We set to find out the most common mistakes marketers make with Google Analytics tracking. Here are the top 17 according to 40 marketers who learned through trial and error.
Analytics | May 14
Jessica Malnik on April 21, 2021 (last modified on April 28, 2021) • 26 minute read
Did you know there are over 29 million websites use Google Analytics?
If Google Analytics was a country, it would be the 50th largest in the world. In fact, there are more websites using Google Analytics, then the entire population of Australia.
If you are not familiar with Google Analytics, it is a free, powerful tool you can use to view your website analytics.
In this post, we’re going to dive deep into Google Analytics reporting, including:
Google Analytics is a free website analytics platform that allows you to see how many people find, visit, and engage with your website in a given time period.
Any website can use Google Analytics.
All you have to do is install a tracking code on your site (Note: There are several ways to set this up.) While we won’t get into all of the technical details on how this works, the simple answer is this tracking code fires off in the background anytime a visitor is on your site and then shows up in your analytics reports.
Once you are inside Google Analytics, it is basically a firehose of different reports. There are dozens of standard reports, which are organized into these five large buckets:
Each of these buckets has its own list of standardized reports.
For example, if you want to know how many people are visiting your website from Sydney, Australia, you can go into Audience and pull up the Geo Report.
However, one of the most powerful features is the ability to create and save custom reports in Google Analytics.
To create a custom report, go to Customization → Custom Reports.
Then, select New Custom Report.
Now, it is time to build your custom report.
You have the option to create three types of reports:
Next, you’ll choose your metrics and dimensions that you want to analyze.
Then, select if you want this report to be viewable for just this view or all views within your Google Analytics and hit Save.
From users, sessions, and pageviews to acquisition sources, conversion paths, and goals, there are countless things you can track in Google Analytics.
For example, here are a few popular use cases:
Arguably, one of the most useful facets of Google Analytics is being able to spot trends and patterns early on.
Jordania Nelson of Divining Point says, “a simple yet revealing tip when using Google Analytics, is to compare historical traffic trends. When you compare time periods to previous ranges, you can gain valuable insights on how your traffic is changing over time. This way, you’ll be able to analyze what is and isn’t working in terms of digital ads and SEO.
Keeping track of your website traffic over time can even help you diagnose a technical issue. If your traffic has suddenly plummeted, you are able to investigate the issue and find the root of the problem. For example, if your total spend has already been allocated, consider increasing your budget. If you find there’s less traffic coming from a typically high-performing link, perhaps the link is broken. Keeping a close eye on your website traffic trends can help you identify and interpret issues that you otherwise may not have caught.”
With so many different standard and custom reports in Google Analytics, we asked nearly 50 marketers to share their most useful Google Analytics reports, including:
Editor’s note: Did you know that any Google Analytics Databox dashboard can be displayed on your smart TV? Broadcast your TV Dashboards for free now.
“The Audience Overview report is by far the most useful tool in Google Analytics because it provides an overall snapshot of the traffic going to your website,” says Sam Olmsted of Tampa SEO Services, Inc.
“As an SEO expert, tracking changes in traffic over time, examining bounce rate, and looking at new users coming in allows me to give my client useful insights that can impact their campaigns. The best part about this tool is that you can create Audience Segments so you can narrow your scope and look at different types of traffic. I use this tool to look at Organic Traffic so I can weed out traffic from ads and social media in my reporting.”
Daniella Pozzolungo of PupDigital says, “With this report, you can see where your traffic is coming from and the engagement and conversion rates for each source. This is extremely useful to help provide a snapshot of not only how effective your marketing is, but also it can identify focus areas for your strategy. You can also compare time periods to see if there has been an increase or decrease against a traffic source which can help guide your strategy development further.”
Bruce Hogan of SoftwarePundit adds, “Other reports in Google Analytics only show you traffic on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. As a result, the Audience Overview report can be used to monitor website traffic performance in almost real-time. Personally, we use it to compare today’s traffic performance to the same day in the prior week.”
For example, Jane Flanagan of Tacuna Systems says, “This shows you the activities of people who visit your site. Do users browse through different pages? How many sessions per user? What is the bounce rate on your site? What is the average duration per user on your site?
The answers to these questions help you to understand users’ opinion of your site. Generating traffic is important, but what would be the point if new visitors simply bounce off your page or never return. Audience behavior provides statistics that will help you RETAIN customers.”
”Demographic data is the most useful because it allows us to segment our audiences to the group of users that are most likely to convert,” says Liam Barnes of Directive.
“The Google Analytics Report I find myself using the most is the Acquisition/All Traffic/Channels Report,” says Daniel Ripa of Venture Team Building.
“I use it regularly to check general traffic trends on my site and understand where the traffic is coming from as well make notations on traffic dips or increases. I can analyze different user groups over varying periods of time. As well as look at my top keywords, sources, and landing pages. I also use it to research which keywords and landing pages are performing well and which ones aren’t.”
Md Mohsin Ansari of Mailtrim says, “With this report, we analyze how much traffic is coming from specific channels (paid versus unpaid channels)- organic, paid, direct, referral, and social media and which channels are giving high conversions based on the analysis. We tried to focus on and optimize those channels to get more conversions.”
David James of Business Growth Digital Marketing adds, “For most of our campaigns, the Acquisition dashboard is the most important because we can see the website’s business performance, which is broken down by channel, conversions, revenue, and engagement.
We can get an overview in less than 1 minute.
From there, we can dive-in deeper to learn more about what is and isn’t working. We can then refine and optimize to improve the site’s performance.”
For example, Darjan Hren says, “My client had a problem with really low conversions and was unprofitable with his Google Ads.
So I had to find a way to get him to profitability asap. So I looked at GA (Acquisition -> Google ads -> Campaigns) where I checked the conversion rate of each product. What I found was about 100 products with really low or zero conversions but there were few that really stood out.
Those actually ended up making him profitable as they were converting between 4-7% so he focused on selling just those on scale while optimizing other products.
Google Analytics Reports shows solutions in plain sight, you just need to know what you’re looking for.”
Editor’s Note: If you don’t want to pull up Google Analytics every time you want to see your top traffic sources, you can use this free Acquisition Snapshot Dashboard template.
“It depends on what your goal is for a particular site, but with SEO, a major goal is always to grow organic traffic,” says Ally Cantor of Choosing Therapy.
“One of the best Google Analytics reports monitoring this is under the ‘Acquisition’ tab. Click the option ‘All Traffic and then choose ‘Source / Medium’. This will give you great statistics to study your traffic and areas where you will need to work on, like Bounce Rates, Average Session Durations, and Pages Per Sessions. You will always want to strive for Google Organic to be number one in the Source / Medium list.”
Daniel Penzing of Maze of our Lives adds, ”Use landing page with Source/Medium as a secondary dimension. I am fully aware that this report gets VERY long quickly. However, once you export the information into Excel or Google Sheets and use filters and Pivot tables you will reach a new level of understanding of your website and user journey. What pages bounce. Do they bounce for all traffic sources? If articles perform better with some traffic sources this usually has to do with search intent/readers intent. Whichever traffic source you get the best results from, that’s the audience that feels catered to by your content. Often you get a great understanding which direction to go with a topic for upcoming updates to the article or to create new content.”
“I think the Landing Pages report is one of the most useful reports you can look at,” says Noelle Fauver of Trust & Will.
“You can see what pages the sites users are interacting with most and it gives you insight like the bounce rate, % of new sessions, new users, etc..The data it provides can give you enough information on where you should concentrate your efforts. For example, if one page has a much higher bounce rate, then you could investigate to find out why.”
Jakub Rudnik of Shortlister adds, “For a blog or other evergreen resource, you’ll spend the most time in your Landing Pages report to see pages that are growing or losing traffic, then taking that data and optimizing or link building accordingly.”
Obaid Durrani of Content Bruv also shares, ”It also shows the conversion rates for these pages, the bounce rates, and dwell time. You can use that information to evaluate user intent and whether you’re receiving the right visitors on your site or not. It’s also a great way of figuring out what pages need better optimization and where your marketing efforts should be focused.”
If you want to segment landing pages by source, Deniz Doganay of Digital Debut recommends the following.
“I really like checking ‘landing pages’ and setting the filter to organic search,” says Doganay. “As Google stopped showing us organic keyword data for years now, this is a great way to see how effective your keyword targeting and optimizations are on those pages.”
“Acquisition by Channel is by far the most useful Google Analytics report,” says Calvin Klaski of Data Studio Help. ”It’s where I start every morning of my day. This report gives you a jumping-off point to dive into where your traffic is coming from, whether it’s converting or not, and why your sales are where they are.”
Andre Oentoro of Breadnbeyond agrees, “My go-to Google Analytics report in any situation is the channel report. You can see what traffic sources are driving the most and the best traffic to your website. Also, there are three critical metrics types in a single overview; acquisition, behavior, and conversion, which I find extremely handy to measure my nonprofit website’s success.
For instance, even if you drive a lot of traffic to your site (acquisition metrics), but the visitors aren’t engaged (behavior metrics) and don’t take any action (conversion metrics), your website may not be bringing you the results as much as it could be.”
Matt Kenny of Nectafy adds, “The Channels report is the most useful for us and our clients. Since we primarily focus on growing organic traffic through blog posts, this report (with the primary dimension set to Landing Page) allows us to see which of our posts are driving the most traffic (users/new users/sessions) as well as how that traffic is behaving (bounce rate/pages per session/average session duration).
Plus, we can track how this traffic is helping contribute to certain goals on the website (submitting a demo request, scheduling a consultation call, etc.) with the conversion metrics also included in this report (goal conv. rate/goal completions/goal value).”
“As for my digital marketing company, the most useful Google Analytics report that we think is useful is the Mobile Overview Report,” says Scot J Chrisman of The Media House.
“Since almost all of us are now using our smartphones more than our computers, it’s best to take a close look at this report. Google Analytics will show you mobile improvements opportunities that you can make on how to cater to the needs of your target audiences plus generate leads through the innovations that you make on your website that caters to smartphone users.”
Hardik Oza of PeddleWeb says, “In today’s day and age, billions of users access the web using smartphones. If we talk in numbers then according to Statista, there will be 3.8 billion smartphone users worldwide in 2021.
This report is preferable for understanding how well your website is optimized for smartphones and where we need to make improvements. And these improvements lead to increased traffic and ranking. If we don’t care about slow website speed, the users will find a different place.
In the worst case, Google may also penalize you by decreasing your ranking, if the domain is not compatible with mobile.”
Megan Smith of Dosha Mat adds, “In our experience, the #1 most useful report in Google Analytics is the Mobile Overview Report. We say this because mobile traffic has become increasingly dominant. In fact, most websites will receive more traffic through mobile devices than through desktop computers. However, notwithstanding this monumental shift in traffic source, the infrastructure of most websites has not changed to accommodate mobile users in an optimal way. This is where Google Analytics can help.
By keeping a close eye on the Mobile Overview Report, you can ensure that your site is properly optimized for mobile and take advantage of the growing number of users on mobile devices. Doing so will also help ensure that your site ranks well in mobile searches and that you are not subject to any penalties as a result of a poor mobile experience.”
“The mobile performance is the most underrated report of Google Analytics,” says Rameez Ghayas Usmani of PureVPN. “After the Google update that rolled out regarding Mobile-First Indexing, this report helps us to see how well the site is optimized for mobile and where you need to make improvements.
You can even segment the report further to see which mobile devices/browsers customers are using to access your site. This will tell you if your site is performing poorly on some devices.”
John Howard of Coupon Lawn adds, “As a business owner, I believe that Mobile Performance Report is the most important Google Analytics Report. Most people are on the go and often use their mobile to surf the internet. A website that has mobile compatibility gains more audience because of its easy accessibility.
In this report, you will be able to know how your website is performing in mobiles and determines which browsers your customers often use to browse your website. It also gives the areas where there is a need for improvement for better customer experience.”
For example, David Lewis of Kitchen Ambition says, “Mobile performance is incredibly important for a cooking site. Our visitors may be juggling their phone in the grocery store checkout line or while trying to maneuver their kitchen. Understanding how the site is performing on each mobile operating system helps us focus our development efforts.”
“The behavior report is most useful because it allows you to understand what new users and returning users are interested in or not interested in,” says Melissa Hughes of Foundation Marketing. “This allows you to make important adjustments to your investment in content and user experience.”
Andrew Kolodgie of The House Guys adds, “Depending on where you are in the life cycle of your website, certain Google Analytics reports will provide more or less value.
We are in the early stages of our website, so we have found Behavior Flow to be the most useful report because it tracks the actions of the user. This helps clearly show which pages need to be reworked right away. You can analyze the user’s flow through your website as well as the drop off rate on each page. From this data, you can figure out which pages provide the least value to your audience creating a to-do list of pages you need to improve first.
You can also track the time spent on each page, which tells you the pages that provide the largest impact. Further, you can separate the different behavior flows into segments based on those who buy your product, or submit your form, etc. and those who do not. Analyzing these behavior flows can help you improve your website to capture potentially lost sales or leads.”
Shiran Sugerman of Spitfire Inbound agrees, “The one report I always take a look at is the Behavior Flow. It’s so important to know how people explore your site and understand where people drop off so you can optimize. This report lets you dig into the behavior of your website visitors which you can then use to add key CTAs to ensure your visitors are going through their buyer journey easily.”
For example, Abigail Inciong of Ozywebit says, “As a digital marketer and an SEO specialist, the most important part of Google Analytics report is the behavior (overview), based on experience. This shows the website pages page views, bounce rates, avg. time on page, that helps business website owners, marketers, to identify which pages needs help optimizing.”
Malea Habbal of On-Ramp adds, “What makes this report useful is that it gives you a great snapshot of what happens once users have landed on your website. From this, it makes it easier to determine how engaging your content is or if the user navigated until they found the information that they were seeking. If a user drops off or leaves the site after navigating to the contact page, you could come to the conclusion that they left your site due to needing to find accurate contact information. If you notice that users are navigating to multiple pages, you could also come to the conclusion that your content was engaging and interesting. It could also determine that the user had challenges finding the information they were looking for but with this report it clearly displays user behavior to know what pages they were on before leaving the site.”
“My favorite report in Google Analytics is the Content Efficiency Analysis,” says Dan Gower of Buddy Gardner Advertising. “This helps see which pages and blog posts are performing the best, so I know what my readers appreciate the most. Armed with this information, I can tailor my content creation efforts to create more posts that will appeal to my audience. This is incredibly helpful for SEO.”
“Google Analytics provides a helpful report called New vs Returning,” says Shiv Gupta of Incrementors Web Solutions.
“With this data, you need to understand who is coming to your website. You should use the New vs Returning reports to analyze the potential for different types of visitors to your website and how they become your customer. Adding custom variables will take this analysis to the next level and really make the data matter more to you. Moreover, you’ll need to plan your marketing campaigns more effectively to reach the best type of visitor.”
“The Goals Overview is still arguably the most important report you should be analyzing in Google Analytics,” insists David Sanchez of Digitalis Medical. “This feature helps you set any goals for your website and track conversions.
With this data, you can easily identify which part of your website gets more user interactions and optimize your pages for better conversions. The goals you set can also map your customer journey and identify any areas on your website which need improvement.“
Levi Olmstead of 2ndKitchen says, “You can find this in the conversion tab. The report that looks at ‘Goals’ and then reverses the path that led users to that goal.
This is a great report to understand what parts of your site are driving users down the funnel to your most valuable product pages, what those conversion numbers are, how many paths & pages were traveled, etc.”
Shannon Denton of Total Girl Boss adds, ”This report will help you understand how many people/customers have taken your desired action, what channels the customers are coming from, and the pages that are driving conversion. You can customize this report according to your desired date range and analyze the results.”
For example, Venus Rodrigo of Handshakin says, “We can set up specific interactions, such as form submissions and downloads, to track as goals.”
Editor’s Note: If you use Google Analytics and HubSpot, you can track content downloads and demo requests on your landing pages using this dashboard.
“Goal completion is the one measurement that has to be stringently tracked daily, weekly and monthly,” says Srish Agrawal of A1 Future Technologies Pvt. Ltd.
“The Goal conversion report tracks interactions such as submission or downloads or confirmed orders along with payment. One can also check what pages are driving the most conversions and the respective channels they are coming from. Tracking this particular report also empowers an individual to figure out the areas that need improvement.”
CJ Xia of Boster Biological Technology adds, “I believe that the Goal Overview Report is the most useful Google Analytics report. With this report, a user can set up specific interactions such as download and submit forms, track as a goal. This report is valuable for the user to see what pages are driving conversions and set a time frame.
The Goal overview report makes it easier to analyze if the organization’s goals are being met and how other areas could be improved.”
“I find myself looking at enhanced eCommerce reports and Multi-Channel Funnel Top Conversion Paths to get a clearer understanding of my digital ecosystem and how it’s all working together,” says Faheem Dayala of Shayr Digital.
Paige Papineau of Rocket Clicks adds, “In my experience, the most useful report in Google Analytics is the Top Conversion Paths report. As attribution continues to be at the forefront of measuring digital success, it’s important to discuss how campaigns and channels work together to drive conversions—or how channels could be supporting each other more effectively.
For instance, blogs typically have high traffic, but a low conversion rate. The lack of conversions might lead a client to discredit the blog’s value since it’s not directly attributable to conversions using certain attribution models. However, when you review the Top Conversion Paths report, you’re likely to find blogs contributing to conversions on other, lower-funnel pages. Explaining this report to a client helps them understand that blogs (and other pages) are still valuable assets to the website despite low surface-level conversion rate. This could help pitch and drive strategy, especially working across multiple channels.
From a PPC perspective, specifically, we can start to see if a campaign is higher in the funnel, allowing for a user to start their search through one campaign and ending in another channel/campaign. I know our clients find it very valuable (not to mention interesting and insightful to user behavior). Because of its implications for strategy, the Top Conversion Paths report is the best way to showcase how campaigns and initiatives are performing.”
“We are using the reports in the Multi-Channel Funnels section to find out which channels helped lead a customer to a conversion,” says Anif Muz of Jooble.org.
“Why we like this report the most? Because it allows you to see the path to the set goal. GA tracks visitors who have been to your site more than two times and eventually converted, and who didn’t.
The Assisted Conversions report shows how many conversions this channel was associated with, did not lead the customer directly to a conversion, but was in the chain. This data is useful for evaluating marketing channels.”
“The Google Analytics Funnel Analysis feature is underrated,” says Alex Birkett of Omniscient Digital. “You can see conversion rates by landing page if you’ve set up Goals, but that’s only last touch attribution. In a funnel report, you can adjust the parameters to include users (instead of sessions), which increases the scope of the funnel and casts a wider net for giving credit to that page. Great for content marketing reports!”
“I find the Site Content report in Google Analytics to be the most helpful,” says Bruce Harpham. “In particular, I look at average time on page and page views to identify the content that is resonating with my audience. This helps me to plan future blog posts for my website.”
“Visitor Acquisition and efficiency,” says Melanie Musson of AutoInsuranceEZ.com. “This report shows you where people are coming from when they land on your page. By understanding what sources are driving traffic, you can learn from what is working and apply that knowledge and those techniques to other sources.”
“I’ve found one hidden gem that only a few marketers use: Navigation Summary,” says Elad Levy of Creative Geek. “To access it you have to navigate to Behavior – Site Content – All pages and click the tab above the graph.
It shows the actual navigation pattern across pages, in a way that is easier to analyze than the Behavior Flow report which can be complex and even misleading.”
“The Users Flow report is a goldmine for spotting opportunities to optimize your user journey,” says Dan Young of Loud Digital. “For example by seeing which pages are most likely to make your customers leave your website.”
“The most useful audience insight I get from Google Analytics is the Browser & OS report,” says Jackie Jeffers of Portent Digital Marketing Agency.
“Understanding what browsers people use most is a great tactical insight into making sure the highest-utilized browsers have a clean and functional user experience. The Browser report alone has enabled me to identify a gap in conversions when a website wasn’t optimized for a particular browser. A website with an optimized infrastructure is an essential step to supporting any successful campaign.”
“When Google Analytics is paired with Google Tag Manager and GTM’s various tracking options are activated, the Events report becomes very powerful,” says Keith Moehring of L2 Digital.
“With GTM, the events report can show the different ways visitors are engaging with your content, and it’s data that’s not available through the standard Google Analytics implementation.
For example, you can report on which pages form completions take place, how far visitors scroll down a page, what external links they click on, which PDFs they download, the YouTube videos they watch on your site and for how long, and various other ways they interact with your content. This information can prove very helpful when evaluating page performance and optimizing your site for conversions.”
“The one (report) you build yourself,” says Kevin Orbach of The In House SEO. “No one can tell you what success is except yourself. You need to define your own key performance indicators and understand how they are calculated and why they are important. Out of the box reports are pretty, but they’re a dime a dozen. You won’t get any answers until you ask the question yourself.
At my agency, we empower clients to understand and take ownership over their data. It doesn’t have to be intimidating. It’s about defining what success is in that instance, identifying the factors, and calculating the result.”
From learning more about how people are finding your site to what landing pages are converting best, Google Analytics reports are a powerful tool you can use to improve your sales and marketing efforts.
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