Google analytics should nowadays be considered bread and butter for any marketer, but the truth is that many marketers are unable to take any meaningful value from it as they don’t consider themselves good with numbers and find it all a bit daunting. Instead they focus alll their energy on doing great work, but without a handle on the actual impact it’s having.

I think one of the reasons many marketers and business people hesitate with analytics is that at first glance there just appears to be so much information. It’s immediate analysis paralysis. I therefore think the key is to know exactly what to look for and not be distracted or overwhelmed by the other hundreds of options. And once you are happy with monitoring a small number f things you will naturally start exploring other aspects of analytics.

So to help you establish that starting point, I want to share with you the metrics I look at most frequently:
1. Traffic sources – total traffic to a website or app tells us very little about what’s working. We want to know where these people are coming from and the trends within these traffic sources over time. It can be worth combining this with data from competitor insight tools like similar web to see how your traffic distribution compares to theirs – are they investing in channels you’re neglecting?
2. Website engagement – as a general rule, if your bounce rate is going up then your time on site and average pages views will be going down, and vice versa. Of course it’s possible that higher engagement could be a sign that your website is confusing and it’s taking people longer than it should to find the info they need, but in my experience that’s pretty rare. Higher levels of engagement are almost always a positive sign that people trust your brand, like the UX and are willing to invest their precious time exploring the content on it. This impacts conversion rates, repeat visitor rates and even future search rankings as Google doesn’t want to be rankings sites with lousy experiences.
3. Traffic to key landing pages – the majority of traffic to most websites goes to blog posts, and while that’s fine there is usually a very limited short term correlation between blog traffic and revenue. Instead, your blog is probably there more for driving email sign ups and therefore longer term revenue. In other words, you might find that your website traffic appears to be growing or shrinking, but actually the traffic to the pages that are going to bring in new customers today may be doing the opposite – these pages are typically the product, service or category pages. I therefore suggest creating a segment within analytics that will monitor this landing page traffic so you can see what the trend is specifically for these pages, which will often be very different to the website as a whole.
4. Goal tracking – the very first thing a marketer should do when taking control of a website is establish what the objectives of that website are and how they’re going to be measured. If the objective of the website is to generate enquiries then a goal needs to exist on the website that tracks enquiries. If it’s to maximise page views for advertising revenue then a goal should be set up that is triggered each time a user views a certain number of page views. Ideally, each goal should also have a financial value assigned to it. Sometimes this can be a bit tricky. For example, if you’re an accountancy firm then what is the value of someone submitting an enquiry when you have to take into account the likely lifetime profit value and the conversion rate from enqury to sale? It’s by no means an exact science but I would still encourage you to assign a conservative figure to this as it will give much more meaning to your reports if you’re able to say LinkedIn has brought in £12,000 this month, while instagram has brought in £3.70. You will also then find that the reports start to mean a lot more to senior decision makers within the business, which is key as you want them to be taking this stuff seriously.

There are of course lots of others that may be important to your business depending on what it is you’re selling. So if you’re an ecommerce business you’re going to really care about average customer spend and top conversion paths (in other words, the touch points people have in the conversion process) or if your website contains some sort of funnel then you’re going to want to track each stage of that funnel to see where the leaks are, but the above 4 metrics are pretty fundamental to any website, and if you can develop the habit of checking those each week, you’re soon going to start to develop a much more general understanding of GA.