Google Analytics, Part 2: The 5 Key Metrics

Data is a hot issue. There’s no question.

But that doesn’t mean you need a master’s degree in statistical analysis to keep up. Most small business owners concentrate on their core business first – and learning a lot of fancy data modeling techniques is nowhere near what they’re going to think about today. But that doesn’t mean you can afford to ignore it.

Whether you’re running a website as part of your core strategy, or just as an online complement to your offline efforts, then this article is for you. In just five minutes you should be able to better see how your internet visitor are finding your site, how they’re interacting with it and you should be able to make significant improvements in the results you realize.

Once you’ve got your Google Analytics tracking code installed, here’s what you should be watching for.

1) New vs. Returning Visitors

This will give you an immediate good idea just how many people your website is attracting every day. They’ll come from all over the Internet. You’ll find them under the Audience/Overview section. While you’ll probably always have a majority of new visitors, it’s the returning visitors who’ve taken an interest. This metric will always tell you how well you’re doing. Returning visitors should start to increase whenever you’re making significant improvements to the site.

2) Pageviews

Pageviews is the default report under Behavior/Overview. It will give you an immediate idea how many pages your average viewer is seeing. Again, you want this number to go up, because you’ll get more engagement, and possibly more business, when your visitors stay and read more pages.

3) Bounce Rate

Corresponding negatively to Pageviews, is your Bounce Rate. This one is important because it reflects the number of people who do not view more than the one page where they originally land (their Landing Page). You always want this number to go down, and Google recommends really concentrating on bringing this number down as one of the basic goals of all of your SEO activities. You do that by encouraging visitors to visit other pages on your site.

Not always easy, Bounce Rate is the focus of lots of people in the industry from UX pros to designers to programmers.  You’ll find the Bounce Rate as a column in the report under Behavior/Site Content/All Pages.

4) All Pages

In the same place as above, (Behavior/Site Content/All Pages), you’ll see that the main point of the report is a ranking of the popularity of all of your assembled content. For most businesses, the website homepage is nearly always at the top of the list. It’s where most of your incoming links will direct people and simply the first page most visitors will see.

But don’t get too caught up. All of the statistics across the report are interesting, “Average Time on Page,” for example. But the default view of the report is a ranking of the popularity of all the pages according to the number of visits any of them receive. Be careful because your newer pages will be automatically ranking further down the list. You may very well learn a lot from those pages as they begin to move up the list.

5) Acquisition

Lots of SEO people, even the tough ones, are still crying about the loss of all of Google’s Organic Keywords. In the worlds of Analytics and SEO, it was like losing your right hand.

Keep in mind, the Google Analytics world we’re talking about here, is all concerned with the very factors that the latest Google algorithm changes are looking at. So it’s not just keywords anymore. On the contrary, a high Bounce-Rate page, even with just the right keywords, will not rank as high in search results. Google is watching these numbers too.

The new-ish Acquisition section, though lacking those once insightful keywords, is still a rich place to learn about how people are finding you. The Channels report will become more important as your site develops – but gives you an instant breakdown of traffic coming in from Referrals, Organic Search, Direct traffic, Social traffic and from a paid campaign if you are buying any ads. That’s just for starters.

As your site matures, all of your referral traffic will become more important – and hopefully – more prolific too.  You can take a closer look at specific referral traffic (as well as the other traffic types mentioned above) elsewhere in the Acquisition section. The All Referrals report then is another key metric you want to check. Very useful if you’re getting radically different traffic, you especially want to check here if people are visiting your site for very different reasons. You may want to consider creating, or encouraging them to land on different pages or to custom build more pages for each “visitor intent” as you come to understand each of them.

Of course, the five key metrics above are just the beginning. As you learn more about what people are doing on your site, you can learn how to better craft your site so as to better meet the needs of your visitors. That, after all, is Google’s intent in providing you with such a powerful tool.

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