The Best Google Analytics Metrics to Track

  • Google Analytics provides access to hundreds of metrics that will help you better understand your website and the behavior of the users that interact with it.
  • Some of the best user acquisition metrics to track include Sessions, Source, Medium, and Default Channel Grouping.
  • The best Google Analytics metrics to track for website performance and UX include Bounce Rate, Pageviews, Average Session Duration, and Average Time on Page.
  • Many metrics require more context or additional metrics to be valuable, so make sure you look at many metrics rather than just one or two in isolation.

A 2020 Forbes article called SEO “an essential part of any digital marketing strategy.” As we look to 2021 and navigate an economy reshaped by the events of 2020, this statement rings as true today as it did the day it was published. No longer is having a digital presence merely a luxury; it has become an essential component of a business.

When diving into the world of SEO, you will be introduced to new metrics that will help you gauge the success of your website. While some website platforms, like HubSpot, have their own dashboard to track your website’s performance, one of the most widely used and trusted website analytics platforms is Google Analytics (GA). This platform provides you with mountains of data, which you can then use to report on different aspects of your website. 

With mountains of new data there comes the risk of information overload. So how do you avoid it, and what are the best Google Analytics metrics to track?

What is Google Analytics & why is it important?

Google Analytics is a website analytics platform created by Google. It is free and requires you to have administrative access to your website for initial setup. The setup process only requires a small JavaScript file to be added to your website. Once set up, the platform provides access to hundreds of metrics that will help you better understand your website and the behavior of the users that interact with it. 

Google Analytics provides metrics about website traffic, user experience, and the overall performance of your website while protecting the privacy of the users. To better help you understand this data, we’ll cover the best Google Analytics metrics to track and provide some insights on what they can tell you about your website’s performance.

Best user acquisition metrics to track in GA

Some of the most important metrics to understand are those related to traffic acquisition – not only the total amount of traffic, but also metrics that help you understand where that traffic came from.

1. Sessions

Google defines a session as “a group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame.” Simply put, a session is the time frame in which a user interacts with your website. The session metric thus shows how many times in a set time frame a user came to your website. Google Analytics will consider a session ended after the user leaves the website, after 30 minutes of inactivity, once the clock hits midnight, or if a user’s campaign source changes.

Sessions are one of the most important metrics to track, as it gives you a clear indication of how many times your website was engaged with in a certain amount of time.

2. Source

Source is where your traffic came from, or the origin or your traffic – more specifically, the website or search engine the user used to land on your website.

For example, if a user does a Google search and clicks on a result that led them to your website, the source would be Google. Similarly, if a user finds you through a Bing search, the source would be Bing. If, however, the user types the URL directly into their browser or uses a bookmark, Google Analytics would classify the source as Direct.

Data for these sources can be found using the following path in GA: Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium

3. Medium

The Medium is the category that a Source is categorized into. For example, if a user finds your site through a search engine, the Medium would be Organic. If they were to come from an email, the Medium would be Email.

Some of the most common Mediums include:

  • Organic
  • CPC
  • Display
  • Referral

In total, Google has 20+ system defined Mediums and provides you the option to define the Medium using UTM parameters.

Medium data can be found using this path in GA: Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium

4. Default Channel Grouping

Google has eight channels they consider to be default marketing channels. Like Medium, they are categories of the traffic source. However, the Default Channel Grouping provides a better summary of how channel categories are performing.

Data for these channels can be found using this path in GA: Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.

As an SEO, you’ll find the data from Source/Medium especially useful. But when reporting to executives and stakeholders, using the Default Channel Grouping is the best Google Analytics metric to track. 

The eight default Marketing Channels Google has defined are:

  • Organic Search
  • Paid Search
  • Display
  • Direct
  • Referral
  • Social
  • Email
  • Other

Best website performance and user experience metrics to track in Google Analytics

1. Bounce Rate

When It comes to the best Google Analytics metrics to track, Bounce Rate must be at the top of any list. However, it can very easily be misinterpreted if not properly understood.

Google defines a Bounce as a single-page session on your site. In other words, a Bounce is when a user comes to your website and leaves after only viewing that initial page. However, the Bounce Rate without context is useless and should not be the only metric driving changes to your website. 

Different things can affect the bounce rate. For example, the Bounce Rate will vary depending on industry. Not only that, but it will also vary depending on content type. An informational blog where a user reads the blog and gets the information they need and leaves will have a higher Bounce Rate than a transactional product page that leads a user through a checkout process. In the first example, the fact that the user left the page without clicking to another part of your site doesn’t mean they didn’t get value from that page.

Use Bounce Rate as a directional metric to gauge improvements and declines in performance. An extremely low Bounce Rate can also signal an error in the GA tracking implementation.

2. Pageviews

A pageview is tracked and recorded anytime a page of your website is viewed. This means a pageview can be recorded for the same page more than once in a session. For example, in a case where a user starts on your website’s homepage then goes to a blog, and finally goes back to the homepage, that blog would get one Pageview while the homepage would get two. 

Pageviews are a good way to see which pages on your website get the most interest and engagement once the user finds your website.

A note on pageviews vs. sessions

When talking about your website’s traffic, the more important metric is Sessions. Your blog, on the other hand, is one area where you would want to pay more attention to Pageviews to get a sense of which blogs get the most engagement on your website.

While there are always exemptions, most e-commerce websites will not find Pageviews to be an essential metric to track. In short, Pageviews are better suited to explain user behavior rather than user acquisitions.

3. Average Session Duration

This metric measures the average time the users spend on your website in a single session. When looking at your user’s behavior, looking at how much time was spent on your website can provide some good starting insights. For example, if users are spending a long time on your website, but not converting, it can be a hint that you are not providing the information your users need.

4. Average Time on Page

When used in combination with Average Session Duration, Average Time on Page helps you gauge how users are interacting with individual pages of your website. However, there is one important aspect of Average Time on Page to keep in mind: a single page session is recorded as a Time on Page of 0 no matter how long the user interacted with the page.

This is because of how Google calculates Time on Page. Google marks the time you entered the website and when you navigate to your next page, then reports the time as Time on Page. In a single page session, Google does not have the second page data to then calculate Time on Page. In cases like this, the SEO experts at Redefine Marketing Group can help you implement custom metrics to provide better insights into your user’s behavior.

Your GA metrics questions, answered

Google Analytics is a powerful tool designed to help marketers with a wide range of skills and experience levels take control of their digital presence. But it can also quickly become overwhelming without the right guidance. If you’re looking to get a better handle on your GA metrics, reach out to the RMG team today and we’ll be happy to talk shop.

Author avatar
Victor Lopez
Victor is an SEO specialist for Redefine Marketing Group. Victor's primary focus within his role at Redefine is technical SEO. He's also a Cal Poly Pomona alum with a Business Administration degree in E-commerce and minor Marketing.
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