Important Google Analytics stats – what’s really going on in the hood

Picture 1 - the Google Analytics dashboard. Click to embiggen.

OK, now you’ve got Analytics set up on your website and you’ve waited a month to gather some data.  Now it’s time for some action!

When you log in to your Google Analytics account, you’ll come to the dashboard, which you can see in picture 1.  Up in the corner, where you see the date range, you should select the period you want to get analytics for (I usually collect monthly, but you may post something on Friday and check Monday to see how much interest it generated).

Once you have selected the dates, the dashboard (again, shown in picture one) offers you some stats for the total time period selected.

These are some of the important stats:

Visits: How many times someone has logged onto your site. These are not visits by unique visitors, so if one person goes to your site 25 times, all 25 visits will be counted.

Pageviews: how many times any page in your site has been visited. If I go your site, look at the home page, then your photo page, then your journal page, that’s three pageviews.  However, more important than pageviews is…

Pages/visit: pages per visit breaks down how many pages, on average someone hits when they come to your site. One of the most important analytics stats, this can help you understand: a) whether your navigation is sufficiently clear to help people move around your site, b) if your site is engaging people sufficiently to make them want to see more.

Bounce Rate: again, a very important stat.  The bounce rate is the percentage of people who land on one page on your site and then exit immediately. Again, this tells you if people like what they see.  If they are leaving immediately, you can tell that your site is not engaging them.  It’s kind of like someone flipping channels – is the program good enough to make you stop and watch?

Time on Site: a third very important metric. How long are people spending on your site on average when they visit?  You can try to improve this by working on the “stickiness” of your site. More inter-site links, more engaging content, things like polls and videos for visitors to busy themselves with, etc.

New Visits: The amount of new visitors to the site.  I have never been certain of the reliability of this measurement – people clean out cookies, visit sites from multiple computers, etc.  In theory, this tells you whether you are getting old visitors to come back, or if your site is like one of those lousy restaurants that have to constantly distribute coupons because they need to attract new diners to replace those who tried the place and are now throwing up in the alley. I would regard this stat with caution.

There is way more to discuss, but that can wait until another post…

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