Understanding Google Analytics data

Google analytics has become the go to web stats program for the majority of website owners. At times it’s not the easiest tool to get your head around particularly if you’re not into stats. So I’m going to run through a few great places to start with understanding Google Analytics data.

Traffic volume

Google analytics data

Traffic volume is one of the first places to start in Analytics.

In the visitors area you can check out your total visitors and also total absolute unique visitors. I like to compare month by month so I can notice if things are going up or down (and then look at why that might be the case).

On the same page you can also look at the % of returning visitors vs new visitors which is interesting along with a few important stats including:

  • Length of time on site – very good indicator of how good your content is.
  • Bounce rate – again a good indicator of how good your content is and how effective it is at appealing to the people searching for your keywords (or how effective the keywords are) – this can impact on SEO because Google knows how many people bounce straight back to their search results.

Your top traffic sources

Google Analytics top traffic sources

Google Analytics top traffic sources chart.

The traffic sources area is a great place to check out and you might be surprised by what you find. The sources section will let you know how much traffic you are getting from search engines and from other sites. Paying closer attention to your referring sites can tell you things like:

  1. How much traffic you are getting from those forums you’re active in.
  2. As above with social media sites.
  3. How reliant you are on Google!
  4. How effective are the online campaigns you are running (the campaigns area can tell you more on this).
Often your most targeted traffic will come from referring sites other than search engines so it’s worthwhile paying attention to this list for that reason. In addition you might find that a site has mentioned you and your referring list might be the first place you find out about it (Google Alerts and Twilert are both great for this too).

Top keywords

Google analytics top keywords

Top keywords can be a great place to check to analyse your natural SEO efforts.

In my web design business I get almost all of my business from natural SEO so the top keywords page is my favourite place.

The first thing you want to know is whether or not the keywords on this page are words that will be searched by people who already know about you or people who are looking for someone that offers your services. There is a big difference between the two. For example if it’s your business name appearing in all of these keywords then you aren’t really getting any ‘new’ customers you are just getting people who know about you already.

What you want is to get to a point where your top keywords list is full of industry keywords that are searched for by potential new customers. From there you can work out which keywords are more effective than others and you can also use it to test your assumptions you made when doing your initial keyword research.

*Note the “not provided” keyword is for people who have found you while being logged into Google and who’s who’s privacy is protected. You can assume the searches are consistent with the other keywords listed in your top keywords list.


If you are deliberately undertaking online campaigns, the campaigns area can be a great resource. An example of an online campaign could be:

  • Paid advertising on another site.
  • Active participating in a forum or social media.
  • Sending out email newsletters.
  • Having a blog with subscribers through Feedburner.
All of these things can be tracked through the campaigns area (in some cases you will have to set up URLs with the URL builder)

The best thing about this is looking at how conversions differ between campaigns. Assuming you have goals defined (which you should) you can easily look at different campaigns to see which ones are doing a better job at bringing you customers.

Top pages

Google analytics top content

The top pages list is great to see how well your posts are being received and where people are heading on your site.

The top pages part of the content area is a great place to get an understanding of what parts of your site people are naturally going to and also how effective your new content has been over the last month.

This is particularly useful if you are an active blogger because you can see quite easily which posts are having an impact. It may be the case that the post has had more attention and more traffic or it might just be the heading and concept of the post.

There’s more

There’s a lot more to Google Analytics but looking at your traffic volume, traffic sources, keywords, campaigns and top pages is a great start. Over time we will build more and more measures from Google Analytics into Informly.



Dan Norris is a co-founder at WP Curve and a passionate entrepreneur with an obsession for content marketing.

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