Google Analytics is something we’ve all heard of and may realize it’s importance, but most of us rarely look at our reports because it may seem both boring and intimidating. I find them incredibly interesting. But, I’ve been looking at many reports on a weekly basis for years, so I’ve gotten past any intimidation, but I’ve also found that simply looking at a few key factors each week can provide us with an accurate overall health rating for our sites.

The bare basics of Analytics: 6 steps

Yes, we can get MUCH more in depth by setting up goals for conversions and analyzing traffic flow for our sales funnels — but that is best left to dedicated professionals. If you’re simply in charge of maintaining the content of your website, you’ll want to measure your success and know a little more about who is actually viewing your content and where they’re coming from.

A client of mine, a church, has become much more reliant on their website and Facebook page to stay connected during this time of isolation (April 2020). They’ve always posted their sermons on YouTube and their website, but have increased their content during this time and want to measure the effectiveness, so I’m creating this blog post for them, but I know most managers of websites can benefit from this quick, simple overview of Analytics basics.

1. Let’s start with the homepage

Google Analytics - basics, bounce rate

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Just a glance at your Analytics homepage provides you with the two most important statistics of your site — how many visitors you had in the past 7 days, and the Bounce Rate (percentage of people skipping out after viewing only the page they landed on).

I honestly never saw a page with a BR of .77% before. It makes me think that something is manipulating it, but it is nice to think that my friends at the church are putting out content so riveting that people are scanning the site for more! BRs typically are around 50% give or take.

Note that you can also change the Date Range to anything you like. It’s handy to see how your traffic has increased or decreased over time.

2. Audience Demographics

Google Analytics - audience explained

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The Audience Demographics is probably the easiest thing to wrap our heads around… unless you’re looking at this one. It has all users as being over the age of 55, and nearly 70% of these are over 65! Time to engage the kids! I have to wonder about the accuracy of this as I usually find the Demographics to seem pretty predictable — if the site’s selling baby products, it’s predominantly young women. If it’s a sports blog, it’s mostly men, and so on.

Our audience here is nearly 62% male. That’s not a huge surprise, but I would make more effort to engage women.

3. User Flow

Google Analytics - user flow

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User Flow probably looks a little intimidating, but it’s actually very handy. It shows us where people entered the site — which is usually the homepage, unless you have a popular blog post or product that may be getting a lot of attention. But, we wanted to see if people were utilizing the “Recent Sermons” and this shows that 43 people went to it after the homepage and 24 went straight there, which I find to be very positive.

4. Acquisition

Google Analytics - acquisition

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I find this to be fairly fascinating and extremely important. Knowing how your audience found you helps you measure your Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts and also lets you know what social media channels are most popular with your audience.

It’s also good to click on each of these to get more information. A quick look at “Social” reveals that 12 people came from Facebook, and 2 came from our YouTube channel. Not surprising considering Facebook is more engaging for this audience.

I am a bit surprised that nearly half of the visitors have come via Organic Search (Google, Bing…). I’d expect most people to be members of the church and either have the site bookmarked, or simply type the first few letters into the domain nav bar to pull up the site. This seems to suggest that a lot of people are taking their first look at the church… which is nice. ALSO — you can click on Organic Search to see what search terms people used to find your site!

5. Page Views

Google Analytics - page views

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Nothing complicated about Page Views, and you can even consider it redundant upon looking at Time Spent, but I just like the simplicity of the chart in order of most popular pages and percentage of the Page Views for each. I think it’s very clear to see what people like and how they use your site — which is helpful so you can create future content that you clearly see people engaging with.

6. Time Spent

Google Analytics - time spent

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Another well-titled page. It’s basically the same as Page Views, but with Average Time on Page stat available as well. And this is the final piece of the puzzle. We (the church) wanted to know how much our “Recent Sermons” efforts were being utilized and I just realized that the note I put on the graphic is wrong (yes, I could’ve changed it, but I’m lazy). People are spending an average of 46 seconds on “Recent Sermons”, but “Staff”, “Events” and “Giving” are engaged with longer visits and “Local Missions” blows away all of them at an average of over 2 minutes!

I would say we have some work to do in promoting the sermons, however, I just checked out the YouTube channel and the most recent sermon was viewed there 219 times already and the one from a couple weeks ago is at 318 — so, I consider that quite a success.

Final thoughts on Google Analytics basics

Spending just 10 minutes per week looking at these important stats of your Analytics will give you much more insight into who your audience is, what content they like best and how they found you. Creating content to engage your audience is very time consuming, so this knowledge will help you optimize it as well as your SEO efforts!

Over 50 Starting Over is my DIY program for the not-so-technically inclined that want to create their own lead generating online presence. It is powered by my years of experience providing these services with my company Barry Edwards, author.

logo, Edwards Communications - Internet marketing, Cleveland, Ohio

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