Best Practices

Key Google Analytics Metrics Everyone Should be Using

18. 01. 2013

I love using Google Analytics. I use it for our own site as well as for many of our client's sites. Google Analytics (GA for short) is one of the best website analytics tools out there and it's also free (well there is a 'premium' version for $150,000 a year). The free version has more than enough features for the typical webmaster to mull over.

Having used GA day in, day out, we thought we'd share some of the features we use the most:

Year on Year Google Analytics comparison

1. Year on Year comparison data

This is a great metric to use as it takes out seasonal changes in many businesses to do a straight comparison to the year before. You can see above we've compared the Christmas season in 2012 with 2011. You can get some very powerful data from this and it gives a truer indication on how marketing programs, like an SEO campaign, is really doing.

Secondary dimensions in Google Analytics

2. Secondary dimensions

Secondary dimensions are awesome. There have been many times where we find new visits to a site through new search terms, but are surprised to find they go to a page other than what we thought originally. You can see above we're about to show the landing page alongside the keyword data. This is a great way to find new low hanging fruit.

Seperate search traffic - Google Analytics

3. Separating search/ referral/ paid traffic

The goal of SEO is to increase organic traffic to a website. Many unscrupulous SEO companies will give you stats for overall traffic, but this isn't the metric that provides any real insight. If you really want to see whether or not that spike in traffic was from a referral or from the search engines - separate your traffic using the above to see organic traffic only.

Google experiments page

4. Experiments

If you're running a Google Adwords campaign alongside GA then using the Experiments function will allow you to A/B split test different pages easily. Remember you should always be testing different parts of your website design.

It's actually fairly easy to get an experiment running - all you need is a variation page, access to the page's code and at least one goal set up in GA. You can then set up an experiment to test conversion rates for a specified goal for at least 14 days (you can cut this short manually).

Creating Goals in Google Analytics

5. Creating Goals

You should ALWAYS have goals set up for your website. Above we have set up a goal for the url destination: /thankyou. This allows us to track potential leads who land on a specific page after a form submission.

To see the results go to Conversions-Goals-Overview. This will give you a nice overview on the amount of goal completions over a given time period. To get even fancier - use technique #1 mentioned earlier to compare goal conversion year on year to see if you are selling better compared to last year.

Adding annotations in Google Analytics

6. Creating Annotations

This is a best practice we highly recommend and always do ourselves. With Google updates, website updates, different marketing channels and product launches - it can be hard to attribute the reason for a sudden spike in traffic. Any major updates should always be annotated in GA. That way later down the road you can measure the results of a certain initiative to see whether it was worth it or not.

You can also see whether or not you may have been hit by major Google updates by annotating dates for major changes in Google's ranking algorithm.

Adding widgets to dashboard

7. Adding widgets to a custom dashboard

Making a custom dashboard for a specific user is handy for different people to see different data.

For example, you might set up goal conversion and traffic widgets on a custom dashboard. Your client can then easily log in and see what is going on across different metrics, as opposed to wading through different menus to find the data separately.

Comparing Mobile data

8. Comparing mobile data based on goal sets

There is no doubt that mobile usage is exploding right now. ComScore in June 2012 reported that mobile usage would surpass desktop usage in 2014.

At 9th sphere we love our mobile devices. So comparing mobile data using specific goal sets help us and our clients get a better picture of conversion rates between mobile and desktop users.

What are some of your favourite things in Google Analytics?

GA has some amazing features and we have just touched on some of the great things it can do for you and your website.

What tips and tricks do you have for Google Analytics? Please share your tips and tricks in the comments below!

Add new comment

All fields required.

This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.