Pageviews, bounce rates, users, sessions — when I first started tracking my site analytics, I had no idea what any of these meant or how they were important to me. As I started learning more about blogging and attending conferences, most people said to focus on pageviews as that’s really what advertisers look at.
But what if you have no interest in advertisers? Do you really need to track site analytics?
I still say yes. For one thing, site analytics can only track from the day you install the code, and if you don’t do it early on, you may not have the information you need when you need it. But more importantly, site analytics can give you a lot of information for growing and improving your website. So what numbers do you need to pay attention to, and what do they really mean?
Users, sessions, and pageviews
The first thing you’ll see when you login to Google Analytics is your numbers for users, sessions, and pageviews. A user is one unique person visiting your site in a given time period. A session includes any interactions that person has with your site from the time they open it to the time they close it. A pageview is any unique page that person views. So a person who visits your home page on Monday and your blog page and a single post on Tuesday would be counted as one unique visitor with two sessions and three pageviews.
As I mentioned before, pageviews are important for advertisers, because it’s an indication of how many times their ad may be viewed on your site. As a business owner, pageviews are less important to me. I’m more interested in users — the amount of unique visitors I’m bringing to my site. I want to see that number grow each month to know that new people are seeing my work.
Bounce rate is the percentage of people who visit one page of your site and then leave. I don’t worry too much about bounce rate — I just keep an eye on it to make sure it’s not going up. It’s not necessarily a bad thing for people to leave after viewing one page. Take blog posts, for example. If you’re a regular reader of a site, you may click over to a post from social media, read the post, and then move on. You got what you needed. Or maybe you open a lot of tabs at once, and it takes a while to get back to the first site you opened. After about half an hour of idle time, you’ll be counted as a bounce for that site, even if you go back later and view multiple pages.
Audience, behavior, and acquisition
Beyond the main page, you’ll see some tabs on the left with a ton of information. Honestly, I’m sure I don’t use Google Analytics to even half of its ability. But there are a few areas I like to check from time to time to learn more about the people visiting my site, how they get there, and what they’re doing.
Under the Audience section, I like to check out location to see where people are coming from, and mobile to see how many people are visiting my site on phones and tablets. It’s also a good idea to enable demographics and see information on age, gender, and interests.
The next thing I like to look at is behavior, particularly under Site Content. This gives me an idea of which content has been popular so I can consider creating similar or follow-up content.
Finally, I like to look at acquisition to see how visitors are finding my site, particularly referrals. Through referrals, I can see which social media channels are bringing me the most traffic, and also other sites that have linked to mine. Then I can head over to their sites and get to know them!
How often do you check your site analytics? Which stats do you pay the most attention to?