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A Quick Guide to Website Metrics with Google Analytics

An upward growth line graph with a rocket ship coming off

An upward growth line graph with a rocket ship coming off

So you’ve built a solid site founded on a solid content strategy. But now what? How do you know how your site’s performing, and how can you tell what kind of visitors are coming to it?

To understand your site’s performance, it’s essential to assess your website (or blog) metrics on a regular basis, and to use that data to make adjustments that will better optimize your site’s content and/or design. By undertaking a 360-degree examination of your site’s stats, you can uncover problems (pages that are lacking views or driving people to leave the site), or strengths (such as pages where visitors spend a lengthy amount of time).

Google Analytics is a free tool that gives a comprehensive analysis of your site’s stats and visitor behavior. We suggest conducting an in-depth analysis of your site’s metrics every month, leveraging the data to make insightful observations and infer trends about site visitors and overall performance.

We know it can be daunting to harness the Google Analytics data, so here are the key metrics you should focus on to understand how your site is performing.

Summary At-a-Glance

Where to find it:

Audience –> Overview

What to look for:

Total Site Visits: Total number of visits to the site, including repeat visits
Total Unique Visitors: Total number of visitors excluding returning visitors
Total Page Views: Total number of pages viewed on the site
Pages/Visit: Average number of pages viewed per visit
Bounce Rate: Percentage of visitors who leave the site without viewing other pages on the site
Average Time on Site: Average time visitors spend on the site
New Visits: Percentage of new visits to the site

What you can take away:

A high-level snapshot of your site’s traffic, including a general sense of the efficacy of your site’s content, design and audience engagement.

What to keep in mind:
Compare your site’s stats with the previous month to look for significant jumps or decreases in your traffic and content consumption. This overview data, however, only scratches the surface of site performance. To get a deeper understanding, you will need to look into site navigation, individual pages and traffic sources.

Website Navigation

Where to find it:

Content –> In-Page Analytics

What to look for:

A visual representation of how visitors navigate a particular page via the In-Page analytics, which shows the percentage of clicks received on links once visitors reach the given page.

What to take away:

Pages that serve as the next destination for visitors once they’re on your site, and opportunities for calls to action or design that will drive visitors to a desired page.

What to keep in mind:

The In-Page Analytics feature only tracks clicks of links that are within your site, so outbound links such as an external site or blog will not show up. Set the page you’re analyzing to a home page or a page with the most views to see how the majority of visitors navigate your site.

Content

Where to find it:

Content –> Site Content –> All Pages/Landing Pages/Exit Pages

What to look for:

Top content: Most-viewed page on site, or most-viewed post for blogs
Landing Page: The entry point to your site
Exit Page: The last page visitors see before leaving your site

What you can take away:

What type of content your readers are interested in, which content draws them into the site and where they’re losing interest.

What to keep in mind:

Look at your content in the context of other metrics, such as time spent on the page and bounce rate. A high bounce rate doesn’t necessarily reflect a problem on your site. Sometimes, a high bounce rate for a page (usually the contact page or a particular blog post) means that your visitors found everything they needed on one page without needing to view other pages.
Also, some exit pages are common points of exit, such as a contact page, and should not be a source of concern.

Traffic Sources

Where to find it:

Traffic Sources –> Overview –> Sources –> Direct/Referrals/Search

What to look for: 

Direct: Visits from people who type the URL directly into search bar or click a link from their bookmark or from documents that don’t have tracking variables, such as PDFs or Word documents
Organic Search: Visits from search engine results, listing the keyword queries
Referrals: Visits from an external site that has a link to your site, such as social media sites, online business directory, another blog, or Google Reader or image search

What to take away:

The breakdown — in percentages and in unique visits — of the sources that drive traffic to your site, and opportunities to market your site to other websites and optimize content around keywords that are in line with your visitors’ interests.

What to keep in mind:

A well-optimized site should have a high percentage of keyword search and referrals driving traffic to the site. Examine the time spent on your site for each of these traffic sources and see where your most relevant visitors are coming from. Also, rather than looking at the top-searched keyword, scan through the entire list of keywords and spot for trends, where several keywords can be grouped under a common category.

With a combination of both a high-level and detailed view of your site metrics, you will have a firm grasp of your site’s metrics. The observations and inferences you make from the analysis will reveal areas where your site grabs visitors’ attention, along with opportunities for improvements in content strategy or design.

Ji-Sook Yim is a Content Strategist at Otherwise Incorporated

Illustration Credit: Yuri Canales, Graphic Designer at Otherwise Incorporated

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