What are Metrics in Google Analytics?
Metrics are quantitative measures calculated based on various factors from a user visiting your website to exiting the website. Metrics are calculated in two ways.
The first way is as overview totals where a summary statistics of the entire website is displayed. These include metrics like total page views and bounce rates.
The second way to calculate metrics is in association with one or more dimensions. You need to understand that not all dimensions can be used with all metrics. The right combinations can give you the correct measures and results.
Dimensions are categories or attributes which can be used to define metrics like location, language, devices, etc.
These can be primary and secondary. Primary dimensions are provided by GA while secondary dimensions or custom dimensions can be added by the user.
Your Google Analytics dashboard has four main tabs or sections to generate reports based on various attributes, metrics, and dimensions.
Audience – This defines who your users are. This includes information on demographics, devices, and locations. Users can be divided into different segments and you can find out how your marketing efforts impact them.
Acquisition – This shows how users find you online. This includes channels they use such as organic traffic, social media, Ads and emails, etc. This helps to find out which channels your users use to find you.
Behaviour– This shows the user activity on your website, how they interact with the web pages and how long they stay. This is used to show user experience and engagement on-page.
Conversions – A user converts when they take specific actions you want them to take on the website, like signing up for a quote, creating an account, adding a product to a cart, etc. These can be tracked using conversion metrics.
Most Important GA Metrics to Focus On
Here are some of the most important Google Analytics metrics that can show the results of your marketing efforts, measure your growth, show areas of improvement, and help you optimize your digital marketing strategy.
This metric refers to the unique number of users that visit your website in a given time range. Every time new users login, they are given an ID. If they visit your site again, it will be considered as a revisit. This metric helps you identify how many new leads are generated with your marketing efforts. Users by location or devices, new users to returning users, etc. are other metrics that can give valuable insights.
A session is a time that a user spends on a website on a single visit and it is terminated after 30 minutes of inactivity. One user can create a number of sessions. Sessions can be further divided into sessions by devices, channels, etc by calculating it against different dimensions.
Average Session Duration
A session is a group of activities that a user does on your webpage. Session duration is the time taken by the user from entrance to exit. Average session duration is the average length of a session for a specified time.
Pages Per Session
This metric shows the number of pages a user visits in a session. An increase in pages per session can be considered as more user engagement. You can help users navigate to other pages from each page they visit and keep them engaged.
The bounce rate can be found in the Overview dropdown in the Audience section. A user bounces when they exit a website after visiting a single page without interacting with the page. Bounce rate is the percentage of all single-page sessions out of all sessions. Bounce rate can be further refined by using dimensions like bounce rate by channel.
Average Time on Page
This behaviour metric shows the average time a user spends on a particular page. This metric can measure user engagement. This helps you to identify and focus on pages that need improvement and help retain more users.
This comes under the behaviour section of Google Analytics. Landing pages are the pages that the user first comes to by clicking various links or the pages through which users enter your website. This can be from searches, or Ads or social media. You can find the most popular landing pages by analyzing these metrics.
This metric shows the number of exits/number of page views for a specific page. This is shown as a percentage Exit and is also a behaviour metric. This helps you find out which pages are popular and which pages are not with users and make necessary modifications. The exit page metric can be used to find out the last page a user views before leaving the website.
This metric shows the total number of times a page is visited. This is also a behaviour metric which also counts multiple page views by the same user. The unique page view metric takes the number of times a page is visited in a single session as one.
Goal Conversion rates
It is a conversion metric and is calculated by dividing the number of goal conversions by the number of sessions and is calculated as a percentage. A goal conversion can be a set goal like completing a purchase or registering on the page for email etc. Every time a user completes this activity, it is counted as one. Improved goal conversion rate can show growth.
Limitations of Google Analytics
Google Analytics doesn’t give a complete picture of user behaviour on the website. There are shortcomings when it comes to calculating metrics like average session duration because Google Analytics doesn’t take into account the time spent on the last page unless the user interacts with it. This is because Google Analytics calculates the time spent on a page as the difference between the time a user visits a page and moves on to the next page. There are also cases of unaccounted sampling errors. When there is a large amount of data to be processed, GA takes samples of data for analysis. The error margin is accounted only for some metrics.
Some browsers have Ad Blockers which can block the Google Analytics tracking code.
Google Analytics cannot also account for and calculate offline conversions. To overcome all these shortcomings you can integrate trustworthy third-party tools that can source data and give a clear picture. You can use HeatMaps, session recordings, and Scrollmaps to find out what users do exactly on your website.
Google Analytics is one of the most popular and reliable analytics services. It offers a wealth of information using hundreds of metrics and dimensions from how users are finding you online to how they behave on your website. You cannot track all the metrics but understanding which metrics are the most important can help you focus on what is necessary. But, Google Analytics can’t always provide a complete picture as it cannot explain why users did what they did, especially when it comes to bounces or when users leave the webpage without doing anything. You need to use additional services like heatmaps or on-page pop-up questions to gain more insights into user behaviour. Google is always constantly improving its analytics services, both GA and GA 360 which might overcome these limitations in the future.