Google Analytics Tutorial – Understanding Traffic Acquisition

 

Google Analytics is a powerful tool. But just like any other tool, it is only as good as the person using it.

While some people are able to gain great insight through its creative usage, others are not able to move beyond page views and visits.

In this post I am going to share some tips which can help you in getting the most out of Google Analytics reports on traffic acquisition.

 

In the analytics world, the word ‘why’ should always come before ‘what or anything else.

You must have clearly defined goal before you look into any report or do anything work related. This can save you huge amount of time and resources. Always ask yourself these questions before you begin any task:

Why I should do this task? Is this the best use of my time? Is it going to move the corporate needle? If yes then how?

Which is the most efficient way to do it?

Then come up with a analysis strategy.

All of this may sound so obvious but we often forget to ask these questions and start working straightaway.  I have to often remind myself  to ask these questions before starting any task and when I forget, I pay the price in terms of lost time and productivity.

 

Understanding Visitors’ Demographic

Use the ‘location’ report to understand your visitors’ demographics. This report is available under Audience > Demographics in your Google Analytics account.

demographics

If you are running an international campaign or you have got an international presence then determine the top 3 countries which are sending majority of traffic, conversions and revenue to your website. You need to optimize your website and campaigns for these countries in decreasing order of priority. For example if the top country in terms of traffic and conversions is US, then it should get the top priority in terms of focus, budget and marketing efforts.

Pro Tip – Just stick to top 3 countries or maximum top 5 to get the most out of your efforts and resources.

 

If you are running a National campaign or you have got a national presence then determine the top 3 Regions which are sending majority of traffic, conversions and revenue to your website. You need to optimize your website and campaigns for these regions in decreasing order of priority. For example if the top region in terms of traffic and conversions is California, then it should get the top priority in terms of focus, budget and marketing efforts.

Pro Tip – Just stick to top 3 regions or maximum top 5 to get the most out of your efforts and resources.

 

Understanding Visitors’ Behavior

Use the ‘New Vs. Returning Report’, ‘Frequency and Recency report’ and ‘Engagement report’ to understand visitor behavior and site stickiness. All these reports are available under Audience > Behavior in your Google Analytics account.

New Vs. Returning Report
Use this report to understand the behavior of new and returning visitors in terms of traffic sources, conversions and revenue. Apply the advanced segments: paid search traffic, non-paid search traffic, referral traffic, direct traffic etc to this report in order to gain behavioral insight for different traffic sources.

 

Frequency and Recency Report
The count of visits is the frequency. This frequency of visits is also known as the loyalty. The more frequently people visit your website, the more loyal they tend to be to your site. Apply the advanced segments: ‘visits with conversions’ and ‘visits with transactions’ to determine profitable visitors’ loyalty. This is the loyalty that leads to conversions and transactions.

Once you know the profitable user loyalty, you will know the average number of times a person must visit your website before he/she can convert. Following is a screenshot of profitable visitors’ loyalty of optimizesmart.com:

visits-with-conversions

As you can see from the report, majority of conversions take place in the very first visit (or web session). The volume of conversions decline with return visits. Therefore in my case, repeated visits is not that profitable.

But for majority of ecommerce website, visitors’ loyalty is generally very important because people rarely buy on their very first visit. So you need to make sure that they must make return visits.

Apply the advanced segments: paid search traffic, non-paid search traffic, referral traffic, direct traffic etc. to this report to understand visitors’ loyalty for different traffic sources.

 

Recency is the number of days since last visit. If the time between two visits is less than 24 hours then Google will report recency as ‘0 days since last visit’. Apply the advanced segments: ‘visits with conversions’ and ‘visits with transactions’ to determine profitable visitors’ recency. This is the recency that leads to conversions and transactions.

visits-with-transactions

Note: Generally when people are in the buying mode, they tend to visit a website several times (in multiple web sessions) within 24 hours before they make a purchase. Because of such user behavior, majority of ‘visits with transactions’ fall into the ‘0 days since last visit’ category.

Apply the advanced segments: paid search traffic, non-paid search traffic, referral traffic, direct traffic etc. to this report to understand visitors’ recency for different traffic sources.

 

Engagement Report
The engagement report consists of ‘visit duration’ and ‘page depth’ reports.

The visit duration is the length of visits (or web sessions) like 0 to 10 seconds, 11-30 seconds etc.

The page depth is the number of pages browsed by a person in a web session (or visit). The page depth can be 1,2,3,….20+. Again you need to apply the advanced segments: ‘visits with conversions’ and  ‘visits with transactions’ to determine profitable user engagement.

Also apply the advanced segments: paid search traffic, non-paid search traffic, referral traffic, direct traffic etc. to these two reports to understand visitors’ engagement for different traffic sources.

 

Understanding Mobile Traffic

Check the ‘Mobile Overview’ report (under Audience > Mobile) to determine how much traffic, conversions and revenue is coming through Mobile Devices and how much is coming through non-mobile devices. Also click on the ‘compare to site average’ button to understand the mobile performance in comparison to site average.

Check the ‘Mobile Devices’ report to quickly determine the main big mobile traffic consumption platforms (Iphone, Ipad,Samsung etc) and the main sources of conversions and revenue via mobile. Now create a pivot table with following specifications:

  • Primary Dimension: Mobile Device Info
  • Pivot by: Source
  • Pivot Metrics: Visits, Revenue

Note: You can learn about creating pivot tables in Google Analytics from this post: The Super Duper Guide to Google Analytics Pivot Tables

Once you have created the table, it will look something like this:

mobile-traffic

You can now determine the volume of traffic and conversions sent by mobile devices from different traffic sources.  This can help you a lot in optimizing your mobile campaigns.

Note: If you are using a custom report, you can use ‘total goal completions’ and ‘revenue’ as pivot metrics in your report.

 

Understanding Traffic Acquisition Strategy

Your website must have a balanced portfolio of traffic sources. That means you should not depend on any one traffic and revenue source esp. search engines like Google. This is because if tomorrow your website got banned/penalized, you will lose majority of your traffic and revenue.

Therefore it is imperative that you diversify your traffic acquisition strategy and get traffic from different sources. Go to Traffic Overview Report (under Traffic Sources) and look for the following chart:

acquisition-strategy

Ideally your search traffic should not be more than 40% of the total website traffic – If it is more than 50% then it means you are over dependent on search engines which is a high risk strategy.

Your Organic traffic > Paid Traffic. You must focus on reducing traffic acquisition cost all the time.

Direct Traffic around 30%  – If direct traffic is less than 15% then it means you are either not good in customer service or you have got branding issues.

Referring sites traffic around 20%  – If referring traffic is too low then it means people don’t link out to you much and there are some serious issues with your link building and content marketing campaigns.

Traffic from Campaigns should be around 10 % – This is the traffic from any source other than organic search, PPC, referring sites or direct traffic.  For e.g. traffic from email marketing campaigns, display ads, banner ads, social media campaigns etc.

 

Understanding the Overall Performance of Social Media, Referral Websites and other Campaigns

Check the ‘All Traffic Sources’ report to determine the top traffic, conversions and revenue sources. Create and apply following advanced segments to this report:

1. Create a ‘Social Media Traffic’ advanced segment which includes traffic only from social media websites. Click here to install it in your Google Analytics account.

2. Create an advanced segment which doesn’t include traffic from social media in the referral traffic. Click here to install this advanced segment.

3. Create an advanced segment which includes only campaigns traffic.

These three advanced segments will help you in understanding the overall performance of social media,  referral websites and other campaigns in terms of traffic, conversions and revenue.

 

Visualizing the traffic coming through various traffic sources over time

 Step-1: Apply following advanced segments to ‘All Traffic sources’ report:

  1. Campaigns (custom advanced segment)
  2. Traffic from Referral excluding Social Media (custom advanced segment)
  3. Paid Search Traffic (default advanced segment)
  4. Non Paid Search Traffic (default advanced segment)
  5. Direct Traffic  (default advanced segment)

Note: you can apply only up to 4 advanced segments at a time to a GA report.

advanced-segments

Step-2: Download the monthly visits data for each traffic source and then create following stacked area chart in Excel

visualize-traffic

Related PostUltimate Data Visualization Guide for SEO

 

Referral Traffic Analysis

Check the ‘Referrals Traffic’ report to determine top referrals in terms of traffic, conversions and revenue. Click on ‘compared to site average‘ button to track performance of referral sources in comparison to site average:

compared-site-average

The green bars in this report indicate performance (here bounce rate of the referrals) better than the site average. The red bars indicate performance poorer than the site average. You can and you should compare other metrics like visits, goal conversion rate, e-commerce conversion rate etc to site average for better understanding of the referral traffic performance.

However the traditional referrals report is not ideal for very detailed analysis. So i would suggest creating custom report with following specifications:

Primary Dimension: Full Referrer

Metrics: visits, goal completions, revenue, goal conversion rate, e-commerce conversion rate, pageviews, pages/visit and bounce rate.

Apply the filter: Include – Traffic Type – Exact – Referral

Once you have created this report then set secondary dimension to ‘Landing Page’. You can now get a better understanding of the impact of referral traffic on your website.

 

Search Traffic Analysis

Check the ‘Search Overview’ report to determine the portion of the traffic, conversions and revenue coming from organic and paid search. Click on ‘compared to site average‘ button to track performance of search referrals in comparison to site average:

compared-site-average2

From this report we can conclude that the e-commerce conversion rate of the paid search traffic is 50% higher than the site average. Whereas the e-commerce conversion rate of the organic search traffic is 5% lower than the site average.

 

Organic Search Traffic Analysis

Check the ‘Organic Search Traffic’ report to determine the top keywords which are sending traffic, conversions and revenue to the website.  Then do the advanced Keywords Performance Analysis.  I use the following pivot table for advanced keywords analysis:

advanced-keywords1

You can learn about creating this pivot table from this post: Building Super Advanced Keyword Performance Dashboard in Google Analytics & Excel

 

Paid Search Traffic Analysis

Check the ‘Paid Search Traffic’ report to determine the top keywords which are sending traffic, conversions and revenue to the website. Then do the advanced Paid Keywords Performance Analysis.  I use the following pivot table for paid search keywords analysis:

paid-keywords

 

Tracking the performance of Long Tail Keywords

There may be millions of ‘rare’ search terms in the tail, but the important things to ask are how much of the traffic they generate is relevant to a particular business and is there enough ROI to make it worth spending to chase those searches

– Ivor Morgan (Head of Sales & Marketing at Morpheus Limited, UK)

This is a brilliant question which was once asked from me on Linkedin and the answer is the following report:

long-tail-keywords

From this report we can conclude that three words keyword phrases generated more revenue than one word and two words keyword phrases on Google.com.

You can similarly determine the performance of four words, five words…. keyword phrases on your business bottomline:

long-tail-keywords2

You can learn more about creating these reports from this post: Tracking Long tail keywords through Google Analytics

Other Posts you may find useful6 Simple steps to Create and Analyze a Marketing Strategy

 

 

About the Author:



My business thrives on referrals, so I really appreciate recommendations to people who would benefit from my help.Please feel free to endorse/forward my LinkedIn Profile to your clients, colleagues, friends and others you feel would benefit from SEO, PPC or Web Analytics.

 

 

  • Atul

    Hi Himahshu,

    Very useful post. However i have a question . How do i create the following custom segment in GA.

    Traffic from Referral excluding Social Media (custom advanced segment)

    Thanks

    • seohimanshu

      the link to install this advanced segment is mentioned in the post under the section ‘Understanding the Overall Performance of Social Media, Referral Websites and other Campaigns’. Check the second point

  • priyanka
  • ellamae95

    Recently I was extremely low on cash and debts were eating me from all sides! That was UNTIL I decided to make money on the internet! I went to surveymoneymaker dot net, and started filling in surveys for cash, and surely I’ve been far more able to pay my bills! I’m so glad, I did this!! – 5p8z

  • Ankit

    Hi Himanshu,

    I want share my dashboard data with other users for that i kept my dashboard in the shared section but when i log in through other account i can only view the dashboard but cannot get into the traffic data as the shortcuts data are not available to the user , i have even tried to share the data using “share template link” but the result is same. So please help me out.

    Regards

    Ankit

    • seohimanshu

      You can’t share the traffic data like that. You need to add people to your GA account.

  • Hostmaa

    Found good information in this article. Thanks

  • http://www.skillmills.com/ Skillmills

    Thank you very much for this step by step tutorial. very useful post.

    • seotakeaways

      Thank you for visiting the blog.

  • Rajeshree

    Hey Himanshu, it’s been changed to “sessions” now instead of “visits”…thanks for sharing…

    • seotakeaways

      yes. i know need to update it. Thank you for the heads up.