Understanding How to Use Google Analytics
My 4 Favorite Google Analytics Reports
And how to use them for your own site
Understanding your website analytics can be overwhelming but is absolutely key to learning how to better market your business. Lately, I’ve been reading tons of blogs, articles and even took the Google Analytics course to learn how to understand and set it up. Since setting up GA and HotJar, a heat-mapping & recording site I’ve learned exactly what site visitors are looking for, what they’re skipping, and how I can better set up the flow of my website to reach my end goal: new clients.
In this post, I’m going to break down my 4 favorite GA reports - what they mean and how to use the information level-up your website strategy.
01 | Where is my traffic coming from
One of the most important reports to look at is Acquisitions. Why? It’s where you are able to see where people are coming from to see your site. This helps you determine where your marketing strategy needs to be aimed at (Facebook ads, Pinterest, etc.). There are 2 reports I am always checking in acquisitions: Channels and Referrals.
Acquisitions > Channels
Channels allow you to see the overall idea of where your traffic is coming from. This includes social, direct, referral, and organic searches. Let’s break those down:
Social: This includes social media sites like Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter. It doesn’t however, include Instagram. When people click the link in your Instagram bio it treats that click as “direct” and not “social”. If you want to know how much traffic is coming from Instagram there are 2 great options - Linktree and Bit.ly. You can learn more about how I use Linktree for Lux + Vita in this blog post.
Direct: This is when someone directly enters in your website into their browser, clicks on a bookmark/favorite, and links from PDFs or emails.
Referral: Referrals are when people are directed to your site from another site, these don’t include links from social media sites like Facebook. For example, if you have set up a Linktree account to use for your Instagram bio this would be where those traffic stats can be found. Another example is if you’re a guest blogger on another site and someone clicks the link to your site from their site. A final example would be in the footer of all websites I design, I require a designer credit with a live link to my site. Any traffic I receive from that client’s site will show up in the referral section of my analytics.
Organic: Any site visitors who are referred to your site by using a search engine like Google will appear in this report. This doesn’t include any paid listings/ads you place in Google, this is just for unpaid searches.
Acquisitions > Referrals
Referrals are what sites are being used to send traffic to you. For instance, my top referral is Facebook, which is where I spend most of my marketing time.
Now that we've discussed what channels and referrals are, here's how to check them
Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels
Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals
02 | What is my most popular content
Finding out what your most popular content is can help you not only see what your top services are, top blog post etc. it can help you define set up for a few things:
What your next service or product will be
What blog posts can be turned into series or an online course
What changes need to be made to your website
Once you've seen what the most popular content is, the next step in checking your analytics is seeing how people are flowing through your site. There are 2 ways of doing this - checking out the report for behavior flow and setting up an account with a heat mapping site, like HotJar or Sumo. These things can help you understand how users interact with your site, what they're looking for and where they're leaving your site from. You want to make sure that people aren't leaving your site because it's difficult to navigate, they can't understand how you can help them, or that it's loading so slow they get frustrated.
Let's dive into how you can see how your content is doing and where people are entering and leaving your site:
Behavior - Find most popular content
Behavior > Site Content > All Pages
See how people walk through your site
Behavior > Behavior Flow
03 | What are people using to view my site on
Now it's time to see what your users use to view your site. This report combines several things - what device your site was viewed on, what browser was used.
You may be surprised to discover just how many people are using a desktop (computer or laptop) to view your site, or how many use Chrome instead of Safari. All of this and more can be found in the audience reporting section.
Utilizing this report is huge in understanding how your audience sees your content. It makes it that much more important that your site not only is mobile responsive but looks good and is laid out well in mobile. I have worked with several Wordpress and Squarespace sites where we had to shift elements around because of how they looked on mobile.
For instance, in mobile, often multiple columns adjust to a single column and stack on top of each other which can mess up a layout where there is an image on the left and text on the right and in the section below it a column of text on the left and image on the right. From a desktop view, it looks great staggering that information, but on mobile not so much.
However, if you're seeing in your analytics that a very high percentage is only viewing your site from their desktop, you may not be as concerned about the aesthetics of your mobile site as someone who has a higher percentage with mobile views. I'm not saying to disregard your mobile site design but to simply check your stats and determine your design priorities from there.
Let's see how to check your audience stats.
How are people viewing your site
Audience > Mobile > Overview
04 | Who is visiting your site?
This report shows the demographics of your audience. This can help you see if those who are visiting your site are part of your target audience. The two main demographics you can see in reports are age and gender. The majority of my clients have been women between 25-45 which is great because based on my GA demographics report, I’m currently on track with who my target audience is - 25-34-year-old women. Based on this report you can see where you need to be adjusting your marketing tactics - if you’re trying to reach men 25-34 then you may need to do more research into where they’re hanging out online and what they’re interested in as related to your business.
To find these stats click Audience > Demographics and overview to see the overview of both the age range and gender of your site visitors.
Wrapping it up
There are many, many more reports and data to be seen in Google Analytics, so I highly encourage you to take some time and at least set up the 5 reports I’ve outlined above. After that if you’re looking to learn more about GA and how understanding your website traffic can help your business, I’d suggest taking the free Google Analytics course.
Note: Some of the features in GA require you to manually activate them. I’d suggest clicking on each of the submenus to see which need to be manually activated - that way if a time comes when you want the report for that feature you’ll already have the stats rather than having to wait for a period of time to get an accurate reading.