Google Analytics generates reports on a vast array of visitor data and for a newcomer seeing all these reports for the first time can be quite daunting. Luckily for us, Google does a good job of setting us up with a selection of preset reports to use from the start that cover pretty much everything a standard user would possibly need. Each of these reports types have an overview report but are also split up into more specific area making it easy to find the data we are looking for. For those who want to set up their own reports, there’s an option to create completely custom ones from scratch, this is extremely useful as we can craft a report to our needs.
Below is a quick roundup of the standard preset report types that Google gives us from the start.
The Real-time report does exactly what you might have guessed, they give us real-time information on the visitors that are currently on our website. This data is constantly updating whilst we are viewing it so it can be hard to track but it’s very interesting to see what our active users are doing at the time of us checking the report.
From the overview report, we can see how many visitors our website currently have, what device they are using to view our website and the page views we are currently receiving by the minute or by second. We can also see the pages that are currently being viewed, the website they have come from to get to our website, the social platform they have come from if any, the keywords they used to find our website and there’s also a live map showing us where our users are located in the world. The other reports under the Real-Time type go more in-depth into visitor movements and their locations. The real-time report brings Google Analytics to life and is probably one of the more exciting reports to view.
Real-time reports confirm that our Google Analytics is tracking our website as it’s constantly updating with new data. They are also good to track whether relatively new content is being visited for example whether any of your visitors are viewing your latest blog post. They can also be very useful when it comes to one-day promotions or sales to see if visitors are coming onto your website and whether a promotional campaign or email is having the desired results.
Overall real-time reports are a great way to make sure that everything is working correctly and is an interesting look into our current visitor’s behaviour. For the most part, we’ll be using historical data to guide our long-term website plans but real-time data does have its uses.
Understanding who our audience is key to developing a successful and profitable website. Without knowing our audience we won’t know how to successfully market our products and services, it’s a bit like fishing with the wrong bait for the fish we are trying to catch. By studying our audience reports we can develop our website and content so that it appeals to our target audience and maximises conversions!
The overview tab gives us a good amount of information on how many visitors we’ve been getting lately and gives us an insight in how well are website is performing in terms of the average amount of pages visitors are viewing and how long they are spending on our website. To learn about who our visitors actually are though we want to dive into the Demographic and Interest reports.
A lot of people already have some sort of Google account whether it’s through Gmail, Youtube or even the Chrome browser, a lot of these ask for your age and sometimes gender. Google will also analyse third-party cookies to find out your browsing habits and will use this information to compile a profile. All of this information then gets fed to Google where it will then place you into estimated groups. Of course this data can never be 100% accurate but Google does a very good job at guestimating your information. We can then use all of this new visitor information to make sure our website is appealing to our top visitors and adjust our content where necessary. We may even find that we are attracting the wrong types of visitors and if this is the case we can go back to our website and change it where necessary to appeal to the correct audience.
Audience reports have a lot of information to offer and are extremely powerful in terms of how we can adjust our approach and our content to better appeal to our target market. It’s worth taking time to look through each of the reports that are provided under the audience tab and run regular comparisons to track progress.
So we now know who our visitors are but where did they come from? Introducing Acquisition reports! Acquisition reports are a marketers dream, they give us an insight into what marketing platforms are working and which ones may need some adjusting.
Google splits our traffic into different channels to make it easier for us to understand what type of source led our visitor to our website. Below is a brief explanation of each channel.
Direct: Visitors that have come to your website without a traceable referral source. Examples of direct traffic would be entering your website directly into the address bar or clicking on a bookmark from their browser.
Organic: Visitors that have come from a search engine result because our website was a good match. Organic refers to search results that have not been paid for and have genuinely come up in a persons search because it matched what they were searching.
Social: Social traffic is any traffic that has come from one of the many social networking platforms, this could be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc. Social media traffic can be huge especially if you manage to get people to like and share direct links. It’s very common now for any business to have a social media presence and we can see how successful it is by viewing the social traffic we receive.
Email: Visits that were made through a link in an email. If you’re big on email marketing this one is a good one to look at to see if you’re email campaigns are getting visitors to your site. If not maybe something needs to be changed for example the wording you’ve used, the time you sent the emails or the content you are promoting.
Affiliates: This one is less common but is basically traffic that comes from a website that you have a relationship with. This is usually paid/promoted links that you have agreed with the website in question.
Referral: Traffic that has come to your website by following a link on another website is known as a referral link as the website has linked to your site. Examples of referral traffic could be a website that reviews or recommends your product or service and provides a direct link to your site. I’ve used links on this site to webpages that explain certain things in more detail.
Paid Search: The opposite of organic traffic. Paid search is the traffic you have received from paid adverts on search engines such as Google AdWords and Bing Ads. If you’re putting a lot of money into paid search engine results this channel is one you’ll want to keep an eye.
Other Advertising: If Google recognizes that the traffic came from another source of paid advertising this is the channel it’ll use.
Display: Any traffic that has come from displaying an advertisement gets put into the display channel. This can be from a paid banner adverts or image advertisements placed on other websites.
Other: If Google isn’t too sure where your visitor came from it’ll place them in the other channel. This channel gives us very limited insight so hopefully we don’t get too many visitors falling into this group that Google can’t quite track.
Acquisition reports are a great to track marketing campaigns and also lets you see how well you’re website is optimized for organic traffic which is very important to any company. More organic traffic show us that our website is not only optimized for search engine results but also shows that people are genuinely interested in our visiting and not just following paid adverts.
We can also link our Google AdWords account to track our current campaigns. I’m not using Google AdWords at the moment but I’ll be sure to connect them up when I eventually set up an account.
Behaviour reports allow us to understand how our visitors are interacting with our website and can help us optimize our website for maximum engagement.
Through these reports, we can see our best performing web-pages that keep our visitors engaged for the longest amount of time before clicking on and also analyse our not so successful pages and make them more engaging. We can also find out which page our visitor entered our website on (known as a landing page) and optimize these so encourage our visitors to explore more of our website. On the flip side, we can also find out which pages most of our visitors leave our website on and make sure we make the relevant steps to improve these so visitors are more likely to stay.
One of the most important calculations in terms of web-page performance that we should be tracking are Bounce Rates. Bounce rates represent the number of visitors that enter our website on one page and rather than go to explore our other website pages they leave on that same page. Having a high bounce rate is never a good thing and we want to take all necessary steps to make sure our web-pages encourage users to explore our other pages, the longer we can keep a visitor engaged the more likely we will achieve a successful conversation and achieve our goal. If we have a page with a particularly high bounce rate compared to others we will want to look into why this is, maybe the content is boring, maybe there’s not enough content, maybe the links on that particular page aren’t obvious enough or maybe the page is broken!
Behaviour reports allow us to understand the performance of our pages and make relevant changes to enhance our visitor’s experience so that they stay on our site and complete our desired goals. Most of the time we will want our visitors to stay on our pages for longer but there are certain pages we don’t want our visitors to stay on for too long such as the checkout page. If our visitors are staying on our checkout page for a long time this might indicate they are having second thoughts about making a purchase so we should try to decrease this by making our checkout system simple, persuasive and fast.
Getting lots of traffic to our site is great but if none of this traffic is resulting in conversions our business will not get very far, Conversions reports allow us to keep track of our goals, our sales and how conversations were achieved.
The first section of conversion reports is Goals which allows us to track our goals that we have set for our website. If you’d like to learn how to set a goal check out my blog post on Setting Goals in Google Analytics. Through these reports, we can see what page the goal was achieved on, what pages were visited before the goal was achieved and visualisations of the steps taken by our visitor. A common goal visualisation would be the checkout process and from these reports, we can see how many users went through the whole process and how many abandoned and at what stage they left.
The next section is E-commerce which is used to track orders and revenue. To get e-commerce tracking you’ll need to enable e-commerce from the Admin panel and then Google will start bringing the data in to analyse. Through these reports, we can see our individual product performance, a breakdown of our sales and data on how long our visitors took to make a purchase. We can also enable enhanced e-commerce tracking which gives us even more in-depth information about our visitors behaviour such as adding and removing items from their basket, average order values, refunds and more.
Finally we have the Multi-Channel Funnels section. Multi-Channel Funnels give us more information on how previous referrals and searches helped to contribute to a sale. Google Analytics typically credits the last action of the visitor to the success of the completed conversion but visitors don’t usually make a conversion on their first visit to a site, they may make multiple visits before making a purchase. For example, they may see your product on your website after clicking on a search result from Google, leave your site to do some research and compare prices elsewhere and then come back to make the purchase. Multi-Channel Funnels allow us to see the full path our visitors have taken up to the point of conversation which gives us a better understanding of how our website is being used.
So that’s a basic look into the default reports that Google Analytics gives us when we first start. There’s a report for almost everything and they are all very customizable so can be tailored to your specific needs. Even if you aren’t big of data analysis the way Google has displayed and rendered these reports are very interesting and the graphs help visualize the data so that everyone can understand what it all means. I highly recommend going through each report and taking a little bit of time to understand what they are all for because they are extremely powerful tools that if understood can really boost your business, increase conversions and help you better understand your website’s visitors.