Analytics for Authors blogs have been edited to reflect the 01/16/2013 Google Analytics update.

Google Analytics is a free service powered by Google that allows you to see “how visitors use your site, how they arrived on your site, and how you can keep them coming back.”

Once you sign up for GA and install a short snippet of code into your website, you will begin recording data that will give you valuable insight into how your visitors interact with your website. But the first time you log into Google Analytics after letting it collect information on your website can be a bit overwhelming – there are new terms to learn, graphs to interpret, and a huge amount of data to sort through! We’re breaking down Google Analytics’ key concepts into easy-to-digest blog posts, so there’s no excuse not to get tracking

Google Analytic’s Audience Overview

The first section we’ll explore is your Audience.* Clicking on Overview under the Audience tab will present an array of statistics generated about your site’s visitors:

Google Analytic's Audience Overview - the Dashboard

Let’s break down some terms and concepts present that might be new to you:

Visits Anytime someone visits your site, they trigger the Google Analytics Tracking code. They don’t need to visit your landing page to set it off – any page will do.

New vs Returning Visitors Google Analytics uses a temporary internet file called a cookie to differentiate between new and returning visitors (A cookie is a small file generated by a website and stored on a user’s machine) This way, you can determine whether your readers are repeat content consumers, or whether you’re being discovered and discarded.

Now, it’s possible that a single ‘visitor’ on Google Analytics is actually multiple people who use the same computer – and several of your visitors will probably be the same person using several different computers!

Google isn’t tracking people who visit your site – it’s tracking an ID number connected with a single computer. When you first install Google Analytics, don’t be surprised if you have a few visitors right away – think back on all the machines you’ve used to check your site before you get too excited!

The number of visits will always be a lot greater than the number of visitors – a visit is a record of a single interaction with your website, where as a visitor is a collection of visits from the same computer.

Bouncerate A ‘bounce’ is an instant where someone visited your site and left without navigating to a single other page.

You should aim to have as low of a bouncerate as possible – that’s an indication that your content is engaging and you’re facilitating a great site experience.

Be aware, though – blogs will have a higher bounce rate than other types of websites! A reader will often come to your site because of a single blog entry. They will enter your site, read the entry, and leave, causing a ‘bounce’ despite the fact that they spent some quality time with your writing.

Additional Audience Information Google Analytics doesn’t just record the amount of visitors to your site – it also records certain traits of your visitors, such as what browser they’re using, if the visit was from a mobile device, what language they’re browsing in, etc.


Before we dive into more sections of Google Analytics and learn how to compare data sets, Analytics for Authors will explore what we can learn from your visitor’s preferred browsers – and how to stop a website disaster in its tracks.

* As of 01/16/2013, the left-hand navigation bar has a new quick-link section to Dashboards, Shortcuts, and Intelligence Events above the pictured sections. However, the Audience section remains functionally the same. 

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