“Universal Analytics” inside Google Analytics, which this post is about no longer exists. We have an updated post related to the newer GA4. You can check it out here: GA4: Top 5 Google Analytics Metrics To Track When Starting Out
Google Analytics is a powerful tool to track website traffic. It doesn’t matter if you run a little blog or a work for company with a £50 million turnover. This behemoth has your back.
Starting your website is an exciting time. Have you created a WordPress site to start blogging, or as a place to show your portfolio? Are you selling digital products on Gumroad? Creating your own t-shirt designs and making them available to purchase on TeePublic? Dropping shipping using Shopify?
There are a million and one things you can do with your website. However, there is one constant when starting your website. You need to track visitors to your site to help you make informed decisions.
Google Analytics – The Main Man
This is where Google Analytics comes in. There are a raft of similar tools that help you track website traffic. Google Analytics is still the 500lb Gorilla. Plus, it’s free and its HUGE.
At my last count I think there was over 200 metrics that you can track using Google Analytics. As I said it’s huge. In my opinion this a positive and a negative. Eventually you may need all this information. Starting out online the last thing you want to be worrying about is funnels, conversion, bounce rates, goals, events (Argh, it still hurts my tiny mind and I’m mean’t to know what I’m doing).
When you are starting out you want to keep things simple and focus on creating content and driving traffic to your site. The last thing you need is the distraction of trying to process complex data. Analysis Paralysis, it can be grippling.
That is why I started Elementary Analytics. To keep things simple and help people focus on key information across different platforms. Hoping to help you make informed decisions and get back to growing you website or business.
Top 5 Google Analytics Metrics To Track
So, your website is up and running. It uses Google Analytics to track traffic. You have setup a Facebook Page and Twitter account. Using them to get people to your website.
“How do I know if my social media efforts and my blog posts are working?”
I have been involved in many websites over the years and I will share the 5 metrics I look at when starting to promote a new website. As long as the numbers are going in an upwards direction. For the first few months at least, I’m happy.
This may seem like a no brainer. “Of course I want to know how many page views I am getting”.
For me this is a quick stat to see if I have created enough engaging content over the last week. Has the overall number of page views in the past 7 days increased compared to the previous 7 days? If the answer is “Yes”. Great my marketing efforts are working.
If your site has been around for a good few months, but you haven’t done much in the way of promotion of new content. If page views are still going up it could be a sign that your SEO is good and have been creating “evergreen” content. Great work!
Unique Page Views
Unique page views are slightly different from page views. The official word from Google is “A unique pageview aggregates pageviews that are generated by the same user during the same session.” Eh! What’s that mean?” I hear you say.
If you visit this blog post for example and while you are reading the post you click ‘refresh’ 4 times. Google Analytics will record 5 page views. However, it will class this as 1 unique page view. The same user over the same web session has visited the same page multiple times. In terms unique page views, this equates to a single unique page view (I know I have lost you).
So, why is this metric important. For me it provides a more accurate view of the amount of traffic going to your site. If you have 500 page views over a week but only a handful of unique views. This shows that only a small number of people have visited your site and have been viewing the same content over and over in the same session.
When someone visits your website, Google Analytics starts recording what they call a session. As mentioned in the unique page views this lasts for a period of time. A session is ended if a visitor has been inactive on your site for 30 minutes.
Lets say someone views one of your blog posts. After a short while they decide to nip out for lunch, leaving your blog post open. After 30 minutes, Google Analytics knows they are away from the desk and ends the session.
When they return to their desk and begin reading the post again this will start a new session. Therefore, Google Analytics will record this as 2 sessions for that user, on that day.
Sessions can be used to interpret whether people are coming back to your site and engaging with your content again and again.
This is an interesting Google Analytics metric for me. Similar to sessions, however, when a user first visits your website, Google Analytics identifies this and keeps a record of this on the visitors browser.
Again, this can help you determine whether a person is revisiting your site and engaging with your content.
Or if you have shared a new blog post on Twitter and have a very high number of new users. This shows that your effort has worked and you have reached a host of new people.
I mentioned at the start of this blog post that you shouldn’t get too caught up in the more complex parts of Google Analytics. To contradict myself slightly, tracking goals on your site can be a very useful and a powerful metric to follow.
To give you an example. I’m a big football fan and I setup a small community website for football fans called Football Social Club.
I created a few landing pages which I used to promote the new community. I also reached out to friends to share the site with people who may find it interesting and something they want to get involved in.
Using Google Analytics I set up a goal. When someone visited the register page I wanted this to be tracked as a goal achieved on my website.
In the sites admin panel. I could easily see how many users where registered for the site. Comparing this to the goals completed within Google Analytics. I could see whether or not people who visit the register page, then completed the sign up process.
So, if the goals tally shows 120 people have viewed the register page and I have 100 users. I can see I am doing something right on the site. Converting visitors into users.
On the other hand if my goal count has hit 120 but the number of actual users is 5. I need to look into what is going on with my website. Something is going wrong as people aren’t signing up.
Depending on what you want to achieve with your website. Goal tracking may be irrelevant, or my example may not fit your needs. I wanted to demonstration how a simple metric can give you an insight into your traffic. Enabling you to make informed decisions.
If a future blog post I am going to discuss how to set up Google Analytics goals in more detail.
Viewing Your Top 5 Google Analytics Metrics
It can be a pain viewing all these metrics using the Google Analytics dashboard. Even more so, if, like me you have a couple of websites that you want to keep an eye. To see what the traffic is like in the early stages of promotion.
This was one of the reasons I started building Elementary Analytics. I wanted a cut down and very specific view of my Google Analytics metrics.
At the time I was reviewing traffic information for my personal blog, my portfolio website. A marketing site, admin site and two mobile apps for a start up I was involved with. As you can imagine it was a bit of a faff.
“Elementary” Or Simplified View Of Your Google Analytics Metrics
With our dashboard you can view your top 5 metrics on a single widget. Creating as many widgets as you need for the sites as you would like to view information for.
Below is a screenshot of the last 7 days stats for elementaryanalytics.com.
The widget gives a total for 4 metrics over the past seven days. These Google Analytics metrics are page views, sessions, users and goals.
There is also an indicator highlighting if a specific metric has increased or decreased compared to the previous seven days.
A graph breaks down the 5 key Google Analytics metrics by day. As you can see, day 5 for us was a good day in terms of page views. Although the first day was better for unique views.
There is also a slightly more detailed view if you click the ‘View more detail’ link within the widget.
The graph displayed is the same as the previous widget. However, our dashboard gives a breakdown for not only the last seven days. But stats for this month, last month and the last ninety days.
So you can easily see how your traffic is growing in the early days of your website.
There you have it. Elementary Analytics’ guide to the Top 5 Google Analytics metrics to track when you are starting out marketing your website.
I would love to hear your thoughts on which Google Analytics metrics to track and if you found this post useful.
We are always looking for people to use our service so we can gain feedback about how we can improve. If you would like to work closely with us to make our service the best it can be. Please drop me an email at mailto: [email protected]. I would love to work with you. We can offer extended trial period to people who can offer excellent insights to help us continually improve.
Thanks for reading.