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How to Use Google Analytics

By Jessica Greene · May 20, 2019
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Google Analytics is a website analytics platform that lets you track and measure visits to your website, actions taken on your website, visitor demographics, and much more. If you're just getting started with Google Analytics, this tutorial will teach you how to use Google Analytics to track and measure your most important website metrics.

Google Analytics Price: Free with a Google account

Note: This guide assumes you've already created a Google Analytics account and added the tracking code to your website. If you're not yet that far along, start with our tutorial on how to set up Google Analytics.

How to Access Google Analytics Reports

After logging in to Google Analytics, the first view you'll see is your dashboard. The default Google Analytics dashboard contains several blocks that highlight important overview metrics like site traffic (how many people are visiting your site), traffic sources (where those visitors are coming from), and visitor locations (where most of your site visitors live).

google analytics default dashboard

While the default dashboard provides a nice overview of your site's performance, you'll most likely want to dig deeper into the data to gather more actionable insights. To view more detailed data, use the REPORTS section of the left navigation menu to navigate to the datasets you're most interested in.

google analytics reports

Google Analytics audience reports

Click the Audience tab to expand it and access all of the audience metrics that Google Analytics tracks.

google analytics audience reports

On the Overview page, you'll get a quick glimpse of metrics like:

  • How many users have visited your site

  • What percentage of those visitors were new versus returning

  • The average number of sessions per user (how often users visit your site more than once)

  • The average session duration (how long people stay on your site during a single visit)

If you want to know more about your audience, you can dig into some of the deeper reports.

Select Geo > Location to see where most of your visitors live.

google analytics location report

Select Technology > Browser & OS to see what browsers your visitors use most often.

google analytics browser and os report

Open Mobile > Overview to see how many of your users visited your site on a desktop, mobile, or tablet device.

google analytics devices report

There are also a couple of reports under audience that you'll have to enable if you want to use them: Demographics and Interests.

  • Demographics shows you what percentage of your site visitors belong to different age groups and what percentage are male/female.

  • Interests shows you what shopping categories and industries your visitors are interested in.

However, in order for Google Analytics to collect this data, it has to enable cookies on your site, so you have to update your privacy policy to stay GDPR compliant. GDPR violations can result in fines, so if you're not sure you'll be compliant when tracking this information, it's better to leave it disabled.

Google Analytics acquisition reports

Reports under the Acquisition tab show you how your visitors get to your website. On the Overview tab, you'll see a pie chart showing the percentage of your visitors that arrive from four different sources:

  • Direct (they type in the URL)

  • Social (from e.g., Facebook or Twitter)

  • Organic search (from e.g., Google)

  • Referral (from a link on another site)

Below that, you'll see a breakdown of the number of visitors who arrived from each source.

google analytics acquisition overview

If you want more specific details, you can dig deeper into your acquisition reports:

Open All Traffic > Source/Medium to see the exact sources that are driving traffic to your site.

google analytics traffic source report

If you run Google Ads, you can link your Google Analytics account to your Google Ads account to view Google Ads metrics in Google Analytics. Go to Acquisition > Google Ads > Campaigns and click the Get started button to link your accounts.

link google ads and google analytics

You can also link Google Analytics to Google Search Console to see the keywords visitors used to find your site in organic search. Go to Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages and click the Set up Search Console data sharing button to link your accounts.

link google analytics and google search console

Google Analytics behavior reports

Reports under the Behavior tab show you how visitors interact with your website and content. You can use behavior reports to see key metrics for each page of your website, find out what users are searching for on your site, and view your website's page speed metrics.

To see page-level metrics for the different pages of your website, navigate to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages.

google analytics site content report

Each of your website's pages will display in order of popularity (which pages had the most visits) along with several metrics:

  1. Pageviews: The total number of views each individual page received within a set timeframe.

  2. Unique Pageviews: The total number of unique views each individual page received (i.e., this doesn't count when one person views the page twice).

  3. Avg. Time on Page: The average amount of time users spent looking at a specific page.

  4. Entrances: How often a page was the first page a user visited on your site.

  5. Bounce Rate: How often users viewed only that page before leaving your site.

  6. % Exit: How often users exited your website after viewing that page.

google analytics metrics by page

If your website has a search function, you can use the Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms report to see what keywords and phrases users are searching for on your site.

find site search terms in google analytics

And the Site Speed reports will show you average load times for your site overall (Overview) and for each page of your site (Page Timings), as well as suggestions for how to improve the load speeds of different pages of your site (Speed Suggestions).

google analytics site speed recommendations

How to Adjust the Display in Google Analytics Reports

Each report in Google Analytics has a default setting for how it displays, but you can adjust those settings to grab the exact data you need.

For example, by default, Google Analytics will show you data for the last week when you open a report. To change the timeframe for the report:

  1. Click the date range at the top-right corner of the report.

  2. Use the date-picker to select the timeframe you want to view.

  3. Click Apply to apply the change to the report.

adjust report dates in google analytics

You can also view data for a specific segment of users. For example, say you want to see data only from people who visited your site on a mobile device:

First, click + Add Segment.

segment google analytics report data

Then, check the box for Mobile Traffic, and click the Apply button.

segment google analytics report data by mobile traffic

Now you can see data for mobile traffic alongside data for all site traffic and compare the numbers.

There are tons of different ways to segment your data by user behaviors, actions, demographics, and more. You'll find all of the options in the + Add Segment menu.

Finally, you can adjust how the data is sorted in any table in Google Analytics by clicking the column header. For example, tables in the Behavior > Site Content report are sorted by default from most to least pageviews. But if you wanted to see pages by highest to lowest time on page instead, click the Avg. Time on Page column header. And if you want to sort by lowest time on page to highest time on page, click the Avg. Time on Page column header a second time.

sort google analytics column data in descending order

How to Add Users to Google Analytics

If you want your clients, coworkers, or employees to be able to view and access your website data in Google Analytics, you can add them as additional users. To add users to Google Analytics:

Click the Admin tab.

google analytics administration menu

Select User Management under the correct column:

  • If you add a user under Account, that user will have access to all of your account's web properties.

  • If you add a user under Property, that user will have access to the specific website property you select.

  • If you add a user under View, that user will have access to a specific view you create.

Most likely, you'll want to add users to a specific web property. Select the appropriate property in the property dropdown, and click User Management.

add users in google analytics

Click the + icon to add a new user, and select Add users.

add users to a google analytics property

Enter your new user's email address, select the appropriate permissions, make sure the Notify new users by email box is checked, and click Add to add the user.

set permissions for new google analytics users

How to Create Goals in Google Analytics

Google Analytics Goals make it easy to measure actions taken on your site that contribute to your business goals. For example, you might set up goals to track form completions (to measure lead acquisitions), free trial signups (to measure conversions), or purchases (for an eCommerce site).

To create a goal in Google Analytics:

Click the Admin tab, and then select Goals.

view google analytics goals

Click + New Goal, and then select the radio button next to Template, and click Continue.

use a goal template in google analytics

Give your goal a name, and select the goal type:

  • Destination goals are triggered when a visitor lands on a specific page. For example, if you have a Thank You page that displays after a user makes a purchase, a Destination goal set for that page will measure every user that lands on that page.

  • Duration goals are triggered when a visitor spends a specific amount of time on your site.

  • Pages/Screens per session goals are triggered when a user visits a specified number of pages on your site.

  • Event goals are triggered when users take a specified action (e.g., playing a video).

For this tutorial, we're going to select the Destination goal type. Select the radio button next to Destination, and click Continue.

create a destination goal in google analytics

Type in the path of the page you want to track visits to. For example, instead of https://www.site.com/thank-you, just type the path: /thank-you.

set a destination path for a google analytics goal

Turn on the Value toggle if you want to assign a monetary value to each goal completion, and enter a value.

assign a value to a google analytics goal

Finally, click the Verify this Goal link to make sure you've set the goal up properly, then click Save to create the goal.

verify and save a google analytics goal

After your goal is created and has been running on your site for a week or so, you can access goal completion data in the Conversions > Goals reports.

view google analytics goal reports

How to Create Custom Dashboards in Google Analytics

Once you've played around with Google Analytics enough to understand which reports are most important for your business, you may want to set up a custom dashboard to get a quick view of the metrics you care about the most.

To create a custom dashboard in Google Analytics:

Click Customization > Dashboards > Create.

create a custom dashboard in google analytics

Choose Blank Canvas, give your dashboard a name, and click Create Dashboard.

add a widget to a custom google analytics dashboard

Add widgets for each piece of data you want to show on your dashboard. For this example, we're going to create a widget that shows average time on page in a table for our most popular pages.

  • Select Table under Standard.

  • Add the dimension Page.

  • Add the metric Avg. Time on Page.

  • Select the number of rows to display in the table.

  • Click Save.

average time on page google analytics dashboard widget

Your custom dashboard will refresh to display the widget you just created. Now, continue adding widgets for all of the metrics you're most interested in to create a dashboard that provides an overview of all of your most important data.

custom google analytics dashboard

If you're looking to measure your website's performance, Google Analytics is a powerful, free tool that gives you all of the data you need to measure performance, gather insights, and develop a data-driven strategy for your website and content.

Ready to learn more about Google Analytics? Check out our guide on turning your Google Analytics data into actionable tasks, or connect Google Analytics to the other applications you use with these Google Analytics Zapier integrations.

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