The first thing that most people doing web analytics will look at is the audience’s behaviour.
- How many people visited your website?
- How long did they stay for?
- Did they like the content?
These insights provide a basic understanding of the website performance, particularly when measured over time. Are the trends consistent or are they changing over time?
When you log into Google Analytics, the first round of data you receive is the ’Audience Overview’. This data provides you with a very basic overview of your site performance, but that is exactly what it is: an overview.
An overview is only useful when the limitations are understood - these limitations, without understanding will only lead to misinformed decision-making.
What do these things mean!?
The true meaning of some terms are often confused, which can cause some data-driven decisions to be based on misunderstood information. Let’s look at each term and what you can dig out from the data.
The number of times that the website has been visited in the month. Opened up the website, closed it, then reopened it? That’ll be 2 sessions.
Sessions will always be higher than unique sessions because some people will visit the website more than once in a month.
Okay, so if sessions are the number of times a website is opened, then users is how many ‘people’ have been on your website. If only one person has visited your website in the month but has done so 15 times, then your session will equal 15 and unique sessions 1.
However, some people will use multiple browsers and devices - which means we cannot assume this is a true figure for the number of people visiting the website. Using different browsers/devices will count as separate sessions.
1 session on an iPhone + 1 session on an iPad = 2 users, but could be 1 person.
% New Sessions
You can imagine this as the percentage of visitors that have never experienced your school before.
Often, returning visitors will be parents or internal staff members - these are people with an experience of your school.
New sessions have never visited your website before, which means they need to be ‘sold’ into your school. You need to delight the visitor by matching the experience with their expectation.
Pages / Sessions
Generally speaking, you want this to be as high as possible. Why? Because you want people to have an engaging experience with your website.
You want them to explore as many pages as possible and consume really good content. But do not let it mislead you; a high number of pages could mean that the visitor cannot find what they are looking for.
This is where the overview can begin to give misleading information. This metric is an average of all pages, all sessions, all keywords, all referrers etc. A good web analyst will delve deeper into specific pages and visitors.
Avg. Session Duration
Similar to pages per session, this should be as high as possible - but not too high. You can be mistaking an engaging journey for a confused and lost one.
This is a very good ‘overview’ but it doesn’t beat looking at individual pages. If a page only has one line of content but yet users are spending 2 minutes on it, there is something wrong.
Alternatively, if a page has a video on but people are only spending 10 seconds on it, you can assume they are not watching the video.
This is our favourite metric. The reason being that it provides an insight into a user’s behaviour and reaction to your website.
A user ‘bounces’ when they land on a page and then leave instantly without visiting another page. This tells us that a visitor didn’t receive the experience they expected.
Hopefully, this will give you a basic understanding of the overview metrics on Google Analytics. It is such a powerful tool to use, but only when understood correctly.
We could talk for days about Google Analytics and how your school can use it effectively. No, seriously, we do training days just on Google Analytics!