Metrics That Matter – Part I

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For website analysis, Google Analytics has proven to be one of the best tools for tracking your progress. Available metrics allow you to track where your audience is coming from, how many are interacting with your site, the pages they enter and exit from, and much more – all easily accessible, downloadable, and presentable. What more could you ask?

Well, how about some clarification?

You may have a multitude of metrics available to you, but understanding which are most relevant is a struggle for many. Here are some fundamental audience and behavior metrics that can help you glean better insights:

Users

When looking at the ‘Audience’ tab, the default metric that is shown is Users – which can be defined as those who have initiated at least one session during the specified date range. Anyone who has visited your site will fall into this category, with those who have never been to your site denoted as New Users. Keep in mind that Google Analytics assigns a unique identifier that attaches to each individual that visits your site. So, if an individual deletes their cookies or does not allow them to be stored, they will register as a New User each time they visit your site.

Sessions

Session is the period time a user is actively engaged with your website, app, etc. All usage data (Screen Views, Events, Ecommerce, etc.) is associated with a session. What make the Sessions metric so important is that users must be actively engaged. Sessions end automatically after 30 minutes if a user is not active on the page, which happens often. Many people open multiple pages at once and often forget where they started their journey. Sessions also automatically end at midnight, as well. So, if someone signs on at 11:45pm and is active with your site past 12am, that will count as two (2) Sessions. The importance of this metric, however, are the sub-metrics associated with it — specifically, Number of Sessions per User and Average Session Duration. The Number of Sessions per User shows us how many interactions (in the given period) has with a webpage. Average Sessions Duration hardly needs an explanation – but it gives us an idea of the level of engagement on each page.

Page Views

Quite possibly the most important visibility metric, Page Views are the total aggregate number of pages viewed, but it’s important to note that repeated views of a single page are included in this total. The numbers associated with Page Views will be the highest on your dashboard, but understanding how they differ from Sessions can be complicated. Here’s an example: Say I visit your website’s homepage, blog, contact page, – and then return to you homepage again. That would be counted as one Session and four Page Views.) In addition, sub-metrics associated with Page Views, including Pages per Session, can provide useful insights.

Bounce Rate

Bounce Rate is the percentage of single-page sessions in which there was no interaction with the page. Bounce Rate is analyzed across nearly all data on Google Analytics, but it can be tricky to understand the reasoning between high and low numbers. Ideally, you want to keep your Bounce Rate low – but it depends on the kind of page you’re tracking. For pages that are considered a “gateway” to other webpages, a low Bounce Rate is desired. For pages like blogs or event sign-up pages, a high Bounce Rate is perfectly normal because users tend to close their browser or move on to a different site after consuming the content.

Entrances

Entrances are important to note because it is the number of times visitors enter your site through a specified page. If you send out an email blast on a news feature or post an event to social media, those who click on your embedded link and are redirected to a specific page are considered Entrances. It serves as a great indicator of how well embedded links or outside posts are driving traffic back to specific pages.

Average Time on Page

This is essentially showing you user levels of engagement when viewing specific pages. If the average time spent is higher, you can assume that viewers took more time to examine your page and digest the content you’ve provided. If the figure is lower, this could mean a variety of things – users might know exactly where they need to go and click to a different page, they may have mis-clicked on your website and are backtracking, or maybe it’s an indicator that you need to improve the relevance of your content.

Exit Rate

Exit Rate indicates how often users exit from a specific page. Pages with the highest Exit Rates are those that users view last, which in turn could help you determine the best way to engage with your audience before they leave your site. High and low Exit Rates, like Bounce Rates, can be good or bad, depending on the objective of that specific page. For example, after a user combs through your website looking for something, they may visit your contact page, fill out the online form, and move on. In this case, a high Exit Rate is expected – but if there’s a high Exit Rate coming from your homepage, there’s probably something you can do to make your website more engaging.

Google Analytics provides marketers with the tools needed to display the effectiveness of campaigns. However, as many of us know, the language of Google can be a bit advance – especially for those who don’t spend a lot of time in the data science realm. Understanding what metrics are most important is key to putting the most relevant and compelling information in front of your audience.

Michael Shepherd

Michael serves as Managing Partner of The Shepherd Group, a brand and communications firm with offices in Seattle and Newport Beach. A former journalist, he specializes in building narratives through discovery, design, and development of branded editorial and visual content.

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