Intro to Google Analytics – Part 3 | npENGAGE

Intro to Google Analytics – Part 3

By on Jun 21, 2011


This post is the third in an ongoing series about Google Analytics. As we proceed, I’ll share tips on how you can use this tool to gain more insight into your online marketing. I’ll start off with the basics, but then we’ll get into some advanced techniques.

If you’re not yet familiar with Google Analytics, it’s a free tool from Google that you can add to your site to give you information about how people are coming to your website and how they behave when they get there. Read the first post for an overview of the Dashboard and the second post for a tour through some of the most useful reports around visitors.

Today we’ll go back to the Visitors section for even more insight into your site’s visitors. The map overlay, the second item on the list of reports , is both a fun visualization and can give you important insights about your visitors. If your focus is primarily or entirely on US constituents, you’ll likely see the US in dark green, indicating a high percentage or visitors.

You might be surprised to see traffic outside of the US. Where do those visitors come from? Unfortunately, some international traffic is likely to be from spammers & spam robots, but most are probably legitimate. Visitor location is determined by the IP address they are visiting from, but Google also tracks language, which is determined by the settings on a visitors’ computer. If you see anything surprising in locations, check that data against the languages report, also located under the Visitors tab. If you see a large group of people from a certain country or with certain language settings, you might want to add support for that language.

If you click on the US in the map, you can drill down to a view of traffic by state. Click on the state, and you can see traffic by city. If your organization provides services for a specific state or city, it can be interesting to see how much traffic you get from other areas. You can see the pages/visit, time on site and bounce rate for each area. If you are surprised to find traffic from a certain area, and see that people from that area have a high bounce rate & few pages per visit, then perhaps you can think of a way to better serve that audience with targeted content. I’ve seen a lot of clients surprised at the traffic they get from outside their target area. Even if people are coming from an area you don’t directly serve, you might be able to build a relationship with them and they might want to help your cause.

Now skip down to Visitor Loyalty. This takes your data on new versus returning visitors a step further. The Loyalty report breaks down visitors by number of times they’ve visited in the designated time period. This report defaults to the past month, but you can change the date range to see how often people return over, say, a 3 month period. Remember, if someone clears their cookies or uses a different browser or computer, they will be seen as a brand new visitor, and the likelihood of that happening over a 1 year period is much higher than over a 1 month period, so try to use a time range of 1 – 3 months.

Are you seeing some visitors that view your site 50-100 times a month? These are probably internal users. If your organization has a static IP address, you can exclude your IP range from the Google Analytics tracking to weed out your internal users from your data by creating a filter in the profile settings. (If that’s Greek to you, we’ll cover that in a post soon!)

Another way to look at your returning visitors is to see how frequently visitors come to your site. Some visitors might return the same day, while others might have last been to your site a year ago. If you can remove internal traffic, this report can help you decide how often to refresh content. If most visitors are new or return after a month or more, then a weekly featured article might not be the best thing to spend your time! (Be sure to remove internal traffic or take this report with a grain of salt)

Length of visit & dept of visit show you more details behind the average pageviews per visit and average time on site metrics. It can be eye opening to see the complete picture beyond a simple average. The chart below is for a site that shows an average of 5.16 pages per visitor. Pretty good, right? Not so great when you see the complete picture.

It can be dissapointing to see that only a few visitors (typically internal users) view many pages and stay for a long time, inflating your averages, but it’s better to be aware and look at how your complete picture changes over time or with significant website changes.

That’s enough data for this post. Look at your visitors reports & check back next month for more Google Analytics tips!


Alissa Ruehl has been using Google Analytics since the first weeks it came out as a Google product. Through consulting, webinars, and conferences, she has helped hundreds of people at a variety of organizations and companies navigate Google Analytics and use it to refine their online marketing and website effectiveness. She currently uses her analysis skills as a senior user researcher on the Blackbaud products side, but she loves re-immersing herself the world of website analytics for her monthly Google Analytics blog posts. The only thing Alissa likes talking about more than data is food, but that’s a whole other blog.

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