Blog

Answering common website questions with Google Analytics

Analytics

9 min read


Posted by Darren McManus on September 15, 2020

Answering common website questions with Google Analytics

Within your Google Analytics property, you have access to a huge selection of standard reports within your Google Analytics account.

The sheer amount of data and reports in Google Analytics can be overwhelming and so, at Arekibo, rather than sifting through these default reports, we always recommend a Google Analytics Measurement Plan and a corresponding custom Google Data Studio report which allows you to report only on data that is pertinent to your specific goals and objectives.

However, it’s good to have an understanding of the standard reports to help you to easily answer ad-hoc questions from your team. In this post, I’m going to run through some of the most common questions we hear from new clients, why they are important, and how to answer them with data from your default Google Analytics reports.

Common Questions can be broken down into 3 categories:

Traffic and Revenue

  • How much traffic are we getting?
  • What channels are driving our traffic and revenue?
  • What devices do users use to browse and buy?

Content

  • On what pages do users enter the site?
  • From what pages do users exit the site?
  • What are users searching for on my site?

Products

  • What are our top selling products?

Traffic and Revenue

How much traffic are we getting?

Why it’s an important question?

Pretty self explanatory. This is the most fundamental reason for having web analytics in the first place. What is the point having a website if nobody is visiting it?

Where to find the answer?

Lot’s of places. The most obvious of which is the Audience > Overview report. Simply select your time-frame in the top right hand corner (A). You can also compare data in this time period to a previous period or the same period in the previous year (B). In the example below we’re looking at the first 6 months of 2020.

google-analytics-how-much-traffic-are-we-getting.png

Now you’ll be presented with a number of traffic related metrics including:

  • Users: In order to associate traffic with a particular user, Google Analytics associates a unique identifier with each user and sends this with each hit. This identifier is usually a single, first-party cookie named _ga that stores a Google Analytics client ID. This will help distinguish the person as a “new user”. When the same user visits your site at a later time, they will be counted as a “returning user”.
  • Sessions: A session, essentially, is a visit to your site. It is defined by Google as a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame. There are two methods by which a session ends:
    • Time-based expiration:
      • After 30 minutes of inactivity
      • At midnight
    • Campaign change:
      • If a user arrives via one campaign, leaves, and then comes back via a different campaign.
  • New Users: This is, more often than not, misleading due to the way in which Users are identified as described in point 1 above. This method of identifying users is, unfortunately, inherently flawed — if a person clears their browser cookies, uses incognito mode in their browser, or if they use a different browser or different device for a subsequent visit to the site, they will appear as a ‘new’ individual user each time. So some of your ‘new’ users are in all likelihood actually returning users.

What channels are driving our traffic and revenue?

Why it’s an important question?

In all likelihood, you already know how much revenue you are making and what products are driving that revenue without Google Analytics, based on other internal systems. One of Google Analytics’ real benefits lies in tying this information in with traffic channels to understand which marketing channels are driving the most online visits and transactions, and based on those two pieces of information calculating which channels have the best conversion rates. This information allows you to measure the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and channels and revise marketing budgets to focus on the most effective and efficient channels and campaigns.

Where to find the answer?

Go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels and you’ll the amount of users (C) and sessions (D) that each channel* drove, along with the transactions (E) and revenue (F) that came from visits via those channels.

For this eCommerce data to be populated, you must have eCommerce tracking enabled in your Google Analytics property.

 

google-analytics-what-channels-are-driving-our-traffic-and-revenue.png

* Channel Groupings are rule-based groupings of your traffic sources. The channels that are displayed by default in Google Analytics are called “Default Channel Groupings”. You can edit these groupings ore create new ones if you wish to.

What devices do users use to browse and buy?

Why it’s an important question?

It’s very important to have an understanding of which devices your audience use to interact with your website and to actually convert / purchase your products or services. Understanding conversion rates and engagement on different device types can allow you to:

  • Focus your marketing budget on the best performing devices

  • Optimise your website UX for under performing devices

Where to find the answer?

To compare device categories (desktop, mobile and tablet), go to Audience > Mobile > Overview, see image below (Note: if you want to dig deeper and compare actual mobile devices you can go to Audience > Mobile > Devices).

In the example below you see that whilst considerably more users visited the site on desktop vs mobile, the conversion rate on mobile (0.31%) is much higher than the conversion rate on desktop (0.05%) (G).

google-analytics-what-devices-do-users-use-to-browse-and-buy.png

This perhaps suggests that you should A. take a closer look at the desktop UX and conversion funnel and; B. focus your marketing efforts on mobile traffic to see if you maintain this higher conversion rate from a larger set of users.

Content

On What Pages Do Users Enter My Site?

Why it’s an important question?

There’s a fairly common assumption that the majority of users enter any given website via the Home page and then navigate to wherever it is that they want to go. This is often misguided though and in fact, more often than not, users enter your site via a range of different landing pages due to specific search queries on Google or other search engines, marketing campaigns or links from other websites or social media posts.

By understanding where users are entering your site, you can learn a lot about your audience and their motivations for visiting your site. By understanding which of these landing pages are prompting visitors to explore further and which are causing visitors to “bounce”, you can take best practices from landing pages that work well and apply them to landing pages that don’t.

Where to find the answer?

This report is hidden away in Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages.

Here you can see the amount of Sessions (H) attributable to each landing page as well as other important information like the Bounce Rate (I) of each landing page and the Transactions, Revenue and Conversion Rate associated with each (J).

google-analytics-on-what-pages-do-users-enter-my-site.png

From what pages do users exit my site?

Why it’s an important question?

Just as important as understanding where users enter your site, is understanding what pages users are leaving your site from. Some types of pages have naturally high exit rates which should not be alarming e.g. sales confirmation pages, contact us pages. Other types of pages like blog posts can also naturally have relatively high exit rates particularly if traffic is arriving on that post via a organic search question - for example “How to boil an egg?”... If a user Google’s this question and finds your “How To Boil An Egg” blog post, the natural user behaviour will be to read your blog post and go ahead and boil their egg rather than browsing further through your site.

It’s important to consider the context of your site and content when looking at which pages users leave your site from most often. Even with this caveat though it can be really valuable information and can help you identify pages that have UX issues or content that needs to be optimised to keep users engaged.

Where to find the answer?

You’ll find information on pages with the most exits and the highest exit percentage in Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages.

You can sort this report by either Exits (K) to see the pages with the highest amount of exits or % Exit (L) to see how often users exit that particular page as a percentage of overall pageviews of that page. The latter tends to be more actionable data - i.e. if a particular page has an % Exit rate of 90% then unless it’s a Sales Confirmation page or a Contact page, it probably warrants investigation to understand why.

 

google-analytics-from-what-pages-do-users-exit-my-site.png

 

What are users searching for on my site?

Why it’s an important question?

This is an often overlooked question and can provide really valuable information. If you understand what users are searching for on your website, you can figure out:

  1. What products / services / information that users are having difficulty finding (which can assist you in improving your site navigation and UX)
  2. What products / services / information that users expect to find on your site that are not currently there (which can assist you in your blogging / content creation strategy and even in deciding on what products / services you should consider adding to your current offering)

Where to find the answer?

You’ll find information on what users are searching for in your internal site search bar in Behavior > Site Search > Search Terms.

Note: This report requires a little bit of extra configuration before it starts gathering data - it’s usually really straightforward to set up. See Google’s official guide here.

In this report you will see top search terms by Total Unique Searches (M) along with other search-related information including the amount of times the user viewed a resulting page after searching (N) and the percentage of users who exited from the search results page after a particular search (O).

google-analytics-what-are-users-searching-for-on-my-site.png

Product Performance

What Are Our Top Selling Products?

Why it’s an important question?

I’ve already explained how one of Google Analytics’ real benefits is knitting together revenue and transaction figures with traffic channels to understand which marketing channels are driving the most online visits and transactions generally. That general information is useful but even more useful is the ability to see how specific products sold at different times of the year, in different markets or as a result of different marketing or advertising campaigns. This can help you to understand what products you should promote in different markets or different seasons etc.

Where to find the answer?

In order to find this data, you must have set up e-commerce tracking in Google Analytics. If you have standard e-commerce tracking configured, you will be able to find out your top selling products for a given time period in Conversions > Ecommerce > Product Performance.

Here you will see the amount of revenue generated by each product (P) along with other metrics like the amount of unique purchases that included at least one of that product (Q) and the actual amount of that product sold (R). If you would like to look at this data for a specific market or campaign, you can simply add a segment (S).

google-analytics-what-are-our-top-selling-products.png

Got Any Other Questions?

These are just some of the more common questions we hear when it comes to Google Analytics. Are there any obvious ones that we've left out? Let us know and we will add them or even write a follow up post!

About the Author

Darren McManus
Darren McManus

Darren is a Web Analytics and SEO Specialist at Arekibo. He has a keen interest in analytics and getting results and has spoken at a number of conferences.