Google Analytics is free and relatively user-friendly, but it’s not always easy for beginners to know what to do with all the numbers Google Analytics produces.
With practice, you can learn to interpret Google Analytics numbers and make site adjustments with knowledge and skill. But you need to start somewhere, and following these five Google Analytics metrics will help you get a handle on what your site is doing well and where it could improve.
Number of Visitors
Google Analytics tells you how many visits your site gets along with how many unique visitors. Some sites don’t rely as much on repeat visitors, so an increasing number of unique visits is good. Other sites do rely on repeat visitors, particularly e-commerce sites. This is because visitors typically return several times before making a purchase. In these cases, the ratio of unique visitors to total visits should be lower, indicating that your site is “sticky.” As long as the number of unique visitors and the total number of visitors grow in the proper proportion to one another, you can be confident you are on the right track. Set goals for total visitor numbers and unique-to-return visit ratios and use this metric to determine if you’re meeting traffic growth goals.
Landing Pages / Exit Pages / Bounce Rate
These are actually three separate metrics, but together they let you know:
- Which pages visitors land on most often
- Which pages they are on when they leave your site, and
- Whether they “bounce” right back off your page as soon as they get there.
If the most popular landing page doesn’t have a clear call to action, you may be losing business. If your most common exit page is a long and complex form a user must fill to complete an action (such as subscribe to a newsletter or make a purchase), you may need to modify that page to make it less intimidating. On the other hand, if your most popular exit page is a “Thank you for signing up for our newsletter” page, it bodes well for your site. In general, you want your landing page to be useful and informative, and your bounce rate to be low.
Time Spent On Page
The amount of time a visitor spends on a page usually indicates how engaged that visitor is with your site. In general, the longer your “time spent on page” metric is, the better. If everyone’s bailing out after a couple of seconds, your site might not be very engaging. Then again, sometimes excessively long times spent on pages indicate that something is wrong, such as visitors having difficulty navigating the site or finding what they’re looking for. But in most cases, if your “time spent on page” metric is increasing or holding steady, you’re doing a good job of engaging your audience.
This Google Analytics metric lets you know where traffic is coming from. In other words, you can learn how much traffic is coming from Pinterest, Facebook, directories, organic search, and other sources. The information contained in this metric can be very valuable because it can show you where your outreach is most successful. Once you know, for example, that a lot of your traffic is coming from Facebook, you can focus efforts on making your Facebook social media strategy even better. If organic search traffic is not good, your keyword and SEO strategy may need to be adjusted.
You should know how many of your visitors view your site on a phone or tablet. Use of these devices for surfing the web is increasing dramatically, and if your site is not optimized for mobile devices, you could be losing out on significant traffic. If your site has a high bounce rate, check your mobile traffic levels and take a good hard look at how easy your site is to view on mobile devices. Making your site more mobile-friendly can make a noticeable difference in your traffic, bounce rate, and time spent on your site.
Learning to interpret Google Analytics is a valuable skill for your business. Though it is easy to feel overwhelmed when you realize how many numbers Google Analytics presents to you, start out with the basics, like these five metrics, and soon you’ll learn how they correlate with other metric-like sales. You’ll be able to add more Google Analytics metrics to your site analysis activities as you become more familiar with what they do, and better yet, you’ll be able to put those numbers to work helping you find more ways to optimize your site.