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[3QF-GA-11] Google Analytics: Reports

Learning Google Analytics is not a smooth process. Students typically grasp a few key concepts and then take some time before being able to take on more. The reason for this is that Google Analytics is so vast that it is hard to mentally prioritise what is important on the first pass.

I find that the best approach is to get a foothold on each of the AABC sections through a single report - and then revisit the most important reports in a real-world context. It's like taking a short break when hiking so that you can catch your breath before attempting the next stretch. Consider this post that break.

So what can we do during our Google Analytics break? I suggest conducting a quick 'health check' on your website using Google Analytics.

You can do this by revisiting the 3 foundational elements for any website: traffic, conversions and cost. If these three things are in place, as described below, than the website is in good shape. If not, then you should fix the website before learning any more Google Analytics.

Below are the 3 Quick Facts about checking the health of a website that you are currently monitoring using Google Analytics. For more detailed coverage of reports, check out our 2-day all-online, live instruction course, Google Analytics Certification course which covers the most important reports in Google Analytics and many other topics in detail.

1) All Pages Report: Check traffic numbers and % Exits

The first report you should look at is one of the first we learned about in the Behavior post: All Pages. This report tells you the number of page views that each page on your website received.

So what are you looking for? Two things.

First off, which pages are most popular on your site. This might sound fairly obvious, but many people at large organisations never consider that their priorities may not be their site visitors' priorities. A quick glance at the All Pages report sorted by page views can be quite revealing - and may lead you to discover neglected pages which are important to your customers.

Second, % Exit. These are percentage of people for whom the page was the last page of their visit. What you're looking for here is a very high percentage, say > 80%, which indicates that almost everyone who arrived at that page did nothing else. This is a good indication that the page is faulty in some way (e.g. broken links) or that people are not getting what they need from the page. Either way, it's worth having a look

2) Goals / Overview: Make sure that goals are configured and working

While this may seem a no-brainer - especially to those who read the last post - it's surprising how many organisations either don't have goals configured or have let them become misconfigured over time. If either of these are the case for your site, then you will see that there are zero goal completions for the default date range, the previous 7 days.

Unfortunately, unless you have know how to configure goals, you may have trouble resolving this issue on your own. If you don't have anyone to call, then you may be able to solve the issue by reviewing the Google help page about configuring goals.

3) Channels: Is your site making money?

If your site does have goals configured, then you should be able to understand how well your site is performing financially with a quick look at the Channels report.

What you're looking for here is the order of channels when sorted by users, descending.

If the channels at the top of the list deliver free traffic - Organic Search, Direct, Referral or Social, then you are probably doing OK. This means that most of your site visitors are arriving at low or no cost, meaning that your cost per conversion will be relatively low.

If, however, paid channels - Paid Search, Display, Affiliate - are at the top of the report when sorted by sessions, then you may have a problem. Reason being that conversion rates, even for paid traffic, tend to be low, sometimes even below 1%. So that $1 you are paying for a click translates into $100+ per conversion. While that may work for very high customer lifetime value sites (lawyer, accountant) most site struggle to monetize site visitors at that level.

There is no easy solution to the problem of paying for the majority of site visitors, but awareness of the problem is the first step. Many businesses have a fixed budget for advertising, but often they do not link it with a successful conversion. Doing so may identify a serious problem with the website business model.

Once you have checked these three reports and made the necessary changes, congratulations! You are using Google Analytics more effectively than many other organisations.

How is that? Well, you have thought beforehand what you would like to know from Google Analytics, consulted the relevant reports and made changes based on the evidence it had collected. Precious few organisations, in my experience, do the same.

OK, now you're well-rested and ready to start learning about how to use Google Analytics on an ongoing basis... which we'll cover next time.

Until then, happy analytic-ing!


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