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How to Read Your Website Report

It’s the first of the month (or the second, third, or fourth). It’s the time to clean up all the work from the month prior and start the dreaded reporting.

Whether it’s financial reporting, sales reporting, or any other kind of reporting, the data you’re collecting is important and tells you what’s going on in your business. The same can be said for your website reporting.

Here at Atilus, we spend the first 10 business days of each month doing reports for our clients. We take a deep look into Google Analytics and assess the data in front of us. Was it a good month? Was it a bad month? These kinds of assumptions are not usually cut and dry when it comes to website reporting and we break it down piece-by-piece for our clients, so they understand the small and big pictures.

We’ve been doing website reporting for our entire time in business and I always tell clients it’s one area where we struggle the most. We don’t struggle with putting the data together and analyzing it, but we’ve found it difficult to break down our website reports in a way that our clients understand. Some clients are more technical than others, so our explanations and breakdowns vary client to client.

With that experience, I thought I’d put together a quick reference guide on how to read your website report. This comes with a collection of frequently asked questions from my clients and some data I often think gets overlooked and undervalued. Every item I reference here is based on reporting in Google Analytics.

Review General Audience Numbers

In Google Analytics Terms: Users, New Users, Sessions

All this data is found under the Audience tab in Google Analytics. This area does not tell the entire story, but it does serve as a baseline to answer the simple question of “how much traffic did we get this month?”

Google Analytics Audience Data

This serves as a benchmark for overall website use. These numbers tell you how many users came to your website (unique users), how many sessions there were (how many times your website was accessed), pageviews (how many pages, on average, users viewed), and time spent (average time, in minutes, that users spent on your website).

Again, this does not tell the entire story and I often tell clients that this information is important, but it should not be the end all be all.

Review Audience Demographics

In Google Analytics Terms: Geographic Locations, New/Returning Users, Age/Gender Demographics

After reviewing the general audience numbers, you have an idea of how many people were on your website and it’s important to understand who those people are.

Google collects data on users in several ways and a lot of this is done through tracking our history within our Google accounts that we are signed into. Don’t be shocked, but if you are signed into your Google account while browsing the web, Google is collecting information on the types of websites you frequent, your age/gender (if you’ve volunteered that information), and more.

Audience demographics can tell you where people are accessing your website from and this information can be narrowed down to the very city. Additionally, Google tracks if users are brand new (i.e. never accessed your website from their device before) or a returning visitor.

You are also able to collect “interest” data, which is collected based on users and the websites they frequent.

This information is valuable because it helps you to paint a picture of who is visiting your website. For example, after reviewing data for a client over a yearly timeframe, we were able to narrow down to this target audience statement:

“Your target audience is a woman between the ages of 55 – 64, who is interested in home décor, and lives in Cape Coral.”

This statement is not one that we just came up with out of the blue or paid thousands of dollars of research for. This statement came from an analysis of users who visited the website over the course of 365 days.

Review Where your Traffic is Coming From

In Google Analytics Terms: Acquisition Sources

This data is vastly different from where, geographically, your website visitors are from. This dataset analyzes how people find your website. This area is probably the #1 most-asked question I get and it’s mainly: “what does all of this mean?”

The sources are broken down as follows:

  • Organic search – where a user has searched for a keyword and your website showed up in the unpaid portion of the search engine result page (or SERP for short)
  • Paid search – where a user clicks on a Google or Bing Ad back to your website
  • Direct – where a user has typed www.yourwebsiteurl.com in directly to their browser (we can see a lot of this if there is external/offline advertising going on)
  • Referral – where a user clicked on a link to your website from another website (often seen if you get a shout-out in another blog or website)
  • Social – where a user clicked on a link to your website from a social account (this can be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Email – where a user received an email from you and clicked on a link back to your website

Top Channels in Google Analytics

In working with any digital agency, you’re likely aiming to increase your organic search traffic (I mean, that’s the pretty general idea of SEO to begin with). It’s crucial to understand how people get to your website and then understand who those people are.

Review Your Conversions (AKA: Goals)

In Google Analytics Terms: Conversions

If you take anything away from this blog post, I hope it’s this piece. Conversions (also known as “goals”) are what measure the success of your website. Traffic and where people come from are definitely important factors to consider, but we look at conversions most of all.

A conversion (or goal) is defined as an action we want users to take on the website. For your general, simple website, it’s typically a contact form. Someone requested an estimate or requested a phone call. Or someone signed up for your newsletter. Conversions are self-defined, and you should work very closely with your agency to define what that action is.

It’s also extremely important that whoever is working on your website sets up your conversion tracking properly. If this is not setup correctly from the beginning, you’re going to have months and months of false and wasted data.

What’s Not So Important in Your Website Report

The 3 key areas I mentioned above are what we typically start with when we do our client reports. We then break all that information down into language that our clients can understand. But sometimes, clients can get hung up on “fancy” data because it’s a buzzword they’ve heard before or simply because someone at a higher level cares about it.

Here are a few metrics that I do not think hold as high of a weight as the others above. All website data is important, and we find it all valuable, but I caution clients in not getting hung up on certain data points.

  • Bounce rate – any of my team members will tell you that when I hear about bounce rate, I cringe a little inside. An average bounce rate can hover around anywhere from 50-60%. Now, that sounds like a lot, but if you’re sitting at 20-30% bounce rate, you’re good. If it’s LOWER than that, it’s a cause for concern (which is counter-intuitive, but it often means something is awry in tracking).
  • Changes in Data Between 5-10% – like any data tracking, there are ebbs and flows. When we notice traffic has dipped by 5-10%, we usually take a note of it and then move on. These fluctuations in data are not a cause for concern and we often find clients get hung up on these small increases/decreases. It’s always great to ask “why?”, but it’s equally as important to understand there are fluctuations in data.
  • Keyword Rankings (At First) – ongoing SEO takes time. Period. If an agency can guarantee they can place you on the first page of Google with no paid search, they are lying to you. When we first begin working with clients, the idea of ranking for their desired keyword is fancy and new, and they sometimes get upset if they don’t see a major change in those rankings right away. So, if you’re just beginning your digital marketing journey, I urge you to be patient as your website climbs its way in the rankings.

Still Struggling to Understand your Website Report?

You’re not alone! The way we interact with the web changes rapidly and as an agency, we take it upon ourselves to stay ahead of those changes to educate our clients. We aim to make the reporting process as seamless and digestible as possible to help us help you make good business decisions. If you’re looking for an agency to help you with your online presence and website reports, please contact us today.

Kristen Bachmeier
Kristen Bachmeier
Kristen Bachmeier is Atilus' Director of Operations and helps to oversee all client accounts and day-to-day operations. Additionally, Kristen has worked in digital marketing for 6+ years and has helped create digital marketing plans for most of our clients.

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