This guest post comes from Samuel Johns, who works on the Organic Search team here at Vistaprint.
In two previous posts, Google Analytics for Your Small Business and Setting up Google Analytics for your SMB Website in 3 Steps, we highlighted the core benefits of Google Analytics, as well as the basics of how to set up an account. In today’s post, we’ll go over reporting, and how to track the performance of your site.
Before digging into reporting, it’s beneficial to define “metric” and “dimension” to further help you understand the reports you’re looking at. (Note: The definitions of “metrics” and “dimensions” come directly from Google Analytics training documentation.) A metric is a unit of measurement. Examples include number of visits per page; pages viewed per visit; and average time on site.
Metrics can appear in scorecards, as columns in tables, or they can also be graphed.
Dimensions are descriptive attributes. Examples include the city or region where the visit originated; source that referred the visit (such as “Google”); and the browser used for the visit. Many of the reports in Google Analytics contain tables. These specific tables usually break up your data by individual dimensions, and each row in the table shows the data for a different value of the dimension. In the example shown below, the dimension being shown is region. Therefore, in this case, each row contains the data for a different region.
Keep in mind: Metric and dimension variables can be changed and moved around depending on how you want to view the data. One suggestion we have is that you spend time familiarizing yourself with the different viewing options to work out which ones work best for you.
In the top navigation bar (the orange bar in the new version of Google Analytics), you will see a tab called “Standard Reporting.” As the title suggests, this is a great place to start for your basic reporting of the visitors coming to your site.
- Setting the Date Range — in the upper right hand side of both the dashboard and the reports, you will see the date range for data on the page. With the date range selector, you can choose any specific date range (specific day, month, year, or even a customized period of time). You can also select multiple date ranges to compare two separate periods of time. In the example below, we have the “compare to past” selected. This offers you the ability to see the performance of your site compared to previous months and map it back to your marketing efforts.
- Advanced Segments — Advanced Segments allow you to drill down a little further into the metrics for a specific segment/group of users. For example, if you’re a company that just expanded to another region, you may want to look at the difference between new visitors and returning visitors by location. By checking both boxes for new and repeat visitors, the report will show both data points split out, making it easy for you to compare the two. You’re able to select a maximum of four advanced segments for a given report. This report also allows you to take a look at your how your marketing efforts are impacting visitors to your site.
- Dashboards — When you first open Google Analytics, you’ll see a dashboard of widgets. Each widget is a high-level overview of the basic reports already set up by default in your account. You can set up multiple dashboards and link to specific reports you create, making it simple to view and store reports related to a specific topic in the one place. To create a new dashboard for a specific set of reports simply click on the “Add to Dashboard” tab located to the right of “Advanced Segments,” pictured above. From there you will have the ability to add the report to an existing dashboard or create a new one. In the image below, for instance, we created a new dashboard titled “Location,” which has the report for my country and regional performance.
This blog post concludes a three-part series on Getting Started with Google Analytics. Hopefully with this brief introduction you’ll be able to start tracking the performance of your website in more detail. Google Analytics only starts tracking your site once it is implemented, and the data stays there over time. So even if you don’t have time today to look at all the data, setting it up could provide you with a lot of valuable historic information so that you can benchmark your site performance to your business output.
If you’re interested in learning more about using reports in Google Analytics, check out this six minute training video from Google titled “Working with Report Data.”
If you haven’t tried out Google Analytics yet, head over to www.google.com/analytics to get started. If you’re already using it, what do you think about the insights? We’d love to hear more in the comments below.