Google Analytics Metrics to Track

10 of the Most Important Google Analytics Metrics to Track

Last Edited September 11, 2023 by Garenne Bigby in UX

When you are a brand that has a website with useful content or unique products, your website is destined to attract an audience. Even so, you must be able to hold and convert the potential customers into loyal customers. This all depends on how you choose to optimize and use these metrics so that they best fit your brand and website. There are so many different ways that a website can increase their rates of retention and conversion, but prior to taking on the endeavor you must figure out which specific metrics it is that you are trying to improve for your brand. Use this as a guide to help you determine which metrics are the most important to track. You will find most of these metrics in the Audience section within the dashboard of Google Analytics, along with other metrics that aid you in tracking your website traffic. When you proceed armed with this knowledge, there will be nothing stopping you from growing your website in the way that is best for your brand.

google analytics 10 metrics to track

New or Unique Visitor Conversion

It is vital to know that the way in which a returning visitor interacts with your website will be different from how a first-time visitor will interact with your website. In order to be able to improve the experience for first-time visitors, you must isolate the conversion rates from returning visitors or loyal customers. You must determine what it is that they see when they are first visiting the website, and how you can take action to improve this initial visit and their overall experience. This is where usability will play an essential role in decreasing the bounce rate of first time visitors. You will have a low rate of conversion for new or unique visitors if your website is not user friendly. These new visitors will be the ones that are seeing everything for the first time, and will not be privy to any “tricks” to better use the website. It needs to provide a great user experience up front.

Sources for Incoming Traffic

Ideally, your website would have incoming traffic streaming in from a variety of sources. There are three categories for the primary sources: direct visitors, search visitors, and referral visitors.

  • Your direct visitors will be those who have come to your site by typing in your exact URL into the address bar in their browser.
  • Your search visitors will be those who have arrived to your website based on a search query that they have entered.
  • Your referral visitors will be those who visit the website because it was mentioned somewhere on another website or blog that they were visiting.

All three of the sources are very important, but they have different levels of conversion. Because of this, you should be calculating how much traffic each individual source is converting, and then take action based on these numbers.

If your direct visitors number is low, is your website easy for people to remember? Is it advertised in a way that is widely available? If it isn't you may be losing direct visitors to search visitors—those who had to remember details about your brand in order to find your website.

Interactions per Visit (Pages/Sessions)

Even when there are visitors to your website that do not convert, you must still monitor their behavior on your website. You will need to know what exactly they are doing on your website, what you can do to get them to do more of it, and how you will be able to influence their behavior into conversions. As an example, take your unique visitor page view rates—track the time in which they are on the page, reviews or comments that they make, and the like. Each one of these interactions is very important and your end goal is more than just increasing these interactions (which will increase the time that is spent on the website), but you must also map out how you will transform these increased interactions into actual conversions—purchases, subscriptions, downloads, and the like. By tracking all of these things, you will be able to determine how the visitor chooses to travel through the website to the various content.

Return Visitor Conversion

When someone has returned to your website, there are two very important questions that you should be asking yourself: why did this person return, and did they convert the first time they visited—if they did not, what can you do to convert this person on their return visit? It is essential to realize that even though a visitor was not converted as a new visitor, your brand did leave enough of an impression on them to make them to return to the website. Now that you know that you can entice visitors to return, your next goal should be to single out the conversion rate of return visitors and figure out how to increase it.

Some brands opt to offer exclusive deals or coupons to their return customers, while others ask their returning visitors to join their mailing list or to complete a survey. How you choose to increase the conversion rate will depend on the goods or services that are offered by your brand.

Value per Visit

The value of each visit is bound immediately to the interactions per visit. This can be calculated as the total number of visits divided by the total value that was created. Calculating the value per visit is sometimes difficult because there are various intangibles that are involved in creating value that are hard to exactly define. As an example, visitors of a blog create a value each time that they add a page view onto your traffic number, but they will also create an intangible value when they leave a comment on your website. For those with ecommerce sites, website visitors create value when they purchase a product, but they will then also create this value that cannot be calculated when they choose to leave a review or spread the brand name by word of mouth.

How would a website entice a visitor to create more value during their visit? A brand may ask return customers to leave reviews on goods or services that they have purchased in exchange for a coupon code, or they may ask customers to share a link with their social media.

Bounce Rate

The preliminary goal when trying to increase the value per visit, interactions per visit, return visitor conversion, new & unique visitor conversion, and traffic sources is to minimize the bounce rate of visitors. The bounce rate can be defined as the amount of times new visitors visit the site and then immediately leave it without completing any tasks. This will be indicated with very little time spent on the website and no interactions. Having a high bounce rate will be indicative of several things, including but not limited to irrelevant or weak sources of traffic and landing pages that are modified for conversion—like landing pages that have low usability, poor design, or load times that are high. E-commerce website will sometimes refer to bounce rates as abandonment rates—the rate at which a visitor will abandon their shopping cart and not make a purchase. This can be the result of a checkout process that is too complicated, deals that are expired or irrelevant, or forced cart additions (you must add the item to your cart in order to see the actual price of the item).

Blogs will often times see high bounce rates. This is because visitors will tend to only stay on the blog website in order to read one single post and then they will move on.

Lead Generation Costs (Cost per Conversion)

This is the effect of a value per visit, and perhaps one of the more important metrics. Cost per conversion may also be referred to as “cost per referral or “lead generation costs”. If you have a high cost per conversion, it will not matter if your website is bringing in high conversion rates with a high value per visit. Your website will be cost prohibitive—meaning that your net income will be zero or into the negative. When you are trying to increase conversion rates on your website, you will need to keep the cost per conversion in mind, as well as the overall margins. Simply put, this is when you are not breaking even for what you are paying in order to gain conversion. When this number becomes a problem, take a step back and evaluate where exactly the costs are hurting your brand.

Exit Pages

Your website's bounce rates are not totally derived from the home page. Often times your brand's final call to action (or conversion) will be on the second or third page of a process. In order to maximize your conversions, you will need in investigate further into the exits and find out at which stage of the process the visitors are leaving the website or discarding their shopping cart. When you figure this out, then you may be able to modify the process accordingly. The steps to complete your website's call to action should be only to two or three pages from the content (or products) that the website visitor was looking for. When the process becomes complicated, the goods or services will simply become “not worth the hassle” to potential customers. This is just one of these things should be tested in the research and data collection phase of building a website, but sometimes it may be overlooked or have room for major improvement.

Page Views

One page view is a single view of a web page on your website by a visitor. The page view metric will show just how often visitors successfully access the content on your website. When there are a high number of page views, this could be due to the quality and value of the content on the website. On the other hand, it may also be contributed to visitors not being able to find what they are looking for, so they keep poking around on different pages, or they are trying to reload any pages that are not showing up correctly. Other metrics will be able to tell you the reason for a high number of page views. Keep in mind if one of your pages has been linked from another website that gets a lot of traffic, only that particular page will have an influx of views. Compare your traffic sources with the page views and this will give you the insight you need.

Average Session Duration

Quite simply, this is the average length of time (in hours, minutes, and seconds) that a visitor spends in a session on your website. This has a direct correlation with how relevant your website is to the visitor—the more relevant it is, the more time that a visitor will spend accessing the information contained on your website that is of interest to them. When the interactions per visit is low and the duration of the average session is high, it could be indicative of a web page having too much information—resulting in more time being spent on the page or the information may be confusing to the visitor, forcing them to stay longer on the page to sort out what the information means. When a brand is offering goods or services, the call to action should be straightforward and it will affect the average session duration.

Once you are aware of the metrics that are most important, you will be able to better utilize Google Analytics to track the progress of your website's own metrics. These stats will be able to provide your brand with the knowledge that it needs in order to optimize each one, and will enable these metrics to work together to accomplish your final goal. Because each of these metrics has a direct effect on another, when you make the choice to optimize one, you are taking action to optimize multiples.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite:
Founder of DYNO Mapper and Former Advisory Committee Representative at the W3C.

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