The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Google Analytics

The Ultimate Guide to Understanding Google Analytics

Google Analytics (GA) is a free web analytics tool that generates detailed statistics about visitors of a website.  This powerful tool allows you to assess your visitors and increase conversion rates, target regions, track keywords, maximize revenue and more!  Every blog and website should have some type of analytics tool to improve your visitors experience and GA is one of the best.  Google Analytics is very easy to install, all you have to do is add a generated code into your site’s HTML.   After you install and verify that GA is running on your site, the next step is to understand what it’s all about.  I’m here to give you a better understanding of the ins and outs of Google’s analytics tool.

After you log into your account you will be brought to the dashboard where it gives you an overall picture of your sites traffic.


Here is a closer look into the dashboard so we can pick apart some of the key areas we NEED to know about.

Closer look into the Dashboard


Visits: This is self-explanatory, it’s the total visitors who came to themetoday during the month of March.  By default Google show you the last 30 days.  Obviously, the more visitors the better, you want to see that graph consistently going up.  Don’t look too into a 30 day period because of holidays and other happenings. Although, a high visitor count is important, the more crucial thing is quality visitors.

Pageviews: is the number of pages these visitors viewed.  .  The more you can keep a visitor clicking within your site the more your likely to earn more.  Alot of advertisers pay based on pageviews of a site.

Pages/Visit: is the average pages visited by each visitor. If this number is 1 then your site needs some improvements to its landing page (initial page a visitor clicks on).

Bounce Rate: A percentage that represents visitors who only visited one page then “bounced” out of your site.  This is a very deceptive number because it may mean that your site was loading slow and a visitor left.  Or it may be due to someone coming from Google but it wasn’t the site they were looking for.

Avg Time on Site: average time a visitors stays on your site for.  This can also be a deceptive number because people often leave a web page on their computer without paying any attention to it.

New Visits: A percentage which represents new (unique) visitors.  You can look at this two ways.  First, having new visitors is great because they visit your site for the first time and can come in way of search engines, social media or any other marketing you do.  Second, a high percentage of new visitors is not so great because that means your returning visitors are lower.

The site usage gives a pretty clear, overall picture of your sites traffic and visitors habits.   But there is much more to Google Analytics than the above mentioned. Let’s continue to dissect the guts of Google Analytics.  Below is the lower portion of GA’s Dashboard:

(To go further into depth in any of these categories, click “view report”)

Visitor Overview: gives you a 30 day snapshot of the Absolute Unique Visitors (1st timers) you  are receiving to your site.

Map Overlay: Shows what countries traffic is coming from.  As you can see from my graph above, most of the my visitors come from the United States.  The darkest shade of green represents higher traffic from that particular country.  To get a more in depth look you can click on an area and it will show you a closer view of a region.

Traffic Sources Overview: This pie chart shows where you traffic is coming from.  As you can see I get 47% of my traffic from search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing.    “Referring Sites” is where your site is being visited from another site via link or ads.  “Direct Traffic” is the traffic you get from people typing your URL in the web address directly or other sources mentioned here.

Content Overview: shows the most popular pages being clicked on or visited.  Because I know the most popular pages being clicked, I created a handful of banners on my sidebar to direct visitors to that page.  Another way this graph is beneficial is because you can monetize the more popular pages further.


Phew!  Now that we went over the Dashboard, let us take a look at the other elements that make Google Analytics near perfect.

As you can see on the top left section of your account Google has a breakdown of each category.  To get a more precise picture of your visitors you will need to delve into each of them one by one.





Intelligence: This beta product from Google alerts you when there is a significant shift in your traffic data.  This includes spikes in traffic, shifts in pageviews, higher bounce rates than usual; pretty much anything that seems out of the ordinary.  You can further break the timeline down into daily, weekly and monthly alerts.

Visitors: You get a better picture of who visits your site and their habits.

– Benchmarking: Here you can compare site trends with similar websites to yours.   By doing this you set a benchmark of where your competitors are and maybe where you should be.

– Map Overlay: I mentioned this before, “Map Overlay” is what parts of the world your traffic is coming from.   GA gives you a detailed report of your users activities for that particular region.

– New vs. Returning: This is where you can view a graph and compare the new visitors to visitors who already visited your site.  Because the web is so large, you will most likely have alot more new visitors compared to those returning.  Like any other business, returning visitors shows loyalty and something they want again that you provide them.

– Languages: This shows you the language of your audience.  Most of my traffic is “en-us,” which stands for U.S. English.  There are plugins that allow you to have multiple languages work within your site.

– Visitor Trending: shows trends in traffic in regards to visits, unique visitors, pageviews, avg. pageviews, time on site and bounce rate.

– Visitor Loyalty: shows how loyal your audience is.  Within this subcategory, you can view the times you audience comes back, length of visit (in seconds), and depth of visit (how many pages visitors are viewing).  This is all great data because it shows you how your audience either stays or leaves.  If they leave, it might be possible that you have too many external links going to other sites.  Try undoing the hyperlink and see if you have a higher loyalty to your site.

Browser Capabilities: This area of GA shows what people are using to visit your site.  This includes, browsers, operating systems, screen colors (in bits), screen resolutions, flash versions and if Java is enabled.   With this info, I try to make sure my site works with what my visitors are using.  For example, I make sure my site works with Windows, Safari and Linux, because that’s where my audience is coming from.

Network Providers: what service providers your visitors are using.  In addition, GA shows you the connection speed.  Most of my visitors that come to ThemeToday use DSL.

Mobile: Shows traffic data from mobile users.  The data in this report includes what devices they use, the carriers and operating system.


Traffic Sources: Snapshot of where your traffic is coming from, search engines, direct, referral?  This section shows you what you need to know.

Direct Traffic – shows the data for people who directly type in your URL ( to view your webpage.   Most people think its stops here, but it doesn’t; direct traffic also includes bookmarks and many other sources.

Referring Sites- sites who bring you traffic are put in this category.  Some people see a huge spike in traffic from referrals if they are mentioned on Digg or they are retweeted alot on an article.  In addition, if someone types in a word in google images, this traffic is shown here.  I have alot of graphics and photos in my blog posts so I get alot of pass by traffic from Google Images.  I consider this cheap traffic because more  than likely they will not read what I have written.

Search Engines–  What search engines people are using to visit your site.  Google brings me the majority of my traffic so I make sure my pages are properly indexed for this search engine.

All Traffic Sources – shows the data in one screen of the big three: referral traffic, direct traffic and search engine traffic.

Adwords – If you have campaigns for Adwords then you can see and adjust your promotions here.  You can view how well your campaigns are bringing in traffic and if they tend to stay on your site for a while…all important factors.

Keywords – gives you a list of the top keywords people type in search engines to find your site.  This is important because you want to rank high for certain keywords.  When a visitor types in a keyword relating to your site its your gain because you get free traffic and you want what they are looking for.


Content: this section shows you what pages and blog posts your audience prefers or does not prefer.

Top Content – This shows what pages are viewed the most on your webpage.  You can view data (time on page, bounce rate, % exit) for each page/post on your site.

Content by Title – Shows the same data as above only by the name of your page or post instead of the URL.

Content Drill Down – allows you to drill into your sites directory structure.  This is similar to the “Top Content” report but uses the folder structure.  For example, in this post the URL reads The Content Drill Down breaks it down into “/2010/”, “/wordpress-theme/”,  “30-of-the-best-wp-premium-themes-on-themeforest/.”  As you can see my content is drilled down in individual pieces.

Top Landing Pages – this is the page your visitors are first introduced to.  For example, if someone types in “Photoshop tutorials” and are brought to my site, that page that comes up is considered a landing page.  They initially land on that page, hence the name “landing page.”

Top Exit Pages – the pages your visitor leaves from.  This could be your most popular page because they visit it and immediately leave from that page.

Site Overlay – this is one of the coolest features on GA.  When you click this your site is brought up with %’s all over it.  These percentages represent clicks from visitors.  You can get ALOT of information based on this overlay.  For example, I noticed one of my widgets got zero clicks so I replaced it with another feature which proved to be successful.






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