Basics of Google Analytics – Part 1

Have you recently launched a new website or are you being tasked to manage one?

Here is what you’ll learn:

  • Understanding Google Analytics sections
  • Understand Acquisition, Behavior & Conversion (ABCs)
  • Learn how to decipher the information

No matter the case is, I’m sure you need to look into web analytic. I have clients and friends who asked me how to make sense of all the information, and how does it impact their daily job. This gives me the “push” to write this article. I would try to make it as simple as possible, highlighting some of the generic, yet, important information you need to retrieve from web analytic.

There are many web analytic software out there. I know a few like PIWIK, Clicky and Open Web Analytics. There is also articles which gives you a list of them. The most popular web analytics is none other than Google Analytics. I will not cover how to install Google Analytics but focus on how you should use the information as shown in it.

When you logged into Google Analytics, look on the left-hand side of the interface and you’ll see a list of tabs. There are only four tabs you need to be familiarized with to do most of your analytical work. They are “Audience”, “Acquisition”, “Behavior” and “Conversions”. Let me give you a quick introduction to what these tabs are about:
Google Analytics Sections


No matter how much money is spent designing and developing a new website. It is useless if visitors can neither find nor know about it. The next step after launching a new website is to market it. Therefore, the first stage of understanding the effectiveness of your website is how visitors are acquired. This is where you get information about this in the Acquisition tab.


Now we’re seeing visitors coming onto our website. That’s great. The next big question to know is what the visitors are doing on the website. Do they find the information useful and surf around your site? Or do they find it useless / cannot be trusted and went else where? In the “Behavior” tab, you’ll find useful information about visitors reaction to your website.


Every organization or individual creates website for a reason. The reason could be as simple as to be known (number of people click on the About us page), to be contacted (number of people who submits a form) or to sell something (number of people purchased). No matter what the reason is, it is important to track them. If you have the conversion feature setup, you’ll be able to find useful information about how this conversion comes about.


The last tab you need to know is the “Audience” tab. Once you understand about the ABCs (Acquisition, Behavior and Conversion) of your website, I’m sure you want to know who your audience / visitors are. In this tab, you’ll find information like demographics, geolocation, devices they are using etc.

ABCs of Google Analytics



In the Acquisition > Overview page, probably my favorite page of all, gives you a bird’s-eye view of your website’s performance in the perspective of ABC of each channel of acquisition.

Let’s take a look at how do we decipher the information in details:

Channels of acquisition


In the red box shows the channels of acquisition. This shows where the visitors are coming from

  • Organic Search – it typically means coming from search engines. When visitors searched for something and click on your website link.
  • Referral – when visitors comes to your website by clicking on links from other websites, these traffic are classified in this category.
  • Direct – Usually when visitors already know about your website, could be the website address in your name card, collateral or through word-of-mouth. When visitor types in your URL in the browser, it is considered a direct traffic.
  • Social – as the name suggest, these traffic comes from social media. You might have posted a link of your website on your Facebook page for example.

There are other possible channels, they could be from emails, paid search (where you spend money in digital advertisements) etc.

ABCs of a channel


Let us look across the table, focusing on a specific channel: Organic Search. Here is how we interpret the data

  1. For visitors who uses the search engine,
  2. there are 35 times visitors came into our website.
  3. Among them, 82% (bounce rate) of them find the information irrelevant and went else where.
  4. The good news is, 17.14% (conversion rate) of them did what this website is meant for.

Using the four steps above, you can re-use it to interpret the data of other channels.

What is more important here is to understand what each information means about your website.

  • Sessions – from an organization’s perspective, the goal is always to have as many visitors visiting the website as possible. Therefore, from sessions’ perspective, it is always the higher the merrier.
  • Bounce rate – but from bounce rate perspective, millions of sessions is useless if everyone find the information irrelevant and the bounce rate is 100%. In the social channel in the graph above, it shows 100%. This means all the 8 visits coming from social media finds the website irrelevant.
  • Conversion rate – It’s the complete opposite of bounce rate. When you have a higher conversion rate would mean that your website is relevant and is doing its job well. Coming from another perspective, the website would be equally successful if we have low visits/sessions but most of them bought something.

Next week, I would post Basics of Google Analytics – Part 2. In that article, you’ll learn how to understand trend and learn whether you’re investing money efficiently.

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Johnny Koh

A project manager and a brand strategist, I have over six years of experience in advising businesses of various industries as well as the public sector in their branding and communications need.