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Ever 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:
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:
Consider looking at the data more objectively:
This shows which pages of the site saw the most entrances, helping you identify:
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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:
This 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:
Why do you have a website?
Each of these purposes becomes an objective that you can put KPIs against:
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:
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.
Samantha Noble is well known within in the search industry, she even won the UK Search Personality 2016 at the UK Search Awards in November. This year, she continues to make an impact on the industry by judging not only one, but three, prestigious industry awards.