How to understand website visitors better using Google Analytics

Most of the time, when you talk about success for a website, its always traffic – that’s it. Number of visits, number of page views, referral traffic and that’s about it. But what do these numbers tell you? Have they left clues for you that you aren’t seeing? Are you missing opportunities to double your traffic? And most importantly, are you missing opportunities to improve the user experience? If you haven’t been using Google Analytics well, chances are that you are sitting on a gold mine of information already.

This post is intended for bloggers and SMEs who do a lot of traffic generation but are struggling to figure out ways to make sense of it all. We’ll try and answer some of the questions asked above.

Go beyond visitor numbers & keywords

Overall visitor numbers and traffic are only the tip of the ice berg. All that social media traffic you built is going waste if you’re not digging further. Most of us only look at the total number of referral traffic from social networks and think that its the end of it. But there’s more.

Stop counting. Find what people actually do

One of the things that we all do, that blinds us from seeing the big picture is focusing on numbers. We count people by the head count and leave it at that. Now, when you start focusing on the person and treat him like one, you start monitoring his behavior and that makes a lot of sense.

There are different ways by which you can find out what people are doing on your site by tagging them properly.

The first step would be to set goals for them.

Figure out the purpose(S) of your website

What is it? Brand recognition? Popularity? User acquisition? Sales?

Based on why your website exists, your goals can vary. If it is a sales page, obviously your goal is to sell something. If it’s a blog, may be you are looking at getting new users, or may be creating a user base. What ever it is, clearly define it and set goals for it.

Here’s how you can do it.

Step 1 – Setting Up Goals

Go to Admin > Settings > Goals > Create Goals


There are couple of templates that you can choose from. Everything from sales transactions to Inquiries to Social sharing and Time spent on website can be tracked with these templates (also custom ones).

My suggestion is that the more goals you have the better your understanding will be of your users. So try to create goals to measure Engagement, Transactions (if you have them) and Inquiry separately, to understand better.

In the above example, I’m selecting “Contact Us” as the primary goal. (I’m assuming that most blogs or editorial content type properties might not have anything to sell, but if you do, feel free to select a transaction or a Sign up process as appropriately.)

Step 2

In the second step, I want to be able to measure “long visits”, i.e visits of more than 5 minutes on the website after the first interaction. I’m assuming again, that any user who might be spending more than 5 minutes on the site would either have forgotten to close the tab or is a person genuinely interested in the content.


You can also select other metrics like “number of pages/visit” etc.

Step 3

And then, I give in the number of minutes/seconds/hours I want to measure. Essentially, this goal should show me all the users who have spent more than 5 minutes on my website.


Like I said, the more goals you have the better your chances of understanding your customer is. For example, you can have as many combinations of goals as you want and create “Segments” to track users.

Ex: All users who came in from Social Media channels and spent more than 5 minutes on the site.

All users from Organic visits who visited a specific goal page etc.

Gathering Valuable Insights from visitor data

There are several valuable insights that are available in your visitor data that goes unnoticed. To harness them, you got to create some segments based on your goals, or at least, try and use the pre-built templates.

Go to Conversions > Goals > Overview


Here, you can do a lot of magic number crunching with simple drag and drops.

Clicking on the arrow button, will reveal the deck where you can drag and drop pre built segments.


You can get this from any standard report, i.e Content tab, Audience tab etc.

Ex: To find all users from mobile and tablet devices from Organic traffic, you got to go to Content > Overview and rearrange the segments in the following way as shown in figure.


Where did they go after visiting that popular story?

Most of the time, there’s that one story which gets picked up by social networks and give a lot of referral traffic. This often results in traffic spikes that stand for a short period of time. After a few days, this traffic dies out – or that’s what it seems like. If you happen to follow a cool story from your Facebook feed and land on a great site, would you never return back to that site? No. Most of us would take action, however little significant it is. Either bookmark the site, or like them on Facebook, or subscribe…something or the other. But why are we not seeing these actions on Google Analytics?

The moment you start asking this question, it all will start to make sense.

One of the ways to figure this out is to track user journeys. If you’ve set up goals, you’ll be able to find out how your users are traveling within your website page to page, reaching your goals.

Go to Conversions > Goals > Goal Flows


This is one great way to figure out what information people find interesting (or not) on your website. How people see and experience you as a brand and what kind of content clicks with them, which obviously you can use to scale up.


Use Advanced pivots to go beyond the obvious

To fully make use of Google Analytics, you got to go beyond the obvious and use some customization and one of the best tools to do that is advance pivots.

Obviously, there are no rules or magic formulas, but if you can do a little bit of tweaking, on what you see by default, you can mine some really interesting data.

For example, in organic search queries, if you pivot out the data by Google Property with metrics clicks and impressions, you get a pivot table similar to what’s shown below.

This is a far more efficient way to look and make sense of data. In this example, you instantly get an idea of which platform (Google property) is sending all that traffic, is it Google images, smartphones or the web. If you were looking at this data by the default view, you would only see the keywords and one source – Google. So, that little bit of extra tweaking makes a lot of difference to your perspective.


You’ll find some additional tips on using pivot tables for Analytics here.


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Mani Karthik

I can talk about Marketing and SEO all day long. Passionate about blogging, SEO & Online marketing. Perpetual learner.

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