Understanding the Google Analytics Dashboard

“What does it all mean?” is a fine philosophical question, but not what you want to be thinking when you check your Google Analytics every day.

You can get more out of Google Analytics when you understand just what it analyses. Your starting point is the Dashboard. This gives you an overview on one page. Let’s look at the elements.

There are four (five if you have an Ecommerce Overview) large graphs on the page. These give you a quick idea of how things are going with your web site. When you click on them, you can find much more useful information. We’ll examine these in future posts. We’ll also look at the Comparing function and the help links later.

Below the main graph you will see six measures of site usage:

  • Visits. When Google says “visitors,” they mean individual people (or at least individual computers) while “visits” counts the event of someone coming to your site, either for the first time or on subsequent occasions. You want this number to increase steadily.
  • Pageviews. This counts the number of times anyone looks at any page on your web site. If one visitor looked at eight pages and eight visitors looked at one page each, this measure will count both as eight.
  • Pages/Visit. This tells the average number of pages one visitor looked at during one visit. You could calculate this yourself from the previous two numbers, but Google does it for you. Depending on the goal of your site, you may want different results here, but generally, more pages per visit is better.
  • Bounce Rate. When a visitor looks at your page and leaves without exploring more, that visitor bounced. The Bounce Rate is the percentage of visitors who only visited one page before leaving. In general, a lower bounce rate is better.
  • Avg. Time on Site. This number tells in minutes and seconds how long the average visitor spent at your site before leaving. You want this number to rise.
  • % New Visits. This shows what percentage of this month’s visitors are new. If you are new to Google Analytics, many visitors will show up as new even though they may have visited before. Over time, this will correct itself.

Apart from the large graphs mentioned above, there will also be a chart called “Content Overview.”Content Overview lists the most popular pages at your web site, and the number of times visitors have looked at each of them.

In order to get an understanding of how this information can be useful, let’s look at a couple of real-world examples. We’ll examine the information from the Dashboards of two different sites:

» Site A, the website of a family therapist, has had 42 visitors this month,

» Site B, a business blog, has had 4,107 visitors this month.

Site A’s owner sees an increase in traffic as a priority. Site B is happy with the steady increase in traffic he is seeing over time. Even though they have very different amounts of traffic, both can use the information from the Dashboard to develop strategies.

Site A has a 40.48% bounce rate; her visitors look at an average of 4.88 pages on each visit. This is good news, and shows that her content is useful to her visitors. She sells books from her web site, so she wants visitors to spend time browsing.

Site B has a bounce rate of 89.16 and the average visitor looks at only 1.2 pages. However, since Site B is a blog, it is to be expected that most visitors will read just a post or two, bouncing away to other links. In fact, many of them bounce away to the business the blog belongs to, providing traffic second only to Google. Lowering the bounce rate is not a priority for Site B.

Site A’s most popular page is her home page, which is the result she wants. While she wants people to read her articles and buy her books, her home page brings clients to her office. The Content Overview chart lets her make sure that her home page remains the most popular page.

Site B’s most popular pages are posts from the past, which visitors find through the search engines. These pages continue to send traffic to the business web site through links, so they continue to be valuable.

Site B’s owner makes sure to keep the links and information on past posts up to date. He also should make sure to keep writing posts good enough to be popular; the Content Overview lets him track that.

Site B has many readers who subscribe through site feeds, so he knows that some readers of his home page will not show up at Google Analytics. He can track these readers in other ways.

From these examples, we can see that different kinds of web sites should see different numbers on their Dashboards. The information allows web site owners to adjust their web sites and marketing strategies to reach their goals. There may be general guidelines (for example, just about everyone will want their total visits to increase), but there are no hard and fast rules about what numbers you want to see on your Dashboard.

Sharp Hue can help you understand what the numbers on your Dashboard are telling you about how your web site fits into your overall business plan, and develop strategies for reaching the goals you have for your web site and for your business. We will be glad to meet with you to discuss your specific needs.

Visit us again next month for more on the best ways to use Google Analytics in your business.