How to Read Google Analytics Reports for Beginners

How to read Google Analytics Reports for Beginners


It goes without saying that the very thought of using Google Analytics can be intimidating, especially for beginners. The service gives you such a comprehensive set of data to measure your performance that you end up getting overwhelmed and unsure of which metrics are important to you.

In this post, you get a detailed guide on how to read Google Analytics reports. And since the sheer amount of data can complicate things, you’ll discover the most important reports to prioritize on for measuring your performance. Let’s get started.

Setting up your Google Analytics

Before you have reports to read, you first need to set up your Google Analytics so it can collect and analyze data from the right sources. Note that having a Google account doesn’t automatically provide you with a Google Analytics account.

Instead, you have to sign up for a Google Analytics account to access the tools and services. Keep in mind that you have the option to share limited access to this GA account with employees or team members.

Start by naming your GA account, and then choose how you want to share your data with Google. You could limit this data sharing setting to only tech support and account specialists, but you can also allow sharing it with Google products and services and for benchmarking.

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Click on “Next” then select whether you want to measure your site, app, or both. After this, you’ll have the option to enter your property details. This involves giving your website a name and entering info such as website URL, industry, and reporting time zone. Then click on “Create” and you’re all set.

Read Google Analytics Reports for Beginners

Google will then provide you with a global site tag that looks like a bunch of code. Keep this code handy because you’ll need to add it after the <HEAD> tag of all the pages you want to track with Google Analytics.

Understanding the different Google Analytics reports and what they mean

Google Analytics provides you with several reporting options, which can be a bit confusing because the names can be somewhat vague. So let’s take a closer look at how to read Google Analytics reports using these options.

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Real-time report on Google Analytics

The name is pretty much self-explanatory as this report provides you with data about what’s happening on your site at this specific moment. That means you can use it to see how many visitors you currently have on your site, where they’re located, which pages they’re viewing, which channels they came from, and more.

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This report doesn’t really play a major role in your overall analytics efforts. But you can use it to test your custom events and tracking URLs to see if they’re working. Plus, you can also use it to see if a new blog post or social media post is generating traffic. You might even need it to see if a one-day event or sale is driving actions such as views and conversions.

Audience report on Google Analytics

Google Analytics gives you a highly detailed look at your audience data so you can understand your site visitors a little better. You can use this report to understand visitor demographics, interests, geographic attributes (location, language), behavior, technology usage, mobile device usage, cross-device usage, and more.

Each section under this report is pretty much self-explanatory, so you can explore them to find out what they can tell you about your visitors.

In addition, this report also provides you with insights on your audience lifetime value. This helps you understand how valuable your visitors are to the company. So for instance, you can measure the lifetime value of visitors coming from social media vs. email marketing. This will give you a sense of which channels to invest in and prioritize on.

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The cohort analysis report also gives you a realistic look at your performance as it allows you a detailed look at metrics like retention, revenue, sessions, and more and cohort them by day, week, or even month. So for instance, you can keep track of how much time each user spent on your site over the past two weeks. Or you can also check how many transactions your visitors completed in the last month.

Acquisition report on Google Analytics

You can use the Google Analytics acquisition report to get a detailed breakdown of your traffic by source. So it provides you with an in-depth look at where your traffic is coming from. That means you can keep track of how your ads are driving traffic, which search consoles seem to work for you, which social platforms are the most profitable, and which campaigns are seeing success.

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For the traffic coming from each source, this report further gives you a breakdown of behavioral data such as bounce rate, pages per session, average session duration, and more. This will help you understand how to sort your priorities and make sure you invest in the most profitable channels and campaigns.

Behavior reports on Google Analytics

If you know how to use it right, the behavior reports can be the most useful for analyzing your site performance in detail. This gives you a comprehensive breakdown of how people are interacting with your site content with metrics such as bounce rate, exit percentage, unique page views, and more. And you get to view this performance data for all pages, content drill down, landing pages, and exit pages.

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You can also get an idea of how your site is performing in terms of speed along with speed suggestions to improve user experience. This report even helps you understand how users are interacting with your site search feature – how often they have to use it, which search terms they’re using, and more.

Further, this report provides you with a highly specific look at unique events within your site such as a user downloading a file or playing a video. This could give you a few ideas on how to make improvements to your site to encourage better engagement and actions. Meanwhile, the publisher report helps you understand how your site is performing in terms of monetization.

Conversion reports on Google Analytics

The conversion reports on your Google Analytics will give you a detailed look at how well you manage to get your visitors to take certain actions that align with your goals. To view these reports, make sure you have goals set up. This could be anything from getting people to make a reservation to have them create an account on your site.

Google Analytics will provide you with several goal templates with pre-defined configurations. But you can also create a customized goal.

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You’ll also have four types of goals to choose from:

  • Destination – This type of goal gets completed when a visitor reaches a certain page such as a thank you page or an order confirmation page.
  • Duration – This type of goal gets completed when a visitor spends a certain amount of time during one session.
  • Event – This type of goal gets completed when a user’s action fires a predefined event such as sharing something on social media or clicking on a certain button.
  • Pages/screens per session – This type of goal gets completed when a visitor views a certain number of pages or screens per session.

After defining your goal, you can use the conversion reports to keep track of how well you’ve managed to reach it. For instance, you can see where the goal was completed, which pages led to the conversion, how sequential goals play out, and more. This means you get to figure out where user drop-off tends to happen and make improvements to minimize it.

For example, let’s say you see users converting gradually through the home page, the product page, and the checkout page. But you see a ton of drop-offs when it comes to the payment confirmation page. You might want to test and see what’s wrong with your payment process and make improvements to fix the issue.

Knowing which reports to prioritize

As you can see, knowing how to read Google Analytics reports can be challenging with so much data to read. So it’s crucial that you know which reports to prioritize and how to make the most of them. For now, focus on reading the essentials such as traffic sources, audience behavior and interests, behavioral data, and conversions.

You can set aside the real-time reports and other complicated data for now while you improve your basic GA report-reading skills. Keep in mind that while Google Analytics can give you a comprehensive look at your site performance on a broader scale, it doesn’t always show you everything. The tool can have limitations in certain aspects, especially with link tracking.

For instance, it may be able to show you which social networks and which links set the traffic to your site. But it might be unable to give you a detailed look at which CTAs seem to drive more clicks for the same link.

That’s why it’s also important to combine Google Analytics with tools like ClickMeter. This gives you an even more accurate picture of how your links are performing so you can retarget visitors to yield the best conversions, monitor suspicious clicks, and more.


Related Reading:

This blog post is about:

  • Google Analytics
  • Google Analytics Reports for Beginners
  • Setting up Google Analytics
The online service helping advertisers, agencies, affiliates and publishers optimize their conversion rates through the management, tracking and monitoring of marketing links. Through an online dashboard or API integration users have access to a portfolio of tools including: click and conversion tracking, short links using user’s domain, split A/B testing, dynamic traffic redirect, landing page monitoring and more.