; and location, which demonstrates how your messaging is being received in different geographies. 

Organic Traffic

Organic traffic are the visitors who visit your website through search. They see links to your site on SERPs and are intrigued enough to click through. Not only is it free traffic, it also demonstrates why you want your webpages to rank as high as possible. Research has shown most searchers not only prefer to click on organic results (as opposed to paid advertising placements), few — only 7% of respondents, according to a recent survey — ever click past page one when they search. So by keeping tabs on how many visitors your site sees, you get a better sense of how well you’re doing in search engine optimization (SEO) and where you can improve.

Google Analytics displays this information as pageviews, so you can scroll down to find the pages you’re looking for — or you can even configure reports that group specific pages of interest. Google also includes metrics for unique pageviews, or the number of views from unique visitors specifically.

While it’s important to track organic traffic sitewide, don’t forget to monitor organic traffic by the landing pages as well. Google Analytics lets you drill down, which will make it easier to figure out precisely where your site can improve — especially if there is a dramatic difference in how some pages are ranking. In that scenario, you’ll want to focus on helping boost the pages that rank lower.

You can also track where organic traffic comes from by geography to help figure out where you should focus your SEO and marketing efforts. When tracking traffic by country, you may realize potential for overseas expansion if you’re seeing a lot of visitors from a particular country. And/or when tracking by state within the U.S., you may see your business is more popular in some states than others. From there, you can adjust your marketing budget to focus on the areas where consumers are more interested in your products or services. Or, if there’s a region that is particularly important to your brand, but you see you’re not generating much traffic from there, you can readjust your strategy to better engage those target consumers.

Returning Visitors

No surprises here: returning visitors are those who have come to your site before. Tracking this metric through Google Analytics also helps gauge the success of the overall site as it means consumers are coming back repeatedly for the useful content you are producing. (Or not.) 

Top Exit Pages for Organic Traffic

As the name implies, exit pages are the pages on your site where visitors leave. By tracking where exactly consumers exit, you can also potentially identify problem pages that cause visitors to flee. Some reasons for site drop-off include pages with too much or too little information, or don’t take the opportunity to include a call-to-action where there should be one. Carefully study user behavior, and the content and layout of the top exit pages on your site, and you will be able to identify what the issues are.

Google Analytics for Starters

Now you’re to make data-driven decisions about your website thanks to insights from Google Analytics. Piece of cake, right? The best part is once you get more familiar with the platform, you’ll be able to dive down further and configure even more reports for yourself to suit your brand’s specific needs.

For more information on setting up your Google Analytics for attribution:

Google Analytics Attribution 101

 

Jimmy Shang
Author

Jimmy is the Director of Marketing Analytics and Insights at AdRoll which basically means that he’s a professional cat-herder and data nerd. Other than whiteboarding big ideas, he enjoys all manners of food, travel, and woodworking.