How to Read Google Analytics Reports In Three Steps

Google Analytics can be overwhelming. Even if you use it regularly, it can often seem like a jumbled blur of strange numbers and labels. You know the information you need is somewhere in your account, you just can’t find out exactly where.

It’s like when you were first learning to read. You stared at letters on a page and couldn’t make much sense of them. You knew the information was in there, you just didnt’ have a sense of where to start.

Then your teacher introduced you to three concepts:

  1. We read from left to right in English
  2. Each of the symbols (letters) makes a sound you already know
  3. These letters are arranged into words, with spaces in between

Once you had those three concepts, you were on your way to learning to read. Reading slowly went from a baffling mystery to something that’s pretty much automatic for you today. The key was those introductory concepts.

Here are the three concepts that will take Google Analytics from baffling to second nature – with some time and effort on your part!

Step 1: Set up goals

Google Analytics has to be set up to specifically track successful visits to your website.

Purchases, donations, email signups – you need to configure your Google Analytics account to track these particular actions with goals.

It doesn’t have to take a lot of time, but it’s absolutely crucial to making sense of Google Analytics. It’s the “reading from left to right” concept: you’re lost in Google Analytics without setting up goals.

Step 2: Track your outreach

You are sending out links to your website when you tweet, post to Facebook, send out an email or post ads online. You need to add a little bit of information to each of these links so that Google Analytics can tell you what’s working and what’s not with your promotion efforts.

This is also key, like understanding the concept of letters in reading.

Step 3: Look at Segments of your Audience

Looking at the data for everyone who comes to your website is the same as staring at a page of letters, not realizing they are broken up into words.

To make sense of Google Analytics, you need to look at particular segments of your audience – those who donated, subscribed to your email, or read a dozen of your blog posts. Google Analytics has some simple yet powerful tools to do this, and you need to understand how to use them.

Measuring Your Marketing Impact

Want to learn more about these concepts?

John Haydon and I are teaching a new course called Measure Your Marketing Impact. We will show you how to use Google Analytics and Facebook Insights data to develop smarter content marketing and website strategies.

I also have posted a set of five free tutorials that takes you step-by-step through these concepts – you can sign up here.


John Haydon