5 essential Google Analytics reports

Google Analytics is the type of tool about which you can learn 5 to 10 % and be able to acquire a lot of useful insight. In this article I describe five essential reports you can begin with today:

  1. Traffic
  2. Landing pages
  3. 404 error pages
  4. Page search
  5. Attribution

1. Analyzing traffic to your website

First off, analyze where your traffic is coming from. Use the channels report to get a quick overview, or drill down to look at sources and mediums generating traffic to your site. Having a look at the number of sessions, the percentage bounce rate and the average page views per session should be adequate to draw an immediate conclusion on which channel is currently important to your online presence. If you’ve added goals, or even configured eCommerce in your account, you will be able to analyze which channels actually contribute by e.g. creating revenue, new customers, and so on. With this report in place you can have a solid discussion in your team about the role that the various channels play, where to invest more, and perhaps where to invest less. Be aware of errors caused by the attribution model.

The Channels report, source: Google Merchandise Store demo account

2. Analyzing landing page performance

Next up are landing pages. As your visitors enter the door to your store, this is what they first see. Take a look at which pages draw the most traffic, and which ones represent the start of high interaction customer journeys. Analyze which landing pages drive conversion, and discuss whether these should be promoted more. A landing page report can be the basis for a long discussion in your team:

  • Analyze whether top pages load fast enough using this Google speed test and take action if necessary.
  • Compare the landing pages with the ads or external communication that sent visitors there in the first place. Is the content meeting their expectations, or would they become disappointed?
  • As a visitor, can you easily comprehend what you are offered and how you can obtain it?
  • Is there a call to action that stimulates going a step further?
  • Do certain landing pages perform better or worse when promoted in certain channels? Use the secondary dimension function to drill down further and explore hidden insight.
  • Do any of the pages result in a 404 error page? If so, take action ASAP!
The Landing Pages report, source: Google Merchandise Store demo account

3. Reporting on and eradicating 404 error pages

It’s important to locate and monitor the stats of your 404 error page. Experiencing a 404 error is a very very bad experience for a visitor. The first step is to identify the page title of your 404 page. You can do that by entering a random addition to your domain URL, which will prompt a 404. If a page hasn’t been setup to capture and meet this triggering, please go speak with someone in IT. The video below demonstrates how you can locate the 404 page in your Google Analytics reports.

A video where I demonstrate how you can locate your 404 error page within Google Analytics

Having identified and located the 404 page, you can create a custom report, or a Google Data Studio report, that uses e.g. the number of sessions as a KPI to rank which URLs generate the most 404s, from which channels sessions with a 404 came from, and so on. Exploring the secondary dimension Previous page enables analysis of whether you are linking to 404s from within your website.

In addition to the number of sessions you can also look at the bounce or exit rate to judge the impact on the user experience. You’ll gain a good understanding of how you can start improving user experience today. For example, make sure no ads lead to deprecated pages. To operationalize this report and analysis, you can configure alerts that send a notification to your email each day the number of 404 occurrences surpass a certain number.

The page search is truly an underestimated holy grale of user insight! If your site offers on-site search, this report can easily be activated. Having someone enter your site is a great sign they are interested in what you have on offer. If they then use your internal search engine it is a perfect feedback that whatever they were promised isn’t adequately visible and available either in your content or via your navigation, such as the menu. The report let’s you analyze the keywords they use.

If you export this list to MS Excel or Google Sheets you can aggregate thematically or just sum up variations in order to come up with a prioritized list of actions to take. The goal should be to minimize the number of searches, as they represent another step on their customer journey, i.e. a potentially demotivating barrier. The search terms or categories can be ranked according to the number of times they have occurred.

Is there a product or service they are looking for? Are you offering it already, but it’s simply not visible enough, or if you don’t offer it already, should you consider adding it to your portfolio? Are they looking for content, resources or help in any way? Once you’ve identified and strategically selected terms or themes to work on, consider adding links or information to your front page or menu, and start monitoring the effect by using the search terms report. Look for a positive change on the overall performance of the website.

5. Understanding the effect of marketing with attribution analysis

This topic will soon have a dedicated article where I give a longer video demonstration, so I’m keeping it short and sweet for now. Attribution is very important, and unfortunately to a large extent disregarded by many marketers and marketing managers. It’s difficult to track unique users over a longer time period, but we know for a fact that most customer journeys do span several interactions with a brand. I might google a theatre play on my phone on the tram today, using Google Chrome, then buy the tickets a few days later on my laptop, using MS Edge, and after having looked up the website directly. In this ‘extreme’ case Google, as a source of traffic, would not be credited with my purchase. Attribution is a term used to describe how we as marketing managers assign credits to various distribution channels in regards to how they contribute to creating customers, conversions and revenue. An attribution model is built into every ads publishing and analysis tool, including e.g. Facebook and Google.

Contact me today for a customized online session dedicated to understanding how you can analyze attribution for your conversions. For now, locate the report depicted in the screenshot below.

The attribution model comparison report, source: Google Merchandise Store demo account

In this report you can select the conversion you want to understand better, and then you can select various attribution models to understand how they affect the results. Read about attribution models here. If you export all these numbers into MS Excel or Google Sheets you can continue by plotting them together and immediately you get a very good indication of how the default attribution model is telling one story, while the others tell a different one. I recommend using this report early with your team as it stimulates a very good discussion and creates deeper understanding. It also nurtures that critical mindset which is necessary in the approach to digital analytics. I further recommend having a look at the Assisted conversions report. This report, with some exporting and Excel magic, can be used to get a good picture of which channels contribute early in the customer journey, and which ones are closer to the conversion. Again, I’ll put out a video on this a bit later, and I will also go more into detail on why attribution is a challenge despite having access to these types of reports.

I hope you found my advice useful. Reach out today if you want sparring on these or other Google Analytics topics!