If I ever got stranded on an isolated virtual island and I only had to choose one tool for my business, that would be Google Analytics. Yes, I realize that this example doesn’t make much sense, but I just wanted to stress on how important it is for businesses. But also, more important than having it is using it. So today, we will see the top 15 Google Analytics metrics everyone should be tracking.
Now, if you found this article by typing “google analytics metrics” on Google (got ya!), it probably means that you already have it configured for your website. Which is great! So, I am not going to waste your time explaining what Google Analytics is.
Now that I got this off my chest, we can move on to the fun part! And that is, taking a deeper look at what Google Analytics metrics you should track for your business. After all, it serves us no purpose having an amazing tool with incredible amounts of data if we don’t make use of it.
1. Traffic Source (Channels)
You can access this report by clicking on Acquisition – All Traffic – Channels.
No matter the size or the sector of your business, the chances are that you are diversifying your Marketing budget. You are probably investing in paid ads on Google, advertising on different social channels, and maybe some affiliate networks.
Additonally, it is highly likely that you are also maintaining at least a couple of social media channels with regular organic publications. On top of that, I wouldn’t be surprised if you are also doing some SEO efforts to bring organic traffic from Google to your blog and/or website.
The point is, now that you are investing time and resources in all this channels, you need to understand how each one of them is doing. You can start by asking the right questions:
Which channel brings you the most traffic?
Knowing which channels bring you the most traffic will help you make better decisions. Such as where to increase (or decrease) your investment.
Are there any channels consuming a lot of time & money with low traffic?
Low-traffic sources are only worth it if you are not spending too much time on them. Unless, of course, they bring you a lot of conversion, which we will discuss in the next points. However, if this is not the case, you need to evaluate the time and resources spent on these channels.
Of course, this will also depend on how much time that you’ve been investing in them. For example, I am currently trying Instagram from my blog, and it hasn’t brought me a single visit since I created the account a month ago.
However, I realize that these things take a while to start gaining traction. And, because it only takes a couple of minutes a day to make a post, I don’t mind giving it more time before making any conclusions.
Which channel gives me the most engaged audience?
Of course, having a lot of traffic is not the whole picture. Apart from traffic by channel, Google Analytics also gives you data on how engaged users are from each channel. For example, how many time they stayed on your website, and how many pages they viewed.
And last not least, you can see these metrics by source/medium:
This way, you can get even more detailed data on which ones work the best for you.
2. Average Session Duration
Next on our list of Google Analytics metrics is average session duration.
This metric is very important because it tells you how much time users spend on your website. Generally, it is considered that they more time they spend, the better. However, I want you to take this information with a grain of salt because:
- First, it all depends on the goal they have in mind when arriving on your website. If they want to get informed about your product, in some cases spending too much time means that they are not being able to find the information that they are looking for.
- Of course, this statement is still true in the majority of cases. More time means that they are interested in what you have to say. Especially if they spend a lot of time on your blog! This is almost always great news for you.
Another thing to keep in mind with this metric is how Analytics calculates it.
According to Analyticsedge.com, “Google can’t measure the time a user spent looking at the last page of their visit to your site.” The way Google knows how much time you spent on a page is by measuring the session from the moment you arrived on a page to the moment you switched to the next one.
The problem with this is that, on the last page, there is no next page recorded, so the Time on Page would be unknown. Or directly recorded as zero.
What does this mean? Let’s say that someone landed on an article from your blog. He spent 15 minutes, read every single word from it, but then left your website. Google Analytics will record this session as zero because he didn’t visit another page.
Now of course, I am not saying that this metric is not true or relevant. It is, and that’s why it’s on our list of Google Analytics metrics. However, these are a couple of things to keep in mind when looking at it because some people stress way too much over it.
What is a good session duration?
According to DataBox, a good average session duration is between 2-3 minutes:
3. Pages per Session
The next key performance metric that we should be tracking is the average number of pages per session. It is quite self-explanatory as it counts the number of pages that a user viewed during a single session. In Analytics, a session lasts until there are 30 minutes of inactivity.
You can find this metric in Audience – Overview:
This metric is important because it gives us more information about how engaged are users with our website. And whether we managed to keep their interest after they landed on the first page.
If the average number of pages per session is high, it means that our content keeps user on the website as they get more and more interested in it. However, if it is rather low (as in this example), it means that they had no more interest beyond the landing page.
You can pair this data with a session recording tool to get a better vision of which pages they visit, and where they leave. A tool that I always recommend is Yandex Metrica, developed by the team behind Yandex, the biggest Russian search engine. It is also 100% free to use.
Once you install it, you will be able to record sessions anonymously. And actually see which pages get the most visits by your users, and what makes them leave.
4. Goals / Conversions
Undoubtedly, one of the most important Google Analytics metrics is Conversions, which measures the completion of Goals. You can find it by clicking on Conversions – Goals – Overview.
However, you will not find any data in this section if you don’t configure it first.
To put it simply, conversions are “guidelines” that you give to Google Analytics so it can count a valuable action on your website. Because businesses are different and valuable actions vary from company to company, you will need to define it for Analytics.
To do that, go to your Admin settings in the lower left corner. Then, under View, click on Goals, and after that, click on New Goal.
You will be taken to a new window. Follow the instructions of Analytics and configure your goal to define the valuable actions for your business. This can be a purchase from your website, the download of a resource, or filling out a sign up form. You can also configure multiple conversions if you want to track various actions.
Once you´ve done that, it will start generating reports for you in the Conversions section.
The reason why Goals are so important is because they are the single key performance metric to give you practical information on how each of your channels is doing when it comes to return on investment.
For example, a typical Goal / Conversion is a user who submitted their personal data using a form on your website. So, each time someone filled out the form, Google Analytics counts a conversion. This way, you can actually get quantifiable results so you can make better decisions with your channels.
5. Conversion Rate
There is one other metric that goes hand by hand with conversions, and that is Conversion rate.
Conversion rate is the percentage of users who performed a defined valuable action on your website divided by the total number of ad (or organic interactions). For example, if your Facebook ad was shown 1000 times, and 50 people converted , your rate would be 5%:
Conversion rate = number of conversions / number of ad or organic interactions x 100
Of course, it is completely normal that organic channels have lower conversion rate than paid ones. After ones, organic ones such as your blog and posts on social media are more about the value that you deliver to your audience with your content. Their main purpose is usually not to generate conversions.
While the main purpose of ads is to convert.
You will see this metric in many places across Google Analytics, as it is one of the most important by default. For example, I am currently here in the section Audience – Mobile – Overview:
Conversion rate is essential because it allows you to scale. For example, if you take a look at the image above, we see that conversions coming from desktop are much more than those from tablets. Which is true.
However, if you take a good look at the conversion rate, people seeing your ad or organic posts from a tablet have a higher percentage, 2.04% against 1.71%. Which means that, if you decide to scale your conversions per device, those from tablet should end up being more than those from tablet in theory.
Of course, this does not always remain true when scaling. However, it is a great metric to put things into perspective so you can get a better idea of what channel, device, etc. converts better.
Next on our list of Google Analytics metrics is the traffic percentage by electronic device. You can find it in the section Audience – Mobile – Overview:
The importance of this metric lies behind a couple of aspects:
- Responsiveness – of course, a responsive website should always be a priority for every organization. However, having a better understanding of your traffic sources will help you adapt better to each device that they are coming from.
- Advertising – this metric will also give you a good hint on whether you are missing out on a device with good potential. For example, if you notice that the majority of your traffic and conversions is coming from mobile, you might want to enhance your ad investment in mobile formats instead of desktop.
- Conversion rate – we just spoke about conversion rate and its importance when it comes to scaling your investment of time and resources. This metric, paired with devices, will give you a great idea on which device is converting more for your business. For example, often times mobile brings in more traffic while having a significantly lower conversion rate.
For this reason, it is important that we look at this data in a crossed way. Which means not only at the metric itself isolated from the rest, but how it relates to the rest of Google Analytics metrics. This will give us a much bigger picture.
7. New vs Returning visitors
Another interesting metric to take a look at is the percentage of new vs returning visitors. You can find it under Audience – Behavior – New vs. Returning:
This metric is great because it gives you data on how many website visitors are returning to your website.
According to the rule of 80/20, 80% of your results will often come from 20% of your total efforts. Well, this statement is quite often true in business context as well. In other words, 80% of your earnings will come from only 20% of the customers.
For this reason, understanding what percentage of your traffic is repeat customers can be very valuable because:
- It will give you insights on how many people are coming back because they have gained interest in your business after the first visit;
- Show you how interactions differ depending on whether it is a first visit or a repeated visit. For example, in the image above we can see that returning visitors have lower bounce rate, longer session duration, and view more pages on average.
- It can enhance your retargeting efforts. If you are already doing retargeting, you can use this data to see if the percentage of returning visitors is increasing. And whether your costs per conversion are lower than those for new visitors.
If you are not doing any retargeting, this might be the right time to start. If you are not familiar with the concept, retargeting involves the creation of audiences so that Analytics can collect cookies from web visitors on your website.
Once you have enough volume, you can use this data to launch campaigns for users who have already visited your website. You can read more on how to create your first audiences here.
8. Page views vs Unique pageviews
Of course, one of the most important Google Analytics metrics is undoubtedly Page views. It measures the the total number of pages that users have viewed on your website over a certain period of time.
And I think it is crucial to keep track of it weekly and monthly to see how you traffic grows over time. This way, you can see if the channels that you have been investing in are bringing you the traffic that you are aiming for.
You can check the total number of page views for a selected time period by going to Audience, and then clicking on Overview.
However, what I like to do is check the number of page views per blog post. This way, I know which articles are driving me the most traffic. You can do that by going to Behavior – Site Content – Content Drilldown. Once you arrive at the report, you can also click on the pie chart icon to visualize your data in a better way:
Below is data from my own blog. Unfortunately, I can´t show you the exact articles because my blog is tiny, and competition is fierce. However, it gives me (and now you) a good idea of what percentage of my total traffic is coming from each article:
The Behavior report will also give you data on the number of Unique page views per landing page or a piece of content.
Unique page views take into account the number of sessions during which a specific page was viewed at least once. It is counted for each page URL + page title combination.
Next on our list of Google Analytics metrics you should be tracking is Location data. You can find it by going to your Audience reports, and then clicking on Geo – Location.
This report will give you key insights on where your web visitors are coming from. This information can help you make valuable conclusions such as:
- In which countries you can enhance your investment as they are bringing you more traffic;
- Whether you need to adapt (or create) website content that is more specific to the countries that are driving you the most traffic. For example, translating your website to Spanish because many visitors are coming from Spain and LATAM.
- Re-distributing your campaign budget to countries that have the highest conversion rate. Or just show more interest by spending longer average time on your website.
Paired with the language report just above this one, you can extract valuable insights to make better business decisions. And focus your efforts on countries that have higher potential to bring you more customers.
10. Behavior Flow
Another really interesting report that provides you with valuable insights is Behavior Flow. You can find it under Behavior, right below the Overview report.
Behavior flow allows you to understand things such as:
- How your web visitors move from page to page on your website. In other words, what is their behavior after landing on the first page.
- Starting pages – which is the page that the majority of your users start from during their journey on your website.
- Internal link building – second interactions give you information on which internal link users clicked on within the page.
- And also, at which point did your users drop off their visit, and left the website because they lost interest.
Use this report to get a better idea of how users “migrate” from one place to another on your website. If you notice that many people are dropping off from the same page, you might need to revise it and see if something is not working.
11. Exit pages
This metric can be found in the report Behavior – Site Content – Exit pages.
An exit page is the last one accessed during a session, and it gives you key insights on what makes users leave your website.
For example, let´s say that a visitor lands on your homepage. Then, he moves on to your category page, then to your product page, and ends up leaving. This will be counted as an exit on the product page, as it was the last one visited by the user during his session.
As a percentage, the exit rate for a specific page is calculated in the following way:
Exit rate = number of exits / number of pageviews (for that specific page) x 100
Just as we talked in the previous section, if you notice that some pages have a really high exit rate, it might be time for a comprehensive revision to see what is going on. On the contrary, pages with low exit rate are a good indicator that users are getting more interested in your product.
And, if you use a session recording tool as we discussed before, you will get an even better understanding of what exactly is making users leave on that specific page.
12. Bounce rate
In Google Analytics, bounce rate is the percentage of users who arrive to a page on your website, and leave without further interaction. They didn´t visit another page, nor clicked any internal link or banner. Just left.
Bounce rate is a good indicator that users didn´t find what they were looking for on your page. They just came, saw, and left. It happens a lot with blog posts that don´t respond to people´s questions immediately.
Or for example, when you just want to consult the price of a product, and the page talks about everything else but the price.
However, bounce rate is also another misunderstood metric. And this is something to keep in mind. We already saw that with average time per session, Google can´t measure the time if there was no next page.
The same happens with bounce rate. Except that there is never a next page.
However, this metric can be a bit confusing and frustrating for website owners. Especially for blogs. The thing is, people who arrive to your blog posts are usually looking for something specific.
So, they might have read your post from start to finish, and loved it, but left without further interaction because their question was already answered. In these cases, having a high bounce rate doesn´t mean that your content did not serve its purpose.
You can find Bounce rate in the Overview section of your Audience report.
13. Site speed
Next on our list of Google Analytics metrics is Site speed.
One of the most important factors when it comes to Searching Engine Optimization is user experience. And the time it takes for a page on your website to load is crucial for a good user experience.
In fact, Google expects your page to load in under 3 seconds!
You can find this metric in Behavior – Site Speed – Overview. Use it to make regular checks on whether your website loads as quickly as possible to avoid high bounce rate.
Referrals is a very interesting metric that shows you the traffic coming from third-party websites. Of course, here you may see webs such as Google and Facebook as your ad platform providers.
However, you will also see what platforms are talking about you on the Internet. In other words, if someone puts a link on their website taking users to your website, and people click on it, you will see this traffic here.
You can use this data to get in touch with referrals and see potential forms of collaboration. You can find Referrals under Acquisition – All Traffic.
15. Age & Gender
And last but not least, demographics metrics such as Age and Gender can help you get a better understanding of your web visitors.
When we think about our target market, we usually have a specific profile in mind. And we make campaigns with criteria that we consider the most efficient to reach it.
However, a lot of times who we think our buyers are does not always coincide with who our buyers actually are. Maybe we think that our product would be consumed by people under 30, and it ends up being more in demand by people over 40.
Or we are targeting a product exclusively to men while women would be as equally as interested in it. For this reason, having these Google Analytics metrics is great for getting a better idea of our actual visitors and buyers.
And that is all from me, folks! As always, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to let me know in the comments below. You can also send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post, and I hope to see you in the next one!