So you have set up a Google Analytics account and started collecting data, but what does it all mean? This article intends to explain the main area and the valuable information contained.
This is the first screen that you are shown when you first log into Google Analytics, here you will find a summary of all the key data for you to consider at a glance (by default for a period of one month). These will be covered in more detail later in the article.
Google intelligence provides a mechanism by which you can monitor your websites traffic and be automatically alerted by email or text message if there are significant changes. There are two types of alerts i) automatic and ii) custom. Automatic alerts are generated by Google, where as custom ones are defined by the account holder (i.e. alert me if the site gets more than 200 hits in an hour).
For more information check out: http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/topic.py?topic=25189
Again the first page you see is a summary of all the sub categories. Here follows a definition of each:
Benchmarking - This is a metric which you can use to compare your site to other sites that fall into the similar category. Websites must volunteer to participate and share their data.
Map Overlay – this area provides a visual representation of where your website visitors are viewing your content.
New vs Returning – as the name suggested this section shows what percentage of visits (a series of consecutive page views) are from new visitors and which are from returning visitors. Consider one person visits your site 3 times, this would register as 1 new visit and 2 return visits (i.e. 33% new / 67% returning). If the percentage ‘new’ is larger than ‘returning‘ then sadly people are visiting your site and not returning.
Languages – a breakdown of the default languages registered.
Absolute unique visitors –determined using cookies, therefore if someone deletes cookies and returns they will be counted twice.
Average & Total Pageview – moving from one page to another is classified as a page view.
Time on site – time between landing on any page on your site and leaving (or closing browser).
Bounce Rate – the percentage of ‘single page’ visits to your site. For example, if every single user that views your site exits without viewing another page, the bounce rate would be 100%. This would suggest the landing page is not gaining the visitors interest.
Loyalty – This gives a breakdown of how many people are returning to your site and includes visits, page views and length of stay.
Browser Capabilities – this provides useful information on the different browsers, operating systems and screen resolutions of the people viewing your site. For example, imagine you are spending hours trying to get a feature on your site to work on IE6, when in fact only 1% of visitors use the browser.
This is one of the most crucial areas within the analytics package as it allows you to gauge how people are finding your site and allows you to evaluate the success of your marketing strategies. These sources fall into three main categories:
Direct – typically these visitors are familiar with your site from previous visits, or they have seen your website address written on a piece of advertising or media.
Referring Sites – One of the best ways of directing traffic to your site is to have links on other sites point back to your own. This section of analytics allows you to see which of those sites is generating the most amount of traffic.
Search Engines – Ranking your site on popular search engines requires ‘Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)’ techniques. This section allows you to view how many visits you are receiving from each of the major engines, together with a list of the terms people are using to find you. Hopefully the keywords you optimise your site are sitting at the top of the page.
Here you can find which of you pages are getting the most views, which are the most popular landing pages (first page a visitor see upon entering your site), and which are the most common exit pages (the last page a visitor sees before leaving your site). You can also find detailed information about each pages bounce rate, number of unique views and time spent on the page.
In Page Analytics – Allows you to see exactly how people are navigating between pages, by showing you a percentage breakdown of where people are clicking on a page. For example if you have two different menus on a page you can see which method of navigation proves most popular.
These are a way in which you can measure how well you site meets business objectives. Goals are setup by the website owner, these can be as simple or as complex as you wish. For example you might set a goal as being click submit on enquiry form, or you might determine a goal a visitor navigating through a series of pages in an exact order (i.e. to prove the success of a certain page layout).
Hopefully this article has cleared up a few of the mysteries around the types of data that is available via Google analytics. If you haven’t already setup Google analytics, I strongly recommend it for any serious website owner.