These notes were extracted from the Google’s Conversion University test preparation presentation (where possible), and are not my property.
Introduction to Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free, web analytics tool that is hosted by Google.
Google Analytics shows you how visitors actually find and use your site, so you’ll be able to
• make informed site design and content decisions
• improve your site to convert more visitors into customers
• track the performance of your keywords, banner ads, and other marketing campaigns.
• and track metrics such as revenue, average order value, and ecommerce conversion rates.
Google Analytics has been designed to meet the needs of novice users as well as web analytics experts.
Some of the features include:
• Map Overlay which can help you understand how to best target campaigns by geographic region
• AdWords Integration which makes it easy to track AdWords campaigns and allows you to use Google Analytics from your AdWords interface
• Internal Site Search which allows you to track how people use the search box on your site
• Benchmarking so that you can see whether your site usage metrics underperform or outperform those of your industry vertical.
• Funnel Visualization so that you can optimize your checkout and conversion click-paths
How GA Works?
Here’s how Google Analytics works.
When a visitor accesses a page on your site, a request is made to the webserver to display the page.
The Google Analytics Tracking Code, which is a snippet of code that you place on each page of your site, calls the trackPageView() method.
At this point, the Google Analytics first-party cookies are read and/or written.
The webpage then sends an invisible gif request containing all the data to the secure Google Analytics reporting server, where the data is captured and processed.
Data is processed regularly throughout the day and you can see the results in your reports.
What happens if?
Google Analytics uses only first-party cookies, which are considered safe and non-intrusive by most internet users today.
Although many people block third-party cookies from being set by their web browsers, this won’t affect Google Analytics.
Someone who blocks all cookies, however, won’t be tracked by Google Analytics since all the data is passed to the Google Analytics servers via the first-party cookies.
Someone who deletes their cookies will still be tracked, but they’ll be identified as a new visitor to the site and Google Analytics won’t be able to attribute their conversions to a prior referring campaign.
People delete cookies for many reasons, one of which is to prevent personal data from being captured or reported. But, note that Google Analytics does not report on personally identifiable information. You’ll learn more about cookies as they relate to Google Analytics in a later module.
Cached pages are saved on a visitor’s local machine and so they’re not served by the webserver. Google Analytics will still track visits to cached pages as long as the visitor is connected to the internet.
In general, no reporting tool can ever be 100% accurate. You’ll get the most out of web analytics if you focus on trends. Knowing that 20% more visitors converted following a marketing campaign is more powerful than knowing that exactly 10 people visited your site today.
All data collected by Google Analytics is anonymous, including where visitors comes from, how the visitors navigate through the site, and other actions they may perform.
No personally identifiable information is collected.
Google does not share Analytics data with any 3rd parties.
Furthermore, Google optimization, support, and sales staff may only access a client’s data with the client’s permission. You can give permission verbally, over email or through a support ticket that asks for help with a problem or asks a question about your data.
You may elect to share your Google Analytics data “with other Google products”, and Google will use the data to improve the products and services we provide you. Electing to share your data “Anonymously with Google and others” allows you to use benchmarking.
To provide benchmarking, Google removes all identifiable information about your website, then combines the data with hundreds of other anonymous sites in comparable industries and reports them in an aggregate form.
If you select “do not share my Google Analytics data”, you will not be able to use benchmarking and may not have access to specific ads-related features such as Conversion Optimizer.
Again, regardless of your Data Sharing selections, Google does not share Analytics data with any 3rd parties.
Understanding the Google Analytics interface will help you find and analyze information more effectively.
When you first login to your Google Analytics account, you’ll see a screen similar to the one on the slide.
In this example, the user has access to three Google Analytics accounts.
Click on the name of the account you would like to access.
This takes you to the account-specific page where you manage the set-up and configuration of your account and profiles.
You can toggle to your other Analytics accounts using the drop-down menu at the top right of the page.
Each profile for the selected account is displayed under “Website Profiles”.
From this screen you can access reports for each profile.
You an also edit configuration settings, add filters, add or change user permissions, and add or remove profiles altogether.
Click the “View Reports” link for a profile, and you’ll be taken to the dashboard for that profile.
A sample dashboard is shown on the slide.
We’ve called out the user interface features that are available on all reports.
Your report navigation, scheduled email settings, Help links, data export options, and the calendar.
Note that there are several places to find help information. The Help link on the top right of the page takes you to the Google Analytics Help Center.
Also, on the left margin of the page, you’ll see a Help Resources box with links.
The dashboard is where you put all the summary information about your site that you want to see at a glance.
To add a report to the dashboard, just go to the report you want to add and then click Add to Dashboard.
On the dashboard itself, you can position the report summaries however you like and delete the ones you don’t need.
In the left hand navigation, you’ll see that your reports are organized into categories: Visitors, Traffic Sources, Content, Goals, and Ecommerce.
If you don’t have an ecommerce site or don’t have ecommerce reporting enabled, you won’t see the ecommerce section in your navigation.
To view reports, click on any of the categories and the reports available within that category will appear.
Some reports contain additional sub-reports, like the AdWords report under Traffic Sources.
Click the arrow to see the sub-reports.
Setting The Active Date Range
To change your date range, click the arrow next to the active date range displayed at the upper right of all reports.
You can then use the Calendar or the Timeline to select a new date range.
The “Calendar” tab allows you to select date ranges by clicking on the day and month within the calendar or you can type dates in the “Date Range” boxes.
The “Timeline” tab has a date slider that you can resize and move to cover any range of dates.
You can see your site’s traffic trends in the Timeline.
Setting A Comparison Date Range
You can select a date range to compare to the current selected date range.
When using the Timeline to set a comparison date range, you’ll see two date sliders instead of just one.
You can use a comparison date range to see how your site is performing month over month, year over year or even from one day to another.
The date range and comparison date ranges you select will apply to all your reports and graphs.
Graphic By Day, Week And Month
Most reports include an over-time graph at the top. You can make this graph display data by day, week, or month.
You can also compare two metrics on the same graph to see how they are correlated.
Click the arrow in the top left of the graph.
Then, click the Compare Two Metrics link and select which two metrics you want to compare.
In this example, we’re graphing visitors versus average time on site.
You can roll your mouse over the graph and see actual numbers.
Exporting Report Data
You can export data from any report. There are four formats: PDF, XML, CSV and tab-separated.
Simply click on the Export button at the top of any report page and select the format you want.
Next to the Export button, you’ll see an Email button.
Click it and you’ll see a screen with two tabs: Send Now, and Schedule.
You can schedule reports to be delivered daily, weekly, monthly or quarterly.
You also have the option to select what format to send them in, such as PDF or CSV.
The email scheduling feature provides an easy way to automatically distribute specific report data to the people who need it.
The Overview reports in each section contain a set of Curriculum links. You can use these links to quickly find information that you need.
In some cases, these links access reports that are not available from the left report navigation.
Title And Breadcrumbs
You can always see where you are in a report hierarchy by looking at the title and the breadcrumbs at the top of the report.
Look at the example on the slide.
From the title, you can see that you are in the Referring Link report and that you’re looking at traffic from the link blogger.com/home.
From the breadcrumbs, you can see that you are in the Referring Sites report hierarchy.
You can click on any of the breadcrumb links to go back to that report.
Narratives And Scorecards
Nearly every report contains a short narrative that summarizes the traffic that’s included in the report.
The scorecard below the narrative provides metric aggregates and averages for the traffic.
Each box in the scorecard contains a question mark button. Clicking it opens a small window that explains how the metric is calculated.
Most reports provide tabs that show different sets of data.
The Site Usage tab shows metrics such as the number of pages viewed per visit, the average time on site, and the bounce rate.
The Goal Conversion tab shows the conversion rates for each of your goals.
If you’ve enabled ecommerce reporting on your Profile Settings page, you’ll also see an Ecommerce tab.
This tab shows metrics such as Ecommerce revenue, number of transactions, and average value.
The AdWords Campaigns reports have an additional tab called Clicks. This tab contains AdWords related metrics such as clicks, cost, revenue per click and ROI.
You can segment table data in different ways using the Dimension pulldown menu.
So, for example, if you want to see the traffic in your keywords report broken out by City, you just select City from the pulldown menu.
In the Keywords and Search Engines reports, you have the option to analyze just paid, just non-paid traffic, or all search traffic.
Simply click on the links above the scorecard to make your selection.
Some reports allow you to view results by hour.
On these reports, you can select the view you want by clicking on the clock button in the top right corner next to “Graph By”.
There are five different Views available in most reports. The first icon organizes your report data into a table. This is the default view for many reports.
The second icon allows you to create a pie-chart based on any one of the metrics in the report.
The third icon shows a bar-graph based on any metric you select.
The fourth icon is the comparison bar graph view. It allows you to quickly see whether each entry in the table is performing above or below average.
The fifth icon allows you to instantly see a summary report with graphs for the traffic you’re analyzing.
Columns within tables can be sorted in both ascending and descending order simply by clicking on the column heading.
The arrows next to the heading title indicate the order in which the results are listed.
A down arrow indicates descending order and an upward arrow indicates ascending order.
Expanding Numbers Of Results Desplayed
By default, all reports with tables display ten rows.
To display more than ten rows, go to the bottom of your report and click the dropdown menu arrow next to “Show rows”.
You can display up to 500 rows per page.
You can use the Find box at the bottom left of your reports to narrow or refine your results.
For example, if you are looking at the All Traffic Sources report and you want to only see traffic from the Google domain, you can type in Google and select “containing”.
Or, to exclude all traffic from the Google domain, you would select “excluding”.
Contextual Help Resources
You can get information about any report you’re looking at by clicking one of the Help Resources.
About this Report offers a brief description of the report.
Conversion University provides insight into how you might use and interpret the data.
Common Questions links to Help Center articles that are related to the report.
Create Context For Your Data
When analyzing your traffic, avoid focusing on just a single metric. This pageviews result by itself isn’t actionable because you don’t know what the number really means.
But, when you look at pageviews in the context of other metrics, you start to get clearer picture.
For example, look at the bounce rate. Half of the time that people entered the site through this page, they left the site without looking at any other pages. This page is very important. By comparing the pageviews to the site average, we can see that this page accounts for over 28% of all the pageviews.
How has the performance of this page changed over time?
This page is receiving 20% fewer visits than it did last week and people are spending 10% less time on it. And last week, the bounce rate was only 24% — now it’s double that number.
So, putting data into context can help us ask the right questions and decide on a course of action.
Let’s look at another example.
Creating Context With Visualizations
Here we are looking at the Content by Title report.
We’re using the Compare to Site Average visualization to see which pages have significantly higher bounce rates than the site average.
The bounce rate for the first title is nearly 20% higher than the site average. The red bar shows that it’s performing worse than the site average.
Looking For Trends
Analyzing trends is another useful way to bring context into your analysis.
The graph on the slide shows us that pageviews peaked in May. Did visits increase or did each visitor look at more pages?
Investigating Changes In Trends
Using the Graph Mode to compare Visits and Pageviews, we see that Visits and Pageviews have increased proportionally.
Data Driven Decision Making
Now let’s identify which traffic sources led to the increase in traffic and revenue. We do this by looking at the All Traffic Sources report and clicking on the Ecommerce tab.
Comparing two days of traffic, we find that — although several sources sent an increasing number of visitors to the site — only Google organic and Google referral had a significant impact on revenue.
Therefore, we know that although other campaigns increased overall traffic, they did not bring in purchasers.
This kind of information can help you decide where to focus your promotion and site content resources.
In Google Analytics, a pageview is counted every time a page on your website loads.
So, for example, if someone comes to your site and views page A, then page B, then Page A again, and then leaves your site — the total pageviews for the visit is 3.
A visit — or session — is a period of interaction between a web browser and a website. Closing the browser or staying inactive for more than 30 minutes ends the visit.
For example, let’s say that a visitor is browsing the Google Store, a site that uses Google Analytics. He gets to the second page, and then gets a phone call. He talks on the phone for 31 minutes, during which he does not click anywhere else on the site.
After his call, he continues where he left off. Google Analytics will count this as a second visit, or a new session.
Note that throughout these modules, the words “visit” and “session” may be used interchangeably.
A visitor is uniquely identified by a Google Analytics visitor cookie which assigns a random visitor ID to the user, and combines it with the timestamp of the visitor’s first visit.
The combination of the random visitor ID and the timestamp establish a Unique ID for that visitor.
You’ll learn more about the visitor cookie in a subsequent module.
Pageviews, Visits, And Visitors – The Basics
Generally, the Visitors metric will be smaller than the Visits metric which in turn will be smaller than the Pageviews metric.
For example, 1 visitor could visit a site 2 times and generate a total of 5 pageviews.
Pageviews Vs. Unique Pageviews
A pageview is defined as a view of a page that is tracked by the Google Analytics Tracking Code.
If a visitor hits reload after reaching the page, this will be counted as an additional pageview.
If a user navigates to a different page and then returns to the original page, an additional pageview will also be recorded.
A unique pageview represents the number of visits during which that page was viewed–whether one or more times. In other words, if a visitor views page A three times during one visit, Google Analytics will count this as three pageviews and one unique pageview.
“Absolute Unique” Vs. “New vs. Returning”
The “Absolute Unique Visitors” report counts each visitor during your selected date range only once. So, if visitor A comes to your site 5 times during the selected date range and visitor B comes to your site just once, you will have 2 Absolute Unique Visitors. Remember, a visitor is uniquely identified by a Google Analytics visitor cookie.
The “New vs. Returning” report classifies each visit as coming from either a new visitor or a returning visitor. So when someone visits your site for the first time, the visit is categorized as “Visit from a new visitor.” If the person has browsed your website before, the visit is categorized as “Visit from a returning visitor.”
A high number of new visits suggests that you are successful at driving traffic to your site while a high number of return visits suggests that the site content is engaging enough for visitors to come back.
You can look at the Recency report to see how recently visitors have visited. You can look at the Loyalty report to see how frequently they return. Both the Recency and Loyalty reports are under Visitor Loyalty in the Visitors section.
Pageviews, Visits, And Visitors In Your report
The Pageviews metric can be found in the Visitors Overview and in the Content section reports. Most of the other reports show Pages Viewed per Visit instead of Pageviews.
Unique Pageviews is only found in the Content section.
Almost all of the reports show Visits.
The Visitors metric — in other words the number of visitors who came to your site — is found in the Visitors section.
Time On Page
To calculate Time on Page, Google Analytics compares the timestamps of the visited pages.
For example, in the slide, the visitor saw page A, then page B, and then left the site.
The Time on Page for page A is calculated by subtracting the page A timestamp from the page B timestamp.
So, the Time on Page for page A is 1 minute and 15 seconds.
In order for this calculation to take place, the Google Analytics Tracking Code must be executed on both pages.
The Time on Page for page B is 0 seconds, because there is no subsequent timestamp that Google Analytics can use to calculate the actual Time on Page.
Time On Site
Now, suppose the visitor continued on to a third page before exiting.
The second page now has a Time on Page of 1 minute 10 seconds.
The Time on Site is now calculated as 2 minutes and 25 seconds.
“Avg. Time On Page” VS “Avg. Time On Site”
For Average Time on Page, bounces are excluded from the calculation. In other words, any Time on Page of 0 is excluded from the calculation.
For Average Time on Site, bounces remain a part of the calculation.
To calculate Average Time on Site, Google Analytics divides the total time for all visits by the number of visits.
Flash Based Sites
Some sites make extensive use of Flash or other interactive technologies.
Often, these kinds of sites don’t load new pages frequently and all the user interaction takes place on a single page.
As a result, it’s common for sites like this to have high bounce rates and low average times on site.
If you have such a site, you may wish to set up your tracking so that virtual pageviews or events are generated as the user performs various activities.
You can learn how to do this in the module on Event Tracking and Virtual Pageviews.
“Length Of Visit” VS “Avg. Time On Site”
The Length of Visit report categorizes visits according to the amount of time spent on the site during the visit.
The graph allows you to visualize the entire distribution of visits instead of simply the ‘Average Time on Site’ across all visits.
You can see whether a few visits are skewing your ‘Average Time on Site’ upward or downward.
The Length of Visit report can be found under Visitor Loyalty in the Visitors section.
Traffic Sources Reports
The reports in the Traffic Sources section show you where your traffic is coming from on the internet.
You can compare your traffic sources against each other to find out which sources send you the highest quality traffic.
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