Googling in a hurry? A beginner’s guide to Google Analytics

27/07/2021 12:11:11

In a world where data is currency, free analytics tools are few and far between. That’s why Google Analytics is such a godsend to marketers, giving key insights and helping to plan campaigns.

But with so many dashboards, views and dimensions, how do you know what data to track? On any given day, you could be spending hours poring over metrics such as:

  • Page views
  • New versus returning visitors
  • Time on page
  • Conversions
  • Landing and exit pages
  • Locations
  • Age and gender.

Cross reference these with one another and you could be setting yourself up for some killer insights – or some killer confusion.

If you're in a hurry, the Google team suggests concentrating on your ABCs:


This metric looks at where your website traffic came from. It could be a ‘referral’ – a link from another website to yours. Or it could be ‘direct’, suggesting somebody typed in your URL or clicked on a bookmarked link. Then there’s organic search, social media and many more!


It’s one thing to know how users got to your site. It’s another to know what they did when they got there. Behaviour metrics look at things like landing pages, exit pages and time spent on page. If you want to get fancy, you can even view ‘behaviour flows’ to see how users moved through the site.


This is most people’s most important metric. While a conversion could be a simple e-commerce sale, it’s also anything you consider to be a goal for the website. For example, you might want to measure PDF downloads, video views or leads from contact forms.

What if I only have an hour?

It’s too easy to get caught up in the numbers without reaching any tangible conclusions. To find out what really matters, we asked four marketers what they would do if they only had one hour a month with GA. Here's what they had to say...

“Last click and linear attribution”

“If I only had an hour, I’d create an automated report via Google Data Studio!” quips Bethan Vincent, a freelance marketer for tech start-ups. Jokes aside, Bethan says she would look at both last click and linear attribution for conversions.

These refer to the click source for the final conversion. A last click model gives the “credit” to the last click the user made before converting, such as an add to basket button. A linear model gives each step in the journey equal weighting, for instance, reading a blog post before heading to a transactional page. 

Bethan adds that she would look at new and returning users by channel, as well as specific page views.

“Time on page and exit page”

For content marketer Katie Thompson, the determiner of success is time spent on a page. “As a creator, I’m most interested in seeing how engaged people are with content on my site, such as blog posts. This might not be as black and white a conversion as a sale, but it’s a good indicator of a post’s general strength.

“That said, I’d also check the user’s landing versus exit page. If they’ve read another post, it shows my internal linking is working well, or if they click through to a contact form, even better!”

“Completed goals and acquisition channels”

Once again, we’re seeing a trend for linking conversions to specific channel sources. John Lyons, creative digital marketing consultant, says the value lies in looking at channels relative to a campaign. 

So, for example, we might have run a social media competition encouraging visitors to land on a custom-made page. This would account for traffic from said channel, but then a “completed goal” – such as transacting – would complete the journey.

“Sessions and bounce rate”

Marketing agency founder Jag Panesar is keen to point out the time periods he would analyse in the programme. “I’d compare the current month to the previous 12 months, and the last 12 months compared to the previous period.

“Within this, I’d look at number of sessions, session time, landing/exit pages and bounce rate.” By looking at these metrics over 12 months, Jag is particularly interested in user loyalty. It costs more to acquire a new customer than retain an existing one, so we can’t overlook this.

How do I know which metrics are right for me?

Naturally, the numbers you focus on will correlate with your business’ overall goals. An e-commerce site owner may not be interested in time on page so long as the sale is made. When deciding what to measure, ask yourself:

  • ​Am I measuring the efforts of a specific campaign (acquisition) or checking overall performance? (Behaviour/conversions.)

  • Is there a particular user journey I want visitors to follow, such as a blog post from a Google search leading to a sale? (Linear attribution.)

  • Do I want to target users in a specific location or time zone?

  • What actions do I want to take from my results? Do I want to change campaigns, add more content or tidy up user experience?

If you’re in a hurry, you might also use it to look at trends such as seasonal purchases. 

Google Analytics provides invaluable data, but it’s all about the way you use that data. And the best part? Because it’s a data tool, no amount of tinkering will affect your website. Use it, learn from it, and shape your future campaigns.

Find out more about planning campaigns with Partners.