Data is one of the most valuable assets businesses have in the online age. Tracking and analyzing website traffic information allows you to see what you’re doing right and where you can improve. Keeping up with this regularly means you can stay digitally relevant and change your approach to meet goals.

Of course, organizing and analyzing this data requires specific software. Fortunately, Google Analytics is a free app that’s easy to set up. In fact, approximately 50% of websites with analytic software are using Google Analytics. It has a range of options, including customizable reports, to help you personalize your dashboard.

Although the system is fairly user-friendly, it can be difficult to understand Google Analytics at first. This may be especially true for small business owners, who often singlehandedly fill roles that would be departments in larger organizations. However, you don’t need to be an expert to get the most out of this app. With a solid understanding of the basics and a little experience, you can make this amazing tool work for you.


Learning the Important Terms

The world of digital marketing has quite a bit of jargon, some of which you’ll need to learn to understand Google Analytics. These terms appear on the dashboard and in reports.

There are two types of terms you need to know. The first relate to the app itself: the names of different pages and resources that you’ll be using. Here are a few important ones:

  • Advanced Segments: These are more specific sets of data you can look at in detail.
  • Annotations: Annotations are notes you can leave on charts.
  • Dashboard: This describes a one-page view of your analytics. These are customizable and you can have more than one.
  • Event Tracking: This feature allows you to track a variety of user actions on your site.
  • Filters: You can narrow the data you’re looking at using filters to pull information based on criteria you set.
  • Inpage Analytics: This feature allows you to view your site and Google Analytics at the same time.
  • Intelligence Events: These are alerts to let you know of any unusual activity in your data, such as dips and spikes.
  • Variables: This describes a metric that Google Analytics doesn’t automatically record but you want to track.

The second type of term is specifically about SEO, site traffic and other metrics Google Analytics measures. Here are a few of the most commonly used ones:

  • Bounce Rate: This is when a site visitor leaves without taking any meaningful actions.
  • Engagement Rate: This describes how much time visitors spend on your website.
  • Visitor Flow: This term describes how users navigate through your website. Using Google Analytics allows you to see which pages users visit in what order.

As you continue using Google Analytics, this jargon should gradually become more familiar.


Navigating the Dashboard

One of the most challenging things for beginners is navigating Google Analytics. This means knowing where to click to get the information you need. While this gets easier with time, it can be frustrating to get lost in the app at first. To better understand Google Analytics, you should spend some time getting to know the different pages.

The first thing to familiarize yourself with are the tabs at the top of the screen. There are four of them, each of which takes you to a different page:

  • Home: This is the first page you’ll see when you open Google Analytics. It includes shortcuts to different reports, as well as data for the past seven days.
  • Reporting: You can select this tab to access data and generate reports.
  • Customization: This may be the most important tab because it allows you to customize reports, dashboards, alerts and more.
  • Admin: You can manage your account on this tab. This includes setting goals, changing account settings and updating business and property information.


Looking at Data

Navigation and jargon are things you can pick up as you go without risk to your business. Understanding the data is a different story.

To understand Google Analytics, you have to get used to reading reports. These generally take the form of charts and graphs. Each report focuses on a different aspect of website metrics:

  • Acquisition: This report breaks down traffic sources into percentages.
  • Audience: Here you can learn more about site visitors. This includes what devices they use to access your website, when traffic is heaviest and where visitors are geographically located.
  • Behavior: You can see how often visitors view each page and the page’s relative monetary value.
  • Bounce Rates: Here you can pinpoint spikes and dips in the bounce rate.
  • Conversions: With this report, you can see conversion rates and paths users take. You’ll need to set up Goals on the Admin tab in order to view this information.
  • Exit Pages: An “exit page” is where on the site visitors decide to leave. Combined with bounce rates, you can figure out what’s causing users to exit your site.
  • Traffic: This report shows the different places your traffic comes from. You can compare different sources on different days.

All of these reports have important information, but which you view most often depends on your goals. The beauty of using Google Analytics is that the data is here for you to reference at any time.


Generating Custom Reports

So you don’t have to wade through so much data when using Google Analytics, you can generate custom reports. Because these include metrics you specify, they’re a great tool to measure new marketing effectiveness. To generate a custom report, follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Customization tab. Alternatively, you can click on the Customization button on the Home tab. It’s located on the left-hand side, under the Home button and above Reports.
  2. Click Custom Reports, then +New Custom Report.
  3. Type in the title box to name your report.
  4. Click the +Add Report Tab to add a tab to your report. Add as many as you need.
  5. Choose your report type from the following: Funnel, Map Overlay, Flat Table or Explorer.
  6. Choose your metrics and dimensions.
  7. To add a filter, click +Add Filter. This step is optional.
  8. You can also choose which views this report appears in.
  9. Press the Save button.

You can also create custom Google Analytics dashboards to organize reports. The process is similar:

  1. Access the Customization tab. Select Dashboards.
  2. Press the Create button.
  3. You can either start with the Starter Dashboard, which has a default set of widgets, or Blank Canvas, which has none.
  4. Type in a title, then press Create Dashboard.
  5. Add widgets to your Dashboard.
  6. You can also add Segments if you wish.
  7. Click Customize Dashboard and move widgets to your liking.

While this process can be time-consuming, it may be worth it to help you understand Google Analytics. If you have all the information you need on one page, you can save a lot of time and effort.


Now what?

Now that you understand Google Analytics, it’s time to put that knowledge to good use with a marketing partner. Boostability can help you pull in more customers with personalized digital marketing strategies. Using Google Analytics and Boostability’s professional online techniques, you can reach your business goals. To learn more, contact the Boostability team at (800) 261-1537 or go online.