Understanding Google Analytics: The Basics Explained

Understanding Google Analytics doesn’t have to require a Master’s Degree. All too often, Google Analytics basics are misinterpreted or just simply misunderstood. Here is a breakdown of what you should be looking for in your GA and what these metrics actually mean to you in the real world.

The opening screen you see in GA is called the Audience Overview, which will cover the basics in the given time frame that is, by default, the past 30 days. This timeframe can be changed using the options in the top right corner. On this screen, you will see a bunch of graphs and numbers, some of the key indicators of a website’s performance are:


This number tallies the total number of visitors to your site, differentiating between new and returning visitors within the set timeframe. Although it is always great to be attracting new visitors, it is actually ideal to have a nearly equal balance between new versus returning visitors. If the majority of your visitors are new, you should be asking yourself, “Why aren’t people returning to my site?” whereas if you have a large majority returning to your site then the question becomes, “Why aren’t new visitors finding my site?”


This number is an indication of engagement with your site. If visitors only view 1 or 2 pages, they are leaving your site before getting too far into it. Of course, this is in proportion to the total number of pages on your site. For instance, a site with five pages could have a great average of 2.5 pages, but this number would not be so great if your site has 100+ pages. If your Page Views per Visit numbers are low, ask yourself a few questions:

  • Am I encouraging people to leave my site by linking to another site?
  • Do all the menu and navigation links on my site work?
  • Does my site display well on all browsers, desktops and mobile devices?
  • Do the navigation buttons and search box work well on all browsers, desktops and mobile devices?


Your site’s bounce rate is one of the top indicators of the user experience and overall effectiveness of your site. The bounce rate is the average rate of visitors leaving your site after only seeing the first page. This is never ideal unless you have a one page website. The industry standard for a bounce rate is around 50%. In general, if you are losing more than two-thirds of your visitors after only landing on the first page, then there is most likely an issue that needs to be addressed. A good starting point is exploring your website’s navigation. Which page are people leaving most often? Does your content organization make sense?

Google Analytics is an amazing tool with hundreds of uses. With ever-changing updates in Google Analytics, there is no telling how many more features will come and disappear. Not only is it more important than ever to not only obtain the information at hand, but also to understand essential metrics and use them to the best of your ability.