What to Look for In Google Analytics

What to Look for In Google Analytics

Google Analytics offers a wealth of data. You need to know what to prioritize, or else you will spend hours trying to understand what all the numbers mean for your website traffic.

The main point of Google Analytics is to figure out how your website is performing, and what that means in relation to your marketing efforts. Let’s walk through this process.

Starting Point – Acquisition > Channels

Every time you log into Google Analytics, you want to look at the Acquisition Channels. It’s the best way a quick snapshot of what is happening with your website. You will quickly be able to identify any success or issues occurring on your site.

The default timeline in this section is one week, but that is a small sample size for most websites. Switch your timeline to a 30-day period for more reliable results. Compare this to the previous period, and you will have a great starting point to identify the performance of the website.

Further, you can break down the traffic into specific channels to get a more detailed grasp of the performance.  If something is off, it usually jumps out here.

What to Look for In Google Analytics

What to Do if Traffic is Up

This is a great thing! But just because traffic is up this month does not mean your job is done.  Ideally, you’d like to see an increase in traffic month over month, so try to figure out what caused the increase and replicate it for the future.

Tip: Compare each channel’s engagement or conversion data to see which might be underperforming.

What to Do if Traffic is Down

Obviously, this isn’t ideal, but don’t worry. A change in traffic could be based on a factor outside of your control.

The most common reason for changes in traffic is seasonality. Keep in mind how your industry ebbs and flows, and standardize your results to get a better sense of how you are doing relatively.

The first step in accounting for seasonality is to analyze the year over year data. While this is not a perfect comparison, it can still be a good litmus test to see if the changes are normal. If your year over year data is also down, then you probably have a bigger issue on your hands, where further investigation is required.

The next step to determining reasons for a decline in traffic is to compare month over month data from the previous year. Look at the changes in traffic from past years, and compare that to the current data to get a gauge of your results. If your current decrease in traffic is less than previous years, you can consider your results successful.

For clarity, here is an example. In a previous year, your drop in traffic in October was -40%, but this year your drop in traffic is -20%. Although your overall traffic is still down, when you factor in seasonality, your YoY traffic is up 20%!

If your traffic is still down after accounting for seasonality, then you will need to conduct a deep dive into your analytics to figure out why. Carefully check out the performance of each individual channel to find out which avenue could have a problem.

Tip: Take a close look at your top three channels, as they are the largest contributors to your traffic.

Here are some factors to consider for each channel when traffic is down:

  • Organic traffic – Check your keyword rankings.
  • Social – Check into what content you’re posting.
  • Paid – Check your total spend amount and cost per click.
  • Referral – Check to see if you have lost any backlinks.
  • Direct – There is no simple solution to why direct traffic is down. Any traffic that comes to a website that is not specifically classified will be logged in direct traffic, meaning it is difficult to pinpoint the problem. Fluctuation in traffic can often be attributed to spam.

Finally, if you still can’t seem to figure out why your traffic is down, look at individual page views and content types on your website. Certain types of content and landing pages my not be as relevant as you expected, causing a drop in traffic. For example, if you sell air conditioners, but it has been a cool summer, then you would not have as much traffic to those pages as usual.

If a single page has a dramatic decrease in views, this might be an SEO issue. If a page is no longer ranking properly, it might explain why traffic is down.

Engagement Metrics

Engagement metrics are another important data set to analyze. Key metrics include bounce rate, average session duration and pages per session. These metrics are large indicators of conversion likelihood, so continually monitoring and trying to improve engagement can lead to an increase of success on your website.

What to Do if Engagement is Down

Different types of traffic have different engagement metrics, so analyze where your traffic is coming from before panicking. Social and Paid traffic generally have poorer engagement metrics based on the nature of their medium, so if you had a massive influx of traffic to these channels, don’t be concerned when engagement is down.

Check out individual page engagement metrics to identify specific underperforming pages. Often, landing pages leave users with “nowhere to go”, causing high bounce rate and low session duration. Simply, when users finish with the content, there are no prompts to send them elsewhere on the website. A blog with related posts of links to a related product/service will have better engagement than a post that does not.  Fixing underperforming pages is a great way to improve the overall metrics.

Finally, check behaviour flow and see which landing pages have high drop off rates. If you can identify which pages are not giving users the information they need, causing them to leave the site, then you can improve the overall engagement rate.

Checking these metrics should give you a good sense if there is an issue or it’s just normal fluctuation.

Google Analytics can give you a ton of information about your website. Once you know how to interpret the data, you will have new ideas on how to improve traffic and engagement, leading to a more successful website!


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