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Tech Tuesday: Getting started with Google Analytics

25 April 2017 | Andrew Davison | About a 9 minute read
Tags: 101, Analysis, analytics, data, getting started with Google Analytics, google, Google Analytics, how to setup Google Analytics, tech, Tech Tuesday


Firstly, what is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a web application that allows users to keep track of traffic arriving at and going through their website. A bit of history lesson here is that in 2005 Google acquired Urchin, an application that analysed web statistics, and made a few UI changes before releasing it to the public as Google Analytics. Since then more functions have been added in addition to the free services, such as Google Analytics 360 and Google Analytics for Mobile Apps. We will be focusing on the free services since they are the most widely used analytics service on the wider web.

You may ask yourself, why should I be using Google Analytics? If you own a website, Google Analytics helps with a few questions that you might have about your site visitors, such as:

  • How many people viewed/are currently viewing my site?
  • Where are the visitors located? (targeting ads)
  • What did they search in order to get to your site?
  • Which are the best sources of traffic – Facebook/Twitter etc?
  • Which pages are viewed after landing on a page?
  • Which pages on my site are the most popular?
  • What device are people viewing my website on?

 

How to get started with Google Analytics:

Getting started on Google Analytics is easy, all you need is a website of your own and a Google account. After you have those two set-up, you can begin to follow the instructions below to get up and running with Google Analytics.

Since you are trying to setup Google Analytics for the first time you have to specify a few things to set up the new account for your site – just fill in the required data on the form above.

It is important to write the correct information here, so that Google can find your website and then be able to ‘crawl’ through your links and the different pages that you may have.

After the previous steps, you get a snippet of code to put on your website, which allows Google to find your website and collect statistics. The code will have your unique key which Google uses so that it knows what website it’s meant to track. All you need to do is copy paste that snippet into every web page that you want to track.

Viewing your data:

Once you have done the steps above you would be able to sign in to your Google Analytics site and be able to view live traffic from your site. The more traffic you have on your site, the more data you are able to collect from your users. In this article we are going to analyse an example blogging site that has been up for over five years. When logging in to the Analytics account, the first page displayed is the Audience Overview:

This is a very useful screen as we can change the timelines at the top right and quickly get an overview of:

  • What pages are being viewed.
  • What country/city they are being viewed in.
  • What browser/operating system/service provider they are using (for both Desktop and Mobile).
  • The proportion of New visitors vs Returning visitors.

The screen shown above is showing statistics for the months of September and October 2016.

Now let’s set for example four different goals to analyse:

  • We want to check which publishing years were more visited in a period of time.
  • We want to check how many views the site has had since October 2011.
  • We want to check the most popular blog posts in a period.
  • We want to check where the traffic came from.

To achieve that we need to do the following:

  1. On the left hand side, hit Behaviour
  2. Then click “Site Content”
  3. Then “Content Drilldown”

From there we get this screen showing the Content Drilldown:

This will be a list of every page and subpage available on the site for the time frame displayed on the top right (which is still from 1st Sep 2016 to 31st Oct 2016).

For the /2011/ path of this example, the figure of 1,465 is the cumulated number of hits to each individual page located under that path. These pages were published in 2011 and are some of the oldest pages on the site – as you might expect, they have accumulated more references from other resources (are linked from more pages) than the newest ones.

Now we want expand the date range of statistics, so the following thing to do is to adjust the starting date. We’ll set it to October 1st 2011 and hit Apply.

Now we can see the following graph:

We can see the site had 188,374 total page views in that period. If we look further down, the pages under /2011/ had 72,181 views, the ones under /2012/ had 31,404 views, etc.

Another interesting behaviour we can observe here is that the Pageviews graph maintains a constant average but has several noticeable peaks. Those peaks normally correspond to particular pages that were linked from popular websites and brought a high load of traffic in a very short time (a few days).

The next goal we wanted to check is the most popular blog posts in a period.  We can do that by clicking “All Pages” on the left hand side menu:

Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages

This will display the Pages screen:

Let’s have a close up of the top pages:

In summary, the top blog posts are:

  1. /vr-and-the-web/ with 8,628 views.
  2. /the-fermi-paradox/ with 8,484 views.
  3. /towards-the-singularity/ with 7,814 views.

 

Let’s now explain the numbers to the right of each page:

For the /vr-and-the-web/ page:

8,628 – The total number of pageviews – if a user clicks refresh, this will count as 2 pageviews.

6,990 – Unique page views – This is for different users (i.e aggregates pageviews that are generated by the same user during the same session). A unique pageview represents the number of sessions during which that page was viewed one or more times.

00:04:18 – Average time on page – It is the average time the user spent on the page.

6,916 – Entrances – It is the number of times visitors entered the site through this specific page.

81.22% – Bounce rate – Of the sessions which started on this page, this is the percentage of visitors who left without browsing any further – i.e so 81.22% of people who arrived straight to this page only viewed this page, and the rest clicked on to other pages on the site.

79.07% – Exit rate – For all pageviews (i.e sessions that started here and those which arrived from other pages on the site), this percentage of users exit the site after viewing this page.

Checking traffic:

Checking where the traffic came from is simple:

Click “Other”, and on the dropdown menu select “Acquisition > Source”:


Which provides very interesting figures about where the traffic is coming from:

If we want to check the traffic sources for a particular page, we just click on the desired page link from the Pages screen, and then again “Other > Acquisition > Source”:

Which displays the data for that particular page:

In this case we can see there is a massive difference between the visits coming from Google and the rest of the sources, which means this particular page hasn’t been linked much from other websites apart from Google and other search engines. It hasn’t been linked/shared from Facebook or other social media. However, the keywords of the page have been very effective on search engines.

Pros and Cons:

  • Really simple to set up and get started.
  • Provides a powerful set of tools for collecting and visualising a range of metrics.

But…

  • Once you have the numbers, you need to work to understand what they mean for your site! For example, a high exit rate might not be a problem on a purchase confirmation screen, but for your home page it might be a cause for concern.
  • The analytics are just the first step to improving your site – they may help you pinpoint problem pages, but they may not tell you exactly what’s wrong or how to fix it.

Summary:

  • Google Analytics is an absolute MUST for your site.
  • Viewing where your traffic is coming from provides incredibly useful info on where to focus marketing efforts.
  • This is just one tool you have, and it won’t provide all the answers.

 

Further reading:

Want to learn more about Google Analytics? Check out some of these other resources:

Google offers a free online course on Analytics

Training and Support

YouTube videos on Google Analytics

With thanks to Iban Munarriz for his contribution on writing this blog.

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