How to Read Google Analytics Audience Reports

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posted on: January 13, 2017

On Twitter, Nicole, Jenny, and Erin all posed some questions about Google Analytics. Like with anything on the web, you don’t just learn it in a day. You end up going down a rabbit hole. The purpose of this post is to focus on the elements of Google Analytics that are relevant to small businesses and bloggers. I’ve included some links at the end of the post that you might find very helpful.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics (GA) is a free web analytics service that tracks and reports website traffic. Through this data, you should get an idea of who visits your site, where they come from, how long the stay, and what they do when they are at your site. Ideally, you use this data to refine your content to cater better your visitors and reach more visitors.

Today, I’m going to focus on understanding what Google Analytics tells you about your audience. It’s more than just the number of page views. By looking closely at your analytics, you can improve the content on your site.

Audience // Who Are They?

In your Google Analytics Dashboard, under AUDIENCE < OVERVIEW, you can gather and compare information about how your users interact with your content.

  • Sessions are the period where a user is actively engaged in your site. The number you see by sessions is the total number within the time range. A user could have multiple sessions.
  • Users are visitors to your site that have at least one session.
  • Pageviews are the total number of pages views on your site. These aren’t individual visitors. Someone can come to your site, visit ten different pages, then come back and visit five different pages. This one person would account for 15 pageviews.

Pages / Session

This state is an imperative stat. How many pages does someone visit when they come to your site? If your number is 1.5 or less, than often people come to your site and leave right after reading whatever they came to. If it is 2+, it means that visitors are at least visiting one more page. Remember that repeated views of a single page are counted in this metric.

  • Are you providing opportunities within your pages and blog posts for users to engage in other (older) content?
  • Do you have a call to action for the content on each of your pages?

Average Session Duration

This report tells you how long people spend on your site. Different factors can influence this. Do you include a lot of writing with each post, then your number would be higher? If it is more image-based, then your number will be lower. People view images quicker than they can read.

  • How long are people staying on your site?
  • How can you increase this metric using content you have?
  • Does the sidebar of your blog offer opportunities for users to stay engaged in other content?
  • Does the footer of your post and pages provide opportunities for users to stay engaged?
  • Do you have a purposeful navigation/menu bar?

Bounce Rate

When a user visits only one page on your site before heading to another page altogether, i.e. bounced off your site. The higher bounce rate means that people are leaving off of the initial visitor; the lower, the better.

  • What is your bounce rate this month? What was your bounce rate this time last month?
  • Are you linking away from your site on your blog too often?
  • Do you have a clear call to actions and opportunities for users to engage in more content?
  • Are you providing meaningful content?

Percentage of New Sessions

New sessions tell you about growth as well as keeping the visitors you have. If you are just launching a new campaign, you want your new visitors to be higher than. However, after you’ve started, you want that number to be higher, but if you aren’t launching anything the number should be more towards 50-50/60-40ish.

  • Are your users returning?
    Are you growing?

If you want to improve your blog or website, this data tells you how people interact with your content. Using your analytics in conjunction with a reader survey can give you both qualitative and quantitative data on your readership. Sometimes the realities can be a hard pill to swallow. However, if you carefully examine what works and doesn’t, and make thoughtful and small decisions, you can improve your site and increase your audience and their engagement.


Analytics Academy + Google Analytics IQ: Google offers a free online learning platform that trains you in Google Analytics and data analysis. You can go through the Academy class as preparation for the GA IQ exam. Passing the exam is an “industry-recognized” qualification. Google Tag Manage Fundamentals starts June 23rd (I’m signed up for this one).

Moz is a software company that sells marketing analytics subscriptions, i.e. SEO tools and resources. I’ve always found their blog extremely informative and helpful, but they also have a Beginners guide to SEO that you can go through (for FREE).

Sophie wrote an excellent post on using Google Analytics Dashboards. They are these pre-made reports that can tell you specific information about your site and your traffic.

You might also like How to Conduct an SEO Audit for Your Blog and How to Change Your Domain Name without Losing SEO.

Want more SEO tips? Check out these posts!

Editor's Note

Some of the links included throughout this website are affiliate links, which means that Lindsay Humes LLC receives a small commission when certain items are purchased. These affiliate links provide a means for the site to earn revenue and generate free content for readers. For more details, read the privacy policy here.

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