• Google Analytics Basics

As the internet has become a staple element in the buyer’s lifestyle, it goes without saying that your business needs a website. If designed properly, your website can generate leads and sales, obtain insights about your target audience, and help you improve your marketing campaigns.
The key to turning your website into an asset to your business is in knowing your visitors’ needs and behaviors. One way to obtain this information is through Google Analytics. Read on to learn the Google Analytics basics related to growing your business and increasing your online presence.

Google Analytics Basics

How Does Google Analytics Work?

Google Analytics is a free service offered by Google that helps you to monitor and measure your website’s performance. Once installed on your website, it works by collecting data on your visitors’ behaviors — who they are, where they came from (geographic location), what device they’re on, and how they arrived at your website.

This data is used to determine what’s working and what’s not, as indicated by user behavior. In this sense, Google Analytics works to show you how well each of the aspects of your website are facilitating your marketing and business objectives. It reveals for you what makes a good business website for your particular target audience and industry.

Basic Google Analytics Terms

Google analytics offers comprehensive data in an infinite number of forms and reports. It can be overwhelming, but the best place to start is with the basics. Below are some basic Google Analytics terms that can help you get started in interpreting the data.

  • USER: an individual who visited your site
  • SESSION: an active visit by a user to your site. For Google Analytics, a session begins when the user enters your website, and ends after 30 minutes of inactivity. However, this is a default setting, and can be adjusted. “Sessions” in your analytics reports refer to the total number of active visits to your website
  • PAGEVIEW: a single view of a page. If a user reloads a page, this creates an additional pageview. This is also the case if a user navigates away from the page and returns back to it.
  • PAGES/SESSION: the calculated average of total pages viewed per session
  • AVG. SESSION DURATION: the calculated average duration of time of users on your site
  • BOUNCE RATE: the percentage of users who exited the site from the same page they on which they arrived

With an understanding of these basic Google Analytics terms, you can then see the connections between various marketing activities and your website. For example:

• If you have a high bounce rate, it may be because you do not have a mobile friendly or responsive website. This is because mobile use is surpassing desktop use, and if your website is not optimized for mobile users, they are likely to leave the site quickly due to poor user experience.
• If your pages per session are low, you may need to make some adjustments to your design and call to action buttons to make navigation easier for visitors.
• If average session duration is low on your blog, you might want to add more links to related posts in your blog posts, to provide the user with more content to read and keep them on the site longer.
• If you have a low volume of sessions in your particular city or geolocation, you may want to improve your local SEO. You can start this by updating your Google listing.
• If your sessions are low in general, then you may need to look at increasing traffic to your site. You can do this by adding more channels to your website, such as social media accounts. We will go over channels in the next section of this post.

Google Analytics Channel Terms

So what exactly are channels? Channels are methods by which people arrive at your website, such as by clicking a link on a social media post or online directory. Channels are important, because understanding where you acquire site visitors is just as critical as knowing who your visitors are and how they behave on your site. After all, they have to visit your site first in order for Google Analytics to collect data on them.
With the data from Google Analytics, you can take advantage of channels generating the most website traffic, and learn how to improve (or eliminate) less successful ones. With regard to acquisition, here are some basic Google Analytics channel terms to know:

  • DIRECT: user typed your website directly into their browser (such as www.thrivehive.com)
  • ORGANIC: user typed a keyword phrase into a search engine and selected your website from the results
  • REFERRAL: user clicked a link to your website on another website (for example, from a news article, or online customer review site).
  • EMAIL: user clicked a link to your website from an email
  • PAID SEARCH: user clicked a link to your website that was in a paid search ad (also known as pay per click ad or search engine marketing campaign)
  • SOCIAL: user clicked a on a link to your website that was in a social media post (such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram).

Just like with the basic Google Analytics terms, knowing these terms can help you understand how to get more traffic to your website and increase your online presence. For example:
• If you are receiving a lot of referral traffic from someone who mentioned you in their blog, you might want to nurture that relationship, such as by doing collaborations with them on a more regular basis, or guest posting on their blog.
• If your social media channels are not performing well, you may want to try out a new social media campaign or try Facebook advertising.
• If your paid search channel is yielding poor results, it may be because your landing pages have a high bounce rate. This could be because they are not providing users with the information they need in order to click through to other pages on your site. Check out these landing page best practices to see if you can make any improvements.

As you get a better understanding of these Google Analytics channel terms, you can go beyond simply which channels bring in the most leads. You can see which ones bring in the most qualified and converting leads, and you can learn how to improve the visitor experience on your website with relation to your specific campaigns.
As you can see, the data provided by Google Analytics is only helpful if you know how to utilize it properly. The better you understand the terms, the better you can interpret the data and determine the best actions to take to grow your business. Start with the basics and you’ll be sure to build your knowledge from there.

Kristen McCormick
Kristen McCormick
Kristen is the Content Marketing Manager for ThriveHive, where she geeks out daily over SEO, organic traffic, and A/B testing. When she's not equipping business owners and marketers to get their name out there through effective content, she's out pedaling the streets of Boston on her beloved bike.

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