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What Is Google Analytics? (The Plain English Guide)

I was on the phone the other day chatting with someone who was interested in working with me and she shared something that smacked me in the face:

"I just don’t know even know where to begin when I log in Google Analytics. What am I even supposed to be looking at?”

Head smack! I can’t believe how long I’ve been talking about Google Analytics and shouting from the rooftops to install it, track everything you’re doing and make better decisions with it…without covering the basics.

No more! This post is for you if you are super new to Google Analytics or you’ve installed it, logged in, gone deer-in-the-headlights and ran away from your computer to hide. I give you: A Google Analytics Tour.

But first, what IS Google Analytics?

To put it simply, Google Analytics is a free tool that lets you see what’s going on with your website traffic: where your visitors are coming from and what they’re doing on your website.

All you have to do to set it up is install an itsy bitsy piece of code on your site (or not, depending on your platform).

The Tour

Google Analytics has 2 main sections:

Using the Google Analytics Menu

  1. The Admin area, where we make changes to how Google Analytics counts our data, how our accounts are setup or share access to our accounts with other users
  2. The Reports area, where we get to see what’s actually going on with our website traffic.

For a basic user, you don’t need to do much with the admin area (except maybe step #3 in this setup guide).

So let’s skip to the reports.

When you log in to Google Analytics, your screen by default usually lands you on this reporting screen (if not just hit "Reporting" on the top menu):

Google Analytics Tour: Default Report Landing Page

And here’s what you’re looking at:

a tour of google analytics diagram

Almost every reporting screen comes with:

  • timeframe selection drop down menu
  • illustrative display of the data (most of the time this is just a line graph showing you traffic numbers)
  • more detailed data chart underneath

And there are 5 major reports you can access in Google Analytics:

  1. Real Time
  2. Audience
  3. Acquisition
  4. Behavior
  5. Conversions

I could write volumes about each of these, but let’s stick with the most important one for you, the small business owner.

The Acquisition Report

This is probably the most actionable report inside Google Analytics. It’s telling exactly where your traffic is coming from.

Facebook? Twitter? A guest post you wrote? Adwords campaign? All of this data is found inside this report.

Acquisition All Traffic Report Diagram

By looking at this report, you can easily see which of your marketing efforts are sending you the most traffic.

And if you know anything about bounce rates, you could measure the quality of the traffic you’re getting as well.

(A better way to do this is with Google Analytics Goals or Ecommerce Tracking but both of those are a little more involved for the super beginner.)

And from there? You can decide where to spend more time and more money and where not to.

Easy peasy right? I thought so :)

One note here - if you’re getting less than 1000 visits a month, you probably don’t yet have enough data to know exactly what’s working and what’s not.

Rather than make you do complicated statistical calculations, just wait to make any major marketing decisions until after you’ve seen 1000 visits :)

So what do you think?

Did this help? How do YOU use Google Analytics? Do you find it overwhelming? Let me know in the comments.

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