Every month, about 1,200 people in the US search Google for “Google Analytics help.” It's not a reflection of anything they missed. Google Analytics (GA) is complicated, even for experienced SEOs. For beginners, it’s enough to make you skip GA altogether.
But that’d be a mistake. With the right GA metrics, like the number of users or average session duration, you can determine what is and isn’t working on your website. As a bonus, you can always go deeper on GA. Add dimensions to your metrics to get answers to questions like what traffic source is the most valuable to your business or which pages lead to the most sales. You can then make changes based on this data to improve user experience and conversion rates.
All the data you need to make your business successful is in GA. You just need to know where to look. With this guide, we’ll show you the eight most important metrics to track, where to find them, which dimensions to add, and how to use them to improve your website. This isn’t everything GA offers, but it’s a starting point for you to collect the information you need to make genuinely data-backed decisions about your business.
Basic user metrics tell you how popular your site is by showing how many people visit your site in a given time frame.
Why it’s important: Tracking your users month over month gives you a broad overview of whether your optimization efforts are paying off. An increase in users is a sign that things are working, while the opposite holds true as well.
Remember, user metrics are broad indicators, and your strategies aren’t the only thing influencing them. Gains or losses are influenced by other events like the time of year, Google algorithm changes, or current events. Use this metric as a quick overview, and then explore more to find out why you’re getting an increase or decrease.
How to find user metrics: Audience > Overview
How to go deeper: Segment by traffic source (Acquisition > Traffic > Channels) to see where your gains or losses are coming from.
What you can do with this data: Find out which traffic sources are up or down over the last quarter. If one source is up, find out why so you can double down and replicate the success going forward. If a traffic source is down, diagnose the problem and do what you can to fix it. For example, if your organic traffic (visitors from search engines) is up, it could show your SEO efforts are paying off. Explore what pages and keywords are working so you can optimize them further. But if your referrals from social media sites are down, it could show that changes to your social media strategy aren’t working. You should then try to change things up by putting your efforts into new content or changing up the social media sites you’re focusing on.
2. Landing Page Sessions
The number of landing page sessions is a record of how many times a user viewed a particular page as their first page on your website.
Why it’s important: Tracking landing page sessions tell you how users find their way onto your site. It tells you what topics and what level of the funnel these people are interested in, so you can create more content like that.
How to find landing page sessions: Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages
How to go deeper: Monitor and track your landing page bounce rates and goal completions, which are located on the same screen as landing page sessions.
What you can do with this data: With bounce rate, you see which pages are most relevant to your readers. A high bounce rate could indicate a bad landing page. It’d be worth going over those pages to make them better. Start by checking how well your landing pages match search intent. If users want a list of the best movie theaters in New York and your page only offers a description of your movie theater, they might bounce when they don’t find what they want.
If this is a page with a specific goal (like a signup page), track goal completions to see how well it’s doing. A low goal completion rate shows that it needs to be revamped. In contrast, a page with a high goal conversion rate could be used as a template for future landing pages.
3. Exit Rate
Exit rate is the percent of people who get to a page and then leave your site when they’re finished there.
Why it’s important: Exit rate is especially important when analyzing where people drop off in a signup or purchasing flow. If people exit when they’re asked to add in a phone number to sign up, then you might want to redesign that page to make it easier for users.
If certain blog posts have low exit rates, try to figure out why. Where are people going afterward? Is this post not answering their question fully, or is it doing a good job of guiding readers to other pages they’d be interested in learning about?
How to find exit rates: Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages
How to go deeper: Use the dimension “Source/Medium” to see how these people landed on your site in the first place. Or use the dimension “landing page” to see where they arrived on your site. Also, narrow your selection of pages to the ones most important to your goal completion process (like checkout or signup pages).
What you can do with this data: The goal here is to find patterns in your data so you can better understand the people who arrive at your site. The more you know about the people who do and don’t convert, the more you can optimize the experience to improve on those numbers.
4. Average Session Duration
Average session duration measures how long users stay on your site on average.
Why it’s important: It’s a shorthand measure for how engaging your content is. If your average session duration is under one minute, then most people find one thing and leave your site. The more time people spend, the more time you have to sell them on whatever your website is about.
How to find average session duration: Audience > Overview
How to go deeper: Find the pages that people are staying on by looking at the average time people spend on specific pages (Behavior > Site Content > All Pages).
What you can do with this data: Find your most engaging content and emulate it. For example, if people stay longer on an article involving proprietary data, create more content like that since people are obviously consuming it more than other blog content.
Find content that isn’t doing its job properly. You want a low dwell time with some content — for instance, your FAQ page. People who go to FAQ pages usually have a single question they want an answer to. If they’re taking five minutes on your page, that might show it’s hard to navigate or understand. If you’ve got an FAQ page with a high time on page, rewrite it to improve your users’ overall experience.
5. Top Events
Events are markers you set up to see what your users are doing on your site. For instance, you could create an event around using your search bar or pressing play on an explainer video. Each time someone performs this action, the event counter will go up by one. Top events is a list of the most performed actions on your site based on the events you’ve set.
Why it’s important: It tells you what people are doing on your site. If you know that a high percentage of people are clicking on the videos on your features page, then you could decide to invest more into creating video content. You should also use events to track important actions on your landing pages. For instance, you could set trackers on clicks that take users to a “Learn More” page or a “Buy Now” page. If more people click on “Learn More,” you could decide to include additional information on your landing page to try to boost traffic to the “Buy Now” page.
How to find top events: Behavior > Events > Top Events
How to go deeper: Explore the event flow page (Behavior > Events > Events Flow) to see how one event leads to another to see a user’s typical path through your site.
What you can do with this data: Use this data to make your users’ journey smoother. If people are often going from A to B to C, could you make their journey smoother by making it possible to go from A directly to C?
Understand what critical steps users who converted took to get to conversion. If you know that people who watched your explainer video are more likely to convert, you could try promoting that video or the key pieces of information around your website and social media.
6. Click-Through Rate
Your click-through rate shows what percentage of people who see your PPC ads or organic results and click on them.
Why it’s important: Click-through rate (CTR) is best for telling you how effective your ad copy or meta tags are. If your ad copy or meta-descriptions don’t sound useful, interesting, or appealing to the reader, they won’t click, and your CTR will decrease. If people aren’t clicking on your organic listing or ad, you don’t even have a chance to convert them. So optimizing your lowest-performing ads or organic listings is a quick way to bring in more traffic since you’re already ranking for them.
How to find click-through rates: For Google Ad click-through rates: Acquisition > Google Ads > Campaigns > Select “Clicks.” For click-through rates from Google Search: Acquisition > Search Console > Landing Pages.
How to go deeper: If you want the CTR of a unique event on your page, you’ll need to set an event on that page and then divide that event by unique visitors to that page.
What you can do with this data: You see how effective your top landing pages are at getting users to click through to the next step of your signup or purchasing flow. Landing pages with low CTRs should be improved with tactics borrowed from higher CTR landing pages.
If all of your CTRs are lower than you would like, then take your most important landing page and start performing A/B tests. A/B tests have you test two versions of the same landing page that differ in one key way, like a different headline or image. After a couple of months, check the CTRs on these two versions and adopt the more successful one.
7. Revenue by Traffic Source
Revenue by traffic source looks at how much money each traffic source brings to your site. To see revenue, you’ll need to have set up ecommerce on your site or put a dollar value to each of your goals on GA.
Why it’s important: If you know what sources are bringing in the most revenue for you, you can focus more money on those areas. Conversely, you can reduce investment in your weaker revenue sources or change tactics to improve those sources.
How to find revenue by traffic source: Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels
How to go deeper: Compare how much you’re making from these traffic sources to how much you’re spending on them.
What you can do with this data: Find your most efficient revenue sources and put more money into them to get even more revenue. Make sure to include all costs when doing the calculations, even something like the cost of paying someone to create content for your organic traffic or socials.
If you have multiple goals, look at revenue by goal to see if certain goals are bringing in more revenue and what source(s) that revenue is coming from (direct traffic, organic search, referral, paid search).
8. Goal Conversions
Goals are user actions that help your website achieve its target objectives. GA doesn’t automatically set goals for you. You’ll need to do that yourself based on what you hope to achieve with your website. If you’re an ecommerce company, your goal could be to get people to finish the checkout process.
Why it’s important: It tells you how well your website is doing at achieving its goals. To get the most out of this, you’ll need to set target goals on GA to track. By setting these high-level goals, you get a quick snapshot you can refer back to on how well your website is performing over time. Goals do not have to be strictly money-based either. If you run a cooking website, you could consider engagement as your target and set a goal around having users spend x number of minutes per session or visit x number of pages.
How to find goal conversions: Conversions > Goals > Overview
How to go deeper: Look at your goal conversion rate and see how it changes over time as you experiment with your pages that lead to goal conversions. Toggle to your goal conversion rate by clicking on “Goal Completions” (just below “Overview” and above the trend line) and selecting “Goal Conversions.”
What you can do with this data: Zoom out by looking at a yearly trend line and see how your conversion rate has changed over time. This is especially important if you’ve made big changes to your main offering. For example, if you lowered the price of your product in the hopes more people buy, you should see a corresponding uptick in your conversion rate on that page. If not, the price might not be what is deterring people from buying.
Although overall goal completion is important, looking at your completion rate ensures an increase in traffic isn’t masking a larger problem in your website.
Feeling Out of Your Depth With Google Analytics?
Google Analytics packs in so much that it can be confusing, even when you have a guide walking you through the basics. If you want to learn more, check out our beginner’s guide to Google Analytics best practices. Inside, you’ll learn the best tips and tricks beginners can use to become familiar with and get insights from Google Analytics.