Google Analytics is Google’s premier data analysis platform. It is free and once you sign up for it and place the tracking code on your website, you’re able to get an overwhelming, but incredibly valuable, information about your website visitors. It is super easy to install and if you’re implementing any type of SEO strategy or are just curious about what your website visitors are doing or where they’re coming from, you need to get Google Analytics installed ASAP.
It will take some time, maybe a month or so, before the data you’re receiving from installing Google Analytics will be of any use to you. Until you have enough data for the trends to be statistically significant, basically. If you have hundreds of visitors a month, you will be able to see some trends in a shorter period of time.
Once you do get some data rolling it and you first take a look at your Google Analytics dashboard, it can be an overwhelming sight.
Since this is an SEO focused article, I’ll explain what some important items are to look out for to gauge the effectiveness of your SEO campaign, and what metrics may be telling you that there are some ways to make improvements.
Just looking at the screen above there are a few metrics to take note of.
Pages / Session
This is at 1.48 at the moment. This means that when people visit the website, they also more than half the time click on another page. That means people are liking what they see enough to click further into the website. This also means that the traffic we’re getting is targeted traffic, meaning traffic that was wanting to find this kind of traffic, indicated by the fact that they’re clicking around and investigating more. This is a good sign.
If the pages / session was as low as say 1.1 or so, combined with other metrics such as high bounce rates and low avg. session duration, this would mean that they are landing somewhere that isn’t relevant to what they were looking for. This would mean even if your traffic numbers were higher, this traffic isn’t valuable to you because they’re not interested in what is on your website.
Avg. Session Duration
Average session duration is fairly self-explanatory. It is telling us how long the average user stays on your website. The metrics we see above are 1 minute and 21 seconds. That is not too bad! If the average session duration was 10 seconds, like we talked about above, this means the users on your website are not liking what they’re finding. This would require a fairly deep investigation to find out why, but the data is most likely there to explain the pattern.
The bounce rate is another metric that measures how many people visit one page of your website and exit. A 77.56% website is not a good bounce rate to have. So, a visit to your home page as an example, and then exiting the website is considered a bounce. If they visit your home page, then go to the contact page next, they will not be counted as a bounce if they exit after visiting the contact page.
Depending on your website, who you’re sending there, and how, a “good” bounce rate can vary. But in general without looking at too much detail, a bounce rate of 40% or so is considered good. People leaving after just viewing one page isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as they could have gotten the information, they needed such as a phone number and that is a successful visit for you as a business owner, but if 9/10 people are leaving your website after the first visit you can probably assume they’re not enjoying what they’re finding. So, whether this means you need a re-design of your website, just needing to clean it up, or your traffic isn’t targeted – something certainly needs to be addressed there.
The next screen is extremely important to understand if you’re running an SEO campaign:
Here you can see where your traffic is coming from. You can see the 4 sources here are direct, organic search, referral and social. Direct means they typed in your website directly into their search browser. Organic search means they went to Google, typed in a search term, and then found your website and clicked on it. These are the users you are targeting in an SEO campaign, so this is the tab to click deeper into. Referral means that another website linked to you and someone clicked on that link to get to your website. Social of course means someone clicked on a link on social media and was then directed to your website.
All of these are important to understand but for SEO purposes we’re going to of course be focusing on the organic search here.
If we click into “organic search” we can see a more specific breakdown of JUST your organic search analytics data:
Google doesn’t like to always give exact specifics on every single piece of information it collects so when you see the “(not provided)” and “(not set)” this is them withholding a bit of information from us.
We can see here that the pages/session, avg. session duration and bounce rate are slightly different from the overall analytics. The average session duration being much lower is a bad sign as it would mean that those JUST coming through the google search traffic source are not staying around if your website is average. This means this traffic is not as happy with what they’re finding, and this is the traffic we want to be the happiest with what they’re finding.
The bounce rate is slightly lower but not significantly so, and the pages/session is lower as well. Without doing an incredibly detailed analysis, for purposes of example, we could say that we need to find out why people coming Google Search are not quite as happy with what they’re finding than other sources of traffic.
A positive thing to point out is that this website IS receiving organic traffic! That is not a bad thing by any means. That means people are typing in something they want in Google, and Google is showing this website to them. Even if the stats are not perfect, this is a win for the business owner.
This is an introductory level article, as there could be entire books written on what Google Analytics can do. Hopefully after reading this, you can get the gist of what information Google Analytics can tell you about your business and your SEO campaign. If you’re paying for an SEO campaign you want to see these numbers going up over time. Once it’s apparent, like above, that your SEO campaign is working and you’re getting visitors from Google Search you can then start breaking down the data we talked about and figuring out how to tune up your website so that those visitors are very happy with what they find, so they continue to contact you about your services for years to come.