5 Google Analytics Tips for Beginners
At Forthea, one of our core values is a drive for measurable results. Part of measuring those results involves looking at data collected about website visitors and their behavior. This data is known as analytics, and the de facto standard for measuring and analyzing this data is Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is packed to the brim with useful insights. Everyone from complete beginners to industry experts can find actionable data by using this tool. And the best part? Google Analytics is completely free.
There are so many nooks and crannies in this tool that it’s easy to become overwhelmed. But have no fear! We’re here to guide you through five tips even absolute beginners can use to get started on their journey into the world of analytics.
Tip #1: Explore the left-hand side menu
The Home page
When you open the Analytics website, you’ll start out on the Home tab by default. This is where you can get a quick glance at key statistics about site usage.
Unsurprisingly, the Google Analytics Help website best summarizes the Home section:
“The Home page is a summary of your site’s vital signs. You can use it simply as a health monitor and check the page periodically to see if everything is behaving as expected.”
If you ever find yourself lost deep in the jungle of data that is Google Analytics, you can always click on the Home button to bring you back to where you started!
This is a more advanced section that we won’t focus on for now. But once you’ve honed your skills as an Analytics Jedi, this is where you’d come to create custom reports and custom dashboards to get a quick glance at the precise information that’s relevant to you.
In this section, you will find information about your site’s visitors updated in – you guessed it! – real time. Once the visitors start pouring in, you can get a glimpse into the number of pageviews per second, where in the world they’re browsing from, and several other key data points
The Audience Section gives you in-depth data about the people visiting your site. This is where you’d go to view information about your audience’s demographics, their languages and locations, the devices they’re using to access your site, and even the path they take through your site from the first page they land on to the last.
How are people arriving at your website? The Acquisition section has a variety of reports that will tell you just that. Here you can view how many people find you through organic search, paid search ads, social media, and more.
The Behavior section has a bit of a misleading title, because it deals primarily with the content on your site. You can get an overview of the top landing pages, check out how quickly your pages are loading, and even view what people are searching for within your site.
This section is also beyond the scope of our beginner-level article, but it’s an important one to know about. Once you set up goals on your website, this is where you’d go to see how many times those goals are being met. These can be things like contact form submissions, video plays, and even clicks on your hyperlinked phone numbers.
The Discover section is a marketing channel of sorts where Google informs you of other related tools and resources that you might find useful. This is where you’ll find links to their mobile Analytics app, the Analytics Help Center, and other tools such as Google Optimize (for A/B testing) and Google Tag Manager (which allows you to consolidate numerous scripts, such as Analytics, into one convenient tag).
The admin section is where you’ll go if you ever want to add another account or property (such as another website). If you need to add a user to your account or set up goals, you can do that here. You can also create custom views that allow you to home in on only the data that is most relevant to you – but that’s a topic for another article!
Tip #2: Experiment with the Google Merchandise Store demo account
Google has made its Merchandise Store Analytics account available for your experimenting pleasure. What’s so cool about this account is it’s an actual, working Analytics account with real-time data that is updated live. This is an awesome resource for those who have just installed Google Analytics on their site and have little (or no) data to view.
Visit Google’s demo account page and follow the instructions to get set up. Once you’re done exploring, you can follow the instructions on the same page to remove yourself from their account.
Tip #3: See how fast your pages are loading
There are millions of web pages out there for users to view when they’re trying to find an answer to their search query. Research shows that after 3 seconds, many searchers will leave your site without checking out any additional pages – perhaps without even looking at your content at all. There are simply too many other options available for them to wait.
This is especially true on mobile, where data speeds still tend to lag behind wired and wi-fi. Google started using mobile speed as a ranking factor in July 2018. And Google has been evaluating desktop page load speeds for nearly a decade now, so your site performance is deserving of attention.
Google Analytics makes it easy for you to get a quick view of how quickly the pages on your website are loading. You can find this report Under Behavior→Site Speed→Overview in the left hand menu.
As you can see from the screenshot above, the Overview report will display data about the average page load time, speed based on what browser your visitors are accessing the site with, and a graph showing you how the average load time stacks up across the past week (by default).
Tip #4: Gain insights into your data with Analytics Intelligence
In 2017, Google added a feature called Analytics Intelligence that offers automated insights and recommendations for your site’s analytics backed by a machine learning model. This is an outstanding tool for beginners, because it helps you connect the dots between different data points. You may find that it sparks your creativity, inspiring you to combine data in unique ways to derive your own custom insights that are most relevant to your business!
The quickest route to Analytics Intelligence is by way of the search bar at the top of every page.
When you click the search bar, it will expand to reveal several different sections. Below the “Recently Browsed Reports” listed, you’ll find a section called “Insights.” Google will provide links to a handful of reports it thinks you might find useful, or you can type your own question into the search bar (as you can see above, we recently searched this property to determine which day of the week has the most traffic).
Not sure what questions you can ask? Click the blue “What questions can I ask?” link in the Insights section. We’ve provided a screenshot below that gives you an overview of the different topic buckets that Analytics Intelligence provides insights for.
Tip #5: Complete the free Google Analytics for Beginners course
If you want to gain a solid understanding of how Google Analytics works, Google offers a free online course. It’s called Google Analytics for Beginners, and it contains a mixture of videos and interactive exercises that walk you through the essential concepts you need to know to be successful with Google Analytics.
This is the tip that will carry you from complete newbie status to certified beginner – literally! You’ll get a certificate upon successful completion of the assessment at the end of the course. It’s printable, so you’re going to want to make sure you’ve got a nice frame lined up. You’ll be the envy of everyone within a three-foot radius.
Forthea Knows Analytics
Analytics is an indispensable tool for any marketer. That’s why Forthea employs multiple full-time analytics professionals who have built a career on getting to know tools such as Google Analytics from the inside out. Need professional help with your site’s analytics? Shoot us a message and we’ll make it happen.