Using Google Analytics To Drive Meaningful Growth (Part I: Your Audience)

Your Most Important Audience Metric

If you only pay attention to one screen in Google Analytics, it should be this one: the Audience: Overview screen within your local city's account.

Audience: Overview is the best place to check in on the health of your site, especially as it pertains to users (devices), sessions (visits) and page views (total number of individual pages viewed). All three of these stats are important, but the one that we recommend paying the closest attention to is your count of sessions (aka visits), as total sessions is the best indicator of how valuable our site is to the local market. 

In general, we value sessions more than users -- since we can't be that valuable to someone if they only use us once, and we also value sessions more than page views: Since we want to help people find an awesome event as easily as possible, we don't necessarily equate more page views with greater success. In fact, a high number of page views in a given session could indicate that a user isn't finding what they're looking for.

The best indicator of how we're doing is how many discrete visits we have -- and that's why we pay the most attention to sessions.

Comparing YoY

Statistics are meaningless without context -- and so now that we've identified the most important audience stat, we have to figure out what it means.

The best way to analyze your site session growth is by looking at it "year over year" -- meaning: comparing this time period to the same time period, last year. This tends to be more helpful for event-focused media properties like us, since so much of our traffic will inevitably be seasonal and affected by big announcements.

To compare your data to the same time last year:
  • Click the date range in the top right of the screen.
  • Check the 'Compare to' box.
  • Select 'Previous Year'
  • Apply Changes.

What year-over-year (YoY) session growth should you hope to see?

Red (no growth) is bad; 30% YoY growth is very good; 60% or higher is excellent (aim for that!).

Traffic Sources

Another especially useful screen in your local Google Analytics account is Acquisition -> All Traffic -> Channels. This is the best place to understand:
  • where your traffic is coming from
  • how well each channel is growing
  • where to focus future growth efforts -- since the channels with the most traffic will always be the most impactful to grow

  • Organic Search traffic accounts for ~58% of network sessions. This is traffic from search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing.
  • Email traffic accounts for ~23% of all network sessions. This is traffic from our owned emails, such as our daily and dedicated newsletters.
  • Direct traffic accounts for ~11% of all network sessions. Traffic is labeled as direct when no data is provided about how the visitors navigated to the website. 
    • Some instances that can cause direct sessions are: 
      • Clicking a link in an email or text
      • Typing a site's URL directly into your browser
      • Navigating to a site from a bookmark
  • Social traffic accounts for ~6% of network sessions. This is traffic from social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
  • Referral traffic accounts for ~4% of network sessions. This is traffic that arrives at our sites by clicking links on other sites that point to us.
  • When Google Analytics labels traffic as (Other), it means that it doesn't quite know which bucket to add it to. 
    • Please let us know if you notice that (Other) traffic accounts for more than 5% of your total traffic and we will help you consolidate it.
User Demographics

Google Analytics uses cookies to collect demographic information about your users. Here are some especially relevant sections:

Audience -> Mobile -> Overview allows you to see your traffic breakdown by device. 

In almost every case, an overwhelming majority of your traffic will be from mobile devices. It's important to keep that in mind when crafting your content.

Audience -> Demographics -> Overview allows you to see the age and gender breakdowns of your users. Please note that Google does not collect age information on minors.

Need to calculate your LDA% for an alcohol client? Take half of your 18-24 percentage and subtract that from 100. 

Now that you know a bit more about your audience, it's time to discover what they're into! Let's dig into Using Google Analytics To Drive Meaningful Growth (Part 2: Your Content).