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Got Analytics? A Users Guide For The Average Joe

Got Analytics MemeFrom time to time a client will come in who has never heard of Google Analytics. Chances are they don’t have it installed on their site either. Then there are those who have it and only look at how many people visit the site: down = bad and means they need to do “something”.

This guide is for the initiated and the uninitiated. If you’re a hardcore analytics user this isn’t for you but if you want to know where to look to find information you can take action on – keep reading. (You can learn how to open an account and install analytics if you don’t have one by following the link.)

Visitors and beyond

The average person is pretty chuffed that they can see how many people have visited their site on any given day. But we can get much deeper than that and give you some real data to get your hands dirty with.

Set Up Goals

Got a contact form or application form on your site? Selling products? If you have interactive elements that result in value for your business, you want to track those suckers. Using goal tracking is as simple as entering the URL of the thank you or success page that a visitor sees after they have completed the action. Google has a great guide to setting up goals as well as information on more advanced goal tracking techniques.

Using Dimension & Metrics Filters

Contrary to popular belief scientific research shows that using Analytics dimension and metrics filters isn’t scary, it’s actually fun and exciting!

Google Analytics dimension and metrics tools

Enough silliness, the D&M filters are easy to use, save time and provide you with far more useful data so don’t avoid them. I generally go for the Advanced D&M filter option so I can be sure of what I’m filtering. I won’t go into the details of how to use the filter as it’s fairly straight forward and I am more than happy to answer any questions about filtering in the comments section of the post.

Where’s that Juicy Data?

Google Analytics standard reporting tabFirst port of call and the one we’ll cover in this post is the “Standard Reporting” tab, from here we can navigate to 5 areas of site activity. Here’s a basic overview with some areas you might like to take a look at. Remember this is a post for a beginner who wants some actionable information to work with not a savvy data wielding analytics guru – but I digress:


Google Analytics Audience DataDemographic > Location: Find out where people are visiting down to the city they are in. This can help dispel myths about where your customers are coming from and help you find any issues for local businesses which allow you to optimise your site to better target your local area.

Mobile > Overview: Do you need a mobile site? This data can help you decide. It can also help you to find which pages get visited the most on mobile which can give you valuable insights into better optimising those pages for mobile users (click “secondary dimension” and type landing page then use the D&M filter to include mobile visits)

Visitor Flow: A great way to see the flow of traffic on your site at a glance. Learn which pages get the most attention and see if you can deduce any issues with those “Starting Pages” by looking at Drop offs and flow to “1st Interaction” pages. Try and map the path to conversions too. This will give you insights into weak points in your conversion funnel.

Traffic Sources

Google Analytics Traffic ReportSources > Referrals: Take a look at who is sending you visitors. Use this information to optimise any web presences that are out in Cyberspace.

Sources > Search > Organic: Find out which search terms are sending you traffic. This is a bit of an SEO 101 thing but you would be surprised which terms get you traffic. If you have your goals set up you can also sort the data by keywords that bring conversions which can help inform you which terms or topic area you should be optimising as a priority.

Social: If you want to understand how your social media efforts on Facebook, Twitter etc. are interacting with your site this is the place to get that information. There is a lot we could say about using this data so I’ll give one tip. When you post to Facebook, make an Annotation on your Analytics and compare traffic data from social sources – this will help show value and trends of social media activity and therefore help you to refine your actions on these services. Try experiments with social and use this data to see what’s most effective.


Google Analytics Content ReportSite Content > Exit Pages: Use this data to determine if you have some content that needs tweaking. If your contact page, location page or any pages which are logically “exit pages” are at the top of the list this is good. Pages that shouldn’t be exit pages at the top – you need to rework those pages to better answer people’s questions.

In-Page Analytics: Want to see what visitors click on in your webpage? In-Page Analytics is a very quick way to get a huge amount of useful data including:

  • Page/topic/category popularity
  • Page layout issues
  • Optimisation opportunities
  • much more …

Get in there and get your hands dirty

Okay so I skimped on the useful data list for the last item but the best way to use any of the tools in analytics is to jump in and get your hands dirty. Some other areas you want to dive into are:

  • Content > Events (very handy for tracking important site interactions)
  • Advertising (for use with Google AdWords)
  • Conversions

We’ll try and do some follow up posts that explore the above analytics areas in more detail but hopefully in the meantime after using Google Analytics and learning the ropes you’ll think of specific ways to use the data found in specific ways that benefit your site the most. In the end the tools are only as good as they hands they are in so get skilled with those hands.

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