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Understanding Google Analytics

Published By Janet Gershen-Siegel at November 7th, 2017

When you build a website for your small business (or you have one built for you), it makes a lot of sense to add Google Analytics. This is a small tracking code which either you can add yourself or have a developer do so. In WordPress, there are several plugins which will add the code correctly; all you have to do is paste it in.

Reading Google Analytics does not have to be hard at all.

What’s all this data for?

The real use of data is to see which content on your website is working for your customers, and what isn’t. Furthermore, this sort of data can also alert you to webpages which aren’t working at all. Popular content should be nurtured and you should try to repeat it (without simply cloning it, of course). Unpopular content should be either altered or dropped. And of course content that doesn’t work (such as dead links) should be fixed.

Goal Setting

Google Analytics sets goals for you, but you can set your own, too. When you log into Google Analytics, navigate over to Admin and then click on Goals. Let’s say your goal is to get visitors to stop by your Order a Widget Page. Select “New Goal” and then either select a template or custom. If you select custom, you’ll be asked some questions so the program will understand just what it is you really want to measure. Also, be sure to name the goal intelligently, such as ‘Land on Order a Widget Page’, rather than ‘Goal #4’. Click on the type (in this case, it’s ‘Destination’), paste the correct URL into the box and select the options you want, such as a funnel, which is a pathway for your users to follow, or value, if you want to set a benchmark. Then click ‘Save’ and you’re done.

You can also customize dashboards and the like, but you don’t have to. Google Analytics is quite good right out of the box.

Be patient and give Google Analytics a chance to gather some data. A month should do it.


Go to the first of the basic report sections and click ‘Overview’ to look at your audience. You can select a custom time period to view, and you might want to extend this time if you don’t have any data for the most recent week or so. The basic report shows a percentage of new and returning visitors, along with sessions, users, page views, session duration, and what’s called the bounce rate.

The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who came to your website and only looked at one page. As analytics guru Avinash Kaushik calls it, “I came, I saw, I puked.” But the truth is; a bounced visitor isn’t necessarily someone who hates your content or who landed by accident and then bailed. It can also be users who love your content but only had the time to view one page, or who got what they wanted from one page, and then they were done. Don’t expect this figure to really ever hit zero, but do try to get it to decrease.

The other metrics are fairly self-explanatory. You will generally see more sessions than users because a user can have more than one session (visit) to your website.


The next major report section shows where your website’s visitors all came from. These can be referrals (that is, your site URL on someone else’s website), organic search (your site came up in search results), social (your URL was shared on social media and clicked), or ‘other’. You can click on any of these and get more of a breakdown. If you break down social, you’ll see referrals from not just Facebook and Twitter, but also reddit, Stack Exchange, Disqus (that’s a comments management plugin), and others.


The next big report section shows more about what your website’s visitors did. If you click on ‘Behavior Flow’, you can get an idea of the journey a visitor took through your site. Of course a bounced user only went to one page, but the not so bouncy users might have taken all sorts of detours. You’ll be able to see if your visitors landed on the Order a Widget Page, and then clicked  immediately to check out, or if they continued shopping, or if they abandoned their shopping carts.


The last main section of the report covers whether your goals were met and a bit about ecommerce, if you have that set up. A conversion is often a sale, but it doesn’t have to be. Sometimes a conversion is to get a visitor to sign up for a newsletter or stay on the site for a minimum amount of time, even if they end up bouncing.

What are good numbers?

As with many things in the world of business, good Google Analytics numbers are a matter of what makes the most sense for your business and your industry. So, it depends. If your business is only a few months old and you have had few sales, you can expect few completed goals and probably a high bounce rate. A more successful and aged business and website should see more completed goals. And if the bounce rate stays high, either something isn’t working properly (your site may be too slow for your visitors) or you aren’t adding compelling enough content that would make them want to check out more of your website.

Click through and drill down into more parts of your Google Analytics reports and you can see everything from the general location of your visitors to how long it took certain pages to load. Google Analytics is a fascinating array of data, all available for free. Poke around when you get a chance.

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