It's not easy to know what to use Google Analytics for. There are so many configuration options, menus, and reports that sometimes it seems to be intentionally difficult to use.
One way to wrap your head around it is to just think of Google Analytics as having 4 sections: Audience, Acquisition, Behaviour, Conversion - which are also known as the AABCs of Google.
Then, you can get to know one 'anchor report' in each section and you'll have a much better chance of knowing where to find the information you need.
To help you find that anchor report for each section, we started with 'B' (Behavior) a couple of posts ago and continued with 'A' for Acquisition in the previous post.
Now, on to the other 'A' or Audience. Audience is one of the most interesting sections of Google Analytics and possibly the only one in which you will see a report and think, 'how on earth did they find that out about my site visitors?!'
Below are this week's 3 Quick Facts on the Audience section, but for more, have a look at ClickAcademy's 3-day Google Analytics Certification course. It offers live instruction and fun exercises and quizzes designed to help you learn everything you need to know about GA. Find out more and register your interest for upcoming classes here.
1) You can get information in the Audience tab that you can't get any other way
Possibly the most interesting thing about the Audience section of Google Analytics is the wide variety of information that Google collects about your site visitors.
Here are just a few facts that Google reports about the people who have visited your site:
Their device (e.g. mobile, desktop, tablet)
The brand of the device
Their browser (Chrome, Firefox, etc.)
Were they a new user or returning
What else they are shopping for
Lifestyle (Green living enthusiast? Value shopper?)
Life events (Just moved house, recently graduated college)
OK, so I made the last one up, but still, the Audience section offers an impressive list of things Google can tell you out about your anonymous website visitors.
So, how does Google know all these things about people who visit your site without giving so much as an email or even a first name? Well, that's a topic for another post, but, remember, this is what Google is good at. Google's core purpose is to collect and organise information - and in the Audience section of Google Analytics, the company's data-gathering skills are shown off to a great extent.
As I tell my students, there is simply no other way you could get most of the information provided to you in the Audiences section, so take advantage of it.
2) Device Overview is a good initial anchor report in this section
So, with so much information available, how can you find an anchor report for the audience section? There are several good ones to choose from, but I tend to think that Device Overview is a good start.
First off, Device Overview is easy to understand. Its dimension - or how the report breaks up the metrics - only has three categories: Mobile, Desktop, and Tablet. And the metrics are ones that you see in all other reports like Users, Sessions (or visits), Average Session Duration, Average Pages Per Session - and of of course Conversion Rate.
Second, seeing how your site performs on different types of devices is useful information for helping you decide where to spend your time and effort. Do your desktop users convert more often than your mobile users? If so, then looking for the reasons for the difference will help you improve your site.
Finally, Google has made it clear that Search is going to prioitise sites that offer a great mobile experience. While there are other reports which can give you more detail about your mobile experience (e.g. Site Speed reports), Device Overview is a good place to start when evaluating if your site is truly 'mobile first'.
3) New vs. Returning is also another key report in Audiences
There is one other key report in Audiences and that is New vs Returning, confusingly located in the 'Behavior' sub-section of Audience (really Google?).
New vs. Returning is the only report in Google Analytics with new users as a dimension (the way in which the report breaks down the metrics) and helps you compare them with returning users.
Actually, in the report they are called New Visitors and Returning Visitors for some reason but, regardless, there are a lot of insights that can be drawn from the report.
Do you get more new visitors - or more returning? Do new visitors convert as much as returning visitors? If not, what are you doing to make sure new visitors become returning visitors?
Whatever your answers, knowing how new people behave differently from returning people can help you come up with ideas for how to improve your site and increase your conversion rate - which is the whole reason for using Google Analytics, right?
There is a lot more to say about the Audience section, which we will do in a future 3QF, but for now, I'd just like to remind you that you can learn all this and more in a beautiful virtual classroom setting with 95% funding for qualified candidates - and get Google Analytics certified as well! Click here for more details about our programme.
And until next time, happy analytic-ing!