We often work with clients who, while they have a Google Analytics account, don’t really use it, and find the sheer number of different reports overwhelming, and the various metrics confusing.
Here’s my beginner’s guide to the core Google Analytics metrics.
A lot of people think that a ‘bounce’ happens when a website visitor leaves your website straight away after entering the site (ie they only stay for a short amount of time). However, this is a common misunderstanding. In fact, a bounce happens when the visitor has only viewed one page – the page they landed on. It doesn’t mean that they didn’t read the page. For example, if a person lands on a blog post on your website, they could read its entirety and then leave after 20 minutes on the page, and this would still be classed as a bounce. That same website visitor might potentially have phoned you up and placed a large order – it doesn’t mean necessarily that the visit was worthless.
What’s a good bounce rate? There isn’t really a straight answer to that question, as it varies from industry to industry and from site to site. For example, blogs tend to have higher-than-average bounce rates, as do e-commerce sites. But in general, a ‘good’ bounce rate might be considered to be between 26% to 40% and anything over 70% might ring some alarm bells, but this doesn’t have to mean that your website is performing badly overall.
(Incidentally, if you have a really low bounce rate – say 10% or lower – then you probably have an issue with your Google Analytics setup, such as the code having been installed twice. So don’t celebrate just yet!)
Users vs Sessions
‘Users’ can be thought of as individual visitors to your website within the date range you have selected. However, you should be aware that it’s impossible for Google to really know exactly how many unique people have visited the site – multiple people could be using the same computer, for example, or the same person could be using multiple devices.
A ‘Session’ can be thought of as a visit to your website – so for example, someone visits your site, looks at a few pages, then goes away again, or stays idle for 30 minutes or more.
Referral: A referral occurs when a visitor clicks through from a link on another website and lands on yours.
Direct: Direct traffic is where a visitor has typed your web address into their browser, or clicked on a bookmark, in order to arrive on your site.
Organic: This is where your visitor has landed on your website from the ‘organic’, or free, part of a search engine’s search results.
Goals & Conversions
A conversion occurs when something happens on your website that you were aiming for! So for example, an e-commerce transaction happening would be a conversion, or a form being filled in, or an email link being clicked, for example.
A goal is a type of conversion that you set up within Analytics to track things like forms being filled in or email links being clicked.
Goals don’t automatically set themselves up and configure themselves – it’s something that you need to set up, or get your web agency to do for you. First you’d need to identify the things that you want to happen on the site, and then you’d need to figure out how those can be set up as goals. If you’re not technically minded, you’ll probably need some help from someone who’s more experienced with websites and Google Analytics.
Your Conversion Rate tells you what percentage of visits to your site resulted in a conversion. This is a key metric to track as it can tell you how successful your site is at achieving your business goals.