I often see people too daunted by the wall of data to use Google Analytics with confidence.

For this reason I have decided to summarise the key things to look for to help you to understand, at a beginners level, some of the most important things that are happening in your website.

This is a short guide to the very basic features of Google Analytics.

Every website has different objectives and every marketer will want to know different things to confirm or improve their digital marketing performance. However there is a pattern of very basic things you need to know about your website and these are highlighted below.

Each of the links identified, can be found in the left column when you log into your Google Analytics account. You will use the left column to move between analytics that report on your website audience (Audience), where they came to your site from (Acquisition) and what they did as they moved through your website pages (Behaviour).

This is a set dashboard of the main analytics that Google thinks you will find most interesting. When you are experienced and know what data is your favourite or most useful you will be able to create a custom dashboard instead of relying on the default. For now, this is your starting point.

Forget this for now as customisation is something you will probably want to do when you have a few months of experience of the reports you are seeing and when you know which ones are most interesting and your favourites. You may want to leave this exploration until you are familiar with the following more important base analytics.

Forget this tab for now as it’s a distraction and will be interesting if you are running short term, incentivised campaigns or special offers, or an e-commerce website where you are able to respond in real-time to your customers’ interactions.

Overview – Firstly go to the top right corner the screen and adjust the date range so that you see reports that reflect the time span you are interested in knowing about. When set, this time span will now apply to all the reports below, until you reset this range, which you can do from any other report.
Geo – Location – This link will show you the countries and cities where your visitors have come from.
Users Flow – This shows you the click by click choices your visitors have made to move through your site. You can specify the user flow of visitors from specific countries or perhaps social networks by clicking the drop down menu in the first column, then click on your chosen country or social network and then select ‘view only this segment’. The user flow then shows only that subset of data. This can be useful to focus in on a region or campaign or social network where you may have been active in marketing.

Overview – This shows you an overview of where all of your visitors came from and is divided into
Direct (they put the website address into their browser because they already knew it), Organic Search (they used Google etc. to search for a website like yours), Social (they clicked a link from a post you did in social media), Email (they clicked a link from an email campaign), Referral (they followed a link on another website)
Social – Overview – If you are running social networks then this will give you a breakdown of the incoming visitors from each of your social media accounts. As with all of these reports, clicking on a specific row or using the drop down menus and filters at the top of graphs and tables, allows you to filter down to the next level of detail.

Overview – See which pages have been the most popular and the average time spent on pages. Importantly the bounce rate will identify any pages where there is a short dwell time (or maybe too long a dwell time), and where you can then make adjustments to your content.
Behaviour Flow – Similar to user flow but this time showing a page by page flow from the first page that visitors are landing on.
Site Content – All Pages – Learn which pages have the most appropriate/highest average time on the page and if any show a high proportion of exits, which mean that is the last page the visitor viewed. In most cases you should focus on your People pages and your Contact page, both of which should show you appropriate performance data from what you would expect, related to your desired customers’ journey. The Contact page should have a high exit rate because in theory it could be the final page in their website visit and reflect that they are now ready to make contact with you.

Forget this tab for now as it is more complicated than focusing only on the basic analytics but it will become useful when you set clear targets for the outcomes of visitors going to specific pages and performing defined actions

Inside this tab there are numerous demonstrations of new features, help areas and Data Studio, the new Google Analytics data visualisation features.

Here you can set up more functions and administer your account.

This guide is just the beginning of your Google Analytics journey.

Just remember before logging into the site that you should have a set of questions you wish to answer so that you don’t get lost in the billions of combinations of data you will see.

Finally, if you are reporting your website performance to others, remember to report intelligence (your interpretation of what the numbers mean to your business) than information (the raw numbers themselves) as this will aid decision making and be much more useful for everyone.

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