Understanding Google Analytics

Posted 12.10.2016

By Lorna Burrows

“Do I need to be using Google Analytics?” Yes. It is one of the most, if not the most, powerful tool you can use to measure your website’s performance.

You might have gotten as far as to create an account and log in but chances are, you got scared off with all the jargon and data graphs. Actually, once you know the jargon, it’s pretty easy to use!



When someone visits your website their entire session is tracked by Google Analytics unless they become inactive for a period of 30 minutes or more. This figure is the amount of sessions people have had on your website. If somebody has been to your website three times over the past month, each of those three visits will count towards a session.


The ‘users’ figure will be lower than the ‘sessions’ figure. This figure is the amount of different users or ‘unique users’ you have had on your site. So if somebody has visited your website three times over the past month, this will only count towards one user.


Google Analytics is clever enough to know if a particular visitor has been to your site in the past and will count them as a ‘returning’ visitor. Use the ‘new visitors’ figure to get an idea of how many new people are finding your site.


Simply put, the bounce rate is the percentage of people who left your website after only visiting one page. For example, if two people went to your website homepage, one person left straight away and the other person went on to look at one other page, the bounce rate for your homepage would be 50%. A bounce rate percentage is set against every page within your website so the figure (%) you see upon first logging in is an average of all the pages within your website. Generally speaking, the lower the bounce rate, the better your website is performing.


A pageview is the total views of all pages within your website. If you visit a page more than once during your session, it triggers multiple page views within Google Analytics and increases that figure.


The pages per session statistic is an average of how many pages a visitor accesses during one session. If you are seeing your visitors exploring the site (visiting multiple pages) and then completing a goal, your website is doing its job. What you don’t want to be seeing, as a general rule, is people going to one page and leaving. It isn’t a good sign either if people are spending a lot of time on your site but not converting; this probably indicates that they aren’t finding the information they want.


Session duration is the average amount of time spent on your website. You would want this figure to be quite high, in the region of at least two minutes.


The traffic sources indicate how people are finding your website. This is usually split into the following:

Direct: this figure indicates the percentage of visitors that directly type in your website address.

Tip: if you click into ‘direct’ you will see the pages that people directly linked themselves to.

Organic Search: this figure indicates the percentage of people that found you through using a search engine.

Tip: to get more insights into what terms people are searching on Google to find you, use Google webmaster tools.

Referral: this figure indicates the percentage of people that followed a link from another website, to yours.

Tip: clicking into ‘referral’ will allow you to see which websites are providing the most traffic to your website. This can help measure your efforts with link building and PR coverage (see where the most valuable coverage for you is).

Social: this figure marks the percentage of people that were linked to your website from a social media platform (ie facebook, twitter, linkedin etc)

Tip: click into ‘social’ to see which social media platform provides you the most traffic. This might provide useful insights into which social media platform isn’t performing as well as others.

Paid Search: the figure shows you the percentage of people came to your website from a paid advertising spot.

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