Google Analytics – Delving a Little Deeper


In part 1 I took a quick tour of the first page of Google Analytics (GA), and in this article I will show you some tips on digging deeper into the information to come up with juicy nuggets of usefulness to chew on. Before my metaphors get totally transported away with themselves, I'll recap very briefly on the last article, and add a few more points that I'll be covering here.

Article 1 in the series:

o Breaking the information down into small chunks
o Setting small measurable goals
o Comparing timeframes
o Exporting Data

In this article I will cover the importance of:

o Getting curious and asking yourself some questions
o Learning how to set parameters, or metrics
o Being aware of GA's limitations, or is Google Analytics 100% accurate in its tracking?

Getting curious is the very best way to learn as it gives you motivation to experiment, and to crash about a bit looking for answers. The question "who is visiting my site" is a very broad one, and we need to get more specific. Google will not give us the email addresses of our visitors, (and I have been asked that question,) but it can give us a remarkable range of material.

For example, building websites means that I have to know how my sites perform in all browsers. Some scripts and effects do not work, or have funny results, in IE6. I have clients who want the cool effects regardless, so its important to know how many of their visitors are viewing using IE6. GA will give you that information, and the client can then decide if that proportion of visitors is large enough to impact them negatively.

Another example of specific questions, is whether my visitors who click through on my AdWords campaigns are a better quality visitor than visitors who come in response to an organic Google search. By better quality I mean time spent on the site, pages looked at etc. GA can give you that information and here's how.

On your front page of GA, or Dashboard, you will see just above the date on the right hand side, "Advanced Segments" and a little drop-down box with "All Visits" on it. There you will see a list of segments, which set the parameters of the reports. Un-check the "All Visits" and check a couple of other choices, like "Paid Search Traffic" or "Search Traffic" and "Direct Traffic". "Direct Traffic" means people have typed your url into the address bar at the top of their browser to get to your site rather than clicking a link or searching in Google. Now hit "Apply" and the results from those 2 metrics will be shown on the reports on your Dashboard. You can have 4 of those segments at a time, which is plenty. Remember not to go for too much information!

So far we have only been looking at the Dashboard and drilling down into information from that. But look to the left hand side of your screen and you will see a menu with Dashboard, Intelligence, Visitors, Traffic Sources, Content and Goals. Each of these menus has sub-menus and all of a sudden it starts looking complicated again. Lets just pick out one thing and follow that through. I mentioned before about different browsers, so lets look at that.

Click on the menu bar that says "Visitors" which will open up the sub menu (if its not already open). Now choose the item "Browser Capabilities", which will again open and give you more choices. Just choose "Browsers". You will now see the number of visitors using Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome, etc and also there is a nice pie chart. Note that this info still keeps the segments you have set in the previous step. You can change the segments at any stage without losing your place.

To drill down even further into what version of a browser is being used, click on the name of the browser, for example Internet Explorer. You can then see the figures for IE6, IE7 and IE8. Note that the percentages here are a percentage of Internet Explorer users, not of the whole of the browsers. So my IE6 percentage is 19% and 43% of my visitors are using Internet Explorer – therefore, of all my visitors only 8% are still using IE6.

All interesting and heady stuff. But how accurate is Google Analytics? Well one limitation is that if a person will not allow cookies to be set, then GA can not record their visit. On the other hand if I use more than one computer to access a site GA will think I am more than one person instead of a person returning several times. But given the very slight discrepancies that turn up GA remains a remarkable and very functional piece of the World Wide Web, and a tool that I refer to on a daily basis.

Source by Alison Griffiths