Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics – Part 1

by James Councill

What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics (GA) is a free resource that every dive shop website (or app) should be using. It not only tracks how many people visit your website, but it can track so much more than you probably ever want to know. GA can tell you where your traffic is coming from, what actions users are taking on your website, high and low traffic pages. It can also tell you immense amounts of information about the users coming to your website, for example: geographic location, age, gender, language, as well as what device and browser they are using.

Getting Started with Google Analytics
For the purposes of this article we are going to assume that you have access to a GA account that is tracking your website’s statistics correctly, but if you do not have GA installed on your website, you can ask your webmaster to install or you can follow this step by step guide provided by the Google Analytics Help Center.

time dropdownWhen you first access your GA account, you will be directed to a reporting dashboard with some general metrics for a given time period. This time period is generally set to the previous month, but can be changed to any time period you wish via the dropdown menu, located on the top right of the dashboard. Let’s review some of these key metrics that you should be monitoring from this dashboard.

Basic Metrics
Sessions are a key metric because they measure when someone visits your website. GA defines a session as a group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame. For example a single session can contain multiple screen or page views, events, social interactions, and ecommerce transactions. A Session is not to be confused with a hit. A hit is the most granular piece of data in analytics. Hits are triggered by page views, clicks, and just about any activity a user can do on your website or app. Now to complicate things further, let’s introduce the term user. A user is GA’s account of a person that visits your website or app. When someone comes to your site, GA gives them a unique identifier, and tracks them as they navigate throughout your site. This illustration demonstrates the hierarchy of the terms discussed. Tracking sessions is most common, but whatever you decide to track, just do it consistently.
users sessions hits

Your dashboard will also show you other helpful metrics such as, pageviews, bounce rate, new vs. returning visitors, along with some other demographic information. You can find more detailed information under the Audience tab, but let’s stick to the basics for now.

Now that you are tracking visitors to your website, it is key to understand where this traffic is coming from. For this, let’s move to the Acquisitions Overview tab. Here we can see the top channels that all your sessions are arriving through, and what percentage of all sessions come from each channel. Google has defined a preset system of channels to group your website’s traffic into. These channels are: direct, organic search, referral, email, paid search, other advertising, social, and display. Most of these channels are self-explanatory, however, you can find definitions for each here.


This information can be very useful, but with just a few extra clicks, you can drill down this information to get even more details. To do this, you want to change your primary dimension to Top Sources/Mediums, using the dropdown menu on the top left of your screen. See below.

sources mediums

This will then break down these channels into more specific traffic sources and mediums. For example, it will break down your social channel into specific social networks. There are ways to break down this information even further, as well as add secondary dimensions, but as stated earlier, we are just reviewing some of the basics for now.

Once you are familiar with the above metrics, and navigating through them in GA, that is when you can start studying the behavior of your website visitors. What pages are they entering and leaving your website through? Which pages are performing well? How long users are staying? What links, ads, or images are being clicked on? We will also need a basic understanding of engagement, affinity categories, and market segmentation. We will dive into some these concepts in the next article of this series.

Are there other GA concepts that you would like help understanding? Are there questions about the concepts addressed or not addressed in this article? Please leave your comments below, and we will do our best to answer them.

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