A Crash Course in Google Analytics

By: Jeanie Hendrie

A month has passed since the inaugural issue of Web Analytics for Dummies – I trust this has given you enough time to start, fall asleep to, and finish the first post. My friends over at Everything is Marketing have it easy – musings on Angelina and Whitney, lessons from Sheen and Bieber – I thought it was called work for a reason! Pop culture is not on my side here – so I’m trading in puns for practicality in the hopes that someone out there values the geek chic world of analytics as much as I do. Alright readers, let me just polish up my glasses and away we go!

Google Analytics 101

Free and user-friendly, Google Analytics is one of the most popular platforms for measuring website analytics. At its essence, the program answers 3 questions for its data-hungry users:

  • Who are my readers?
  • What are they reading?
  • How are they finding me?

Each of these questions is answered is by examining a few pieces of data and leveraging that data over time to reveal patterns and trends. Building a dashboard of basic measurements is an essential first step in transforming your data from numbers to insights.

Who are my readers?

In Google Analytics, information about your visitors and their reading habits is housed in the Audience tab.


  • Visits: How many times has your website been visited? Keep in mind, if someone visits your site morning, noon and night – it counts as 3.
  • Unique Visits: How many unique times has your website been visited? If Mom reads your blog post 10 times – it counts as 1. This number is as close to a true estimate of people visiting your site as you will get (though each computer counts as 1 – so visits from the laptop and home computer by the same person will be counted twice).
  • Pages per Visit: The average number of pages someone views each time they visit your website. The higher, the better.
  • Time on Site: The average amount of time someone spends on your site per visit. Does “ditto” belong in the workplace vernacular? I say yes, and then ditto. The higher, the better.
  • % New Visits: Are you focused on growing your brand, driving loyalty or both? This gives you an idea of how many newbies you’re attracting to the website, and the difference – when applied against the number of unique visitors – is one way to estimate the size of your loyal reader base. I’ve taken another route, developing a simple algorithm to estimate my own loyal reader base, whereby loyal readers (n) = colleagues + family members / vacation time.

So what, right? Simple as they many seem, when tracked over time, these metrics are crucial to understanding basic target awareness and engagement. Tons of visits but low time on site? Your readers are interested but not engaged. How can you capture their attention for longer and ensure that your few paragraphs find a meaningful place among the myriads of information they interact with each day. And how about the reverse? Maybe your readers are loyal and engaged but there are only a few of them – can you leverage this group as brand ambassadors, asking them to spread the word thereby increasing awareness?

I’m over-simplifying here, but the point is that it doesn’t take much to get started. Focus on a few numbers and you’ll be surprised just how telling they can be. And heck, if all else fails, resort to Tebow posts, it does the trick for us.

In Part III, coming next week, I’ll cover the remaining key questions and discuss how we’re leveraging the answers to inform and improve our online strategy at SW+A.