Basic Google Analytics Guide for Beginners

A Beginner's Guide to Reading Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a helpful way to understand how your website is performing online. It is often intimidating to log into Analytic and see tons of buttons, tabs, charts, and numbers. We’ve narrowed down some of the most basic, yet important metrics for you to look at to get an idea of how your site is working.

Once you have set up Google Analytics on your website, you can log in by visiting analytics.google.com. Use your Gmail or G Suite email address and password. In this guide, we will go over four reports: Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversions. Once you’re in, you will navigate between each report through a column that’s located on the left-hand side of the screen.

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 1.59.57 PM.png

Audience - Overview

In the left-hand column, under “Real-Time”, is the “Audience” tab. The first item, “Overview”, will give you a basic overview of your website’s traffic. The Audience Overview report will show you how users interact with your website.

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 2.02.08 PM.png

By default, all of the reports will show data from the past 7 days. If you click on the dates in the top right corner, you can choose a different set of dates. Underneath that dropdown is a series of buttons that say “Hourly”, “Day”, “Week”, and “Month”, if you toggle one of these switches, then you can see how the data compares on a week-by-week or month-over-month format.

Here is what some of the metrics mean:

Users

This is the total number of individual people who visited your website within the date range.

New Users

Generally, this refers to users who have visited your website for the first time. Sometimes, returning visitors are counted as “new users” if they cleared their browser’s cookies or visit the website via an incognito window.

Sessions

The total amount of website visits within the time period. Every time a user visits your website, it counts as a session. Because of this, the number of sessions is often higher than the number of users.

Number of Sessions per User

The average number of website sessions per number of users. For example, if your website has 20 sessions but 5 users, then the average number of sessions per user would be 4.

Pageviews

The total number of pages that have been viewed in the given time period. A “pageview” is counted not only when a user lands on the page, but also whenever a user refreshes the page or revisits the same page later. If you have a website with very few pages, the number may be low. If your website has a lot of content and pages, then you should expect a higher number of page views.

Pages/Session

The average number of pages that a user views per session. If your average page per session is 3, then we can assume that the average visitor looks at 3 different pages on your website before leaving. A high number of pages per session may signal that your website has a lot of quality content that engages users. However, it may also signal that users are having a hard time finding the information they need.

Avg. Sessions Duration

The average amount of time that users spend on your website. This number can signal that your website has lots of engaging content and photos, but can sometimes be misleading. For example, every time a user “bounces”, it lowers the average session duration. Conversely, if a user opens your website in a new tab and leaves it open for a while, that will inflate your average session duration.

Bounce Rate

This refers to users who leave your website, or “bounce”, after viewing only one page. Users can bounce for many reasons. They may have clicked on your website by mistake, or perhaps they didn’t find what they needed on your site. A high bounce rate can also indicate that your website loads too slowly. Many bounces also come from bots and search crawlers

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 2.12.52 PM.png

Acquisition - Overview

In the left-hand column, under the “Audience” report, is “Acquisition”. The “Overview” will show you how users find your website, or how you “acquire” users.

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 2.12.12 PM.png
Referral
Refers to users who found your site after clicking a hyperlink on another website.
Direct
These are visitors who find your website "directly", which usually happens when someone types your URL into their browser or if they have your website bookmarked.
Organic Search
These are users who found your website from a search result from Google, Bing, or other search engines.
Paid Search
These are website visits that come from a paid search ad, such as a Google AdWords campaign.
Social
Users who found your website via a link shared on a social media site, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. These are counted separately from "referral" visitors.
Email
These are users who found your website via a link in an email, but this only shows up if you've attached a special tracking code to the link. If there is no tracking code, the visit will show up under "direct".
Display
If you run paid ads through the Google Display Network, those visits are recorded here.
Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 2.16.00 PM.png

Behavior - Overview

Under “Acquisition” in the left-hand column of the page, is the “Behavior” tab. The “Overview” report explores some similar metrics as the Audience report. However, this data is more valuable when looking at it on a page-by-page basis. Under the “Page” table in the bottom-right corner under the graph, there are links to your website’s pages. When you click on one of the links, you will be able to see the data for that page alone.

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 2.17.25 PM.png

The Page report is the list of links at the bottom right corner of the screenshot above. This chart is an ordered list of the most viewed pages on your website. The page titles are marked by their URL string - for example, the Contact page is labeled as “/contact-us”. The single “/” with no words after it is your website’s home page, which is often - but not always - the top visited page on a website. When you click one of the links on this chart, it navigates to that page’s individual data.

Here is what the metrics mean below:

Pageviews

This is the same data as the “Pageviews” metric from the “Audience” report. To refresh your memory, it’s the total number of pages viewed on the website (or specific page, once you’ve navigated there) within the given time period.

Unique Pageviews

This metric is a more accurate look at the total number of “pageviews”. The unique pageviews metric filters out instances when users refresh the page or revisit a page in the same session (which would normally be counted in the “pageviews” metric). However, if a user revisits a page on your website in a separate session, then it is counted as a unique pageview.

Avg. Time on page

This metric is more helpful when looking at individual page report data. This metric refers to the average amount of time that a user spends on a page on that page. This number can be easily skewed by bounced visitors or by users who spend too much time on a page. The type of content on the page can dictate what is considered a “good number”. For example, blog posts or photo galleries should ideally have a higher average time spent on the page.

% Exit

An “exit” refers to a moment when a user leaves your website altogether. This is another metric that is best understood when looking at individual page report data. This percentage is calculated by dividing the number of pageviews by the number of exits. Ideally, most “exits” should occur on a page where users convert, such as a “Contact Us” page or a “Thank You” page that appears after filling out a form.

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 2.18.40 PM.png

Conversions - Goals - Overview

In the left-hand column, scroll down and navigate to Conversions > Goals > Overview to see how your website’s conversions are performing. A “conversion” refers to the moment where a customer takes an action on your website. This could include an event such as submitting a contact form, buying a product, or calling your phone number. If you have a form on your website, you can measure the number of submissions in this report.

Here is a support guide on how to set up goals and track conversions in Google Analytics. If you are already tracking conversions, then they are defined as “Goals”. For example, if you have a “Contact Us” form and a “Schedule a Tour” form on your website, then those will both count as separate goals.

Screen Shot 2019-04-23 at 2.20.58 PM.png

Goal Completions

A goal completion refers to a time when one of your defined goals is activated, for example, when a user submits a form on your website. This metric displays the total combined number of goal completions.

Goal Value

You can manually set a monetary value for each of your goals. By default, this field is usually empty and is not necessary unless you can easily determine how much monetary value you place on each conversion.

Goal Conversion Rate

This percentage is determined by dividing the total number of goal completions by the number of sessions on your website.

Total Abandonment Rate

This refers to instances where someone is “on the path” to convert, but does not follow through. This metric will not display any information until you set up a conversion funnel. Setting up a conversion funnel may require advanced knowledge of Google Analytics, but is a helpful way to figure out some roadblocks that are preventing potential customers from converting.

Learn more about Google Analytics

The above metrics give you a top-level overview of how your website is performing. However, there are many additional methods to get a better understanding of your website’s success and ability to drive conversions. To take a deeper dive into your website’s analytics, browse through Google’s complete user guide to Google Analytics. In addition, Google offers the Analytics Academy, which is a series of free courses that demonstrates how to read and use Google Analytics in an interactive, easy-to-learn manner.