As the number of marketing tools has continued to grow, one thing has remained a constant in just about every marketer’s stack: Google Analytics.
Why? Google Analytics is a powerful and accessible (free) tool that lets marketers track more than 200 metrics that span the entire funnel—from acquisition to conversion.
And while the massive amount of data you can get from Google Analytics is great, you most likely don’t want to track everything. Most marketers and businesses just want to track the most important Google Analytics metrics.
To uncover the most important Google Analytics metrics, we dug into Databox usage data to find the metrics that our customers are tracking the most. Here’s what we learned.
A Datablock is one block of data that, along with any number of other Datablocks, make up a single Databox dashboard. Datablocks are customizable and resizable, and many of them are pre-built so all users need to do is drag them onto their dashboards to quickly visualize data.
Since Google Analytics is one of the top data sources connected via Databox, we wanted to identify the specific metrics that were being tracked most. We analyzed more than 50,000 Datablocks created for Google Analytics and broke them down by metric to see which were being tracked most often.
*Note: The screenshots included are showing sample data.
What is a Metric in Google Analytics?
A Google Analytics metric is a unit of information that tells you how some aspect of your business performed during a specific timeframe.
While there are thousands of metrics you can track, here are some examples of metrics in Google Analytics:
- Sessions: Measure the volume of visits to your website.
- Users: Measures unique visitors to your website.
- Pageviews: Measure the total number of pages viewed on your website.
- Average time on page: Measures the amount of time (on average) users spend on your website.
- Bounce rate: Measures the percentage of sessions that leave your website without taking any additional action.
- Entrances: Measures the entrance points (i.e. your homepage, pricing page, etc.) users visit your website through.
- Exit rate: Measures the rate at which visitors leave your website from specific pages.
These metrics can then be paired with dimensions in order to reveal more detailed insights into the performance of your business.
What are dimensions in Google Analytics? Basically, dimensions are criteria that your metrics are measured against. So, instead of just measuring Sessions, you could measure Sessions (metric) by Country (dimension).
Based on the example metrics given above, these would be some examples of dimensions in Google Analytics:
- Sessions by page
- Users by location
- Pageviews by device
- Average time on page by channel
- Bounce rate by channel
Each metric is paired with a dimension to provide a piece of data, typically in a table format with metrics in a column header and dimensions in rows.
In the screenshot above, we can see that the bounce rate (metric) for the site’s homepage (dimension) was 55.10% (data) for the timeframe we specified.
The 10 Most-Tracked Google Analytics Metrics
While Google Analytics metrics provide insights into visitor behaviors throughout the funnel, our results indicate that Google Analytics usage tends to favor top-of-the-funnel metrics. It’s likely that marketers prefer other tools for more visibility into downstream metrics such as conversions, purchases, revenue, etc.
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?
Here are the 10 most important Google Analytics metrics, along with definitions for each and recommendations for how to track, visualize, and gain insights from these metrics.
- Bounce Rate
- Average Session Duration
- Percentage of New Sessions
- Sessions by Channel
- Pages Per Session
- Goal Completions
- Pageviews by Page
PRO TIP: How to track these 10 popular Google Analytics metrics
Sure, there are dozens (and dozens?) more GA metrics you could track. But, starting with the 10 mentioned in this post will give you a pretty high-level view of how your marketing is working, starting with some of the most common ones…
- Sessions: The number of sessions can tell you how many times people are returning to your website. Obviously, the higher the better.
- Sessions by organic keyword: Which organic keywords bring in the most traffic to your website? This may help you determine whether your SEO investments are paying off.
- Bounce rate: Do visitors leave shortly after landing on your website? Or do they stick around?
- Average session duration: How much time are people spending on your website? Users with a high average session duration are most likely relevant to your company.
- Goal completions: How many users responded to your call to action?
If you want to track these in Google Analytics, you might find the visualizations limiting. It’s also a bit time-consuming to combine all the metrics you need in one view.
To better understand how your website performs in terms of traffic growth and conversions, we’ve made this plug-and-play dashboard that contains all the essential metrics for understanding how successful you are at optimizing different aspects of your website.
This Google Analytics dashboard offers a complete view of how your website is performing and converting at-a-glance and helps you gain valuable insights such as:
- How much traffic does my website get daily or monthly? (sessions)
- Which channels are driving traffic to my website? (sessions by channel)
- Which keywords are driving the most organic traffic? (sessions by keyword)
- How much time are visitors spending on my website? (average session duration)
You can easily set it up in just a few clicks – no coding required.
To set up the dashboard, follow these 3 simple steps:
Step 1: Get the template
Step 2: Connect your Google Analytics account with Databox.
Step 3: Watch your dashboard populate in seconds.
Continue on for a write-up on each metric. And, feel free to use this nifty infographic, courtesy of our friends at Venngage, for reference in your business or on your blog.
(6,071 Datablocks Used)
In Google Analytics, “Users” means unique visitors.
“Users” displays on the default Google Analytics dashboard as soon as you log in to the tool, but you can also find the data for this metric by navigating to “Audience” > “Overview.”
Any time new visitors land on your website, Google Analytics assigns them a unique ID—or client ID—that’s stored as a cookie in their browsers.
Let’s say you visit the Databox website in Chrome. When you land on the site, Google Analytics adds a cookie with a client ID to your Chrome browser. If you return to our site again later using the same browser, Google Analytics will log you as a returning user rather than a new visitor.
However, if you visit our website a second time using Safari, you’ll receive a separate client ID, and Google Analytics would count your two visits as two separate users.
“Users” and “Sessions” are vastly different, as one user can log multiple sessions on your website (more on that below).
Since “Users” is the most-tracked Google Analytics metric, it 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 those visitors log.
To track users in Databox, Weidert Group’s Jonathan Stanis recommends the Line Graph Datablock with comparisons turned on:
“This Datablock is very useful in letting us see if any particular piece of content caused a spike in traffic or other general trends,” Stanis says. “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)
In Google Analytics, “Bounce Rate” shows what percentage of your visitors triggered only one request from the Google Analytics server—such as a single page view—without triggering any other request from the server (another pageview, a conversion, etc.).
Your website’s bounce rate is simply the number of single-page sessions (bounces) divided by the total number of sessions.
“Bounce Rate” displays on the default Google Analytics dashboard as soon as you log in to the tool, but you can also find the data for this metric by navigating to “Audience” > “Overview.”
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 zero seconds.
Related: 76 Marketers on How to Reduce Your Website’s Bounce Rate
To track bounce rate in Databox, Avidly’s Elise Karlsen Bye recommends the Line Graph Datablock with comparisons turned on:
(4,279 Datablocks Used)
“Sessions” displays on the default Google Analytics dashboard as soon as you log in to the tool, but you can also find the data for this metric by navigating to “Audience” > “Overview.”
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 Google Analytics defines a session.
Related: How to Increase Your Website Sessions
To track sessions in Databox, PR 20/20’s Keith Moehring recommends the Line Chart Cumulative Datablock with comparison and goals turned on:
“I like to see the day-by-day progress of this metric, and it’s often one with which we associate goals,” Moehring says.
4. Average Session Duration
(4,037 Datablocks Used)
“Avg. Session Duration” in Google Analytics tells you how long, on average, visitors are staying on your website. It’s the total duration of all sessions (in seconds) divided by your total number of sessions.
You can find the data for average session duration by navigating to “Audience” > “Overview.”
Individual session durations 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.
Related: Benchmarking Average Session Duration: What it Means & How to Improve It
To track average session duration in Databox, FCP Euro’s Amir Hamdi recommends the Audience Overview Datablock:
“As an ecommerce business, having all our website performance metrics available at a glance is critical,” Hamdi says. “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’s 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.
You can find percentage of new sessions in Google Analytics by navigating to “Audience” > “Behavior” > “New vs Returning.”
To track percentage of new sessions in Databox, Imagine Business Development’s Doug Davidoff and Smartbug Media’s Juli Durante recommend the Line Graph Datablock with comparisons turned on:
“With the Line Graph Datablock, we’re able to quickly see how things are trending at any moment,” Davidoff says. “Depending on the strategy we’re implementing, we know if ‘% 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.”
“If you need to keep a database engaged long-term, seeing the line graph trend of repeat sessions is incredibly valuable,” Durante says.
“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 channel” is the number of sessions attributed to each channel grouping.
You can find sessions by channel in Google Analytics by navigating to “Acquisition” > “All Traffic” > “Channels.”
To track sessions by channel in Databox, The Weidert Group’s Jonathan Stanis recommends the Pie Chart Datablock:
“This helps show where the largest audiences are coming from and what channels are struggling,” Stanis says.
7. Pages Per Session
(2,926 Datablocks Used)
In Google Analytics, “Pages / Session” is calculated by dividing the total number of pageviews by the total number of sessions.
You can find the data for pages per session by navigating to “Audience” > “Overview.”
Pageviews aren’t necessarily unique, as the same user can view the same page five times and log five pageviews. 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.
To track pages per session in Databox, Prism Global Marketing Solutions’ Elyse Flynn Meyer recommends the Line Graph Datablock with comparisons turned on:
“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,” Meyer says. “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)
In Google Analytics, “Goal Completions” are the number of times website visitors complete a specific goal on your website.
This will be different for every business because you ultimately define what “Goals” refer to when creating them (i.e. visits to a specific URL, purchases, signups, etc.).
To see goal completions in Google Analytics, you first have to create one or more goals. After creating a goal, find goal completions in Google Analytics by navigating to “Conversions” > “Goals” > “Overview.”
To track goal completions in Databox, Databox’s own Pete Caputa recommends the Goal Overview Datablock with comparisons turned on:
“The main goal we track in Google Analytics is when people sign up for our product,” Caputa says. “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.”
(2,254 Datablocks Used)
A “Pageview” is any view of a page that is being tracked by Google Analytics.
You can find “Pageviews” data by navigating to “Audience” > “Overview.”
“Pageviews” is a fairly generous measurement. 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.
Related: How to Increase Pageviews
To track pageviews in Databox, Stream Creative’s Steve James recommends the Line Graph Datablock with comparisons turned on:
“Pageviews is a key metric to ensure that new and returning visitors continue to access content on your website,” James says. “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.”
10. Pageviews by Page
(2,070 Datablocks Used)
“Pageviews by page” is a metric that shows the number of pageviews each page of your site received within a given timeframe.
You can find pageviews by page in Google Analytics by navigating to “Behavior” > “Site Content” > “All Pages.”
To track pageviews by page in Databox, Impulse Creative’s Remington Begg recommends the Table Datablock with comparisons turned on:
“Organic SEO is usually looked at as a big job,” Begg says. “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.
Create a Consolidated View of Your Most Important Google Analytics Metrics
You can find the data for each of these metrics in Google Analytics, but each piece of data lives in different reports. Databox makes it easy to consolidate all of your Google Analytics metrics—and even pull in data from more than 70 other tools—and view them together in a single dashboard.
Then, use the template as-is, edit it to add some of the recommended Datablocks above, or build your own custom dashboard to centralize all of your most important metrics and quickly measure your website’s performance.
Editor’s note: Did you know that all Databox dashboards can be accessed through your smartphone too? With the Databox Android or iOS mobile app, you can view your dashboards from any mobile device, favorite your most important metrics for easy access, and track your progress toward goals wherever you are.
Ready to start tracking even more metrics? Check out some of our community roundups where marketers share the email marketing, social media, SEO, and content marketing metrics they track most often—or dig even deeper into Google Analytics reporting with these 13 Google Analytics tips and hacks.
Originally published in January 2018, this post has been updated to include screenshots of and instructions for how to find each metric in Google Analytics.