External Relations

Google Analytics for Dummies


Someone once asked how to get Google Analytics to fix the problems with their website. Unfortunately, this is rather like asking how you can get a spade to dig your garden! 

Google Analytics isn't a magical box which you can just plug into your website in order to fix it. It is just a tool, meaning you have to do the work! 

Google Analytics tells us what is happening, whereas user testing, focus groups and questionnaires tell us why it's happening. Armed with this knowledge of the 'what' and 'why', we can begin to tackle our website issues and problems.



Common mistakes

The most common mistake people make then using Google Analytics is to quote meaningless metrics such as 'page views', 'users' and 'time on site'. This is an easy mistake to make, as these are the default metrics displayed. However, to get the most out of Google Analytics we must delve deeper.           

Information is useless unless it gives an insight which then allows us to take action or make decisions. Therefore, what we really need to know is:

  1. Are our users engaging with our content?
  2. Are they satisfied by their experience?
  3. Did they manage to achieve their goals?


Meaningless metrics   

Page views - give a rough idea of popularity when comparing one site to another. However, it does not give us any information on how engaged our audience was, how satisfactory the experience was, or whether they managed to achieve their goals.

Users - actually refers to unique devices (ip addresses) rather than people. So, if you access a site via PC, mobile and tablet you are then counted as separate visitors, which gives misleading figures.

Time on site - is more time on site a good or a bad thing? Are the users avidly reading the site content? Are they at their wits end frantically searching for a piece of information they can't find? Or are they off having a cup of tea? This metric cannot tell us. 

Useful metrics

Bounce rate - is the percentage of visitors that land on a page and then leave again without carrying out any further action. A high bounce rate (>50%) for a landing page is poor, because we expect users to be clicking further into the site content. A high bounce rate for content pages isn't necessarily bad, as the user may have found the information they were looking for and left the site satisfied.

Emails - you can monitor which mailto links are used most often to contact you and how the use of these links varies over time.

Form submissions - every form submitted is an interaction with the site and indication of user engagement. Monitoring form submissions over time is probably the most valuable measure of goal success for university websites, as this includes applications for courses, requests for hard copy prospectuses and open day bookings.

Video views - tracking video views is essential as it not only tells us what types of video content is popular, but how long they should be and what sort of content results in loss of interest.

Pdf downloads - PDF downloads can be viewed in Analytics via:

Content > Events > Top Events > Events Action > Download - PDF > Event label

This provides valuable insight as to what documents are deemed useful by the users.

Social network traffic - you can monitor how effective your social media strategy is, by monitoring referrals to your website from social media sites over time.

External Relations

University of Nottingham
C Floor, Pope Building (Rooms C2-C10)
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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5151
fax: +44 (0) 115 846 6787
email: externalrelations@nottingham.ac.uk