Google Analytics: An Introduction To Top Reports

Monday, June 1st, 2015

Report Overview

For those just getting started with Google Analytics, the easiest way in is to learn the basic functions of the Top Reports provided by the tool. Top Reports are a simple means of accessing the data collected by Analytics, sorted into separate categories and areas to make it easier to find the statistics you need.  These are located in the left hand menu, and provide a general overview with the ability to drill down into more and more specific data.

Understanding these key reports will help you make heads and tails of your Analytics data, and give you the tools to make changes and optimisations.

A quick run down of each report before we go into more detail:

  • Dashboards: Displays the custom dashboards you have made.
  • Shortcuts: Allows you to assemble reports you use a lot into one place.
  • Intelligence Events: Automatic or customised alerts to inform you of major changes in your data.
  • Real-Time: Allows you to track website data as it comes in, rather than a daily or weekly view.
  • Audience: Offers information about the users accessing your site such as device, location etc.
  • Acquisition: Find data about where your users are coming from, such as search terms and referral websites.
  • Behaviour: Get a picture of what users are doing once they’re on your website.
  • Conversions: Track your goals and find out where users are leaving vs staying.

Intelligence Events

Intelligence events can be set up to let you know of any major fluctuations in data. This is useful for two extremes – an unusually high number of users or conversions, or for an unusual low. Either way, it lets you pinpoint the moment that major changes occur.

Intelligence Events Overview

Analytics automatically sets up a number of Intelligence Events alerts for data such as pageviews, goal conversion rate and users. The metric and segment columns inform you which statistic is being alerted, the period and date columns give you a time frame, and the change shows the spike or drop that occurred.

Under the Custom Alerts tab, you can set up an alert for a particular statistic you’re concerned about. This can be especially useful for websites trying out new marketing or advertising strategies who want to keep an eye on any corresponding changes in traffic.

Real Time Overview

The real-time report offers you an insight into what’s happening on your website right now. This can be very useful for diagnosing an issue, or for monitoring the response to an article or a link as soon as it’s posted.

real time overview

The data provided includes the number of active users currently on the site, and whether they’re viewing on a mobile or desktop device. It may show the referring websites (if applicable) that led most users to the site including social media, as well as the specific pages that are currently being viewed.

Audience Overview

audience overview

Understanding who is visiting your site and how they are accessing it is crucial to knowing how to market to them. The Audience reports provide useful data on:

  • The demographic of your audience such as the country or city they are in.
  • The way they access your site such as desktop or mobile, browser type and screen size.
  • How they behave on your website – length of time on site, number of pageviews or how many press the back button and leave the site.
  • Whether they are a new customer or a returning customer.
  • If they are coming via social media and which network.

These metrics allow you to understand who your online customer is.

Consider that if you have a high number of visitors accessing your website on a mobile device… is your website design mobile friendly?

Acquisition Overview

acquisition overview

Did you know that not all traffic is created equal? There are certain types of traffic and visitors that are worth far more than others, and simply counting pageviews is not enough to measure success. The acquisition sources report provides more specific information such as:

  • An overview on whether your visitors have arrived on your website from a search engine (oragnic search), directly or referred through another website, for example Facebook or Yellow Pages.
  • The bounce rate of each type of traffic – which one kept users on your website the longest?
  • The goal conversions of each type of traffic, so you can see which one is most valuable to you in the long run.

The acquisitions report is very important in understanding where your visitors are coming from and where you should be focusing your marketing efforts.

For instance, even if you have more followers on Facebook, if Twitter users are giving you better conversions and therefore, it could be a sign that you should focus on this Twitter audience instead.

Adwords Report

adwords drop downGetting to the Adwords information takes a little more navigating. You can get an overview of your campaign by drilling down to the Campaign section:

If you’re spending any sort of money on an AdWords campaign, it’s essential to monitor what happens after you’ve secured a user’s click. The Adwords report allows you to make the following insights:

  • Which campaigns are yielding the best conversions and revenue?
  • Which keywords are most effective and at what times of day?
  • Are the landing pages the best match for each ad, or are people exiting your website quite quickly due to lack of relevance?

AdWords and Analytics go hand in hand, and a symbiotic relationship between the two is the best way to get value for money.

Behaviour Overview

behaviour overview

The behaviour overview is designed to give you a quick at-a-glance idea of which pages people are visiting, how long they’re spending there and the overall usage of your website. It allows you to see your most popular pages, as well as the most popular terms for a built-in site search.

Conversions Overview

conversions overview

An easy way to think of conversions is the success rate of your site. Whatever your goals are – signing up to a newsletter, making an enquiry or buying an eBook, for example – Google Analytics can measure them and present data on your successes and areas for improvement. There are two main conversion types:

  • Goal conversions measure the set business goals you create through setting a goal page, action or event.
  • Ecommerce conversions measure your on-site sales from your shopping cart or other sales site.

Measuring conversions allows you to track the tangible successes of you website, and you can attach monetary values to them to prove worth and value to the business.

Consider this:

If your sales team convert 10% of all website enquiries and your average sales value = $500, you can assign a value of $50 (10% of $500) to every enquiry. This provides a tangible value to each enquiry. You should monitor these figures closely and update on a regular basis.

Measuring goal completions helps you track Return on Investment (ROI) of your online marketing efforts.

Of course, each of these reports has deeper options and more complex facilities to allow you to truly mine for data, but even these straightforward functions give you excellent insight into the workings of your site and what you can do to optimise it.

Google Analytics provides a wealth of data and you should use it to extract the points that you feel could do with some improvement or that would help you modify your website to improve your conversion rates.

Related Posts: Getting Started, Building A Custom Dashboard, Goals and Conversions, In-Page Analysis, Sharing Data, Social Media


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Mark started in the Internet industry in 1994 working with one of Canterbury’s first Internet Service Providers. In 1997 Rocket launched New Zealand Tourism Online and then Avatar Web Promotions in 1998. New Zealand Tourism Online was sold to Telecom Yellow Pages in 2006. Mark enjoys meeting with Avatar’s clients and strategising winning Web solutions. When not at Avatar HQ, Mark’s into playing tennis, going on family camping trips and supporting the private space industry.

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