Where should I start?
- The key to getting the most out of Google Analytics is to define measurable goals for your website. Do you want your users to explore different pages on your website (more than 3 pages/visit), or do you want users to read all the information on a page (visit duration greater than 3 minutes)? It is difficult to say, “people should spend x amount of time” or “that the bounce rate should be below y” on any given site, without first knowing the purpose of the site.
What should I be looking for?
- Look for patterns and trends over time, and then look for inconsistencies in these trends. Because our sites are academic, we expect patterns to be more consistent year to year, and not month to month. For this reason, when comparing date ranges it is best to select compare to previous year.
- In the table of data, Google Analytics reports the average of each column in the top row. Look for data that stray far from these averages. If the number strays, find aspects that you think are helping/hurting the performance of that attribute compared to other attributes.
- For instance, compare mobile usage under Audience > Mobile > Overview. Notice mobile and tablet have a 20% higher bounce rate than desktop. This could be caused by a site that is not accommodating to smaller screens. Below is an example of a Google Analytics report that exhibits this scenario.
Note: It is important to remember that common indicators of good or bad performance are just that: indicators. For example, a site that has a high bounce rate, which is generally considered a bad indicator, could be a result of users finding the information they are looking for on their landing page.
Is my site performing well/poorly?
Under Audience > Overview compare the last 30 days to the previous year (or previous period if you think it is more appropriate). You can view definitions of all the important Audience sub-reports on our Audience reports post.
Signs that a site may be performing well include:
Is a page performing well/poorly?
Under Behavior > Site Content > All Pages compare the last 30 days to the previous year.
Signs that a page may be performing well include:
- High page views
- Low bounce rate
- Reasonable time on page
The following page has a high percentage of page views and a high bounce rate compared to average, but also has a higher average time on page. This says that users might be reading the information on the site, assuming it takes about four minutes to read, and then leaving the site. In this case, the high bounce rate might not be bad if users are finding what they are looking for.
For more information, our Behavior reports post has a breakdown of the different sub-reports within the Behavior heading.
Where are users reaching my site from?
You can find where users are coming to your site from by going to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium. For more information on medium definitions see Channels on the Acquisition Report.
Where are users reaching a specific page of my site from?
If you have a specific page you want to see how users are getting to, you can apply a segment. Start at Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium. Near the top of the Source/Medium report, there is a button above the graph that reads Add Segment. Click on it, and you should see something similar to this picture
Click on the Red button in the top left that reads NEW SEGMENT. Then create your segment as follows
- Title your segment
- Click on conditions under advanced
- Change the filter type to landing page
- Type in the end of the URL of the page you are inquiring about
- Save your segment
The resulting table will display the source and medium for all sessions that started on the page you entered in step 4.
What page are users leaving my site from?
There are two places to find where users are leaving your site from. First, is under Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages. It is important to not look only at the number of Exits, but also the number of page views or % exits.
The second place to look is under Behavior > Behavior Flow. It should automatically group by landing page. This shows the flow of users throughout your site. The red displays the drop offs from each point in the users’ journeys as seen below.
Are the most important pages being accessed?
This question goes back to the question of, “where should I start?” Have a list of what you think should be the top visited pages of your site. Then, in Google Analytics go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. If an important page is not listed in the top 10 results you can search for it in the search bar above the table to see how many page views it received during the time period selected.
How do I know what is normal?
Go to Audience > Benchmarking > Channels/Location/Devices. The top row displays your information compared to Benchmarked websites in the same industry category. If you do not have benchmarking enabled, follow the link that reads update your data sharing settings and check the box next to benchmarking. Be sure to save your updates.