Once you start getting in Google Analytics data, you can start learning about your website traffic. Each time you log in to Google Analytics, you will be taken to your Audience Overview report. Alternatively, if you have more than one website, you will be taken to your list of websites to choose from, and then taken to the Audience Overview report for that website. This is the first of over 50 reports that are available to you in Google Analytics. You can also access these reports by clicking on the Reporting link at the top.
Standard report features
Most of the standard reports within Google Analytics will look similar to this. At the top right, you can click on the drop-down arrow next to your website to switch to different websites within all of your Google Analytics accounts. Or you can click the Home link at the top.
In the report at the top right, you can click on the dates to change the date range of the data you are viewing. You can also check the Compare box to compare your data from one date range (such as this month) to a previous date range (such as last month) to view your data.
You can hover over a variety of areas on your Google Analytics reports to get more information. For example, in the Audience Overview, hovering over the line on the graph will give you the number of sessions for a particular day. Hovering over the metrics beneath the graph will tell you what each one means.
Beneath the main metrics, you will see reports that you can switch through to see the top ten languages, countries, cities, browsers, operating systems, services providers, and screen resolutions of your visitors.
You can click the full report link on each to see the full reports. Or you can click on any of the top ten links to see more details. For example, clicking on the United States in Countries will take you to the full Location report, focused in on visitors from states within the US.
In this view, you can hover over each state to see the number of visitors from that state. You can scroll down to the table and hover over each column name to learn more about each metric.
You can also click on the name of each state to see visitors from cities within the state. Effectively, any time you see a clickable link or a ? next to something, you can click on it or hover over it to learn more. The deeper you dive into your analytics, the more interesting information you will find.
Types of Google Analytics reports
Speaking of reports, here is quick summary of what you will find in each of the standard Google Analytics reporting sections, accessible in the left sidebar.
Everything in (parenthesis) is a specific report or set of reports within the following sections that you can refer to.
These reports tell you everything you want to know about your visitors. In them, you will find detailed reports for your visitors’ age and gender (Demographics), what their general interests are (Interests), where they come from (Geo > Location) and what language they speak (Geo > Language), how often they visit your website (Behavior), and the technology they use to view your website (Technology and Mobile).
These reports will tell you everything you want to know about what drove visitors to your website (All Traffic). You will see your traffic broken down by main categories (All Traffic > Channels) and specific sources (All Traffic > Source/Medium).
You can learn everything about traffic from social networks (Social). You can also connect Google Analytics to AdWords to learn more about PPC campaigns and to Google Webmaster Tools / Search Console to learn more about search traffic (Search Engine Optimization)
These reports will tell you everything you want to know about your content. Particularly, the top pages on your website (Site Content > All Pages), the top entry pages on your website (Site Content > Landing Pages), and the top exit pages on your website (Site Content > Exit Pages).
If you set up Site Search, you will be able to see what terms are searched for (Site Search > Search Terms) and the pages they are searched upon (Site Search > Pages).
You can also learn how fast your website loads (Site Speed) as well as find specific suggestions from Google on how to make your website faster (Site Speed > Speed Suggestions).
If you set up Goals within your Google Analytics, you can see how many conversions your website has received (Goals > Overview) and what URLs they happened upon (Goals > Goal URLs). You can also see the path that visitors took to complete the conversion (Goals > Reverse Goal Path).
Speaking of goals and conversions, most of the tables within Google Analytics standard reports will tie specific data to your conversions. For example, you can see the number of conversions made by visitors from California in the Audience > Geo > Location report. You can see the number of conversions made by visitors from Facebook in the Acquisitions > All Traffic > Source/Medium report. You can see the number of conversions made by visitors who landed on specific pages in the Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages report.
If you have multiple goals, you can use the dropdown at the top of that section of data to switch to the goal you want to view or all of your goals if you prefer.
Shortcuts and emails
While you won’t need every report within Google Analytics, you should explore them all to see what they have to offer. When you find some that you want to visit again and again, use the Shortcut link at the top of the report to add them to the Shortcuts in your left sidebar for faster access.
Or, use the email button to have them emailed to you (or others on your team) on a regular basis.
If you choose to send emails to someone outside of your organization, be sure to regularly check your emails by going to your Admin menu and clicking on the Scheduled Emails box under the View column to ensure only people working with your company are getting your data.
Answers to common questions about Google Analytics
Got a few questions? Here are some of the common ones that come up with Google Analytics.
How do I share my Google Analytics data with someone?
You don’t have to give your Google account information over to someone who needs access to your Google Analytics data. You just need to go to your Admin menu and under the Account, Property (website) or View you want someone to see, click the User Management menu.
From there, you can add the email address of anyone you would like to view your Google Analytics data and choose the permissions you would like them to have.
I don’t like viewing the reports in Google Analytics. Can someone just summarize the data for me?
Yes! Quill Engage is a service that will take your Google Analytics data and summarize it in an easy-to-read report for you. Best of all, it’s free for up to ten profiles (websites).
I have a dozen websites, and I don’t want to check each of their Google Analytics on a daily basis. What do I do?
You have two options in this scenario. You start by going to the Home screen of Google Analytics. There, you will find a listing of all your websites and an overview of the top metrics—sessions, average session duration, bounce rate, and conversion rate.
You can also try business dashboard solutions like Cyfe. For $19 a month, you can create unlimited dashboards with unlimited widgets, including a large selection of data from Google Analytics, alongside data from your social media networks, keyword rankings, Moz stats, and more.
This solution significantly cuts down on the time spent looking at analytics across the board for your entire business.
Google Analytics says that 90%+ of my organic keywords are (not provided). Where can I find that information?
(not provided) is Google’s way of protecting search engine user’s privacy by hiding the keywords they use to discover your website in search results. Tools like Google Webmaster Tools (now Search Console, free), Authority Lab’s Now Provided Reports (paid), and Hittail (paid) can all help you uncover some of those keywords.
They won’t be linked to your conversions or other Google Analytics data, but at least you will have some clue what keywords searchers are using to find your website.
How do I use Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments?
If you’re ready to move to the next level in Google Analytics, Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments are the way to go.
Custom Reports (under the Customization menu at the top) allow you to create reports that look similar to the standard Google Analytics reports with the metrics you want to view.
Dashboards allow you to view your Google Analytics data in a dashboard format. You can access them at the top of the left sidebar.
Segments allow you to view all of your Google Analytics data based on a specific dimension, such as all of your Google Analytics data based on visitors from the United States. You can also use them to compare up to four segments of data, such as United States versus United Kingdom traffic, search versus social traffic, mobile versus desktop traffic, and more. You can access Segments in each of your reports.
The nice part about these is that you don’t have to create them from scratch. You can start by using pre-defined Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments from the Google Solutions Gallery.
There, you will find lots of Custom Reports, Dashboards, Segments, and other solutions that you can import into your Google Analytics and edit to fit your needs. Edit Custom Reports with the Edit button at the top.
Edit Dashboards using the Add Widget or Customize Dashboard buttons at the top.
Edit Segments by clicking the Action button inside the Segments selector box and choosing Edit.
Or, when you have applied Segments to your reports, use the drop-down arrow at the top right to find the Edit option.
As you get used to editing Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments, you will get more familiar with the way each works so you can create new ones on your own.