What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a very useful free SEO tool for people who want to do more than just counting hits. This tool can help you understand your webpage visitors better and tailor your page content for better conversions (in internet marketing, a conversion rate is the ratio of webpage visitors who convert casual content views or webpage visits into desired actions, such as ad clicks or Amazon purchases). If you learn how to leverage Google Analytics, you’ll be able to optimize your web pages easily. You don’t have to be an engineer to learn what Google Analytics is, you don’t require any software, extra money or additional tools to use it – all you need is a curious mind.

What is Google Analytics and where to start?

First of all, Google Analytics is an onsite visitor-reporting tool, which means that Google Analytics measures your visitor’s onsite journey, its drivers and actions, and the performance of all of your web pages. This tool also has the ability to provide offsite search query data such as the size of your potential target audience, visibility and the buzz.

If you are new to web analytics reporting, the amount of information may seem overwhelming at first. However, this article is intended to guide you through important analytics features in order to be able to use Google Analytics readily and without difficulty.

Before you sign up for Google Analytics and start taking all the necessary steps to get it running efficiently, you may want to gain an insight into the initial user/visitor metrics such as:

· the number of daily visitors your web pages receive,

· average conversion rate (ad clicks and purchases),

· top-visited pages,

· average time on page,

· visit page depth,

· geographic distribution of visitors,

· bounce rate (how many single-page visits you receive or do your visitors stay or simply bounce off),

· generated revenue,

· value of your web pages, etc.

All these things can be answered with Google Analytics reports and since the user experience determines the success of your web pages, in time, you’ll move deeper into your analysis and start asking more complicated questions.

Using the Google Analytics Interface

By understanding the reports layout, you’ll get used to drilling down into your web pages data instantly. In the Google Analytics interface, it is much easier to analyze your data in context. There are related information links within the reports and Help and University articles available in every report.

The Dashboard Overview

This is not really a report, but it is the first screen displayed when you log in to your Google Analytics account. From here, you can check each of the detailed report sections. The default key reports set on your Dashboard are:

Google analytics Key Reports Screenshot

  • Intelligence
  • Visitors Overview: Map Overlay
  • Traffic Sources Overview
  • Content
  • Goals

* These are described in the reverse order in this article

(Figure 1: Key Reports in Google Analytics).


Goal reporting is very useful for tracking conversions on your web pages. In this context, goal equals to conversion, for example ad click. A subsection of the Goal report is the funnel analysis, also known as path analysis. It’s very helpful in case you’ve clearly defined paths that visitors ought to take to achieve certain goals. To have this report running, you have to define your goals, of course (this is optional, but desirable especially if you become an advanced user).


The Content report shows you which of your web pages are popular including per-page metrics such as pageviews, average time on site, single-page visits (bounce rate), the percentage of site exits and the average page value. If you click the page name links, you’ll be able to look at your individual page properties more in depth.

You can also view your Google AdSense performance at-a-glance in this section, entrance sources and keywords and other useful data.

Traffic Sources

This report shows you where your traffic comes from (not in a geographical sense) and it usually comes in four forms – as:

1) traffic from search engines – visitors who landed on your web page based on search query,

2) direct traffic–visitors who typed your web page URL directly or used a browser bookmark to get to your web page,

3) referral traffic–visitors who followed links from other sites to arrive to your web page,

4) other.

Figure 3: My Traffic Sources in Google Analytics (for HubPages)

In the context of reaching goals i.e. increasing conversions (for example, ad clicks), search engine traffic is the most wanted because random visitors who land on your web pages based on a query are more likely to click on ads than other types of visitors.

Visitors: Map Overlay

Map Overlay is a powerful report showing where your visitors come from. Knowing this data may help you single out your best money-making geographic markets. The displayed maps are color-coded by density. The darkest color presents the area from which most visits and revenue come from. You can look at the report more in depth by checking data for individual cities, regions and/or countries (see Figure 2)..

Other than map overlay, the visitors report shows the visitors profile (languages, network locations, user defined value), browser profile and other useful data.

Figure 2: Map Overlay in Google Analytics

Intelligence Report

Many analytics experts emphasize the importance of the Intelligence report. This report is considered the key report to help you notice important changes in traffic patterns which may easily go unnoticed. For example, if you have more than 100 visits a day during one month period, Google Analytics can predict expected traffic levels for the current day, week, and month. The more traffic you receive, the more accurate the intelligence report. If you enable email alerts in your Google Analytics account, the tool can send you alerts (custom and/or automatic) about the changes highlighted by comparing predicted values with the actual level of traffic you receive.

Along the side of each alert is a Significance bar which appears gray – the grayer the bar, the more likely the result is valid. By default, daily alerts are displayed, but you can adjust them to weekly or monthly alerts.

  • Automatic vs. Custom Alerts

Automatic alerts are color-coded green on the alert chart and custom alerts are color-coded blue. The Intelligence engine checks the following dimensions for significant changes (Table 1):

Table 1: Automatic vs. Custom Alerts

Additional helpful information:

Free Resources Provided by Google:

  • Google Analytics Help – reference guide
  • Google Conversion University – Google Analytics IQ Lessons – step-by-step curriculum to prepare for the GA test
  • YouTube Official Google Analytics channel – video tour around GA
  • Official Google Analytics Blog – news, events, announcements, etc.

At last, Google Analytics has its benefits and limitations. It can’t tell you why your visitors behave the way they do, but it can help you to make improvements so that they start behaving the way you’d like them to. Learning what Google Analytics is or at least the basics won’t be difficult in theory, but learning what Google Analytics can do for you comes with practice and it requires a little time.