How To Interpret Google Analytics Reports

Google analytics is one of many tools available for advertisers to monitor and optimize the traffic to their sites.  In the dynamic world of online marketing, it is crucial that you understand your traffic in order to spend your media budget efficiently.  Google analytics reports can give you actionable information about what is and is not working on your website and in your online marketing efforts. For example, a high number of new visitors may indicate that your advertising campaign is successfully pulling new traffic to your site. Many repeat visitors on the other hand signal engagement – as your content brings visitors back.

Pages for which you want reports analytics must contain the Google Analytics tracking code. Including it allows you to glean all sort of useful information about your users and the areas where your marketing efforts could be improved.

These are the key aspects of Google Analytics reports.

Pageviews and Unique Pageviews

One of the simplest reports google analytics measures is pageviews, or the number of times the page loaded. But a page load does not always mean a different user. If the user refreshes the page this is a new pageview. If the user clicks to another page and then returns, this also is an additional pageview. Unique pageviews on the other hand are separate visits to the site where that page is opened one or more times. This metric is found in the Content Overview section.

Visitors, Visits and Clicks

Visits are the equivalent of browser sessions. Visits end when the browser closes or goes inactive for more than thirty minutes. Your reports on google analytics may show visit numbers that differ from the number of clicks in your Adwords reports. Comparison shoppers, for instance, often will click an ad multiple times in the same browser session, which would be multiple clicks but only one visit.

One visitor may represent several visits each with multiple pageviews for several pages. Total Visitors equals the number of different people who have seen your site. It counts each visitor only once.

First-time visitors get randomly generated IDs with time stamps appended. This distinguishes them as repeat traffic when they come back.

Describing Visits and Visitors

You will often want to evaluate the effectiveness of your current advertising to see if you should make changes to it. You can set up advanced segments in E-Commerce to measure revenue from new customers using their average transaction value and number of transactions. Similarly, advanced segments in the location report can examine where your customers come from geographically, and segments in your Engagement report, their time spent on site and pages viewed.

The frequency and recency report measures how many times visitors came back to your site, and how often. Combining it with the All Visits or Visits with Transactions shows whether most of your sales are to one-time or repeat customers. Visit Duration classifies site visits based on time and can show whether your average time on site is skewed by a few long visits to certain pages. The Visit Duration metric is in the Engagement report under Behavior.

Describing Pageviews

Time on Page measures engagement by comparing the pageview’s time stamp with that of the following pageview. If the viewer exits the site from the page, its time on site for the user will be zero, since there is no subsequent time stamp. Average time on page is the total time spent by all visitors, divided by the page’s unique visits for the selected date range.

Traffic Sources

You’ll probably also want to know the sources of your new visitors and revenues.  This can be key in measuring the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.

A referral tells you which sites send traffic to you. The traffic may be from a link, a banner ad, or an affiliate site. The ‘All Traffic’ report will break down your visitors by referring site and for each site give you:

  • number of visits,
  • pages per visit,
  • average time on site,
  • percentage of new visits and
  • bounce rate.

Search Engines statistics reflect organic or pay-per-click traffic from all search engines. Direct Traffic measures visits from bookmarks, URLs typed directly into the browser’s address bar, or traffic which has lost its referral along the way.

When you examine your google analytics reports, you’ll be interested in the traffic sources that send you the most visitors. But remember that the volume of visitors is only one of the dimensions you should consider when evaluating your traffic sources. The quality of that referred traffic matters too.

If you have E-Commerce or Goal Sets on your account you have many additional analytics on traffic sources driving your sales. You can for example compare sales revenue for visitors by source to average revenue .

To find the keywords customers use to find your site, click ‘Incoming Sources’ in the Traffic Sources menu, then Search Overview. Now select Keyword. If particular keywords have a high bounce rate, users who looked at a page briefly then left the site, viewers may not see what they expected. Possibly the page they are landing on from the keyword does not seem relevant. You can drill down to see the page with bounces, and send that keyword’s traffic to a better page if appropriate.

This tab can also tell you where your conversions came from. But google analytics reports assume that the most recent ad the user clicked caused the sale or conversion that followed. This matters in measuring the effectiveness different ads and is referred to as attribution, So:

  • A click on an Adwords ad followed by a purchase credits to the Adwords ad.
  • If the user arrives from an Adwords ad, then returns later from a bookmark, the Adwords ad still gets credit for the conversion.
  • However, if the user clicks on an ad then later returns from a search engine or some other link, that source will be credited with the conversion.

If this doesn’t work for your business and you want to override this behavior, append utm_nooverride=1 to all referral links. This will ensure that your google analytics reports give credit only to the original referral source for the sale.

Content Reports

The Pages report and the Content Drilldown report compile traffic details for your pages by page and directory respectively. The Navigation Summary tab of the Pages report shows how visitors came to each page and where they went afterward. The figures are expressed as a percentage of total page visitors.

  • Exits measures how often visitors left the site from the page.
  • Entrances are pageviews where users arrived through the page.
  • Previous Pages reflects users who came to the page from another page in the site.
  • Next Pages are pageviews that are followed by a pageview of another page.

The Landing Pages report lists pages through which visitors arrived at your site and gives their bounce rates. If the bounce rates are too high, you may want to tailor them more closely to their referral links and advertising.

The Entrance Paths tab shows how your visitors navigated from the landing page. Click the link for a landing page. In the left column you will see a list of all of the clicks on the page. Choose the purchase page link. The right column will list pages your visitors went to from the purchase page. The number who wound up on the purchase completion page is a metric that may tell you whether your purchase page is doing what you want it to, or may perhaps need a redesign if users are leaving on some intermediate step, like entering shipping information.

Ryan Wilson
Founder & CEO
Ryan has his hands in a bit of everything, but he mostly focuses on client success and the technical aspects of advertising. Ryan likes 90’s hip hop, heli-skiing, and spending time with his family.