Google Analytics offers a lot of useful data. It can help you understand how your campaigns are performing and gain insights about your clients and website performance.
It can be confusing to navigate all the reports and metrics for business owners who do not specialize in digital marketing. Below we will try to help you make sense of the numbers by providing a breakdown of some of the more useful metrics in the Google Analytics Audience Overview Report
Audience Overview Report in Google Analytics
Audience Overview is one of the most common reports to view in Google Analytics. It provides information about your visitors such as age, gender, interests and how they interact with your website. In simple terms, this report is a basic look at the traffic to your website.
This metric represents the number of visitors for the specified time period. It is an important metric as it can help you identify potential problems with your site or campaigns. But you should not obsess over it. A lot of visitors does not necessarily mean a lot of sales!
The number of visitors that have not visited your site before. It is an estimate as some users may have used a different browser or might have cleared their cookies since their last visit. If it is declining over a long time you may need to adjust your efforts to bring more new potential clients.
When someone visits your site within the past two years and returns from the same device and browser and has not cleared their cookies, they are marked as a Returning Visitor. If more than two years have passed then they will be counted as a New Visitor again.
This metric represents the number of visits within the specified date range. The difference between users and sessions is that one user can have multiple sessions. If a user visits your site, then closes the browser and later comes back it will count as one user and two sessions. Each session lasts 30 minutes so if a user leaves your site open for more than 30 minutes and later starts browsing it again you will get two sessions.
Number of Sessions per User:
This metric represents the average number of times users visit your site. Generally a value of more than 1 is better but a low number does not necessarily indicate a problem. If your site is well designed and users get what they need in a single session then all is good. However if your returning customers are more valuable for your business then you must take measures to increase this metric.
Pages per Session:
The average number of pages a user sees per visit. As with sessions per user it is not necessarily bad if it is low. Think about how many pages visitors need to see before they convert and judge the values based on that. A large number can indicate a difficult conversion path for your customers.
This metric represents the percentage of sessions that ended with only one pageview. If a user visits a page and then leaves without visiting a second page of your website, it counts as a bounce.
Interpreting bounce rate can be tricky. It is also hard to describe a good bounce rate as it depends on the specific page.
If you have a page designed to guide visitors to visit another page such as the add to cart page or contact us page, you should try not to have a high bounce rate.
If you bring people to a page designed for them to enter their contact details then a high bounce rate does not tell you much about the quality of that page.
If there is a big difference in bounce rates between a desktop version of a page and a mobile version of the same page, then you might want to look into it and make adjustments to the version which is lagging behind.
Average Session Duration:
The average session duration is not a very useful metric as it is heavily influenced by extreme values. Firstly, all bounced visits do not count. Basically even if a visitor reads all the page content but decides to leave without going to another page the session will not be used to calculate the average session duration. On the other end, if a visitor browses your website and decides to leave it open and go have coffee for example, the session will count up to 30 minutes which will increase the average artificially. We would recommend not to lose sleep over this metric.
What to do with the information from the Audience Overview Report
As a business owner you need to keep in mind that the Audience Report gives you only a basic snapshot of your traffic. You should not obsess over any of these metrics. Every business has cycles so do not panic if you don’t see the number of sessions or visitors constantly rising. Most likely you will have certain days of the week with a peak in sessions or months where your visitors drop. These aren’t necessarily problems. It’s all just information that you can gather, monitor, and use to make better decisions.
While there are many other metrics in the Audience Report such as language, browser, operating system, location, etc, most business owners would not need to spend that much attention to them on a regular basis. These insights should be monitored and interpreted by the marketing team or agency working with the business as they can show some underlying issues. For example if you have a larger percentage of traffic coming from Internet Explorer but your site does not render well for that browser – that is something that can be improved upon! That being said we believe that generally the business owner’s time can be better spent with other more important tasks.
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