The Minimalist Guide to Google Analytics

The Minimalist Guide to Google Analytics

Saying that Google Analytics can be a bit of a dry topic would be the understatement of the year.

That said, it would be an even bigger understatement to suggest it’s something you don’t need to understand – at least a bit.

Google Analytics is key to running any business’ online presence, but learning the whole system would be a bigger task than learning the whole Encyclopedia Britannica.

So if you were going to do the sensible thing and only learn the stuff you really needed to in Google Analytics, where would you start?

Well, unless you’re a proper saddo and want to learn all of the ins and outs, this article isn’t a bad place to start at all.

Below, we’ll go over the five things we think everyone should understand about their Google analytics dashboard.

1) Sessions vs. Users

People often think that having a large amount of web traffic is good. But when it comes to most things in lie, quality is better than quantity and that’s the same for web traffic in Google Analytics.


Think of your website as a shopfront. You might be getting 1,000 people coming in per month, but 900 are leaving, never to return. There are 100, however, who return time and time again that are hot leads, interested in buying your products.

The exact same can be said of the traffic to your website.

  • The number of Sessions is the total number of times your website has been visited.
  • The number of Users however is the number of unique visitors your site has received.

Depending on where you are in your marketing plan will help to determine the which kind of sessions you want.

Sticking with the shopfront analogy, if you’ve just launched a new product aimed at a new segment of the market and bringing in new customers in general, you’ll want to track your users to see if they go up alongside your sessions.

That would be an indicator that new, unique visitors are coming to your store.

If you are running a customer nurturing, up-sell or retention campaign, however, aimed at those who you’ve already done business, you want to look for the number of sessions to increase, but your users to stay roughly the same.

How to view User and Sessions

  1. From the dashboard, navigate to “Audience” in the left-hand menu
  2. Select “overview”
  3. Select either “user” or “sessions” to change the graph

2) Bounce Rates

Bounce Rates in Google Analytics refers to the amount of web traffic that has come onto the site, looked at just one page, and then left.

Typical bounce rates are approximately 40-50%, but it goes without saying that the lower you can get this the better. If your Bounce Rate is 70%+, you need to have a serious look at your website.

Again thinking about your site as a storefront, if you haven’t refurbished for a long while and your competitors have invested in sexy new interior design, shelving and have got their staff saying all the right stuff, then odds are that people are staying in their stores longer than yours.

This is why website design and content writing are so important. Your business might be high-quality, but if people get a bad first impression of your site, they’ll never realise it.

I’m a firm believer that style beats substance, initially. People will always take in the style and aesthetics of something before they even get to the substance. (On that note, if you’d like an expert to look at your website’s design, please click here).

Your bounce rate then is incredibly important. It’s an indicator of both the quality your site and the quality of the visitors that are being directed to your site (the wrong people setting foot in the wrong shop are bound to leave).

There are a few reasons why the percentage may be high, including:

  • Advert to content relevancy – this means that if the page they land on isn’t relevant to the advert or what they searched for in Google, then they will probably leave.
  • Poor onsite navigation – if it’s difficult for users to find what they’re looking for quickly, they’ll go elsewhere.
  • No engaging features, buttons or forms – If you aren’t specifically showing people what to do next, they won’t know and will leave.

How to view Bounce Rates

  1. From the dashboard, navigate to “Audience” in the left-hand menu
  2. Select “overview”
  3. Select either “bounce rate” to change the graph

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3) Behaviour Flows

Behaviour flow helps you to understand how people are navigating through your site and the exact route they’re taking. This will be broken down into pages.

For example, if the majority of users have landed on your homepage, clicked case studies and left the site without getting in touch, odds are something needs tweaking on your case studies.

You could try adding contact us forms on each case study, for example, which would prompt people to get in touch with any questions about your services.

Behaviour flows can also highlight where traffic is dropping off and which pages aren’t getting much attention at all. With this knowledge, you can determine whether the page:

  1. a) can’t be found or
  2. b) is irrelevant to your audience

How to view your Behaviour Flows

  1. From the dashboard, navigate to “Behaviour” in the left-hand menu
  2. Select “behaviour flow”
  1. View entire website behaviour or isolate specific paths by right-clicking on a page and selecting “Highlight traffic through here”

4) Channels

Google Analytics’ Channels tool shows you exactly where your visitors have come from and are usually split into the following categories:

  • Organic – people finding you by searching on Google
  • Direct – people typing your website straight into the search bar
  • Social – people visiting your site via social media platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook
  • Referral – this is someone who has visited your site from another website that mentions yours and links to your site
  • Paid – if you are running any adverts on Google, paid is anyone who has visited your site by clicking on one of those ads
  • Email – as it says on the tin, this is anyone who has clicked a link to your site within an email

In a nutshell: channels is key. It simply shows you where you need to improve and focus on getting more traffic from – especially if your conversion rates are low and your bounce rate is high.

How to view your Channels

  1. From the dashboard, navigate to “Acquisition” in the left-hand menu
  2. Select “all traffic”
  3. Select “channels”

5) Desktop .vs Mobile

Desktop vs Mobile might seem like a really basic, almost pointless thing to look at, but is an incredibly important aspect of your Google Analytics account.

Understanding your market behaviour including who, when and how people use your site will allow you to market to them better.

If the majority of your users are using a mobile device (this includes mobiles and tablets) then you must ensure that your site is fully optimised for mobile.

To name a few, this can include:

  • Image optimisation
  • Page load speed
  • Amount of text per page
  • Accessibility of menus and information

We’d recommend optimising all of this anyway, but if your site isn’t optimised for mobile and 80% of your traffic, that might explain why your bounce rates are through the roof.

Again, going back to our point on website design, it’s incredibly important to make sure your site is up-to-date if you want to improve your conversion rates.

Simply put: a website is never finished. It needs constant attention to ensure it’s working as you need it to.

How to view Mobile vs. Desktop

  1. From the dashboard, navigate to “Audience” in the left-hand menu
  2. Select “mobile”
  3. Select “overview”


So there you have it, The Minimalist’s Guide to Understanding your Google Analytics. We’ve only scratched the surface of Google Analytics, but like we said, you’re not a saddo and you’ve got better things to do than learn the whole system inside out!

If you’re currently trying to drive more traffic to your website and get more leads as a result, why not drop us a line?

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