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Google Analytics Performance Indicators to Track (and Ones to Ignore)

Posted by drew on Nov. 18, 2013, 5 p.m.

Unique Visitors, Pages / Visit, Time on Site, Bounce Rate, etc. The list goes on and one with different kinds of metrics that Google Ananlytics can provide to you about your site. But which performance indicators can you ignore, and which ones should become your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)?

A lot of the time, it depends on the type of site you have. For example, a blogger may be more concerned with traffic coming from Social Media shares, while an e-commerce site may choose to look mostly at Average Order Value. In any case, here are some useful performance indicators for your site:

1. Percentage of New Visitors

This metric tracks the number of visitors to your site who have never been there before. In most cases, you don't want this number to be too high or too low. A high percentage of new visitors means that you ar failing to encourage customer loyalty, while a low percentage could mean you are not doing enough to market your site to your potential audience.

In general, newer sites should see a high percentage of new visitors as they get started, but that number should slowly start to fall. This metric is so powerful because it tells you something about your overall marketing strategy and something about your user experience and brand loyalty efforts. 

2. Pages / Visit

When someone visits your site, how deep do they go? Are they clicking through a few pages to learn more, or are they leaving relatively quickly? This metric can help you determine that. In general, it is a good thing when user view more pages during their visit, but for some sites, a low number of pages per visit may not be all that bad. 

For instance, a news site may want people to read and share an article on one page, so if a user only views that one page, it is fine. They may be more interested in the user sharing the article than clicking to a different story. 

3. Bounce Rate

This metric is a tricky one, because having a high bounce rate can mean different things. A bounce rate is the percentage of people who view only 1 page on your site and then leave. Sometimes, a high bounce rate means your landing page is unsatisfactory. Users see the page, it isn't what they are looking for, and they leave to try a new page. But a high bounce rate can be a sign of nearly the opposite thing.

In the case of a blog post, a high bounce rate could indicate that a user read your post, got all the information they were looking for, and then left. In this case, the user experience was actually very satisfactory, as you gave them what they needed right away. While it is useful to track bounce rate, you must take into consideration the context of the metric.

4. Goal Conversion Rate

Goals in Google Ananlytics are highly customizable, which is what makes them so valuable. You can write goals based on a URL destination (like a "Thank You" page after a purchase), the time on site, pages per visit, or a custom event (like playing a video or downloading a PDF). This tool allows you to determine what specific action on your site is most important to you and then track that action. In my experience, too many people are not using the goal tracking feature to its most useful extent. 

Metrics that are NOT as useful to track (but could still be worth a look):

1.Time on Page

Sometimes, a website owner will want to track how long users are specnding on a given page to see if they are fully engaged with the content. While this is a good idea in theory, this metric alone could mean different things for different pages. A short time on page for a long blog post may be negative, because the users are clearly not reading, but a short time on page for a landing page in a conversion funnel may not be a problem, since it could just mean users are clicking further into the site and down the conversion funnel. 

2. Most "Audience" Information

Google Analytics provides you with a lot of information about your visitors, including languages they speak, geographic location, internet provider, browser, device, age, etc. Most of this information will be entirely useless to most small businesses, because few will (or even should) use it to optimize their pages for a specific audience. Yes, it is valuable to have an understanding of your demographic, but this is absolutely not something you need to track month to month.

One of the exceptions to this rule is knowing which devices your consumers are using. If you have a lot of traffic from mobile browsers, you should be optimizing your pages so they look good and act functionally on a tablet or mobile phone.

 

TL;DR

Basically, just make sure you choose your KPIs wisely, with a good sense of your website's goals and values. Some information may be useful, but not worth tracking over time (like demographic information).