Since I wrote about Google Search Console, I would of course have to write about Google Analytics also. They do go hand-in-hand after all. They both serve to show you data about the traffic on your website. You definitely need both of them and it makes no sense not to use them together. In this article, I want to give my thoughts on Google Analytics and explain its relationship with Google Search Console. These are very important to set up on your website on day one. Even if you just launched your website, you need to start tracking traffic on it right away. This is crucial for SEO and you will have a hard time ranking on Google if you do not do this at launch. Fortunately, it is very easy to set up both on your website. If you need to set up Google Search Console or Google Analytics, these are the links for them.
Google Search Console Versus Google Analytics
Due to the similarities between Search Console and Analytics, I will now discuss the differences between them. This is important to know because you need to know what data is found in one and in the other. You also need to understand how traffic flows from Search Console to Analytics. Once you know how these two work together, you can use them to learn about your users. These two are critical when it comes to SEO and really fine-tuning and honing your website and content.
Google Search Console: The Traffic Before It Reaches Your Website
The main difference between Google Search Console and Google Analytics has to do with the kind of traffic that they measure from your users. Search Console measures the traffic before users get to your website. So this traffic comes from the Google Search engine. We often call this organic traffic because it is “natural” traffic that was not paid for. Inorganic traffic is the opposite of organic traffic and this is where you show up at the top of page one through paid Google Ads. This is costly and you pay a cost for every click on that paid ad. My focus is mainly organic traffic because with some hard work and a lot of SEO, you can rank high on Google. It just takes some work and time. If you learn SEO and understand how search engines work, then your website can rank too. Basically, it comes down to how good your content is and how well it can answer the questions of those looking online. People have questions, you get answers. If you can correlate these two, then you will rank. How high? That is another question. You just have to keep trying and have realistic expectations. Know that this is a process and that you have to constantly be on it. Writing new articles, updating existing articles, linking articles, creating a website with a good clean user experience. There are other factors and things that you can do. These are the things that you can do on your website.
Google Analytics: The Traffic Actually On Your Website
If you are fortunate to have someone click on your link on the Google search engine, then you will have an actual visitor. This visitor’s visit on your website is being tracked in Google Analytics and this helps you know what users are doing on your website and how they are navigating it. Once you get decent traffic, you will spend more time on Analytics. For brand new websites that are just starting out, you will spend more time on Search Console. The reason why is because you need to get users to come to your website before Analytics is useful. So most of your time in the beginning is getting impressions and finding what people are looking for when finding your website. First comes the impression, then clicks. Of course, Analytics also count the traffic not only from search engines but from anywhere. So if people came from a link on a website, entered your domain directly, or as stated earlier, a search engine all of that counts. I mostly mention your traffic coming from the search engine because people are on Google all of the time so they will most likely find your website there, especially if you are new and unknown. You should focus your efforts on search engine rankings first then think about finding ways to broadcast your website through backlinks coming from places like social media or relevant websites.
The Transition from UA to GA4: Setup GA4 Now If You Have Not
There are currently two main versions of Analytics, Universal Analytics (UA) and Google Analytics 4 (GA4). UA is the older version and GA4 is the newer version. Since it is so important to support legacy websites, Google kept support for UA while rolling out the newer GA4. Very soon, according to Google themselves, GA4 will permanently replace UA on 7/1/2023. So at the time of this writing, we still have a year before this transition is complete. You should at GA4 to your website right now if you are only using UA. You can run both versions at the same time. When next year hits, you will only use GA4 as Google will turn off and deactivate UA. We have to see what happens next year for those still using UA and have not transitioned. Perhaps Google will allow you to transfer data over from UA to G4A. Regardless, you need to set up GA4 now because that data is the only data that you will use next year. As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, you need web traffic tracking on launch day right when your website goes live. Now I will actually talk about Analytics reports. Since we are transitioning over to GA4, I will only talk about GA4 reports.
Change the Date to Changes Between Monthly and Weekly Activity
One thing that I want to mention is to be aware of the data ranges when viewing Analytics reports. This is important because by default, you see traffic for the past month. You might want to know how that data has changed over a year, a month, a week. Since I like to see recent traffic, I have a tendency to change the data range to the past month. This is helpful if you are conducting A/B testing and want to know if a single change had any positive or negative impact on traffic. You can change the date range from when you made the change up until the latest Analytics data available. So this one reason why you need to be aware of how the date range can really help you in getting useful data.
Another feature that I like is that Analytics allows you to compare data ranges. For example, you can compare the current month’s data with last month’s data. This helps you know if your traffic is improving month-to-month or not. Analytics is great and all, but do not become so obsessive with it. What I mean is that you should check your traffic regularly, but not all of the time or worry about dips. Traffic fluctuates every day. You will get days of good traffic and some days with bad traffic. This is a journey that both you and your users are going on together. When you go on this journey with your users, you will learn about each other. You will learn what content you like to write about and what content your users are not reading. You cannot get discouraged because of a dip in traffic. Just keep pushing because this is your chance to do something incredible. You have the chance to voice your opinion and share your thoughts on the topics that mean the most in your life. Just keep at it and it will all work out in the end.
The Real Time Report: Seeing Live On Your Websites
The real-time report is one of my favorite reports in Analytics. When you start to get consistent traffic throughout the day, you will start to see them on a global map. If you have to check out the report while users are on your website, you will actually see them on the map. This is pretty neat because you can learn from your users in actual real-time and not from a day or week ago. This is fresh data so that should get you excited as people are on your website right now! I will discuss a couple of things about this report. I will talk about where your users come from and the pages that they visited.
Seeing Where Your Users Are From
One of the features that I like about the real-time report is that you can see where your users come from. You can hover over your users on the map and you can see the city and state if they come from the US. If you have a lot of users at once, you can hover over all of them and see where they all come from. You can also filter real-time traffic and see traffic from only that user. This is very exciting because you can then see what kind of reach you get on your website. Do you get only people from your own country or does your reach extend beyond that internationally? If you check the real-time report throughout the day, then you can get an idea of what time of day your users are on. The best part about websites is that they are open 24/7 unlike an actual brick-and-mortar business. So you can see users on your website at any point of the day. Knowing what time of day your users own is nice to know but not particularly beneficial from what I can see.
Seeing What Pages They Accessed
Another feature that I like is that you can see what pages your real-time users accessed. This is more useful than day of time accessed because you will know what pages people are on right in front of your eyes. As mentioned earlier, this list will grow with more users and right now a fledgling website will not have many or if any people on right now. This is why I tend to talk about Search Console more because we need to get traffic from the search engine, and then to your website. So the real-time report motivates and encourages you to continue on your website when you start seeing people on it. This is the true power of Search Console and Analytics. Yes, they keep track of your web traffic but they are more than that. They motivate and inspire us to write more because we are seeing people actually coming to our website. We see our users and we want to cater to them and provide better content, more unique content and more personable content. So this is what I see everytime that someone comes on their website.
New Versus Returning Users: Getting Some Repeat Business
This is a tough one to handle. Getting new users is great but why do they never come back? Are those users gone forever? This is why some people worry that they get new users but no returning one. I feel that you have to stay strong and think that you never really lose a user. What you actually lose is motivation to get those users back. You should never look at a lost user as gone forever. If you keep writing and publish something that those users are looking for, they might come back. At the beginning of a website, we are just looking to get our name out there and get some brand recognition. Try to focus on that and not worry about someone landing on your website and you just have a few pages on there. That is why when you launch a website, you should have it as complete as possible because first impressions are everything. If you launch your website and it looks empty, then those people might not come back. Again all is not lost, you can still get them back. A full website has a lot more to offer people and once that is regularly updated will always have something to offer someone.
The Path Exploration Report
Change the First Step to “Page Title and Screen Name”
Before you use this report, make sure that you change the first step to “page title and screen name”. I find this setting to be much more useful than the default setting because this will actually tell you the name of the pages that users are clicking on. The default setting just uses the event that has been tracked but I do not find that useful at all. Once you change this setting, the report looks a lot better and it is actually useful. As before, you should change the date range to weekly to see more recent traffic.
See What Pages Users are Clicking on in What Order
The path exploration reports start with a user session. A user session is basically when someone visits your website and starts to click around. A user session can also include when the user returns to your website later and clicks around some more. So a single user session can have several page views or what some people call hits. This is called the starting point because this is where the user’s journey starts on your website. Then you will see step 1, which tells you where the user entered your website. Naturally for almost all websites, most people enter through the home page since that is the main page of any website. After the home page, you ca, see what other pages users enter your website through. As you click each node, you will see the next step and so on. Each step indicates what the next page your users visited after clicking on the previous one.
What Can I Do with the Path Exploration Report?
Much like Search Console and being able to use it to see what your most popular pages are, the path exploration report is very similar. Except in this case, you can actually see how far people get into your website before they leave. If your users are not clicking anything past the first page, then they either received the information that they were looking for, or they are no longer interested in your website to keep reading. This is hard to tell because the goal is just to satisfy the user’s search intent. Search intent is the reason why people visit your website. Usually people go online to either look for answers to their questions, or they want to buy something. If people are clicking on some of your articles, then maybe you should update those with new content since they are popular. Of course, this means that some of your articles are never clicked on. These articles will need a second-take and I have suggested on this website to tie them to your stronger articles and link them together with updated content. Not every article is going to perform well, you have to accept that and move on. This is especially the case if you focus more on what you want to write and not what people want to read. Nothing is wrong with that. You just have to have realistic expectations if you write more for yourself than others.
Google Analytics is very helpful in knowing what your users are doing on your website. There are a lot of different reports available. I tend to stick to the real-time and path exploration reports because they give me the information that I need. You could spend a lot of time in Analytics learning everything but you should wait until the need arises. Obviously, if you are not doing any Google Ad campaigns, then the advertisement reports will be of no use to you. Make sure to use the date range to see changing trends between month and weekly data. Do not feel discouraged if you have no returning users. For a new website, people are just seeing your website while it is growing. When you write that one article that gets a lot of traffic, they will come back. Never think that any user is lost. If you keep at your blog, the next that your users return, they will have so many more articles to read.