September 29, 2015

4 Google Analytics metrics you should learn to love

Google analytics is a wealth of data that, in the right hands, can change your business. However as there is so much data it can be very easy to find yourself lost, analysing the wrong thing, or worst of all reaching the wrong conclusions.

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Understanding what each metric is, what it means and how it’s reported can really help you make the right decisions with your data. Here’s my list of four metrics you need to make friends with –

  1. Sessions – Not a spontaneous afternoon in the pub! Google has a habit of renaming things on a periodic basis. This is one of those cases. Sessions used to be called ‘visits’. This was actually more confusing as a visit wasn’t actually a visit…but it is. I’ll stop. The actual definition is that a session is logged period of activity in a 30 minute window. Your total sessions is the number of 30 minute activity windows you have. It’s actually the best way of measuring traffic to your site.
  2. Bounce rate – It’s a percentage, but if you don’t know why or how it’s created it doesn’t mean anything. In short bounce rate is the percentage of sessions that leave your site after visiting a single page without taking any action on that page. What does that actually mean? It means the higher the percentage, the more people are leaving your site without engaging.
  3. Average session duration – This one is pretty self explanatory. It’s the average amount of time each session spends on your site. Why is it important? Well if you combine it with bounce rate they both provide you so much more insight. For example if you have a high bounce rate and a high session duration then the page is actually doing a great job of engaging people they just aren’t moving further into the site. Likewise if you have a low bounce rate and low sessions times the page is very efficient at pushing traffic through quickly (in some cases too quickly).
  4. Pageviews – Similar to sessions, but also completely different (who says analytics is confusing!?). It’s similar in that it gives you a cumulative number, but different in that it simply records the number of views of a given page (as the name suggests). This number will always be much higher than sessions but gives you an idea of the total number of pages that are view on your site. The great thing about pageviews is that you can still apply bounce rate and session duration to pageviews. This will then allow you to rank pages on your site by bounce rate and see where you might be losing valuable site traffic.

This is of course a very small list of the metrics available in Google analytics but if you can love these four metrics you’ll very quickly be able to get usable insight to improve your business.