Monitoring and evaluation

Key indicators for Google Analytics

By 26 November 2013

The best thing about Google Analytics is it’s FREE! It’s main purpose is for tracking the traffic activity to and from your website. It also tells you everything else that is going on with your website…that’s the bad bit! How do you know which features you should be looking at and which ones are important to you?

Here is a short overview of the main features, how they work and what they tell you.

Audience Overview: As the first page you come to, this page offers you a high level overview of how your site is doing, including visitors, unique visitors, page views, average time on site, bounce rate, and even a pie chart comparing new and returning visitors. Clicking the drop down menu on the right hand side of the page allows you to change the date range or even choose to compare two date ranges.

Here all those things in the Audience Overview explained:

1. Visitors and uniques visitors: These two are pretty self-explanatory, however, it is important to track them regularly. If your visitors are rising then you are doing something right…if they are decreasing, well then, that’s a different story.

2. Comparing new and returning visitors: This also needs regular analysis and can help you answer many questions, such as… Why aren’t they coming back? How often would you like them to come back? Am I offering the right call to actions? Am I happy with the amount of visitors? It’s at this time when you need to implement a plan and go back to your objectives. A healthy rate for returning visitors is around 20%, the higher the new visitor rate means that you are growing your audience and attracting new business.

3. Average time on site: Ideally, this should always be up! An average time on site that is decreasing or only a few seconds long tells you objectively that people are not compelled enough to stick around, that they haven’t found what they’re looking for. This is fixable by testing the navigation of your site with a user survey, leaving no dead ends, offering some richer content and linking everything together for a easy ride. A good average for most sites is around two to three minutes, but of course this is dependant on the type of website you have.

4. Bounce rate: This is the feature/metric that you want to see at it’s lowest. A high bounce rate indicates that a visitor didn’t find what they were looking for. This metric goes hand in hand with average time on site and it will help answer those questions about whether the user fulfilled their needs during their visit to your site. This will help you decipher if you are displaying the correct content. The bounce rate percentage that you’re looking for is dependant on the type of site you have and what other metrics say. However, if your priority is to grow your audience and traffic, then your bounce rate should be between 40% and 70%.

The Audience Overview has covered the basics, there are a few other metrics that you want to be analysing on a regular basis:

5. Referral Traffic: This metric appears under ‘Traffic Sources’, ‘Sources’ then ‘Referrals’. This tells us which sites directed their visitors to your site, this is a good thing to know because if you are spending all your time using twitter, but all your visitors are coming from facebook then you need to direct your attention elsewhere. It is also helpful to see which sites are linking to your page.

6. Keywords: Under ‘Traffic Sources’/’Direct Resources’ click on the keywords and you can see what words people used to find your site from Google, this metric is very important from an SEO (search engine optimisation) perspective and can help you tailor your content.

7. Which Pages are Most Popular?  To find this out go to ‘Behaviour’, then ‘Overview’, you can see which pages are getting the most hits. This metric can be used together with keywords to target your audiences. If you then go to ‘Behaviour flow’ you can see which pages people are interacting with. This is also a good way to show how  links or other referring sources are doing sending visitors to your site. Looking at your site content will also allow you to check your visitor behaviour, by looking at the landing pages and exit pages.

8. Entrance Paths: You can find these on the landing page at the top, it’s a good idea to analyse where people went after they landed on your site.

Other useful resources:

A small business guide to google analytics

Google Analytics, the basics.

How to get started with Google Analytics