Using Google web analytics allows you to better understand your current interactions and to understand how your online presence affects ongoing customer interaction.  We like to use Google Analytics since its free to use and offers many features beyond the needs of the common user.  At a minimum, businesses can use Google Analytics to understand how much traffic they are getting each month as well as where the sources of their traffic are.

Where are you today?

Get familiar with your search traffic in the past 6 months. Does anything jump out at you? Is there a low number of traffic? Are the jumps in traffic on certain days? Getting familiar with the analytics website takes some getting used to, yet it can yield interesting learning and trigger actions for you. Use the tool to go back 6 months, can you discern an increase in traffic? What about jumps in traffic, are those on days you were mentioned in the media, on twitter or news releases? Check around the sections of the reporting tool, perhaps you get a surprising number of visitors from overseas or from mobile devices.

As a non-web company, you should revisit your analytics at least once a month to understand what’s changing and how your marketing impacts your traffic.

Report Navigation

In the reporting section of Google Analytics the navigation is grouped along the left column into the following sections:

  • Dashboards
  • Shortcuts
  • Intelligence Events
  • Real-Time
  • Audience
  • Acquisition
  • Behavior
  • Conversions

We are going to talk mostly about Audience, Acquisition in this article along with some comments on Behavior and Conversions

Date Selection

All of the reports are affected by the Active Date Range seen in the upper right. You can select the active date range by typing into the date boxes or picking from the common date range options. A secondary selection is available for comparisons. This is useful if you want to see how your web activity has changed versus a prior period. If you’re started a new marketing campaign then you can use this to see how it may be impacting your data.

Google Analytics Date Selection

Google Analytics Date Selection

Most reports have an option to group the data by Hourly, Day, Week and Month. If you’re reporting over long periods of time, you may want to increase this to Week.

Google Analytics Date Grouping

Google Analytics Date Grouping


Annotations give you a way to attach notes to specific dates. Useful for historical data and wondering if campaigns or outside events had some effect on traffic. To create an annotation, open the options bar below a graph and select Create new annotation. You can make these notes shared or private.   Read more on how to use Google Analytics to measure marketing impact.

Google Analytics Create Annotation

Google Analytics Create Annotation

Understand your Audience

There are four areas in the Audience section which you should be familiar with. The Overview, New vs Returning, Mobile Overview, and User Flow will help you get an idea of how many people are coming to your site, where are they going, how often long they stay and which devices are used on your site. As I update this post, I see in Mobile Overview that my mobile users have a much higher bounce rate and stay for much shorter duration. We will have to investigate why this is the case.

Google Analytics Audience Analysis

Google Analytics Audience Analysis

The User Flow shows behavior on your users as they interact with your website. You can see their entry point, where they click next and at what point do they leave your page. Do they abandon your page after seeing your homepage, or are they engaged browsing your site? Pages with higher abandon rates should be improved to show related content or actions to retain interest and improve on their experience.

What drives traffic to your site?

A second aspect of using Google Analytics is the Acquisition section of the reporting. Under the Acquisition section of the navigation, the Overview option can get an idea of the best channels of web traffic. Then, within each you can click on the Acquisition to get further detail of how many visitors came from which channel or from which keyword.

Acquisition of traffic is split into 8 channels:

  • Organic Search – users searching for keywords matched to your site from Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc
  • Referral – web links on other sites, directories
  • Direct – people directly entering your web url, or using a bookmark.
  • Social – traffic coming from Facebook, twitter, Disqus (comments), etc
  • Paid Search – Google AdWords advertising.
  • Other Advertising – Could be affiliate, or other cost-per-click advertisements.
  • Email – email campaigns, newsletters, direct email, etc
  • Display – Ads primarily using Google’s network of ads

Determining your best traffic source can help you to understand what may the easiest way for you to further increase traffic. If you get a lot of traffic from a certain referral site, supplementing with additional information on that site could “double down” on that traffic source. If you observe a particular keyword performing well, you may want to use it more often in upcoming or revised content (keyword analysis is whole other upcoming topic).


Pages and Landing Pages

Under Behavior, Site Content, Landing Pages you can learn about key landing pages in order to optimize the actions. For instance, some keyword searches or advertising should lead to a specific landing page where you capitalize on the topic intent of the user. You want to focus on and optimize these pages.


Setting up goals, Goal reports

Goals are setup to track the results of interactions you want your users to take. For instance, entering an order, contacting the business, registering for a newsletter or other actions of engaged users may be tracked. Thoughtful goals are normally how the website’s performance should be measured over time (traffic on its own is a vanity metric – not a great indicator of revenue).