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Anna Lewis

Top 10 Most Important Google Analytics Reports – Keyword Rankings Need Not Apply

21st Dec 2012 Analytics 8 minutes to read

Google Analytics Important ReportsEver found yourself wondering where to go in Google Analytics? There is so much data available that you can sometimes get a little lost and not know what you should be focusing on; so this blog post is here to help you know the main areas to look at for the valuable information. This is particularly important now that some SEO tool companies are removing their rank tracking services – this post will help you identify data that is more valuable than rank reports!

I’ve broken the main areas down below, each has valuable data which I will outline and explain how to find it. Remember though, there is probably a lot more data available than you may realise and every website will have different aspects that are more important to it that will need to be reviewed.

Furthermore, all data is most beneficial when you segment it or use it in a comparison – whether benchmarking or comparing different results to identify high performers. Data should be used to draw conclusions to help you improve it; if you can’t draw any actions from the data you are looking at then try thinking about using it differently or finding a more useful report.


The content reports are useful for identifying the most visited pages of your site, which page users most frequently enter and leave the site on and which generate the most value. There are several key areas in this section:

Site Content > All Pages

This report shows you all pages of your site that are tagged with tracking code and the data to go with them. It will also:

  • Identify your most viewed pages
  • Help you identify pages with high bounce rates
  • Assess the page value (if Ecommerce tracking or goals with values are in place)

Consider looking at the data more objectively:

  • Use date comparisons to spot increases in a page’s popularity
  • Use date comparisons to spot when a page receives significantly less visits (could be a sign of tracking code being removed)
  • Find out how many pages of your site have been visited / have the tracking code on (by looking at the number of rows available, shown in the bottom-right corner)

 Site Content > Landing Pages

This shows which pages of the site saw the most entrances, helping you identify:

  • Which pages bring the most traffic to the site
  • Which pages are the most popular entrance points for each traffic source (when you apply an advanced segment for a traffic source)
  • Which pages might need more promotion due to low number of landing page visits

Again, date comparisons can help you identify improvements and problems, which is especially useful when you’re looking out for reasons why traffic has changed.

Site Search

Most websites have search functionality within them; this report tells you what people are typing in to your search box. For this to work you need to put the search URL parameter into you profile settings, once that’s set up you can identify:

  • What people can’t find through the navigation
  • Which keywords you might need to target or create an improved landing page for
  • What services people think they will get from your site
  • Variations of the keywords that you might not have thought of
  • Ideas for new pages to create

Traffic Sources

So now that we’ve identified everything to do with content, let’s find out how people are getting to your site and see what can be done to improve or troubleshoot results:

Sources > All Traffic > Medium

This is one of the first places I go when I’m looking to understand the traffic for a website. All Traffic is fine, but by clicking Medium from above the data you see a much simpler breakdown to get your head around it. At this stage it’s also useful to click the pie chart option (top right of the data) to see the traffic as percentages of the total.

traffic sources pie

Once you’ve got your head round this data, take a look at each medium individually, either by using a filter, advanced segment or simply the report breakdowns in the left-hand menu if you don’t have any custom traffic sources.

Organic Performance: Keywords and Landing Pages

To understand your organic performance, historically, you would have pulled off a report on the keyword traffic; however, since (not provided) has replaced any keywords typed by visitors who are accessing Google on https, there is a lot less data to review here.

This means we have to think creatively, so I suggest looking at Landing Pages alongside your keywords (click Secondary dimension box and select Landing Page). This has a number of benefits:

  • Get an idea of how many (not provided) searches were about certain topics
  • See the spread of clicks on Sitelinks shown for you brand term
  • Identify gaps in data or alternatives where you thought a certain landing page should be
keywords and landing pages


social menuThis is a great area within GA for anyone active on social media, or considering whether or not to get active. I previously wrote an extensive blog post outlining everything in the Social Report area, but Google have just updated the navigation to make it a bit easier, so that post is now slightly out of date with the navigation routes to take. Here’s what you can find:

Network Referrals  The social platforms that send traffic to your site

Landing Pages  This shows how many visits, shared URLs have brought to the site the engagement stats for these visits and the number of data hub activities for each URL.

Conversions  Here we can see how many conversions were generated off the back of traffic from each social network, and the value of this. You can also click Assisted vs. Last Interaction Analysis above the graph to identify where social media visits helped a user convert. Don’t forget how Google Analytics attributes conversions.

Plugins  This shows how many clicks the plugins on pages of your site got. Google+ activity is automatically tracked but you will need to add additional code to get Facebook, Twitter and other shares tracking from your site. Data is broken down when you click the URL or the Social Source or Social Source and Action tab so that you can see exactly what activity happened.

Visitors Flow  This is a confusing report that tries to help you understand where on site your social traffic goes, but anyone with a large number of pages will just see a swirl of lines and lots of visit groups under other pages. (Can you tell I’m not a fan?!)

Under Network Referrals and Landing Pages you can click the Activity Stream link above the graph to see the discussion and activity that happened around the links to your site on social platforms that Google has data for (Google’s data hubs). Social reports can help you with:

  • Picking social networks to spend more time on
  • Finding which social network generates the most value
  • View social activity on Google’s data hubs without having to use a brand monitoring tool
  • Identify new links to the site (Trackbacks, under Social Activity > Events)
  • See which plugin buttons are worth putting on your site and which get no action at all


Why do you have a website?

  • To sell products or services
  • To raise awareness of something
  • To make money

Each of these purposes becomes an objective that you can put KPIs against:

  • Profit
  • Transactions
  • Social shares
  • Visits
  • Discussions
  • Views of a key page / information
  • Increased interaction

Once you know what your KPIs are, these can be tracked in Google Analytics as goals, or even better, if you sell products online you can implement Ecommerce tracking to directly relate visits to sales and revenue.

With this set up use the Goals and Ecommerce reports to dig deeper and identify what conversions have happened and how these came about.

Just looking at the numbers is not enough – segment by traffic source, landing page, browser or compare dates to get actual insights that help you make improvements. You could learn:

  • Which traffic source is most profitable?
  • How long does it take for users to convert?
  • Where do users drop out of the conversion funnel?
  • Which products/services/goals are most active?
  • Which browser has the best conversion rate?
  • Do all browsers work with your conversions?

These can be answered through data in the Goals and Ecommerce reports and also by looking at other reports throughout Google Analytics and then clicking the Goal and Ecommerce links above the graph. There’s no point me trying to outline the best one as all of them will be beneficial!


My final most useful area is technology; this area can help you understand which browsers, operating systems and internet functionality the users on your website have.  This will help you understand how best to build your site, what works for your users and it gives you the evidence to show your web developer when they don’t want to build for Internet Explorer.

The other aspect of the Technology report that is essential is the Hostname Report, found under Network. This shows you all the domains that your Google Analytics account number (the UA code) has been shown on. Here you can identify the traffic to other domains if you’ve implemented cross domain tracking or spot someone copying your site and it’s content.

It’s normal to see translation domains in this report, but some of the results will sometimes surprise you. Sites with a lot of subdomains may also have interesting results here and using this report can help you identify which level of cross domain tracking you should be using or whether you should be setting up additional profiles for each of the domains on the list (but remember to always leave a profile unfiltered!).


So there you have it, some of the most important reports within Google Analytics and what you can get out of them. I hope this helps you stay on top of your data and get the best results you can from your website. Please throw any thoughts or questions you have in the comments, it’ll be good to hear what you think or what you are looking for from Analytics.

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