Google Analytics Basics: Understanding the Basics of Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a powerful, free Web metrics program. But it’s not easy to use!
In this video, we’ll overview the terminology of Google Analytics, and explain the “basics” in terms of data you can get out of the Google metrics program. Let’s get started!

Watch the Video

The Basics of Basics: What Google Analytics Isn’t (and Is)

Google Analytics is a powerful, free Web  metrics program designed to tell you how people get to your website, what they do once they land, and if they “convert” to your goals (usually a sale or a sales lead / inquiry). To get started –

  • Sign up for Google Analytics at Google Analytics
  • Install the Analytics tracking code using a WordPress plug in such as Google Analytics by MonsterInsights or using Google Tag Manager such as DuracellTomi’s plugin, here. Be sure to verify that you’ve installed it correctly. Here is the official Google Analytics help file, and here is a free program that will verify you’ve installed it on all your web pages.

Once you’ve installed it, you’re now tracking how people get to your website and what they do once they arrive. However, remember that Google Analytics does NOT track –

  • Your rank on Google. Use a free program such as SEO Book’s Rank Checker or the FAT Rank plug in for Chrome as well as the Google AdWords Preview tool to measure your rank on Google vis-a-vis your target keywords.
  • Your domain authority. Use a free / freemium tool like Open Site Explorer or AHREFS to track each month your domain authority and inbound links.
  • Your review count on Google+ as well as your social authority. The number of reviews your business has on Google (if you’re a local business) and/or the follower count you have on Twitter, Google+, Facebook and other social media networks are also important metrics. Don’t ignore them!

I recommend that each month, you track the above metrics, plus on Google Analytics –

  • All Users : Sessions, Users, Goals
  • Organic Traffic: Sessions, Users, Goals
  • Paid Traffic (AdWords): Sessions, Users, Goals
  • Referral Traffic: Sessions, Users, Goals


Google Analytics: Basic Vocabulary


Let’s run down the left hand column of Google Analytics, and highlight some of the vocabulary and indicate the marketing question that it answers. It’s very important to think FIRST of the marketing question and THEN dive into Google Analytics. Always, anticipate “What does this tell me? What question does this answer.” Think of it like Jeapardy – that game in which they give you the answer, and you provide the question.

Three Hidden Features in Google Analytics – 

  • Time Horizon: on the top right, this where you can change your “time horizon” to last month, or a specific time period you want to analyze.
  • Click on the THREE DOTS and then HELP to ask a question, or visit to ask questions about Google Analytics.
  • Visit Google Analytics Academy for truly awesome online videos on how to use Google Analytics.

Let’s look first at the AUDIENCE group, answering questions around the attributes of your website visitors –

What is an overview to my traffic, as a whole, such as sessions, users, page views, and bounce rate? (Note: bounce rate = one web page, and one page, only visit; immediate entrance, and immediate exit).


Location – What countries, states (provinces), and even cities did my visitors come from?


Browsers and OS – what browser (e.g., Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari), did my users use, including down to the version or OS used?


Overview – Google, can you tell me my traffic by desktop, tablet, and mobile (phone?)
Devices – Within the phone and tablet category, which models (e.g., Android vs. iPhone) were used, most?


Users Flow
Hey Google! – could you give me a visual picture of how users “flow” through my website, from page to page?

Next, let’s look at the ACQUISITION group, answering questions around what people ‘do’ on your website –

What are the top ways that people are getting to my website? Namely – direct (URLs in the browser, bookmarks, email links), Organic Search (search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo), Referral (e.g., blogs), Social (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and Paid Search (AdWords)


If I am advertising, I can see how people came to my site from AdWords, including what keywords they inputted to get there.


Search Console
If you’ve linked Google Search Console to Google Analytics, that data will appear here (useful to see some basic data about inbound keyword queries).


Which social networks are sending me the most traffic?


Which campaigns are sending me the most traffic? (You can use the Google Analytics URL Builder, here, to tag campaigns.

Next, let’s look at the BEHAVIOR group, answering questions around what people ‘do’ on your website –

What are my top pages, and other statistics such as average time on page, unique page views, etc.?


Behavior Flow
Google, I just can’t get enough pictures. Can you show me that ‘user flow’ thing again? It’s really pretty!


Site Content
All pages – What are my most popular pages? Plus, can I select attributes such as the browser and cross-compare these things?
Content Drill Down – Can I ‘step down’ from landing page to the next page visited, to the next page visited, etc.?
Landing Pages – Which pages are the ‘first pages’ that someone touched on my site, and where did they go from there?
Exit Pages – Which pages are the ‘last pages’ that someone touched on my site?


Site Speed
Could you tell my how fast (or slow) my website is/was?


In-page Analytics
Can you let me browse my website page by page, and see what people clicked on? (Note: install the new Page Analytics plug in for Chrome).

Finally, let’s look at the CONVERSIONS group, answering questions around whether people complete the ‘goals’ of your website, such as eCommerce conversions (sales), inquiries, or other goals that you define –

Goals – note to understand how to define a goal, go here or view my video on goals, here.
Overview – Are people completing my goals?
Reverse Goal Path – Which web page(s) did people visit PRIOR to completing a goal?
Funnel Visualization – can you give me a visual picture of my goals, from the website landing to the exit and/or goal completion?


Can you give me a picture of my eCommerce transactions?
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About Jason McDonald

Jason McDonald is a top-rated San Francisco SEO Consultant. His consulting services include search engine optimization consulting, social media marketing consulting, and Google AdWords consulting. Jason's motto as a consultant is that he doesn't do SEO 'for you' but rather he does SEO 'with you.' That goes as well for his social media marketing consultant activities and Google AdWords consultant services. Besides serving clients in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jason consults with clients in Silicon Valley (San Jose), Oakland and other cities throughout the Bay Area. Beyond the Bay Area, Jason is available as an SEO consultant, Social Media Consultant, and as an expert witness in litigation involving social media marketing, search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising.