The 4 most useful Google Analytics reports to set up and use

Posted by Rebecca Appleton on 9 Jul, 2017
View comments Marketing
Do you feel like you aren't using Google Analytics in a way that helps you reach your marketing goals? Does the volume of data put you off? If so read on to find out which four reports you should focus on and where to find them.

If you’re fairly new to Google Analytics, logging into the platform can be a little overwhelming. There’s a massive amount of data to be accessed and multiple menu options to choose from. Once you have Analytics loaded up, you’re presented with five key types of report shown on the left hand side. They then drop down into literally dozens of other options, meaning it’s incredibly difficult for the uninitiated to filter out what will and won’t help track the effectiveness of marketing efforts.

If you’re finding yourself stressed by the sheer amount of choice, fear not. We’ve sorted out the useful from the overkill. Read on for our no-nonsense guide to the most valuable Google Analytics reports to set up and use to measure your efforts going forwards.

1.Useful report #1: Audience > Mobile

All marketers should now appreciate just how important mobile is – according to the Mary Meeker Internet Trends Report, the average US adult now spends over three hours per day surfing the mobile web. The Report also found that mobile ad spend has increased by 22% in the last 12 months. So, as a brand you’re likely spending more to capture mobile traffic, and more of your audience is spending more time on mobile devices. There is also the fact that Google will launch a mobile index by the end of the year to consider.

The Mobile report will give you useful data to aid in your mobile optimization. It will show you the split between desktop and mobile users and allow you to delve deeper into the types of devices and operating systems your site is performing best on. This data will also help you to identify gaps, so you can see where you need to make mobile improvements.

2. Useful report #2: Audience > Behavior > New vs Returning

If you drop down the Behavior tab under the Audience category on the top left of your Analytics dashboard, you’ll find a new vs returning visitor report. This report will give you lots of concrete data to justify (or sound the alarm) your marketing spend. The pre-made report dashboard will show you what percentage of traffic your site receives in the given period from new versus returning visitors, which segment of those two traffic types displays a higher bounce rate, how long each spends on page and how many goal conversions are racked up from the two types of visitor.

This report is useful on a number of levels. The volume of new visitors shows how effective your marketing efforts are at driving traffic to site. You can perform a line-by-line comparison of bounce rates and time on page to determine whether or not your site is performing as well as it should. If the new visitor bounce rate is high for example, you’ll need to look at your landing pages and advertising efforts to pinpoint why visitors are leaving so abruptly after they have been introduced to your site for the first time.

You’ll also want to pay attention to the returning visitor numbers here and keep an eye on them as you move forwards. A returning visitor is one developing a connection with your brand. They are likely to be further along the sales funnel, may already be customers or are otherwise more engaged with your business. This segment of your traffic is more likely to subscribe to your newsletter to keep up to date with your news, more likely to read your blog posts and share your social media updates. Having regular access to this report means you can pinpoint any sudden drops in returning traffic numbers, allowing you to take action before it becomes a problem.

3. Useful report #3: Acquisition > All Traffic > Source

The traffic sources report is one of the most useful reports at your disposal. It will tell you whether the time you spend crafting social media updates is paying off. How effective your link building strategies are. Whether your guest blogger campaign is resulting in more visitors, and whether or not people are clicking on your ads or finding you in the organic search listings.

Use this report to track how effective your marketing efforts are and measure which initiatives are driving more people to your site, then tailor your actions accordingly. If you get a huge amount of traffic from Twitter but nothing from Instagram for example, you could use this report to make the case for investing more time and budget on Twitter and moving away from Instagram. Likewise, if your guest blogger program is showing more traffic than your AdWords ads, you might want to consider putting all of your budget towards guest blogging.

4. Useful report #4: Behavior > Behavior Flow

The Behavior Flow report is a much more visual report than the others on this list but no less useful. It shows you the path visitors are taking through your site, from the page they enter, their subsequent path through your site, where they backtrack and where they exit. At each stage, the report gives a traffic drop off, allowing you to see at a glance what content keeps users engaged and what potential issues there are with any given page.

There is an additional Flow report which can be found under the Audience tab which shows volumes of traffic from different sources. This Flow allows you to track over and underperforming paths so you can plan adjustments to site content and traffic acquisition efforts accordingly.

With all of these reports, taking time to interpret the data regularly is key. Behaviors and patterns emerge over time, meaning the more familiar you are with typical usage, sources and pathways, the easier it will become to spot changes and pick up on problems before they become serious issues.

There are numerous other reports within Google Analytics to use as you become more confident with the platform – which ones do you use already and which ones do you plan to try next? Let us know in the comments.

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