Decision making is the most often done thing in the field of websites, be it trivial decision of  ‘which colour to render the website and its elements?’ or important ones like ‘how to target the site specific audience?’. If this decision making is entirely gut based then “God Bless You”, you are heading towards a minefield. If the decision making is based on validating your gut feeling with data, then you are actually walking path of Statistical Analysis. Here tools like Google Analytics plays a vital role.

There are lot of analytics offerings and each analytics offerings differ on metrics they provide. Since I started out as blogger on Google’s blogspot, I was more accustomed to Google Analytics. Hence within 10 days of my joining I had installed Google Analytics on each and every page of Site. I installed Google Analytics on site and started gathering data from 21st of March 2014. As the data started pouring in I had power to make decisions on which elements of site to keep and which elements to eliminate. This power I obtained by installing Google Analytics laid the foundation of Data Era at SKDRDP.

Data Metrics in Google Analytics

The journey of Google Analytics was not easy. I had to use a powerful thing like Google Analytics on totally unknown field of Company Website. Corporate sites are static compared to Blogs and Social Media. This static nature of corporate sites calls for keener look over optimizations as each and every move counts. A basic knowledge of Metrics plays a key role in static websites. Some of the important metric that tell detailed over view of site are.

  • Sessions: This metric tells how many times the site was loaded. In case of SKDRDP the Session metric tells us How many times in a month/quarter/year the website was browsed.
  • Visitors: This metric tells how many unique visitors loaded the site. If a person loads site twice then visitor count is 1 but session count is 2.
  • Page views: This metric tells how many times the pages of site were loaded. If a person browses through 10 pages of site, then page view metric will be 10.
  • Bounce Rate: This metric is expressed as ‘%’. Its actually the % of sessions in a particular day in which user browsed only 1 page i.e. % of sessions which had page view of 1. If in a given day there are 100 sessions, out of these 100, 50 sessions loaded only the index page and closed the session then bounce rate for it will 50/100 i.e. 50%.
  • Time on Site: This metric tells how much time on average users spent on site.  If one person Browses the site for 10 minutes and other person browses site for 5 minutes, then time on site will be 7.5 minutes(the average of 10 and 5 minutes sessions).
  • Pages per session: This is simple metric which can be obtained by dividing Page views by Sessions. The average metric tells us how easy it is to browse pages. Also this metric’s lowest value is 1, it can never go lower than that.
  • % of New Visits: This metric can be obtained by dividing visitors by sessions. Higher number means visitors to site are not returning and hence they are not loyal. Lower number means you have bunch of loyal followers but new people aren’t reaching you.
  • Referral Source: This tells who sent you the traffic to your site. The 4 metrics in this are Organic Search, Direct, Referral, & Social.
    Organic Search means people reached the site by searching on sites like Google.
    Social means people reached site by clicking on a link shared on social media platforms like Facebook.
    Direct means people opened the site by clicking on bookmark on their browser or typed the site address directly in browser address bar.
    Referral means people reached the site by clicking on sites link of site shared elsewhere on the web. Suppose if you click the link to my personal blog www.harshankola.in, then your click is considered as referral from skdrdpindia.org.

The above said metrics are very important metrics, and Google Analytics has host of other metrics. The concepts of conversions and goals are very powerful too. In case of SKDRDP, even all of the above metrics are not considered. Only a a subset of above metric is used for decision making.

Analytical Person + Google Analytics = Data Era

Analytics plays a vital role in decision making. The Audience, Acquisition and Behaviour metrics on Google Analytics provide you the answers to Who?,  Where? and How? on site interaction. These metrics are also major tabs on Google Analytics.

The main tabs on Google Analytics

  • The Audience tabs gives out detailed information regarding Who are the audience to site. It includes things like their demographics, interests,location,Technology aspects like browser and OS, Screen size, resolution.
  • The Acquisition tab gives out referral metrics, i.e.. Where they are coming from. This details on Channels of acquisition namely Organic Search, Referral,Direct, and Social. Breakdown of all the traffic sources like Google, Facebook, Direct, Pintrest, Referral Sites. Also Keywords, Campaigns, Adsense referrals too.
  • The Behaviour tab gives out data on how interactions are happening on site. This metric give important things like content loads, how many exits happened from particular page, site load time,site searches, site events and A/B Experiments, and Clicking heat maps.

The above 3 tabs are also most often used in decision making here.  One of the other metric used by me while making changes to site Real-time interactions happening on site. This real-time data tells how visitors are flowing through the contents. After index page where is their second click, which is 3rd page to load etc.

The Audience Metrics

The first thing to load when Google Analytics is opened is the Audience Overview Metrics. Also this metrics are often used for site’s major decisions too.

Basic audience metrics in Google Analytics

The metrics I personally use for making decision is the Sessions, Pageviews, Pages / Session and Avg. Session Duration. These are metrics which I push up all the time, because these are metrics which assures me that I am reaching to people well. All these metrics are period metrics and get affected by period in consideration. In the above graph the sessions are shown as total for entire august month as well as daily totals are plotted in graph.

By simply visualizing the metrics you come to know what is happening with site.

All time session count in Google Analytics

Example if you look at above given session chart for the date range when I took over the control of SKDRDP’s website. You come to know that session count increased through month of may and June and fell in month of july and had series of rough rides later on. The other metrics like Time on site and Pages per session are on downward slope. Based on these data you can make a judgement that things are bad contrary to popular opinion. All these things are tip of iceberg if you want to dig deeper.

The Traffic Plays

The 2nd in command to audience metrics is the traffic metric. In traffic metric you will be seeing which all sites playing role in sending visitors to you.

Site Traffic Metrics in Google Analytics

In the above image you can see how big organic search metric is. The reason that metric is very large because of role Google plays in sending the traffic to SKDRDP site. The referral and social are often incorrect because some of the facebook referrals are tagged as referral instead of social, hence this metric is often ignored by me. Google being the highest referrer SEO plays a key role design of the website.

Normally the comparison of referrer is done with pages/session and avg. session durations, which gives me a fair idea about which source sticks most. In case of bounce rates in above pic – you can deduce that bounces like that being common from referral and social channels, as the links of site rarely get shown on other sites and social media.

The flow of people on site

The third digging source is the Behaviour data, detailing how visitors are clicking on your site! The behaviour data is treasure trove of content popularity, experimentation, heat maps and other cool features. In case of SKDRDP site, the metric used most is content popularity. The most popular content of SKDRDP is actually the home page ;) .

Pageviews and Behavior metrics on Google Analytics

In above shown diagram the most loaded page is home page (index.html). The Page View and Avg time on page are the metrics used for designing the things. Heat maps and other things are used sparingly and only when necessary.

Its the world of Realtime

The real time metrics are used to understand how the users are browsing our site right now. The view is impersonal, but some important interaction data get shown to us like referral source, IP location, currently watched pages. If you see some abrupt behaviours like exiting from home page, you come to know something is amiss with site and go and check out what really is the problem.

Realtime user data in Google Analytics

In case above shown diagram you can come to know users are currently spending time home page as well as about us page. Also you can deduce they are being referred to our site by our subsidiary SIRI Gramodyog’s site. The blue bar in right most corner indicate that our site was opened in past 60 seconds. The page loads in past  30 mins are shown next to it. This also reminds of fairly active site loads in past 30 mins.

Conclusion

The journey of Google Analytics brought us to frontier of data based decision making. With the introduction of it, you come to know which of the features are getting traction, which things are getting clicked and which are not. Based on this you can make decisions about how things are going, whether the guy you have hired to smooth out things is actually making any change or not. Without data its all gut feeling, with data you can take decisions which has higher chances of impact. Putting this data through a Statistical Analysis you glean much more insight into the data. With the Era of Big Data taking hold its necessary know the control levers of the data industry. Analytics is first step in this journey.

You are reading an Article by Harsha Ankola, originally posted on Harsha’s Tech Space. If you have enjoyed this post, be sure to follow Harsha on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.