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A Primer on Google Analytics Part 1: Visitors

Google AnalyticsGoogle Analytics is an amazingly comprehensive and complex tool telling a webmaster everything they need to know about the traffic coming your site, including which pages your users are visiting, how they’re coming to your site, how long your users are on your site and much more. This treasure trove of information can be very useful in diagnosing problems, seeing what kind of content works well for traffic generation and so on. However, Google Analytics shows quite a bit of information, and if you’re new to using it, it can be a bit overwhelming, so we’ll dissect the major portions of Google Analytics in the hopes of helping you understand what’s being presented.

From the main dashboard of Google Analytics, you can see a summary of site usage, visitors, content usage, web traffic and so on. If you want to dive a little deeper, you can click the links on the left, the first we’ll look at is “Visitors”, which will be the focus of this article. The “Visitors” overview page gives you a wealth of information, such as how many visitors per day, page views, unique visitors and so on in a given week. This main page is just the tip of the iceberg, however.

The next link below “Overview” is the “Map Overlay” screen, and this gives you an overview of where your visitors are coming from, as well as an overview of pages per visit, time on site, bounce rate (i.e. the amount of solely single page visits) and so on. Here you can see if more people are coming from your country or other countries, and can set goals depending on where you want your users coming from. This helps if you’re trying to market your content or website to a specific location.

The “New vs. Returning” screen is self-explanatory, showing you the ratio of new users versus returning users to your website, which can help show repeat traffic. “Languages” is also self-explanatory, showing you the language of the browser used to visit your website.

The “Visitor Trending” section has more detail about a wide variety of metrics that you can use to measure your site’s success and make changes if you feel your site isn’t performing as well as could be. This gives you detailed daily breakdowns of visits, unique visitors, time on site, bounce rate and so on. Since Google uses some of these metrics to determine the value of a website, this is something to keep an eye on. If you find your visitors might be many, for example, but their time on site and bounce rate is high — for example, if they spend a minute or less on your site with a bounce rate above sixty percent — you should determine what you can improve to keep your visitors on the site longer while having them view more pages.

The “Visitor Loyalty” section also has a wide variety of useful information. For example, “Loyalty” shows how loyal your visitors are by detailing repeat visits to your site within a certain timeframe, so if you don’t have a lot of repeat visits, for example, you might want to rethink the content you put on your site, for example, and how it’s presented. “Recency” is a similar, showing the amount of repeat visits by a certain time period. “Length of Visit” is where things get interesting. If many of your users are on your site for thirty seconds or less, this shows that your site has little “stickiness” (i.e. reasons for a user to stick around). “Depth of Visit” shows how many pages a user typically visits on your site. Both of these metrics are very important to monitor especially since Google uses them to help approximate the value of your website.

The next two sections, “Browser Capabilities” and “Network Properties” are pretty technical, but are good for general diagnosis. For example, you can get an idea of the screen resolution your visitors use most often in order to tweak the layout of your site, or see which Internet providers your users use most. These are interesting pieces of data, but less useful than those mentioned previously.

The next and final section we’ll talk about, and one that is becoming more important, is the “Mobile” section. As more people surf the web on their Internet devices such as smart phones and tablets, this site can give you an idea of which devices and carriers they’re using to visit your site. If you’re not getting a lot of mobile traffic, for example, you could further diagnose more reasons for this, such as a lack of a mobile-enabled site, or poor Google Local placement, for example.

The “Visitors” section of Google Analytics gives you a plethora of useful, timely information that you can use to diagnose problems, see what’s working and what isn’t in terms of content, design, navigation and so on. This is the first article in what will be a series of articles covering the main portions of Google Analytics, with separate articles on” Traffic Sources”, “Content” and “Goals”.  Stay tuned!

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