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Basic Google Analytics – Tips for Business Owners

Basic Google Analytics – Tips for Business Owners


This article will help you pick out some useful data to begin tracking with Google Analytics. The assumption is that you are interested in tracking web traffic trends over time. Other types of analysis are possible with Google Analytics (i.e. information architecture), but are not covered in this article. We’ve also included some pointers on how to interpret the data you are tracking.

The information below will help you analyse your aggregate site statistics, but you can also use the same methods to track particular pages within your website, especially those which you want to drive traffic to. A big part of really making web analytics work for you is to set clear goals and then decide upon specific metrics to track those goals. The specifics of how to craft goals and tracking schemes are not covered in this document, but XTmotion does offer consulting in this area.

1. Establish A Baseline

The first thing you must do in any data analysis is establish a baseline of data to compare future data to. You do this so you can positively identify what the impact of various communications campaigns on traffic to your website. Below are a series of metrics to record before we look into analyzing the data.

Suggested timeframe: last six months or year-to-date, whichever is longer


Metric Initial Value Subsequent Value
Average Pages/Visit
Absolute Unique Visitors
% New Visitors
% Returning Visitors
Average time on site

Use the Initial Value column to record values for your baseline period. Then use the Subsequent Value column to record values for the period you wish to compare the baseline to (i.e. 3 months later).


Metric Initial Value Subsequent Value
# Visits from first source
# Visits from second source
# Visits from third source
Top 5 keywords
Top 3 referring websites


Metric Initial Value Subsequent Value
First top content page
Second top content page
Third top content page
First top landing page
Second top landing page
Third top landing page

2. Analyse The Baseline

Once you have a data set recorded, you can do some preliminary analysis of your site visitors. You have to make educated guesses, but with your data in hand you should be able to make inferences about:

  • What are some attributes of your site visitors?
  • Are they familiar with who are you and the work you do?
  • What websites refer traffic for you? Do you have a relationship with them?
  • Are visitors finding your site mainly based on your org name, or based on the content on your site?
  • Is your high value content being viewed? How are visitors finding that content?

There isn’t room here to fully explain how to think through each of these questions, but let’s consider an example. We’ll try to answer the question: who is visiting your website?


Let’s say that after gathering data you notice that your homepage, about page, and staff page are the pages viewed the most. Visitors on average spend 45 seconds on the site before exiting. Let’s also say that the top keyword searches that find your site are simply variations of your organization’s name. Finally, let’s say that the percentage of new visitors is much higher than it is for returning visitors. Now let’s make some inferences based on this information.

Visitors to this example website likely have the following attributes:

  • They don’t know very much about your organization’s work
  • They are mostly composed of new visitors to the site
  • These visitors do not see the deeper, richer content on your website
  • These visitors do not spend a great deal of time on your website

This type of traffic is typical of a website that isn’t doing a good job of engaging site visitors. Mostly, it’s people coming to the website to figure out who you are and what you do. Either you don’t do a good job of explaining those things or your visitors don’t find what you have to offer very exciting. In any case, people don’t spend very much time on your website and are not likely to come back.

3. Repeat Data Gather And Compare To Baseline

After spending some time with your baseline data, you should take a second (and ideally third, fourth, etc) look at the same metrics. There’s no hard rule about how long you should wait before sampling your data subsequent times. Unless you’re getting a lot of traffic or are engaging in several communications campaigns at once, anywhere between 1 and 3 months should be good.

During subsequent data sampling, it’s a good idea to take note of any significant new communications that your organization has engaged in. Anything from Facebook posts, to email campaigns, to a major public event would qualify.

Record these events in the table below to help you with your data analysis. You are trying to determine what effect each of these events might have had on your web traffic. Pay particular attention to page on your site that you linked to from emails, Facebook, twitter, a blog, or other channel. You’ll see that you can drill down to a single page and check the referring traffic sources.

4. Deeper Analysis With Navigation Summary

Now that you have gained some experience with Google Analytics, let’s dive a little deeper and take a look at one of the most useful features, Navigation Summary.

Navigation Summary let’s you look at any page on your site and see what page visitors came from to get to that page, and see what page they went to afterward. This lets you do some powerful analysis around navigation paths (also called clickstream). In doing this analysis you can look for engagement opportunities where you know your traffic is spending time.


Let’s say we’re looking at the Navigation Summary for the Staff page because it gets the third most traffic on your website. It looks like the majority of visitors are coming from the About Us page probably because your Staff page sits within the About Us section. You also notice that the majority of these visitors leave the website after viewing the Staff page, but you also notice that a small percentage say 5%, are visiting your Publications page next. Here are some things we could do with this information:

  • Since most visitors trying to access the Staff page go through the About Us page first, take a look at the content on the About Us page. Is there anything engaging there? This might be a great place for lightweight engagement such as a call to join your email list, or perhaps sign an online petition.
  • What about the staff  page itself? Is there anything you can put there to draw traffic deeper into the site or perhaps highlight a current campaign?
  • Maybe it’s worth mentioning something about your Publications section on the Staff or About Us page, perhaps a recent publication you wish to highlight?

At this level of analysis you’ll find that you’re really entering a trial-and-error phase where you make a single change to the site and see what the effect on traffic actually is.

Should you require assitance with understanding or anaylising yoru Google Analytics, please conatct us.

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