Humanlytics Google Analytics Video Series Episode 3:
Part 1 — Enter the Metrics
Welcome to another episode of our Google Analytics Video series where we publish short videos (around 10 min) about one area of Google Analytics every two weeks to make Google Analytics easier for you.
In this video, we are going to cover three simple questions:
- What defines a good metric?
- What are the 9 most important metrics in Google Analytics?
- Where do you find these 9 metrics in Google Analytics?
If you have any questions about anything covered in this video, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am more than happy to setup a call with you to answer any questions, no strings attached!
Please give us any feedback you may have in the comments section. This will help us greatly in improving these short-videos to ensure they are truly valuable to you.
What Defines a Good Metric?
Before discussing the metrics utilized in Google Analytics specifically, let’s first talk about how to choose a good metric in general.
Selecting an effective metric is an extremely important step in the process of making correct data-driven business decisions because it directly impacts how fast you are able to iterate towards your ideal business outcome.
Let’s use an example. If you are trying to build a spaceship to the sun, all of the metrics and data you collect need to help you reach that goal: such as the distance to the sun, your speed, etc.
If you choose even one incorrect metric, such as your distance from the moon, you’ll end up floating aimlessly in space and your mission will fail miserably.
In the business world, a good metric usually has the following attributes:
- It is relevant, meaning that it actually helps you accomplish a business objective that is important to you, whether that’s getting more customers or making a sale.
- It is directional, meaning that the positive or negative change of the metric will indicate whether you are moving towards or away from your ultimate goal.
- It is time-relevant, meaning that it changes frequently enough to give you real-time feedback of your actions.
What are the 9 Basic Metrics of Google Analytics?
Based on the principles describe above, we recommend you use the nine basic metrics in Google Analytics to examine the overall health of your website. In order to better understand those metrics we’ve divided them into three categories and a few sub-categories.
The first category is “traffic”, which includes the metrics “users”, “sessions”, and “pageviews”.
The metrics in this category are designed to give you an overview of the amount of traffic coming to your website.
Each of the metrics in this category correspond to a specific “level of analysis” in Google Analytics. For example, the metric “users” tells you how many people visited your website during a given time frame, which summarizes your traffic on the “user” level.
The metric “sessions” tells you how many times those users visited your website, and summarizes your traffic on a “session” level.
Lastly, the metric “pageviews” tells you how many web pages are visited in the given time frame, which summarizes your total traffic on the “pageview” level.
I will also attach a blog post with a note to help you understand the concept of “unit of analysis” better which, in my opinion, is one of the most important concept to understand in order to fully master Google Analytics.
All three metrics in this category are pretty straightforward so there are no sub-categories.
The second category is traction, which includes the metrics “# of new sessions”, “# of returning sessions”, and “bounce rate”. Metrics in this category help you further understand the composition and quality of your traffic.
Based on this definition it’s clear that the category can be broken down into two sub categories: “traffic composition” and “traffic quality”.
For the sub-category “traffic composition”, notice that we did not use “% of new sessions” which is how it appears in the Google Analytics dashboard, but instead used its components: “# of new sessions”, and “# of returning sessions”.
This is because “% of new sessions”, as a ratio metric, does not satisfy the requirements to be a good ratio, based on criteria explained above. Most significantly, the impact of an increase or decrease in this metric is dubious. Therefore, it’s impossible to compare it across time.
For traffic quality, we use one of the most popular metrics in web analytics “bounce rate”.
Bounce rate is calculated as the percentage of sessions in which users visits your homepage and then immediately leave without performing any actions recordable by Google Analytics.
While there are several possible causes for a “bounce”, its existence or lack thereof is still considered the single best indicator of whether people are attracted to your homepage and the concept of your business.
The third category is engagement, which include the metrics “avg. session time”, “avg. pages/session”, and “conversion rate”. Metrics in this category offer you information about how well your users engage with your website once the progress past the landing page.
Engagement can also be defined with two sub-categories: “session quality” and “conversion”.
The sub-category “session quality” includes the metrics “avg. session time” and “avg. pages/session”. These two metrics work very well together in order to give you a fairly complete picture of how long and engaged your users are during their session.
On the other hand, “conversion rate”, probably the pan-ultimate metric for web analytics, tells you the percentage of sessions which result in users performing the action that you want them to perform. That action could be anything from making a purchase to signing up for a newsletter.
While this metric isn’t included in the basic dashboard of GA, and thus requires setup, I still recommend that you set up conversion tracking on your website in order to watch this metric carefully.
Where to Find All 9 Metrics in Google Analytics?
You can find most of the metrics you’ll need under the audience -> overview tab of Google Analytics on the default screen. However, you’ll need to dig deeper to find the metrics “# of new sessions”, “# of returning sessions”, and “conversion rate”.
You can find the metrics “# of new sessions” and “# of returning sessions” under the audience -> behavior -> new vs returning sessions tab.
You can find “conversion rate/s” under the conversion -> overview section. However, in order to track your conversion rate you need to set it up based on your business objectives. I will attach a blog post in the notes to help you do just that.