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How to get started with Google Analytics

James A. Martin | March 3, 2016
Google Analytics can provide valuable online insights for marketers and website managers. Unfortunately, GA has a bit of a learning curve. Here's a beginner's guide to the basics.

Acquisition reports "are the most valuable, as they detail which source or medium is helping you generate the most traffic," says Jerry Lee, founder of For example, you can see conversion rates from your pay-per-click (PPC) ads to determine how much in sales you generate from PPC. "This allows you to focus on where you need to spend your ad dollars," he adds.

Additionally, Acquisition may help you see that the majority of your traffic is coming from social media, but the traffic has high bounce and low conversion rates, according to Kendra Ross, a marketing director with Wriber. In comparison, you may see lower traffic numbers but higher conversions coming from the referrals, or sites that link or "refer" to yours. It's another way to help you focus your marketing efforts, Ross says.

To get started with Acquisition reports, go to Reporting > Acquisition and select Overview, Active Users, Cohort Analysis (a beta feature that lets you analyze data related to site visitors that have something in common, such as demographics, geographic location, and such), or Users Flow. 

Google Analytics Behavior

The Behavior tool helps you understand what visitors do on your site. For example, clicking Reporting > Behavior > Behavior Flow can help to understand the paths your site visitors take from the pages they land on to the next pages they visit. And Behavior Flow helps identify content that keeps visitors engaged or causes them to leave.

GA Landing Pages (Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages) can identify the pages your site visitors land on most often and show how the traffic on each of those pages "behaves," according to Cuk.

For example, you may notice a particular blog post is your top landing page, and that the post has a low bounce rate and high average session time. That means the topic of your post resonates with visitors, and you should consider doing more posts like it.

Google Analytics Conversions 

Conversions are the lifeblood of GA, according to multiple sources interviewed for this story. "A conversion happens when someone clicks your ad and then takes an action that you've defined as valuable to your business, such as an online purchase or a call to your business from a mobile phone," according to Google. 

GA's Conversions feature lets you track goals you assign to website visitors, says Clint Henderson, founder of Wired SEO. Typical goals include e-commerce sales, newsletter signups, and contact form submissions. 

Tracking conversions is extremely important when trying to measure the success of your website as a whole, according to Henderson. "You can see where your goal conversions are coming from, which will help you make important business and marketing decisions." For example, by tracking goals, "you may discover that you have a much lower conversion rate on mobile devices compared to PCs," he says. "This might lead you to take a look at the mobile version of your site and discover ways to improve mobile conversions."


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