The 5 Google Analytics Screens You Should Care About

I get it. If you’re a small business owner or marketing department of one, you don’t have time to become an expert in Google Analytics. And you shouldn’t. Because you’re already an expert on life coaching, selling real estate, graphic design, or whatever your wonderful business involves.

But Google Analytics (GA) is something that you should care about. It’s not merely a tool to learn about your website’s performance. It offers enormous insights into your business as a whole, such as who your customers are, what they like, and how your marketing efforts are paying off. Even a minimal working knowledge of GA allows you to learn a great deal about your web traffic, and in turn, your customer.

Before we get started, there are a few basic metrics in GA that you should understand first:

  • Sessions: Google’s definition states, “A session is the period of time a user is actively engaged with your website.” For example, if someone visits your website and goes to 4 or 5 pages in a row, the whole trip is counted as one session. Sessions are sometimes referred to as “visits.”
  • Pageviews: The number of times a web page was viewed, which can be multiple times in the same session.
  • Unique Pageviews: The number of sessions in which a certain page was viewed at least once, solving the issue of duplicates in the Pageviews number.
  • Users: An estimate of the number of people who visited your site. For instance, if someone visits your website on Monday, and then visits it again on Tuesday, it would count as two sessions but only one user. This metric is not perfectly accurate but can be used as a fair approximation.
  • Bounce Rate: A bounce is a one-page session, meaning someone visited your site, took no action, and then left the site. The bounce rate is the percentage of bounces out of all sessions. Lower bounce rates are better because it means people are engaged and interacting with your site.
  • Goal Completions: Goals are one of the most important metrics in all of GA. They allow you to tie all the data you see back to real business goals. Consider goals to be the connecting fiber between website data and your business’s dollars and cents. It is hugely valuable to set up goals—even if only one—and the reports in this article will be much more valuable with them in place. I won’t detail the setup process here, but essentially you set up tracking for an action that you want your visitors to complete. Then, when they complete the action, it counts as a goal completion. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to set up goals. The easiest goals to set up are destination goals and they work best if you have an email list sign-up form, request-a-quote form, or other such form. You use the URL of the confirmation page after the form is submitted as your goal. There are also WordPress plugins that make it easy to create GA goals from forms or other actions.
  • Goal Conversion Rate: This is the percentage of sessions in which a goal was completed. This helps you determine which customers or marketing sources are the most effective for producing the results you want.

Now that we have the basic metrics, here are the 5 screens you should care about, along with the business questions they help you answer.


1. Audience > Demographics > Age & Gender

To Answer: Who is my customer?

You probably already know who your customer is, but wouldn’t it be nice to confirm that with website data? Perhaps your web visitor is slightly different from a word-of-mouth referral customer, and thus should be marketed to in different ways. The Demographics report will help you sort this out.

A good place to start is in the Gender report. Just beneath the Primary dimension, click to add a Secondary dimension and choose Age (use the search to find it quickly). Now your visitors are grouped by gender and age. You may be aware of which gender visits more frequently but breaking it down by ages can give you some interesting nuggets of information. To be clear, Google doesn’t know the age/gender of all traffic. In my examples, it knows about 40% of users. But, this can still be a useful approximation.

Examples of insights from this report:

  • Women mostly visit your site, but men between the ages of 25 and 34 visit more than the other male age groups.
  • One group has more visits but a much higher bounce rate, so they may not be finding what they need on your site.
  • One of your demographics has relatively few users, but a high goal completion rate. This may be a sign to try to acquire more visitors from that group.

Google Analytics left-handed menu highlighting demographics

Google Analytics demographics breakdown


2. Audience > Interests > Overview

To Answer: What does my customer like?

Demographics are one thing, but GA can go deeper than that. To find some clues as to what your customers’ interests are, use the Interests report.

Start with the Overview. This shows you the top affinities, in-market segments, and other categories of your web visitors. Affinities are interests and habits, whereas in-market segments are topics that people are actively researching and planning. Click on the name of each report in order to see the full report, where you can see more information about each group.

You may see topics like travel, rock climbing, or athletic shoes, for instance. I can’t tell you exactly what you’ll find in here because each business is so different and there are thousands of interest categories in Google, but you’ll undoubtedly see some unexpected topics here. These topics can inform your product, marketing and messaging decisions.

Examples of insights from this report:

  • Travel buffs are a small part of your traffic, but their goal completion rate is above average. This may be a reason to explore the travel market more, and possibly advertise in some travel publications or partner with local travel agents.
  • Say you sell weekly meal planners and find that yoga and meditation are some of your top affinities. You may find success in partnering with local yoga studios and offering discounts for new customers.

Google Analytics left-handed menu highlighting interests

Google Analytics user interests breakdown


3. Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels

To Answer: Where do my customers come from?

If there is only one report that a marketer knows in Google Analytics, the Channels report should be it. This report tells you where your visitors come from—organic search, email, social media, or referral from another website—and which sources are the most valuable.

This is the starting point for you to see the effects of all your marketing activities. And there’s much more beneath the surface. If you click on any individual channel, it will drill down one layer deeper to show you specifics within that channel. Click on the Referral channel to see the top websites that bring you traffic, and how well those referrals convert on your goals. Dive into the Social channel to see whether your recent influx of email newsletter sign-ups came from your witty Facebook post or from the more professional LinkedIn announcement. This report allows you to focus your marketing efforts on the sources that drive the most productive traffic.

Examples of insights from this report:

  • You’ve been ramping up a social media strategy, and now you can see your social traffic beginning to rise.
  • You changed your email newsletter strategy recently and are now starting to see the effects in the email channel traffic.
  • You did a podcast interview last month, and it was just posted. Expect a lift in organic search and direct traffic.

Google analytics left-handed menu highlighting channels

Google Analytics default channel grouping breakdown


4. Audience > Benchmarking > Channels

To Answer: How do I compare to my competition?

Wondering where your website stands against the competition? The Benchmarking Channels report is a great place to turn. Google asks you to choose your industry, location, and size in order to determine benchmark data from other similar websites. Then it compares your data to the benchmarks and color codes the differences.

This allows you to get a sense of how you stack up in terms of traffic and behavior compared to competitors broken down by channel. This can give you ideas on where your competitors may be investing their marketing dollars and allow you to decide if you want to join them in those channels.

Examples of insights from this report:

  • Your paid search traffic is significantly lower than the benchmark, so you may want to consider revising your Google Ads strategy to be more discoverable in search.
  • Your social media traffic is quite above the benchmark. That’s probably a great sign your social strategy is on point!

Google Analytics left-handed menu highlighting benchmarking

Google Analytics channel benchmarking breakdown


5. Behavior > Site Content > All Pages

To Answer: How is my website serving my business?

Each of the first four reports looks at your website as a whole. This is the first report where we dig into individual pages on your site to see how they differ.

This is where you can start to understand what people are doing on your site. Which pages get the most traffic and the most time spent on page? From what page are people leaving most often? Which pages have the worst bounce rate? These answers will give you some clues as to what information is most and least helpful for your visitors.

Examples of insights from this report:

  • As a blogger, you can tell which posts your audience likes most and develop more content around similar topics.
  • As an e-commerce site, you can see which products draw the greatest interest and tailor your marketing and product strategy accordingly.
  • As a service provider, perhaps your pricing page is getting more hits than the pages where you explain your value proposition. If so, you may want to add more value messaging to your pricing page.

Google Analytics left-handed menu highlighting site content

Google Analytics site content breakdown


There you have it! These are the top 5 screens to care about as a GA beginner. I hope you find some great information about your business and start to feel more comfortable with GA in the process. This is of course only a fraction of what’s possible in the tool. If you’re interested in exploring deeper insights from your online audience and expanding your digital marketing presence, contact us to chat with our team.


Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.

Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.