22 Jun, 2016

A Crash Course in Google Analytics

Once you’ve successfully set up your Google Analytics account the next battle you face is getting to grips with how to use it. The easiest way to do this, is to think about what you really want to know. Why did you bother setting up your analytics account? What do you want to find out?
By answering these questions, it reveals which reporting section you should be looking at in your analytics account and which metrics and dimensions you need to monitor.

But hang on, what on earth are metrics and a dimensions?

A dimension in Google Analytics describes a characteristic of your users, their sessions and their actions taken on your site. Dimensions answer questions like who did what and where. As a general rule of thumb this is qualitative data.

Metrics measure quantitative data and most often will be reported as numerical information. In Google Analytics reports, dimensions are usually organised into rows and the metrics are organised in to columns.
In this example, the countries are dimensions, which describe where our users were when they visited our website. Everything else is a metric which quantifies each dimension. I.e. the quantity of sessions and new users for each country (dimension).  

There are three broad types of metric: quantity metrics likes sessions and page views, engagement metrics like bounce rate, pages per session and average time on site and conversion metrics like goals, conversion rate and for ecommerce reporting things like average order value and revenue as well.

The right mix of dimensions and metrics can answer virtually any question you have about your users and how they interact with your site, so it’s important to get to know them.
Broadly speaking you can match the questions you need answering with a particular reporting section of Google Analytics, where you will find a particular set of dimensions and metrics. So, if you want to know who is visiting your site, you need to look at the Audience report.

If you want to know how people are finding your site, you need to look at the Acquisition report. If you want to know what users do on your site and how well your site works, you need the behaviour report, and if you want to determine how successful your website is at achieving your goals, then you need the conversions report.
For more detail on each of these reporting sessions, read our previous blog post on Google Analytics: Understanding Google Analytics. Once you know what reports, dimensions and metrics you need, the next step is understanding it all.
Setting up Goals and Conversions

You can set up goals under the admin tab in your Analytics account, and you can track just about anything from a newsletter sign up to a sale. Goals can be measured in a number of different ways depending on how your site is set up too, such as tracking a specific URL or tracking time spent on a particular page.

Commonly used goal tracking URLs including things like:


Setting up goals will allow you to track the actions taken on your website which most directly impact the bottom line of your business. Every website ultimately serves a purpose even if it is only a brochure or information site, to there’s no excuse not to use the conversions report. 
Using Dashboards

Our top tip for helping make sense of all the data is to make use of the dashboards feature in the Google Analytics platform. You can either build yourself a custom dashboard or simply import a ready-made dashboard from the Analytics Solutions Gallery.

We recommended building a dashboard for each element of your website’s performance you wish to report on and monitor. For example, if you are an eCommerce site in particular, you should build an eCommerce dashboard specifically featuring the dimensions and metrics related to sales, revenue and conversions, so you can easily see your ROI.

If you are building a network of refers then a referral traffic dashboard is useful to be able to instantly see which sites are delivering the most traffic and more importantly the most engaged traffic to your site.
One other dashboard we always build is a “quick glance” dashboard. Here we gather the top level dimensions and metrics that tell the general picture of how our website and marketing is performing.

It includes a mix of real time and static data.  It captures traffic volume, traffic sources, conversion rate per traffic source, sessions per city and real time information including active users on site, their location and their active pages.
So to recap…

1. Familiarise yourself with the different reporting areas within Google Analytics
2. Make the most of the dashboard feature to snapshot important data
3. Set up goals and conversions to track impact on your bottom line