Making Sense of Google Analytics Reports

Making sense of Google Analytics reports can be a challenge for many – especially if you spend more time on the mat than on a computer. Google Analytics is the most widely used website statistics service used by 50% of the top one million websites. It provides a wealth of information about your website and online marketing performance. Although it’s powerful and widely used, it can be difficult for non-marketers to extract meaningful information and use it at a fraction of its potential. This article will provide a starting point for you to navigate the beast that is Google Analytics so you can make data-driven decisions about how to improve online marketing for your martial arts school (or any other local business). Let’s dive into some useful reports.


Audience Overview

After logging in to your account and choosing your view, you will be taken to the Audience Overview dashboard by default. Many webmasters are familiar with this dashboard since it provides a high-level overview and is easy to access. Let’s take a look at some of the insights that can found here.

  1. The line chart shows you website traffic over your chosen period of time. You can change the time period using the date picker and even compare it to another period.
  2. The number of visitor sessions your site has accumulated will give you a rough idea of the popularity of your site. These are not unique visits. One unique user may have visited your site 20 times, accounting for 20 sessions.
  3. If you want a better measure of website popularity, reference the Users metric. This is the number of unique users that have visited your website.
  4. The average session duration helps you identify how “sticky” your site is. If the average session duration is high, it can mean that visitors are interested in your content and spending lots of time engaging. It can also mean that they aren’t finding what they’re looking for. To truly understand website engagement, deeper analysis is required.
  5. The bounce rate of your web pages can help you identify problems with your website content as well as technical issues. A high bounce rate sometimes indicates that your pages are loading too slowly (so visitors bounce and go back to their previous destination) or that they aren’t finding what they’re looking for (which could indicate a problem with the relevancy of your content).
  6. Lastly, you can see a breakdown of new vs. returning visitors. If you’re using your website primarily to generate leads/sign ups, then you’d like to have a high ratio of new visitors each month.

The Audience Overview is a great place to start, but you can gather more meaningful data in my favorite dashboard – Channels.


Channels

Now we start getting into the good stuff. Navigate to Acquisition → All Traffic → Channels to identify what sources are providing your website with traffic. This report will help you understand how valuable different channels are for your online marketing efforts.

  1. All website traffic (sessions) are broken down by referring channel. Direct traffic comes from visitors typing your site URL in their browser, bookmarks and other sources that Google can’t identify. Organic Search traffic comes from all major search engines, while Paid Search traffic comes from Google Adwords, Bing, Facebook and other paid text and display ad networks. Referral traffic identifies sessions that came from another website that isn’t a social network, search engine or advertisement. If you are paying for an ad in an online newspaper for example, you may find referral traffic from that website. Social referrals are visits that came from unpaid links on Facebook, Facebook Mobile, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, etc.
  2. If you have a free trial or other web form on your site (and you should), you can create a conversion goal in Google Analytics. If you are a ChampionsWay client with a monthly SEO package, this is done during setup. If you are doing your own search engine optimization, I encourage you to read up on conversion goals and create one so you can identify where your signups are coming from. In this example, “Goal 1: Web Form Submission” has been completed 20 times within the past month. Thirteen of the form submissions came from direct traffic (which includes some unknown organic search traffic), 6 submissions came from paid search and 1 came from a referring website.

You can drill down into each of the channels to see which social networks are referring visitors, which keywords are driving organic search traffic and which websites are referring traffic. You can also filter your data using the filter box and sort it by clicking on the column headings. Another way to break down your traffic sources is by geographic location. This can be found in the Location dashboard.


Location

Analyzing the geographic location report is crucial for any local business. If you are the owner of an MMA school in a small city of 15,000, you may be targeting prospective students in two, three or more nearby cities. Wouldn’t you like to know which cities your website visitors are coming from? The Audience → Geo → Location report will show you geographic information about your website visitors. You can view data by Country, City, Continent or Sub Continent. For our purposes, we’ll choose “City”.

  1. View visits by city sorted from highest to lowest. You can use the Acquisition and Behavior data to identify how visitors in each city are interacting with your website. It is common to find that the bounce rate for visitors in your resident city is much lower than from other cities since many prospective martial arts students would prefer to take classes in their own city.
  2. If conversion goals have been setup, you can use them again here to see what cities your leads are coming from. In this example, we see a fairly even split between Brentwood, Sayville and New York. The two form submissions from North Vancouver would likely have come from our own Digital Marketing services team during routine maintenance and testing.

If you are receiving spammy form submissions from other countries, you can filter them out using the Advanced Filter. For our ongoing SEO clients, we include a widget showing the top 10 cities in the custom dashboard provided. If you are using our SEO services, the custom dashboard and monthly report already contain filtered location data visible at a glance. In addition to location and referring data, it’s also useful to understand what content on your website is performing best. For that, we’ll take a quick look at a Behavioral report.


All Pages

The All Pages report provides useful information about your webpages. Navigate to Behavior → Site Content → All Pages to view this report. Rather than viewing sessions, you will see Pageviews. Your website homepage is likely the most popular page. If your school teaches more than one program, you can see which of them gets the most pageviews. To compare the popularity of different programs offered, they should each have their own individual page (ex: Adult Program, Little Tigers, Self Defense, After School).

  1. Identify how many pageviews each page on your site is getting. If you have hundreds or thousands of pages on your site, you may want to use the Filter box to search for a particular URL rather than browsing through pages of URLs. In this example, you can see that the youth program page is the most popular program page and that it received about 50% more pageviews than the adult program page (95 vs. 62). You can use this data to spend more time improving the content on popular pages and reducing the time spent or even removing pages that are generating a low number of pageviews.
  2. The average time on page metric is a great indicator of “stickiness”. Beware of pages that have very low or very high numbers for this metric. If visitors are spending very little time on the page, it may not contain enough content or may have serious issues that are driving visitors to another page. If they are spending too much time on the page, they may be searching for information that isn’t there. In this example, the most popular pages all have average times that are reasonable and don’t indicate any issues.

If your website URLs are quite messy, but your page titles aren’t, you can change the Primary Dimension from Page to Page Title. You can also choose to view the Landing Pages report instead to understand which pages your visitors are landing on when they come from another site.

We’ve covered only a fraction of the capabilities of Google Analytics in this article. If you’d like to learn more about analyzing Google Analytics and search ranking reports, watch our webinar recording to learn how to apply these insights to your martial arts marketing strategy.


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