Understanding Google Analytics - the basics

I wanted to do a quick post on the basics of understanding your Google Analytics dashboard, after chatting with a few bloggers who weren't sure how to interpret the stats after installing it. I hope that you find it useful, but feel free to get in touch if you have more questions.

The dashboard

When you log in to your Google Analytics (GA) account, you'll see the overview screen. This gives you a quick look at the most commonly looked at stats. You should see a cool little graph that plots how many people visited your site each day, and then underneath, you'll see lots of other information, which I've described below.

You can amend the date period you want to look at by clicking on the dates in the top right corner of the screen. GA will automatically select the latest 4 week period, not including the current day. You can choose to look at May, for example, or if you want to look at a longer period, just select the first day you want included on the calendars, and then the end date of the period. The rest of your stats will then adjust to this date period.

This number tells you how many people have come to your site in the period selected. It's less reliable than 'unique visitors', so while it's a good rough idea, I always use Unique Visitors to count how many people have viewed my blog, and it's the number that PRs will want to see if they ask for your stats.

Unique Visitors
This is a much more accurate representation of how many people have visited your site. This is because if the same person visits more than once in your selected period, GA will only record it here once. So if I visit your blog every day, I should only be counted once in your unique visitors.

Page Views
This is the total number of pages viewed during your selected period. So if I come to your blog and read one post, then click through to another post, this counts as 2 page views. If like me, you have several posts on the landing page of your blog, scrolling down and reading all of them only counts as 1 page view.

Bounce Rate
Bounce rates are the percentage of people that come to your site, and then leave after only visiting one page. So if you Tweet a link to a specific post and someone views that post and leaves, this counts as a bounce. If they click through to another post, this doesn't count as a bounce.

High bounce rates aren't always a bad thing. It can mean that the user has found what they were looking for and left. For example, if I searched Google for a review on Pixi's Glow Tonic and clicked through to a post on this, it gave me all the info I needed, and I left the page, This would still be a bounce.

Stats people used to talk about bounce rates as visits that only lasted a very short space of time. While this is still true, the more accurate description is of a single page visit, not just a very short one.

Blog bounce rates can average around 60%, so please don't worry if it looks like it's quite high. Use this in conjunction with time spent on site to see how engaged people are.

Average visit duration
This gives an average amount of time people spend on your blog. Google calculates this by adding up all the time all of your unique visitors spent on your site and divides it by the number of unique visitors to get an average amount.

This number is a good way to monitor how engaged people are with your blog - if the number goes up, then people are reading more, if it goes down, they're reading less. GA will display a time in hours, minutes and seconds:  00:01:02 for example, is 1 minute and 2 seconds.

This is another average, similar to average visit duration. It tells you the average number of pages viewed each time someone comes to your site. It's another good measure of engagement, as the more pages people read, the more engaged they are.

New vs returning visitors
This handy pie chart shows you how many people are new visitors to your blog, and how many people keep coming back to it. If you have a higher percentage of new visitors, it might mean you're getting a lot of traffic from Google searches. It's good to have a balance here - you want people to keep coming back to your blog, but also new people to find it.

So, that's the landing dashboard. I've highlighted a couple of other things which I think are really important too, as they help you to see how people are finding your blog.

How people get to your blog

In the left hand menu, go to the section marked 'Traffic Sources'. From the sub menu, select 'Sources' and then 'All Traffic'. You should then see a list of results, that could include, Google, Twitter, other blogs etc.

What each source type means:

Direct: Direct visits are where your blog url has either been directly typed into an internet browser, or accessed via a saved bookmark.

Referral: Someone has found your site from a link on another site. E.g. You tweet the link to your latest post and I click on it. This will be counted as a referral from Twitter. Another example is if I have a link to your blog in one of my blog posts and one of my visitors clicks on it, this will be counted as a referral from Tales of a Pale Face.

Organic - These are all visits from people using search engines. Most of them will be Google, but you might also see Bing, or other less well used search sites.

Search terms
Want to know which words people are using in Google to find your blog?

1. Go back to your left hand menu (you should still be in 'All Traffic' at the moment), and underneath 'All Traffic' should be 'Search'.
2. Click on 'Search' and then click 'Organic'.
3. This will give you a list of the keywords people have used to search and find your blog, in order of popularity.

I'm going to stop here, as it's turned into a bit of an essay! I hope that it's been useful, but if you have any questions, please just ask!



  1. I found this really helpful hun thanks, I must've set mine up wrong xx


  2. This is so helpful hon thank you so much! Should I stop going on my blog through my phone for a few seconds ? I do it to see if I've got any new comments but I guess that could mess up my google stats? Xx

  3. Hi,
    Can you help me out with something else technical? I want to add a Twitter follow me button but I have no idea how!

    1. Hi Amy, it depends on what type of button you want to add. Most are just images that link through to your twitter URL. If you use blogger, you can add them via the widgets tab in the layout section. Hope that helps x

    2. thanks, I just managed it!!!

  4. Great post! :-)


  5. Hi Hun! Could you help me here with something, I just logged into this and it's basically saying I've had no recent views etc since the 23rd arch, but I know I must of some how because I've gained new followers in that time! Have I set something up wrong?

    Thanks so much for this post, it's fab! Xx

  6. Hey, thanks for the post (: But I would like to know how to install Google Analytics in order to track my viewers (:

    Thank you! x

    1. If you use bloggers it's very easy. Set up your GA account, and then find your profile ID - it usually starts with UA and then a string of numbers. In your bloggers settings, there's a slot to add this code into x

  7. I found this ever so helpful, thank you so much for taking some time to help others! You lovely creature! :) xo

  8. Very useful post Kat! Well done & thank you. Will mark it for later, in case i need some answers. :)

    xoxo, Luchessa.

  9. This was really helpful! And so well explained! Thanks so much for posting this!



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