How to use Google Analytics

September 12, 2013 | Online Strategy, Website Tips

Google AnalyticsLast week I attended a talk by Melinda Samson, a Google-qualified Analytics expert, on the basics of how to use Google Analytics. There was so much great information shared, so I thought I’d pass on a few little bits of wisdom that particularly stood out.

Getting started with Google Analytics

For those who’ve never looked at Google Analytics, it’s a free tool provided by Google to help track data about your website. To get started, you need to:

What data can I track in Google Analytics?

There’s so much information you can get from Google Analytics about your website, but some of the most essential information includes:

  • the number of visitors to your website
  • where your website visitors come from
  • how long people look at your website
  • what people click on.

What does bounce rate mean?

I’ve always had a very vague notion of what the bounce rate is, but Melinda cleared that all up for me last week. In very simple terms, the bounce rate is the percentage of visitors who come to your website and leave without clicking on anything. This could happen for any number of reasons, so a high bounce rate is not always cause for concern. It just depends on what the function of your website is. Here are a couple of reasons you might have a high bounce rate:

  • Your visitors didn’t find what they were looking for. This is, of course, not what you want for your website. It’s always worth taking a fresh look at your site from the perspective of your clients. What might they have been looking for? How can you make it easier for them to find?
  • Your visitors were looking for a contact phone number. They visited your website, they found it, and then they left. That’s a great result!
  • You’ve got a blog. People get linked to your blog, read it, and then leave again. That’s not such a bad result, but perhaps you could look at what you could do to encourage your visitors to explore the rest of your website.

One last thing

A surprising bit of information that I learnt at the talk was that not all visitors are tracked by google due to their cookie settings. The percentage of untracked visitors isn’t known, but Melinda estimates it could be around 10-20%.

Google Analytics requires cookies to capture data from your visitors, and many web users block these in their security settings. So the ratios will still be about right in your data, but the actual numbers may be a bit lower than what is actually happening. This is why you might see a discrepancy between some other tracking tools and Google Analytics. On the plus side, if your visitor numbers are really low in Google Analytics, you can take heart that they could be higher than what you’re seeing! That can only be good for the ego.


For more information on getting started with Google Analytics, take a look at Google’s Guide to Getting Started with Google Analytics.