I'm walking you step by step of all my favorite features of Google Analytics - from acquisition to audiences to behavior we are getting down to the nitty gritty.

GOOGLE ANALYTICS: The Beginners Guide + Workbook

Alright, ya’ll! This is going to be quite a long post, so do what you need to do – whether that’s grab a blanket, make some coffee (or both), but get settled in because we’re about to go on a crazy ride. Also, if you want this in a workbook and PDF format, make sure to grab my Google Analytics Beginners Guide Workbook here.

First things first: Here is the audio for this post if you choose to follow along with the Google Analytics Master View. I think it works better if you actually DOWNLOAD it (top right hand corner) instead of playing it from the browser. Also note, I totally get louder as the audio goes on 😝.

I LOVE Google Analytics. Like, love, love, LOVE! In fact, I may be a bit obsessed. That’s because they have so many great tools to use and there’s always something MORE to discover.

I see so many creatives who don’t talk about analytics ENOUGH and what it can do for your business. I get on Pinterest and all I see are a lot of the same blog posts – “5 ways to do this,” “7 ways to do that.” And although that’s fantastic and I love that everyone is sharing their ideas, WE NEED TO TALK MORE ABOUT ANALYTICS.

There are so many things you can do with Google Analytics and after some requests (and a nagging feeling that I just should), I decided I wanted to sit down and write up a lengthy review on some of the things you should be utilizing within GA. I feel like people think that it’s scary and intimidating (and it might very well be at first!), but the more you click around, the more you dig in, the more you learn what each thing does.

After you set up Google Analytics to your website, I recommend giving it about a month to do its thing – that way you have some really good data to work with initially.

Things I tend to look at the most: Audience Overview (Audience Tab), New vs. Returning Users (Audience Tab)Acquisition Overview (Acquisition), Source/Medium (Acquisition), and Behavior Flow (Behavior).

I’ll go over each of these things in great detail using the GA sample stats (but I’ll refer to them as my own just to make it easier).  If you want to follow along you can access the Google Analytics Demo account here. The dates I will be using are from August 1, 2015 – August 30, 2015. You can change the dates in the top right hand corner of the screen underneath the Audience > Overview section. Please feel free to click on any photo to enlarge it. Now let’s get into the good stuff!

Standard Overview

Once you get set up with your own GA account, you will be greeted each time with a standard overview of your stats. What you’re seeing now on the first page are my stats from the last 7 days, including my acquisition (that’s traffic channel, source/medium/and referrals), live users (that’s users who are currently on your website right now), which country they mostly come from, my sessions, revenue, conversion rate, and what time my users are most likely to visit throughout the day.

On the second screen, you’ll see the pages my users visit most, how my active users are doing (this is recurring users), and where they are coming from (what device).

The third screen goes into detail on how well I retain users, goal performance, what my top selling products are and how well my AdWords are doing.

Audience Overview

Alright, so here’s the Audience Overview. What I’m focusing on here are the users that come to my website. I can track them by day, week, month, or even hourly. The blue and green piechart shows me the percentages of my new vs. returning users. When Google talks about a session, they’re talking about whatever a user is doing on my website. For example, if someone comes onto my website, reads the about page, reads about my services, signs up for my e-mail list and then exits my website, that counts as one single session. GA also counts it as a session if a user is inactive on my website for 30 minutes.

That being said, I can see that the average number of sessions per user is 1.25 – that means users spent an average of 1.25 sessions on my website and they spent their time going through 7.26 pages of my website within a session (or the average number of pages viewed during one single session). I can also see that 2 minutes and 38 seconds was the average session duration for each user who came to my website. Make sense?

Do you see what it says bounce rate? This tells me that someone came to my page and then left without any other interaction. The goal is to keep it low – I want people to click on my website and get some value and use out of it, not just abandon it as soon as they enter! Use this as a guide. Last but not least, I also have language demographics and systems on the left.

New Vs. Returning Users

I’ll find the New vs. Returning Users under the Audience > Behavior tab. This is more in depth information about my users than we saw on the previous page. This gives me stats such as how much of my users are old vs. new ones, how much of my bounce rate is caused by new vs old users, and even average session duration. As you can see, returning visitors are staying longer than new visitors and they are also contributing to 79% of my annual revenue whereas new visitors only contribute to 20%. Good things to keep in mind!

If I’m interested in seeing more info like, for example, the age or social network where they originated, I would choose the drop-down menu on the left where it says secondary dimension and choose my option.

I choose age and now I can see a breakdown of the users, the average time they’re spending on my website, they’re average sessions and they’re average bounce rate per age group for new vs. returning users.

Or maybe I want to add a secondary dimension of “social network.”

Now I can see things like new visitors that came from Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube as well as returning visitors coming from the same platforms. This is great to know because since my stats on new visitors from YouTube are pretty high I could create stronger content or a landing page specifically for those users who come from YouTube.

Acquisition Overview

The Acquisition Overview page shows a pretty in-depth view of where my traffic is coming from. Let’s go over these:

ORGANIC SEARCH: This refers to users who came to my website using Google or another relevant search engine

SOCIAL: This refers to users who came to my website from a social network

DIRECT:  Users who came to my website directly (by typing in the URL)

REFERRAL: Users who came to my website from someone who had my link on their website

GENERIC PAID SEARCH: So search engine spiders make guesses on which keywords are “brand terms” or non-brand terms (i.e. “generic”), based on things like domain names and CTR (click-through rate). The terms that are not brand terms fall under this category.

DISPLAY: I would start seeing this category once I start running display campaigns (i.e. AdWords). This comes with running a display pay per click ad campaign.

OTHER PAID SEARCH: This refers to campaigns that are not display campaigns.

BRANDED PAID SEARCH: The terms that the spiders from above determine that are “brand terms.”

OTHER: This refers to the parameters for custom campaign tracking

EMAIL: This is the traffic that was from links in e-mails

As you can see, a lot of my (Google’s) traffic came from organic search. If I were to click on any of the links, it would bring up more information such as keywords, behavior, conversions, and acquisition. Again, I could add a secondary dimension to break down the data even more.


 Source/medium (located under Acquisition > All Traffic) is probably my favorite GA option because it shows you directly where all your traffic is coming from.

Taking a look at the data above, we can tell that I (again, Google since we’re using their Master View Demo) get my traffic organically from the Google search engine. This means that I’m not using a CPC (Cost-per-click) program such as Google AdWords to drive traffic to my site. If I click on the 1. google/organic I’m able to see the stats that we’ve talked about before such as new vs. returning users.

I’m going to click on my fifth driving traffic source which is “google/cpc” and add a secondary diminsion of “age (under users)” because I want to see the age group that’s taking advantage of my CPC program.

Here we can see that the age group of 25-34 are taking advantage of my CPC ads the most. This is good to keep in mind for future ads that I want to create that are targeted towards this age group. We can also see that the 35-44 age group is close behind so we can alter our display ads to fit their wants and needs if that’s what we choose to do.

Behavior Flow

The behavior flow chart takes a bit of practice to read, but it’s one of the best tools (in my opinion) in Google Analytics, so stick with me! Essentially, this report will show you from which users came, what they were doing, and where they left. It gives you an EXACT MAP of the users from where they came onto your site.

But first, a quick breakdown of the nodes. Nodes are the “points in which traffic flows.” The green nodes are pages, blue nodes represent an event (like a download or a video play), and the white nodes are for dimensions. The “landing page” view isn’t ideal for me so I usually change the view to “medium,” which tells me where the traffic came from:

Once I change the view to “medium” it gives me a traffic map starting from the source (organic, cpc, youtube) – that’s the white node, or the dimension node. The light blue/grey paths are the “connection” paths and that signifies the volume of traffic.

 If I hover over the connection between organic and the (not set) starting pages, I can see that the organic traffic contributes to 35% of the total traffic (22k sessions). Not set indicates that there is no campaign associated with the session or that the tracking link is broken, as Google explains hereThis happens to be occurring on Googles analytics chart because the link is broken.

I’m going to switch over to the Aurora Social Media analytics so I can show you details since Google’s links are broken.

Starting pages: Are the pages from which a visitor searched your site

1st interaction: The first interaction on the path of conversion

Stay with me – we’re almost done!

If I hover over the first of my 1st interaction (which is my blog) I see that I have 458 through traffic sessions and 260 drop offs (which accounts for 36%). The goal is to decrease the drop off percentage and increase the through traffic!

My second of the 1st interactions is listed as “/.” If I click on it and go to GROUP DETAILS I can see more specifics.

As you can see, these are links to my different blog posts, and my SEO post has the least amount of drop offs with the most amount of traffic. You want to use this as a guide to improve your content. I will probably need to go into these posts and refresh them a little bit and make them more engaging. Things to keep in mind!

Also, another good thing to keep in mind are the orange paths in the chart. Those are the drop off paths, which will give you a good indication on where you need to improve. You can actually add “steps” to this chart to see more of the conversion path. The more steps you add the less of those drop off paths you will see.

Phew! Okay, I know that was a lot, but good information right? Take some time to digest this, maybe click around on the Google Demo account, see if you can discover some more tools you can use. What’s your favorite tool that I mentioned from above?

Don’t forget to grab the workbook here!

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