In a previous article, we discussed how to set up, configure, and install Google Analytics on your website. Once you’ve completed that step, you can begin using GoogleAnalytics to find out the most important information about your website.

Now we’ll show you how to use Google Analytics to analyze important website metrics like visits, pageviews, traffic, and more. Use this data to fine-tune your website, and to make sure you’re reaching your target audience.

The Visitors Overview

When you sign in to Google Analytics, you’ll see your account’s homepage — which lists the websites you have set up with Google Analytics. Once you click on the website you’re interested in, you will be taken to the “Visitors Overview” page. This gives you a snapshot of your website’s statistics for the last 30 days, including the following:

  • Visits: The total number of visits to your site. Visits represent the number of individual sessions that visitors have made to your site. For example, if a visitor leaves your website and returns again later, it is counted as two visits.
  • Unique Visitors: The total number of unique visitors to your site. Visitors to your website will have a “cookie” left on their machine — a web browser component that identifies the visitor in the future. Anyone who visits your website without this cookie will be counted as a unique visitor.
  • Pageviews: The total number of pages viewed on your site. Many website owners prefer a higher number of pageviews over a higher number of visits, especially if the goal of the website is to maximize the number of impressions. For those who are not concerned with ad revenue but instead with attracting more customers, visitors might be the more important metric.
  • Pages Per Visit: The average number of pages viewed per visit. Depending on your website’s goals, you may want this to be a higher number. Conversely, if your website conversion depends on people calling your business to continue the sales process, a lower number might be better.
  • Average Time on Site: The average time on site for each visitor. The higher the number, the better. You want people to spend more time on your site, rather than leaving if they can’t find the information they’re looking for.
  • Bounce Rate: The percentage of single-page visits. The lower the number, the better. A low bounce rate means that after people enter your website, they continue on and view more of your pages.
  • New Visitors: The percentage of total visitors who visited your site for the first time. Most website owners will want to have a good balance of new and returning visitors.

Underneath the “Visitors” menu on the left side of your Google Analytics screen, you can drill down for more details about your visitors. Be sure to review the data on Demographics (location, language), Behavior (new vs. returning, frequency & recency, engagement), Technology (browsers, screen resolutions), Social (engagement based on the Google +1 button), and Mobile devices used.

These statistics will tell you whether your website is attracting visitors from the countries you operate in, if visitors are using iPads or iPhones (based on screen resolution size or web browser), and whether they are sharing your site using Google’s own “like” button.

Analyze Your AdWords Statistics

If you have connected your Google Analytics account to your Google AdWords account, you can get details about your AdWords related traffic. For example, you can see the number of clicks on your ad page, pages per visit, average time on site, new visits, bounce rate, and so on.

You can also drill down to view your targeted keywords, ad content placement, keyword positions, and much more. This data can help you improve your AdWords campaign performance. Use Google Analytics data to help you figure out which campaigns are most successful — and which ones need to be scrapped.

Analyze Your Traffic Sources

In the “Traffic Sources Overview” page, you will see a breakdown of the traffic sources that have sent visitors to your site, including the following:

  • Search Traffic: Any hits to your page from a search engine, including Google, Yahoo, Bing, and others.
  • Referral Traffic: Any hits from other websites, such as blogs, directories, social media sites, and so forth.
  • Direct Traffic: Traffic that does not come from a search engine or a referring website. For example, direct traffic can come from people typing your website address in their browsers, or clicking bookmarks to your website. Also included in direct traffic statistics are visits from untraceable sources, such as mobile applications.

Underneath the “Traffic Sources” menu, you can drill down for additional details about different traffic sources. The “Direct Traffic” section shows you the most visited landing pages from direct traffic sources. “Referrals” shows you the referring URLs which have sent the most visits to your site. The “Search Traffic” section shows you the organic and paid keywords that visitors have used to find your site. Lastly, under “Campaigns,” you can find out more information about the visitors who clicked on a URL assigned to a particular campaign.

Analyzing your traffic sources will let you know whether your online campaigns like Twitter or paid search are bringing visitors to your website. If you are working on search optimization, it will tell you if the keywords you are using are driving more traffic.

Analyze Your Content

The aptly named “Content” section of your Google Analytics account shows you everything you need to know about your website’s content. The overview starts with basic information about your pageviews, average time-on-page, bounce rate, and exit percentage.

You can drill down to a wealth of information about your “Site Content.” This section shows you the top pages on your website, common landing pages, and exit pages. Use this data to determine your website’s strongest and weakest content. Boost weaker content with better information, or remove it from your site altogether.

Editor’s note: This article uses screenshots and data from the new Google Analytics Beta, Version 5.

[Image Credits: Vince Welter, Igor, Chris Heiler]