Let me tell you a story. An expert tells a small business marketer that they have to use Google Analytics on their website. So they get it and start gathering Google Analytics metrics. But the home dashboard looks overwhelming and feels like one more non-critical thing to do. So it gets a “that’s nice” and maybe checked once every couple months. Any of this sound familiar?
Google Analytics metrics can be a lot for a small business owner. We’re here to turn that overwhelming data into a constructive tool.
For the purpose of this article, we’re going to assume that you know what Google Analytics is and already have it running on your website. If for some reason you don’t, read this article, go set it up, then rejoin me here.
P.S. Google Analytics is changing from Universal Analytics (UA) to Google Analytics 4 (GA4). If you haven’t updated your account, you need to do so as soon as possible before the deadline hits on 10/1/2023. GA4 won’t track data retroactively, so setting up GA4 now will give you a head start on gathering historical data before September 2023.
Learn more about how to change from UA to GA4.
Useful Small Business Google Analytics Metrics
A Google Analytics metric is a quantitative measurement that helps you understand how your website is performing. Some of these GA4 metrics have changed slightly from UA metrics. However, like UA, GA4 tracks A LOT of metrics. But there’s a few that are really useful to focus on understanding.
GA4 tracks 3 types of users (aka site visitors): total, new, and active users. Total users is just the total number of visitors to your site within a specified time period, which includes repeat visits from the same person. New users is the number of users who have visited your site during the date range you specify. Only one visit per user is counted. Active users is the most important user metric in GA4. Google defines an active user as an individual user who engages with your site (e.g. clicks a link) OR records their first ever visit.
The user metric helps you understand your audience growth. If your users aren’t growing, then your marketing efforts probably aren’t working the way they should to grow your audience.
Or, as GA4 calls it, “Views.” This metric tells you how many users visited a specific page with a specified period of time.
Home page views are typically the highest. And you can use other page views to determine whether landing pages, contact pages, etc. are getting the traffic you would expect.
In GA4, engagement is measured as the amount of time your website was “in focus” on a user’s browser. In other words, the amount of time a user looks at your website from load to close. GA4 counts a user session as “engaged” when a session lasts for 10 or more seconds, has a conversion event, or 2 or more page views.
Low engagement means your website doesn’t encourage your users to actually spend time on it.
This Google Analytics metric measures whether your users are completing an action you want them to perform on your website. A conversion could be submitting a form, calling, downloading a PDF, or purchasing an item.
If your user rate is high and growing but your conversions are low to zero, then you should revisit whether your conversion opportunity is clear and whether the design and messaging drives users to it.
Turning Google Analytics Metrics into Useful Reports
You can find this report under the “Acquisition” section on the left sidebar in GA4.
The traffic acquisition report helps you understand the users on your site. While it’s helpful to know the gross number of active users on your website, learning how you acquired that traffic is enlightening on an actionable level.
In the example below, the Traffic Acquisition report shows that this website gained the most user sessions from organic search and the least from organic video.
Here are examples of how you could use the data from this report:
- If your organic search acquisition has been low in the past, you can use this data to see if it’s increased as you’ve boosted your SEO efforts.
- If you’ve been working on posting more videos over the past months and the acquisition rate of video is still low, it’s time to either regroup your video strategy or decide to focus your efforts on channels that bring more traffic.
Pages and Screens
You can find this report under the “Engagement” section in the left sidebar.
You can use the pages and screen reports to understand more detailed information about specific pages: how many new users visited, how long they engaged with a page, and more.
You can additionally set up comparisons to a similar, prior time period by clicking on the dates for the report, selecting “compare,” and choosing the time frames you want to compare.
Here’s how you can use the data from this report:
- You recently launched a new landing page, and you’ve been working to drive traffic to it. Has it received many views? Are people scrolling through? Do they on average stay long enough to have a meaningful interaction (e.g. fill out a contact form)?
- If you have an active blog, you can use this report to determine which topics interest users the most by sorting by average engagement time. This will indicate which posts are being read the most often and for the longest amount of time..
- If you use a specific page to track conversions (e.g. a “thank you” page after a form submission), you can use this data to track how many conversions you’ve received and how the conversion rate has changed over time.
The pathways explorer is actually a separate GA4 feature from the reports. You find it by selecting “Explore” in the left navigation. Then select the Pathways Explorer template. There’s several customizations you can add to the report. But just letting it run “as-is” is the simplest and easiest option.
With this report, you can track how users click through your website and find the pages where users tend to leave the site. This data is helpful because you want a user to travel through your site and eventually convert with you.
In the report below, we used the home page as the starting point. Then as you create the tree graph by clicking through the pages, you begin to see a detailed chart of how users traveled through the website, where they began to fall off, and how often they visited your conversion pages.
Here’s how you can use this data:
- You notice that the home page has a high engagement rate, but very few users are converting on your website. After examining the pathways explorer, you also notice that users come to the home page, click around a couple pages, but never fill out a contact form (your conversion). You strategize a couple responses. First, you make your conversion opportunity more obvious throughout the site. Second, you offer a middle-funnel conversion opportunity, something valuable but instantly accessible without interacting with someone first.
- Your home page has a high engagement rate. But after examining the pathways report, you see a steep drop off in user engagement from there. Users only journey to a couple of pages, and not usually to convert. So you rework your site navigation and modify the messaging on the site to lead users through the site more clearly.
For more information, I recommend checking out this helpful article on Google Analytics metrics and reports.
Work with Ingenium for Data Driven Website Optimizations
Google Analytics metrics and reports can be useful tools for your small business. But it does take time and effort to utilize them well. If GA data analysis and website optimizations are marketing tasks you’d rather outsource, we have a team of experts ready to help your company grow with data driven analytics.
Are you ready to grow your business with tools like GA4?