Focus on the Metrics that Matter: Google Analytics Explained

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Find the Metrics that Matter

Google Analytics is one of the best (and free!) website analytics tools out there that monitors what's happening on your site. The catch is that it’s only effective if you know how to use it. You’ve probably noticed that your account provides an incredibly in-depth analysis of your website. But if you don't understand how it works or what you should focus on, it's a pretty pointless tool that can steer you in the wrong direction.

The First Step: Set Performance Goals

If you want to see results, you need to set tangible, quantifiable goals, which means you can't just say, "I want more visitors" or "I want a lower bounce rate." Your goals need to be formatted this way:

  • "Increase page views by 8%"
  • "Decrease bounce rate by 3% on these pages"
  • "Receive 10 more form submissions on this page per month"

Before you write your goals, take a look at your current analytics data and establish some benchmarks you'd like to hit within one month. Do you want to improve the visit time on a page by two minutes? What could you improve to have a stronger call to action on your page? Questions like these are important to ask before coming up with specific goals.

Hot Tip: There is NOT a one-size-fits-all type of goal to reach. The goals you set and the metrics you should focus on are not the same as someone else's goals and metrics. For example, we ask ourselves specific questions and set unique goals when building our engineering sites because we knew they require a different strategy than our other projects.

Now that you’re thinking about some goals you’d like to set, let's explore the categories you might want to pay close attention to.

Google Analytics Metrics

1. Bounce Rate

They came, they saw, and they left. Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who load a page on your website and exit without taking another action that loads a different page on your website.

Typically, companies focus on lowering or maintaining a low bounce rate, but there are some things to keep in mind when looking at this metric. You'll only want to focus on having a low bounce rate depending on the type of website and page your visitors click into. If the purpose of one of your pages is for users to get all the info they need (see example below), a high bounce rate is less crucial because they don't have to search for details on multiple pages. On the other hand, if you want users to explore your website or take a specific action that directs them to a different page, you’ll want to see a lower percentage.

bounce rate

When is having a high bounce rate good?

Here's an example. You're looking for the email address or phone number for a company because you need to order something, cancel a subscription or membership, or you're following up on an inquiry. Whatever the reason, you're intent is to find a specific piece of information, which you think you can find on the company's contact page. You do a Google search, and their contact page is the first hit. You click into that page, find the email, copy it, and paste it into a new email. You close the tab with the company's contact page still loaded. That is considered a bounce, but it was a successful search because the user found what they were looking for.

Onsharp contact page gif2. Users and New Users

There is power in numbers, but more power in loyalty. Users are your website or page visitors, and new users are the "people" who have never visited your site before. And by people, we mean devices or browsers. So technically, one person could view the same website on Chrome and Firefox, and Google Analytics would count that as two new users. Google does a good job of explaining how they determine who users are here.

The number of visitors on individual pages tells you who is looking where. This is important to recognize because it helps determine how your content is performing solely based how many people are viewing it. You should use this metric to identify your most viewed blogs, service, or product pages. However, you should not use this metric alone to determine the success of your website or pages. You should consider other metrics, including bounce rate, time spent on page, conversions or form submissions, and the real-life feedback of your website visitors to determine if your website or page is successful.

Hot Tip: You can figure out who's visited your website before by subtracting the users from the new users, which gives you insight into how many loyal visitors you have.

3. Realtime Data

Realtime data is helpful if you have things to purchase on your website. This group of metrics shows you who's going to your website at that exact moment, and you can see the process of your customers' shopping habits. For example, you can see what they're doing from the time they start browsing through the moment they check out or abandon their cart.

If you have an eCommerce page, you should be tracking these statistics. It can help you identify where in the shopping process your users are dropping off, and you can see what's stopping them from purchasing your product.

realtime report sections

4. Average Time on Page

The average time on page indicates how much time a user spends on your website.

People usually focus on having a high average when looking at time spent on a page. Using the contact page example again, if someone is looking for a specific piece of information, you shouldn't focus too much attention on having a high average. However, if you're analyzing your blog performance, you obviously want your visitors to spend time reading your content. You'll want to consider average time on page for this type of content.

average time on page

Why is Average Time on Page not a totally accurate metric?

Now, we typically hope that users will be interacting with our content during the entire time they have one page loaded, but - just like with some traditional media - just because someone has a page open doesn't mean they're engaging with it. Radios can be turned down. TVs can be muted. People can be away from their computers. If this data is unusually high, we urge you to consider this before you get too excited and then confused when it drops to a more accurate number the next time you analyze it.

5. Types of Devices

This feature shows you what devices and browsers your traffic is coming from.

Because almost everyone has a mobile device these days, we see a lot more mobile traffic (which is why it's important to have a mobile-friendly website). By keeping an eye on these results, you'll be able to see what type of devices your audience is using. We can guess that the majority of your users will probably be visit your website on their phone, so if your website isn't mobile-friendly, it will negatively impact the time they spend on your page and could cause you to lose potential customers.

Why should I care about what devices my website visitors are using?

  • Identify what devices your visitors are using
  • Test your website on those devices
  • Uncover pain points
  • Fix responsive layout issues
  • Decrease bounce rate
  • Increase customer satisfaction

Check out our website redesign guide

Are you considering a website redesign? We have compiled our top 21 tips for a successful website redesign. They are easy to understand and include videos, links, lists, and examples to guide you. Click the button below to check out the guide.


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