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Analytics – What is it and Why you NEED it! – Part Two - November 12, 2012

If you missed part one which details how you can set-up Google Analytics for your site then please go here to read it.

Now we have Google Analytics setup on our site. So the next step is learning how to read the information they give to us and what we can do with it. It will take Google up to 24 hours to start tracking your site. If you use a Content Distribution Network (CDN or also commonly called Cloud) hosting then you will want to purge the cache of the site (your developer or vendor can tell you how to do this) and ensure that all pages moving forward are up to date with your tracking code so all pages are tracked.

Go back to our Google Analytics home page here: https://www.google.com/analytics and sign back in. Once there you should see your site Listed under the Account Home page. There will be the name you used for your site listed in black and under that a link to the site analytics page. Click on that link and you should now see your site listed there. Click on the name of the site and you will re-directed to a Standard Reporting landing page. This is the default settings and as you become more comfortable you will be able to customize the reporting measurables you see.

By default the site will only show the daily information for a period of 30 calendar days. You will be greeted with information such as Visits, Unique Visitors, Pageviews, Pages / Visit, Avg. Visit Duration, Bounce Rate, and others. I am going to take a moment to define what those mean so that moving forward we understand what we are looking at.

  • Visits: the number of times your site has been visited. You can think of this number as the total number of times one of your web pages has loaded.
  • Unique Visitors: the number of unique visitors that have been to your site / pages.
  • Pageviews: the number of times a page has loaded on your site.
  • Pages / Visit: the average number of pages a user access when visiting your site.
  • Avg. Visit Duration: the average amount of time a user spends on your site.
  • Bounce Rate: the number of visitors that come to a page and stay for under a specific amount of time on any page and then leave your site entirely.
  • % New Visits: the number of visits that are new which means that a user has not accessed your site within a period of time (can be as much as 30 days).

Still with me? Great! Now some of these numbers will have different meanings to everyone so you will need to work with your Marketing Staff or Web Developer to come up with an idea of what you want your numbers to be and work towards reaching and then maintaining at least those numbers. Different sites will return different results.

For example if your site is designed to give information about a specific topic, such as a specific medical condition or mortgage information, you will see a higher number of new Visitors vs. someone who has a blog in place that provides information that updates weekly or daily. This is why it is important to understand what your site does and how visitors are using it.

To further illustrate what those numbers mean, if I go to your sites home page you will have one Unique Visitor (me), one Visit (me) and one Pageview (your homepage). If I then go to your homepage you will still have the same statics above for me except that now my Pageviews will be two. If I return to your site tomorrow and go to your home page again my numbers are one Unique Visitor, two visits (today and tomorrow), and three Pageviews(your homepage today and tomorrow; and your contact page). You can see how the numbers start to add up.

Some benchmarks I normally tell my clients is if they have an information site and have users visiting and going to 3-4 pages a visit and spending an average visit duration of about a minute they are doing fantastic. People tend to skim online and they can read a decent amount of content in a short period of time.

These numbers are all dependent on the cookie that is set by visiting the page so if a user cleans out their cookies, blocks cookies or even blocks JavaScript from running then they will not be counted or have their numbers offset from what their actual activity is. I am pointing this out to say that this will track MOST of your site activity and should be used as a guideline to what the normal visitor is doing but it will not track ALL of your activity.

In Part Three we will cover some elements more in-depth to explain what you can do, they will be roughly a post per section since there is a good deal of information to go over and detail.

You can move to part three by clicking here.