What is Google Analytics? And why should I care?

Did you know that 4 out of 5 Americans zone out when people talk about Google Analytics?… They don’t, but that may as well be the statistic. Google Analytics is a web analytics program for your site that exists as Javascript on every page. In addition to being a product of The Google, the other perks to this particular analytics tool is that every website codebase can handle it, it takes less than 30 minutes to install, and it’s free. In roughly the same amount of time it takes to watch an episode of Silicon Valley, you can be up and running and learning the what, where, how, and whens surrounding the activities taking place on your site (the “why” is up to you). In our introduction to Google Analytics, we go over some of the key perks to using this tracking code and how you can use these learnings to move the needle of your organization forward.

The two categories of Google Analytics: How Good vs. How Many

So, to gain a basic understanding of Google Analytics, there are 2 buckets of metrics you want to look at: the How Good and the How Many. In other words, these are your qualitative and quantitative metrics surrounding your site content and users.

How Many?

Within these quantitative metrics, there are 3 statistics you should be looking at in Google Analytics:
1. Users: These are the unique number of visitors who visit your site
2. Sessions: The number of times your site is visited.
3. Page Views: The number of pages that are viewed on your site.
Let’s think of these metrics as meals: Within a day, you are one person who will (hopefully) eat multiple meals. Though you may be one unique user, your breakfast is counted as one session, your lunch is another session, and your dinner is a third session. In Google Analytics, sessions are typically refreshed after 30 minutes of inactivity. Just as a user can have multiple sessions, a session can have multiple page views. If you had eggs, bacon, and toast for breakfast, we could equate that with having three page views in one session (by one user).

How Good?

Moving on to the qualitative metrics, here’s what to pay attention to in Google Analytics:
1. Bounce Rate: If you enter a site on a certain page (the landing page), and then leave the site without visiting another page, you have technically bounced. The bounce rate in Google Analytics tells you what percentage of your visitors do this dreadful act. Think of landing pages as your front door. You want people to be crossing the threshold, not just standing on the porch!
2. Exit Rate: Exit rates are similar to bounce rates in Google Analytics. They tell you what percentage of people leave the site after visiting a certain page, whether or not they entered the site on that page. Thus, it is helpful for letting you know which pages are causing visitors to lose interest in your site.
3. Average Session Duration: This analytics metric is pretty self-explanatory: It tells you the average amount of time that visitors spend on your site. Note: This metric is likely a bit underestimated since Google averages in visit durations of 0 for visitors who bounce. Silly Google!
Want to dive deeper in Google Analytics? We’ve created our Ultimate Nonprofit Dashboard Startup Pack for free to help everyone manage their data through Google Analytics dashboards.

Where do I go next with Google Analytics?

We’ve got a source for that! First, you’ll need to set up a Google account. Once you’ve installed the tracking code on your website, check out this guide to setting up your Google Analytics account (including a handy checklist). If you’re still working to get buy-in for Google Analytics and data culture within your organization, we have a resource on that as well.
You might also want to bookmark our Google Analytics glossary for more key terms, and if you really want to have some fun, you can go even deeper with demographic data.

Bonus! Watch our full Google Analytics walkthrough