Google Analytics - What You Need to Know

Google, The Great and Powerful (Part 1)

The basics on everything you need to know about Google Analytics
google analytics

Google Great and Powerful

We didn’t grow up with cable TV. That meant we got 6 channels (my father said that he had children so that he wouldn’t have to buy a remote control – it was my job to stand at the TV and change the dial) – and one of them showed The Wizard of Oz once a year, on a Sunday, at 8 p.m.

Wizard of Oz Night meant popcorn and a bedtime suspension, which was major. Believe it or not, my favorite part of the movie did not include flying monkeys or red ruby slippers. My favorite part was at the end, when the special-effected (c’mon, it was super advanced technology for 1939 when the movie was originally released) giant Oz head image, ripe with fire, was exposed to be a blithering old man behind a curtain, manipulating images and sound. The discovery titillated me every time, cultivating a young conspiracy theorist.

Fast forward 30 years and I have unearthed today’s Great and Powerful.  I just finished a 2-session, action packed Google Analytics course at the esteemed local web marketing and development studio, Illuminea. I am now more confident than ever that Google knows everything. I suppose I’m not the first to embrace this concept, especially now that everyone is up-in-arms over Google tattling on all of us to the NSA, but still – I’m impressed.

And now the nitty gritty: What I Learned about Google Analytics That You Need to Know

Today, I will start slowly by introducing you to some of the terms required when dealing with analytics.

Handy definitions for those of us who didn’t take C++ courses in college:

  • Bounce Rate: The most simplistic explanation (sanctioned by The Goddess of Google Analytics, Menucha): the percentage of people who entered your site (not necessarily on the home page – it could be on any of the internal pages) viewed that one page, and didn’t click anywhere else on your site. They landed on one page, and basically died there, eventually closing the tab/page/browser hours later. Bounce rate also reflects anyone who landed on your site and immediately x-ed out of it, or hit the back button without navigating to any other pages. Want a more techie explanation? Look here. Keep in mind that while I detest the titles Ninja, Guru or Thought Leader, this guy certainly knows what he’s talking about.
  • “Not Provided” data: There are two types of server response codes – regular, and with an added layer of security. If the web address of the site you’re on begins with https, it has the added layer of security. If it begins with http, it’s regular. When people are searching on secure Google (, which rolled out slowly but is now the default version of Google, Google does not pass referrer data. Meaning, if a visitor to your site came from a search on secure Google, you will not see in Analytics which keyword he typed in to Google to arrive at your site. (Leaving you missing information you could use to improve your marketing and SEO efforts.) If they came through regular, non-secure Google (, their keyword referral data will still be recorded in your Analytics. Unfortunately, visits like those are now few and far between. (This isn’t true for PPC ads. Even if you click on an ad on the secure version of Google, advertisers will still see which keyword initiated the visits. Google playing favorites? Hmm…)
  • 404 Error Page: the page you get to when something is broken – a link that goes nowhere, a page that used to exist but doesn’t any longer, that type of thing.  The recommendation, by the way, is to make sure that you have formatted a 404 Error page (in case a mistake is made somewhere along the way) that directs your visitor to a live, working page within your site.  Doing so in a creative manner (like this) earns extra points, since you don’t lose the visitor entirely.
  • Branded search: when someone types your company name into the search engine (or the name of a product that you offer – something unique to your company) rather than a keyword that leads them to you
  • Goal: Without goals, your analytics and data mean nothing. A goal is a conversion – its is your website visitor going where you want him to go, doing what you want him to do and the place he lands after completing your call to action (making a purchase, downloading an ebook, filling out a contact form, donating funds.) A goal can be a destination (a certain internal page on your site) a duration (how long someone spends on your site) or pages per visit (how many screens or pages the visitor navigated to before leaving).
  • Funnel: the path (which pages to visit in what order, where to click) on the website visitor goes through with the ultimate goal of a conversion

Next time, I will walk you through some of the basic reporting features in Google Analytics, how to use them, and what we can learn from this data (in real life, the changes we need to make and the tweaks to bug your web guy about).

Happy Geeking!

hillarySubmitted by Hilary