This data was sourced from over 50,000 Datablocks used to track Google Analytics in Databox. (What is a Datablock?)
As the number of marketing channels continues to grow and evolve (as well as the tools companies use to track them) one thing has remained constant in just about every marketer’s stack–Google Analytics (GA).
Mostly due to its accessibility, marketers use Google Analytics to track metrics that span the entire funnel, from acquisition to conversion. However, our data indicates that Google Analytics usage tends to favor the top of funnel. It’s likely that marketers and the companies they work for prefer other tools for more visibility into downstream metrics such as conversions, purchases, revenue, etc.
We recently dug into Databox usage to see what Google Analytics metrics people are tracking most and, perhaps, understand what that says about the state of digital marketing.
To do so, we analyzed the total number of Datablocks created in Databox for Google Analytics, broke them down by metric, and went from there.
Then we asked some of our customers to give us their recommendation for how to best track and visualize these metrics in order to gain more insights.
Let’s dig in…
First, What’s a Datablock?
A Datablock is one block of data that, along with any number of other Datablocks, make up a single dashboard.
They’re customizable, resizable, and many of them are pre-built so all users need to do is click and drag them to their dashboard to quickly visualize data.
All dashboards are made up of Datablocks. See for yourself in the quick video I recorded below…
Since Google Analytics is one of the top data sources connected via Databox, we wanted to identify the specific metrics being tracked most, and more importantly, talk to real people to learn how they’re tracking and analyzing that data.
Based on our findings, the top metrics being tracked can be categorized into the following three buckets:
- Is my website growing?
- Key question(s) answered: What channels drive the most visitors? Of the people visiting my website, what percentage of them are new visitors?
- Is my website converting?
- Key question(s) answered: How many times do visitors complete the goal? What’s the overall goal conversion rate?
- What are people doing on my website?
- Key question(s) answered: How long do visitors stay on my website? How many pages do they view?
Below are our findings on the top Google Analytics metrics being tracked, as well as:
- Their definitions.
- The number of Datablocks used to track them in 2017.
- User recommendations for how to track, visualize, and gain insights from these metrics.
*Note: The screenshots included are showing sample data.
The Top 10 Most-Tracked Google Analytics Metrics in 2017
1. Users (6,071 Datablocks used)
“Users” are Google Analytics’ way of defining unique visitors.
Any time a new visitor lands on your website, Google Analytics assigns them a unique ID, or client ID, that’s stored in a cookie in your browser.
So say you visited our website in Chrome, your Chrome browser received a Google Analytics cookie with a client ID. When you return, GA will then log you as a returning user rather than a new visitor.
If, however, you visit our website a second time, this time using Safari, you’d receive a separate client ID, and therefore GA would recognize you as two users.
“Users” and “Sessions” are vastly different, as one user can log multiple sessions on your website. (More on that in a minute.)
Seeing “Users” at #1 suggests that marketers are (rightfully) more interested in the number of unique visitors (however imperfect this metric may be) visiting their website rather than the number of sessions they log.
Recommended Datablock: Line graph with comparisons turned on. – Jonathan Stanis, Weidert Group.
“This Datablock is very useful in letting us see if any particular piece of content caused a spike in traffic or other general trends,” said Stanis. “December always tends to be a slow month for us, particularly between Christmas and New Years, and the “Users” line graph clearly shows this trend.”
2. Bounce Rate (4,491 Datablocks used)
A bounce is calculated when a user triggers only one request from the Google Analytics server, such as one page view, and exits without triggering any other request from the server. (Another pageview, a goal completion, etc.)
Your website’s bounce rate is simply the number of single-page sessions (bounces) divided by the total number of sessions.
Since there are no engagement hits after the initial pageview that would allow Google Analytics to track the length of the session, “Bounces” will lower your average session duration, as single-page views have a session duration of 0 seconds.
Recommended Datablock: Line graph with comparison turned on. – Elise Karlsen Bye, Inbound Norway.
3. Sessions (4,279 Datablocks used)
Google Analytics records a session every single time someone visits your website. A session starts right away when someone loads a page and ends after 30 minutes of inactivity.
Every pageview, click, transaction, etc., tracked during this period of activity makes up one “Session.”
If that same visitor comes back several hours later, or the next day, a new session is counted. Therefore one person can log multiple sessions.
For that reason, it’s not a great measure for tracking unique website visits (which is how many marketers wrongly use this metric.) There’s often a discrepancy between “Sessions” in Google Analytics and “Visits” in other performance-tracking tools because of how GA defines a session.
Recommended Datablock: Line chart cumulative with comparison and goals turned on. – Keith Moehring, PR 20/20.
“I like to see the day-by-day progress of this metric, and it’s often one with which we associate goals,” said Moehring.
4. Average Session Duration (4,037 Datablocks used)
The total duration of all sessions (in seconds) is divided by your total number of sessions to calculate your average session duration.
This is how long, on average, visitors are staying on your website.
Individual session duration can vary depending on whether or not there are engagement hits on the last page of a session. If there are no hits on the last page of a session, Google Analytics calculates the session duration by subtracting the time of the first hit on the last page from the time of the first hit on the first page.
So if the time of the first hit on the last page was 1:00, and the time of the first hit on the first page was 12:30, the session duration is 30 minutes.
Recommended Datablock: Audience Overview – Amir Hamdi, FCP Euro
“As an ecommerce business, having all our website performance metrics available at a glance is critical,” said Hamdi. “The audience overview Datablock is the quickest way we can gauge site performance. As a bonus, I love being able to track metrics from Google Analytics and HubSpot in the same place.”
5. Percentage of New Sessions (3,674 Datablocks used)
If there is no client ID associated with a visitor to your website, that visitor is logged as a “New Session.”
% new sessions is simply the total percentage of first-time sessions on your website in a given time period.
Recommended Datablock: Line graph with comparisons turned on. – Doug Davidoff, Imagine Business Development.
“With the line graph Datablock, we’re able to quickly see how things are trending at any moment,” said Davidoff. “Depending on the strategy we’re implementing, we know if % of new sessions is too high then we’re not engaging enough visitors to come back. If it’s too low, we’re not attracting enough new visitors to the top of our funnel.”
Says Juli Durante of Smartbug Media…
“If you need to keep a database engaged long-term, seeing the line graph trend of repeat sessions is incredibly valuable,” said Durante. “If you need to generate a ton of new leads, the graph will show you how your traffic may help you meet that expectation. If you’re unsure of whether or not existing customers are visiting your website and affecting your conversion rates, new sessions is another indicator of that.”
6. Sessions by channel (3,051 Datablocks used)
Google Analytics’ channel groupings classify your traffic so you can track the performance of individual channels like organic, paid, direct, social, email, etc.
Sessions by channels are the number of sessions attributed to each channel grouping.
Recommended Datablock: Pie chart. – Jonathan Stanis, The Weidert Group
“This helps show where the largest audiences are coming from and what channels are struggling,” said Stanis.
7. Pages per session (2,926 Datablocks used)
Pages per session are calculated by dividing the total number of pageviews by the total number of sessions.
Pageviews aren’t necessarily unique, as the same user can view the same page five times and log five page views. However, it’s still a good indicator of overall engagement. Just be sure to place any analysis within the context of how the metric is defined.
Recommended Datablock: Line graph with comparisons turned on. – Elyse Flynn Meyer, Prism Global Marketing Solutions.
“An increase in pages per session is often a clear indicator that your website visitors are more engaged and are looking to explore more of your content,” said Meyer. “By having this visualization in Databox, we can quickly see trends for how user engagement is increasing or decreasing over time.”
8. Goal completions (2,784 Datablocks used)
Goal completions are the number of times website visitors complete a specific goal on your website.
This will be different for every user, as you ultimately define what “Goals” are in your Google Analytics preferences, i.e. visits to a specific URL, purchases, signups, etc.
Recommended Datablock: Goal Overview with comparisons turned on. – Pete Caputa, Databox.
“The main goal we track in Google Analytics is when people sign up for our product,” said Caputa. “The overall number is most important, but I also like seeing the percentage of visitors who sign up to make sure that’s going up over time, too. I like this Datablock because it shows both numbers side-by-side.”
9. Goal Conversion (2,708 Datablocks used)
Also unique to every user, “Goal Conversions” are the total number of goals completed by website visitors. This number is not specific to any one goal, but rather a calculation of the number of times goals were completed.
For example, if you have 10 goals set up in Google Analytics, this number will reflect the aggregate of the number of times goals were completed on your website.
Recommended Datablock: See #9.
10. Pageviews (2,554 Datablocks used)
A “Pageview” is any view of a page that is being tracked by Google Analytics.
It’s a fairly generous measurement as if you land on a page, that’s a pageview. If you reload that same page, it counts as another. If you leave the page and come right back, it’s yet another pageview—all from the same page and user.
Recommended Datablock: Line graph with comparisons turned on. – Steve James, Stream Creative.
“Pageviews is a key metric to ensure that new and returning visitors continue to access content on your website,” said James. “A solid SEO strategy along with social, email, and other campaigns can be measured in part by watching this metric.
With Databox we can quickly compare and assess when we see a high number of pageviews and set up comparison data with our traffic sources and specific page results.”
*11. [Bonus] Pageviews by page (2,070 Datablocks used)
A calculation of your top pages according to the overall number of pageviews they received.
Recommended Datablock: Table with comparisons turned on. – Remington Begg, Impulse Creative.
“Organic SEO is usually looked at as a big job,” said Begg. “If you have certain pages that are popular it’s always a good idea to look into the user experience, the technical SEO, and other factors that can drive conversions. A constant reminder of the top pages is an easy thing to prioritize. ”
Pull These Google Analytics Metrics (and more) into One Dashboard
Want to easily track all of these Google Analytics metrics in one place?
Want to view more advanced metrics? Here’s 10 more Google Analytics Dashboards created by experts.