10 Ways To Use Google Analytics Like A Boss!

If you’ve ever had trouble setting up Google Analytics or deciphering what those myriad reports mean, this one’s for you!  You’re not alone in your Google Analytics struggles.

I’ve got the lovely Jenn from The Spare Room Project here to teach you the ins and outs of GA. Ps – she is an absolute GUN at this stuff! Thanks Jenn!

Google Analytics tips

Today We’re going to cover Google Analytics (GA) 101, so that you can join the GA party!  I know there’s a lot of information in the GA reports, so I’m going to break it down into easy bites and give you real-world examples that you can relate to.  Google tends to aim their tutorials towards bigger companies (how many of us here have any employees, much less an IT department?!), so if you’re a blogger, entrepreneur, or in any other way a jack-of-all-trades, I made this for YOU.

If you haven’t set up GA yet or want to make sure that you have it set up properly, I’ve got you covered on that too.  You can get the easy step-by-step instructions delivered straight to your inbox by filling out your details below.

GOOGLE ANALYTICS 101

The reports in GA can be a little overwhelming.  There are SO many of them!  Trust me, I feel your pain.  But I’m going to let you in on a little secret:

You can ignore some of them.

As a beginning GA user you do not need to use every single report available.  We’re going to focus on just TEN reports, which will give you all of the information you need to get going.  Feel a little bit better?  Awesome – let’s get started!

WHO IS YOUR AUDIENCE?

If you’re looking to up your marketing game, the Demographics reports can be your new best friends! Using this report can give you the information you need to know what your target audience should be, and when combined with other reports, it can form a full picture.  You can find your Demographics reports under Audience/Demographics.

1 Demographics

Once Demographics is activated (for some reason GA makes you manually activate Demographics tracking), include Age and Gender.  (If you don’t have Demographics activated yet, don’t forget to sign up for the easy step-by step instructions at the beginning of this post!)

Both Age and Gender can be very valuable data points!  Knowing that your audience is 75%  aged between 18-24 years old could tell you that focusing your efforts on Facebook outreach is probably a waste.  If, however, your audience is primarily 35-44 this could mean your focus on Facebook and Pinterest is well-warranted.  Conversely, if you don’t WANT your audience to be the same as what you have now, you’ll know to refocus your efforts elsewhere.

WHAT IS YOUR AUDIENCE INTERESTED IN?

The Interests category probably sounds pretty self-explanatory, right?  Well, sort of.  Within the Interests category are three types of interest reports.  You’ll find the Interest reports under Audience/Interests.

2 Interests

Possibly the most useful Interests report is the Other Category report.  While it sounds very vague, this can actually be the most valuable of the three Interests reports, if you use it correctly.  For example, it has shown me that the second largest segment in the Other Category report was people interested in Books & Literature, specifically Writers Resources. Since I wrote a NaNoWriMo series last year that still gets traction on Pinterest, I could use this information to decide if I want to upgrade that series, write more posts along that vein, or any number of other options!

Using the information in the Interests reports can help you find new audience segments that you haven’t intentionally reached out to yet.  It can show you where you can focus your marketing and outreach efforts.  If you get creative, you can find SO many ways to use these three simple reports to grow your blog or business!

WHERE IS YOUR AUDIENCE GOING ON YOUR SITE?

The Users Flow report is one of my favourites in the Audience tab!  It looks like a mess of spaghetti, but it’s a beautiful mess of spaghetti.  You can get to the Users Flow report by going to Audience/Users Flow.

3 Users Flow

Users Flow is very versatile, too!  I usually sort it by Source (click the green field, which defaults to country and search for the type of data you want, like Source.  Don’t know what a Source is?  Get the Google Analytics Glossary here!), and then drill down from there.  This report shows you exactly what paths people have taken when they visit your site and where they leave (aka bounce).

Knowing what paths people generally take through your site can help you in a plethora of ways.  For example using the data to create a better flow for your navigation If people generally take a certain path through your navigation options, you can rearrange them in that order in your menu bar.

If you think outside the box, there is SO much you can do with the data from this report!

WHERE IS YOUR AUDIENCE COMING FROM?

The Source/Medium report may become your go-to weekly (or daily, if you’re obsessive like me!) report.  It may not seem like much of anything special, but if you add Landing Page as a Secondary Dimension (Don’t know what that means?  Get the Google Analytics Glossary here!), you suddenly open up a wealth of information.  Doing this will help you see where your traffic is coming from, what pages are performing especially well, how engaged your visitors are, and so on.  You can get to it by going to Acquisition/All Traffic/Source/Medium.

4 Source Medium

You can use this information to know what promotion/marketing methods are working (or aren’t working), which pages may be worth revisiting to add value (to increase engagement or email opt-ins), etc.  Keeping an eye on this report will help you know if a post or page is going viral.

HOW DO YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA OUTREACH EFFORTS STACK UP?

Network Referrals shows a breakdown of which social networks send you the most traffic.  You can find it under Acquisition/Social/Network Referrals.

5 Network Referrals

It will break it down into a graph by day, week, or month, and it will also show you which networks performed better.  For example, while Pinterest sent me the most traffic (by a lot!), Pinterest visitors only averaged a 36 second visit and only viewed 1.32 pages each.  Twitter, on the other hand, referred a scant 2% or so of my social network traffic, yet my Twitter visitors stayed on for more than a whopping THREE MINUTES (on average) and viewed approximately 1.68 pages apiece.

That tells me that while Pinterest may get me a lot of traffic, these visitors are not engaged.  Twitter, however, must be finding the right audience, because while the average pageview wasn’t much higher than Pinterest, the average session duration IS, which means, theoretically, they’re actually reading the content, rather than popping in to make sure it’s a legitimate site before re-pinning it.  This sort of information can be invaluable when you’re trying to decide where to focus your precious promotion or marketing time!

WHAT PAGES ARE PEOPLE FINDING THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA?

The [social media] Landing Pages report gives you a more detailed view of which of your URLs are getting shared on social media.  You can even add Source or Social Network as a Secondary Dimension, if you want even more detail! (Not sure what all of that means?  Get the Google Analytics Glossary here!)

6 Landing Pages

Use this data to find which pages are performing best on certain social networks (and even specific areas – for example, nz.pinterest.com means someone from New Zealand visited your site through Pinterest!).  Knowing what pages/posts are being found through different social networks can help you decide where to focus your marketing efforts.

WHAT SEARCHES ARE PEOPLE USING TO FIND YOU?

The first SEO report is Queries (found under Acquisition/Search Console/Queries).  This can be a gold mine!  It tells you what searches people did that your site turned up in, how many of those searches there were, how many clicks you got from them, and where you appeared in the search rankings (aka how close to the top you were, with 1 being the first search result).  Any searches where your click-through rate (aka CTR.  Don’t know what that means?  Get the Google Analytics Glossary here!) is low, there’s opportunity.

It’s usually easy enough to identify which pages or posts contain the keywords you didn’t rank well for or didn’t get clicks on.  You can go back to them and add more content (so you can organically add more of the keywords), update the meta description to make it more appealing, or other SEO boosting options.  You can also use Google’s Search Console for more detailed keyword information. (Want to learn more about the Search Console?  Check out the Conquer Google Analytics! course.)

Quick note: You have to have the Search Console set up already.  If you don’t have it set up yet, make sure you click here {link to sign up} to sign up for the easy step-by-step instructions!

HOW TO FIND MORE SEO DATA

The Organic Keywords report is fantastic!  While it’s very similar to the Queries report in Search Engine Optimization, it will sometimes give you different data.  You can use this data in conjunction with your Search Engine Optimization reports to create an even more complete picture of your SEO status.  You can find it under Acquisition/Campaigns/Organic Keywords.

7 Organic Keywords

Pro tip: You may see some weird search queries that clearly would never have led someone to your site in the Organic Keywords report.  Things that might end in .xyz instead of .com; things like get-free-social-traffic.  This is ghost spam.  Unfortunately, as of the writing of this article, Google hasn’t done anything, except to say that it won’t affect your site’s rankings in search results.  The only known ways to filter out this spam is by creating a segment that will filter out these bots (this only affects the views/reports that you select the segment on) or to use Google Tag Manager and set up a custom cookie.  That’s beyond the scope of this article, but if you have questions, feel free to contact me!

WHO’S VIEWING MY SITE RIGHT NOW?!

If you’re like me and are a little obsessive over knowing if someone is looking at your site every second of the day, you will LOVE the Real-Time report.  You can find it under Real-Time/Overview.

8 Real Time

Now, the Real-Time reports (there are several) are really only helpful if there’s someone currently viewing your site.  But when there is someone viewing it – oh man, is it an ego boost!  It will show you what pages they’re viewing, where they’re located and how they found you (although those aren’t always accurate, because data gets mixed up sometimes, especially if it’s being viewed on a mobile device).  Mostly, this report is just fun.  Use it as you will!

WHAT ARE PEOPLE CLICKING ON?

This is a GAs hidden gem.  If you’ve ever wanted a built-in heat map… well, you lucky duck, you’ve got one!  Just go to Behavior/In-Page Analytics.

9 In Page Analytics

It may ask you if it can open a new window; sometimes it has issues with opening it directly in GA.  If it does, just click Load in Full View.  You can also download a Chrome extension to allow you to view any of your pages’ in-page analytics.  Play around with the options on the In-Page Analytics screen, and you can get a wealth of information!


I hope these ten reports will help you conquer GA!  If you want to learn more about GA, then I have a bonus for you. As a The Darling Design Co reader you also get 30% off the Conquer Google Analytics! course.  There is a self-guided option, or you can get the self-paced course PLUS a private Facebook group and instructor office hours, to support you in your GA journey and answer your questions along the way.

In the course, I cover the basics of getting started with GA, as well as more advanced tools, like the Search Console (for improving your SEO), how to nearly eliminate ghost spam once and for all (without a thousand filters!), how to find your best performing pages, and SO much more!  I can’t wait to help you conquer GA and use it to improve your blog or business.  See ya on the other side!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: JENN, THE SPARE ROOM PROJECT

In 2015, Jenn quite her life-sucking job to pursue creativity and The Spare Room Project full time. Being the wearer of many hats and a serial entrepreneur from the age of 3, she undertook the journey learning Google Analytics from scratch for her business.

With a background in Information Systems, she has become the middle-man between tools like Google Analytics and layman entrepreneurs and bloggers. Her mission is to help other burned out young adults rekindle their creativity through The Spare Room Project and to help entrepreneurs learn how to build their business using the tools available to them.

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Ellie is a freelance graphic designer, business and lifestyle blogger, health and wellness enthusiast and the founder of The Darling Design Co.
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