Google Analytics for Marketers: How to Track Your Website's Performance


If you want to improve your website’s content, conversions, and user experience, Google Analytics is the place to start. Google Analytics is used by 52.9 percent of all websites on the Internet, more than 10 times more than the next most popular alternative.

But for many marketers, Google Analytics is overwhelming. It has in-depth navigation and lots of platform-specific lingo.

So what’s actually important to look at in Google Analytics?

Here, I’ll walk you through exactly how to use google analytics to measure and improve your content performance.

Note: We’re not going to get distracted by single functionalities you might only use once. We’re going to show you the parts of the platform you should absolutely be using to measure your performance. Think of this as your Google Analytics cheat sheet.

Here’s a quick rundown of what we cover so you can jump to a section if you need to:

Why is Google Analytics important?
What do I need to know about Google Analytics, as a marketer?
Google Analytics terms and definitions
How do you change the time period being measured in Google Analytics?
How do you create Goals in Google Analytics?
Audience: Who are you reaching?
Acquisition: Where is your audience coming from?
Search queries
Behavior: How are users engaging with your website?
Conversions: What actions are users taking on your website?

Let’s get started!

Why is Google Analytics important?

Google Analytics is a robust website analytics tool that allows marketers and brands to track their website traffic. It tells you:

  1. Who is visiting your website;
  2. How visitors are getting to your website; and
  3. What contributes to visitors’ on-site conversions.

What do I need to know about how to use Google Analytics?

The first thing you need to have is an active Google Analytics account for your website. You can find directions for setting one up here by Google.

Source: Google

When you open Google Analytics, go to the top section labeled Reporting. Here is where we will stay for this walkthrough of Google Analytics essentials for marketers.

Reporting opens onto Dashboards, which you can customize to display key metrics your brand is tracking. However, you do not have to customize this area.

On the left hand side you will see a navigation panel. In this panel, we will look at essential components of Google Analytics for analyzing the performance of your marketing strategy under Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversions.

Let’s answer a couple of basic vocabulary and questions about analyzing data over time in Google Analytics.

Google Analytics Terms and Definitions:

Metric: Quantitative measurements. The metric Sessions is the total number of sessions. The metric Pages/Session is the average number of pages viewed per session.

Goal: Goals measure how well your site or app fulfills your target objectives. A goal represents a completed activity, called a conversion, that contributes to the success of your business. Examples of goals include making a purchase (for an ecommerce site), completing a game level (for a mobile gaming app), or submitting a contact information form (for a marketing or lead generation site).

Source: The origin of your traffic, such as a search engine (for example, google) or a domain (

Medium: The general category of the source, for example, organic search (organic), cost-per-click paid search (cpc), web referral (referral).

Dimension: Attributes of your data. For example, the dimension City indicates the city, for example, “Paris” or “New York”, from which a session originates. The dimension Page indicates the URL of a page that is viewed.

Campaign: By adding UTM parameters to your URLs, you can identify the campaigns that send traffic to your site. When a user clicks a referral link, these parameters are sent to Analytics, so you can see the effectiveness of each campaign in your reports.

Session: (Used to be called “visits.”) The full timespan that a user spends on a particular website, starting when the first web page of that site is loaded in the browser and ending when the user either leaves the website, closes their browser, or the session times out after 30 minutes of inactivity.

New User: (Used to be called “unique visitor.”) The number of unique web browsers that access a website during a specified time period. The presence of cookies in those browsers determines whether they have visited the site before. Ideally, each browser is counted as a New User only once in a given time period.

Pageview: An HTML file being loaded in a web browser. Multiple views of the same web page are counted in this metric. Non-HTML files, such as PDF documents, are typically counted using Events, rather than Pageviews.

Event: Custom actions that are distinct to a particular Google Analytics account. Events can include actions like clicking hyperlinks, images, or stop and play buttons in video players.

Bounce: A Session with only one Pageview.

Bounce Rate: The percentage of single-page Sessions, or total bounces divided by total visits.

Pages/Session: The average number of pages viewed per session.

Conversion: When a user takes an action on your website that you’ve defined as valuable to your business, such as an online purchase or signing up for a newsletter.

Segment: A subset of your Analytics data. For example, of your entire set of users, one segment might be users from a particular country or city. Another segment might be users who purchase a particular line of products or who visit a specific part of your site.

Entrance: The number of Sessions that started on a specific web page or group of web pages.

Time on Page: The average amount of time, in seconds, a user spends on a particular page. Technically, it represents the time between the start time of a given Pageview and the start time of the subsequent Pageview or Event.

Definitions sourced from EPA and Google Analytics

How do you change the time period being measured in Google Analytics?

Here are Google Analytics’ instructions:

The date range selector is at the top right of every page on the Reporting tab. To select a date range, click the arrow next to the existing date range to open the selector. Once you’ve selected a new date range, click Apply to update your report. To use a predefined date range, select one of the following from the Date Range menu:

  • Custom: Data for your custom date range.
  • Today: Data available for the current calendar date up until the time of your selection
  • Yesterday: Data for the previous calendar date
  • Last Week: Data for Sunday through Saturday of the previous calendar week
  • Last Month: Data for the first to last day of the previous calendar month

Custom date range: To set your own dates, select Custom from the Date Range menu, then follow the instructions below.

  • In the calendar, click the desired start date, then click the end date. The selected days are highlighted.
  • You can also enter start and end dates in the Date Range fields, using the mm/dd/yyyy format.

To compare two different date ranges: Select the Compare to Past checkbox, then use the controls to set the second date range. Remember, once you’ve selected a new date range, click Apply.

How do you create Goals in Google Analytics?

Google Analytics has good instructions for creating Goals, and for your convenience, we’ve included them here.

To create a new goal, navigate to your goals:

  1. Sign in to Google Analytics and select the Admin tab and navigate to the desired account, property and view.
  2. In the VIEW column, click Goals.
  3. Click + NEW GOAL or Import from Gallery to create a new goal, or click an existing goal to edit its configuration.

Option 1: Goals from a template
Follow the steps to create a new goal (above), then:

  1. Select a Template from the list.
  2. Click Next step to continue setting up your goal.

Goal templates are designed to help you set actionable goals that meet standard business objectives. You can edit any template field before saving a goal. The goal categories (Revenue, Acquisition, Inquiry, Engagement) are the larger business objectives that motivate the goal templates. Use them as an organization tool to help you think about the purpose of your goals. Try to create at least one goal for each category to get a better understanding of how users interact with your content. These categories don’t affect any data or your reports.

Don’t see any templates? Goal templates are tailored to meet the needs of businesses within specific industries (automotive, entertainment, etc.). Templates are disabled if you haven’t selected an industry within your account. To get templates that are relevant to your business, edit your property, select an Industry Category, and save your changes.

Option 2: Custom goals
Follow the steps to create a new goal (above), then:

  1. Select Custom from the list of options.
  2. Click Next step, then select a goal Type.
  3. Click Next step again to continue setting up your goal.

See the Goal types section below for more information about setting up custom goals.

Option 3: Smart Goals
If your account meets the prerequisites, you will have the option to select Smart Goals. Follow the steps to create a new goal (above), then:

  1. Select Smart Goals (if available).
  2. Click Next step to continue setting up your goal.

Goal configuration options: Goal types
There are a number of different goal types, each used for a different kind of action you can measure. If you use a template, the best fit will be suggested for you. If you set up a custom goal, select the type that best fits the action you need to track. Expand the sections below to learn more about the details of each goal type.

Destination goal details: Use destination goals to treat a pageview or screenview as a conversion. Enter the screen name or page URL in the Destination field. Specify the match type as Equals to, Begins with, or Regular expression.

A funnel refers to the path your users take to reach a particular destination. You can specify the screens or pages the user must visit prior to the final destination goal by turning on the Funnel option. For each step in the funnel, click +Add another Step, then enter a page name or an app screen name, as you did in the Destination field.

The funnel steps use the same match type as the Destination. For example, if you specified a regular expression for the Destination, all the funnel steps must match that same expression.

Duration goal details: Measure user engagement by treating time on page as a conversion. The Hours, Minutes and Seconds fields specify the minimum time on page to qualify as a goal conversion. Users who spend more than this amount of time on the page will generate a conversion.

Event goal details: Treat user interactions with your site or app as a conversion. You must first set up at least one Event to use Event goals. Use the Event conditions to configure the event components.

Pages/Screens per session goal details: Measure user engagement by treating the number of pages or screens per session as a goal. Users who view more than the specified number of pages or screens will generate a conversion.

Set up Smart Goals
Smart Goals require no additional setup. If your account meets the prerequisites, all you need to do is select Smart Goals from the goal Types list and then give your goal a name. (That’s why we called them “Smart Goals!”)

Goal value
Assigning a monetary value to a goal gives you a way to compare conversions and measure changes and improvements to your site or app. All goal types except Smart Goals let you assign a value during the setup process. There are special considerations when setting up an Event goal or a goal that involves Ecommerce Tracking. Expand the sections below to see these considerations.

Values for Event goals
There are two ways to set the goal value for an Event type goal:

  1. Use the Event value as the goal value. This will be whatever is defined in your Event tracking code as the value. Depending on your setup, this might not be a monetary amount. If you haven’t defined an Event value, the goal value will be empty. Change the goal value option to YES in the setup for this configuration.
  2. Use a goal value. This works like setting a value for other types of goals. Keep the goal value option to NO in the setup for this configuration, and manually set the value.

Values for goals with Ecommerce Tracking
If you’re tracking a transaction or purchase with the Ecommerce Tracking code, leave the Goal Value blank. The actual value of the transaction will appear in the Revenue metric (not the Goal Value metric), and will come from the Ecommerce Tracking code in your shopping cart. You can change the currency unit for the goal Value in your view settings.

Verify your goal
Click “verify this goal” to test your goal setup. This will calculate a conversion rate for this goal based on your data from the past seven days. This test is based on data in your account, and not actual conversion data. It is not a projection of how well your goal will perform.

Revise or edit a goal
You can revise a goal you are in the process of defining by clicking the Edit link next to a previous step. To edit an existing goal, navigate to the goals list and click the goal name to follow the step by step flow again.

Recording status
As soon as you create a goal, it starts recording data. You can pause a goal by changing the recording status to OFF. No data is recorded for a goal when turned off. Because goal conversions are calculated and applied as your data is processed, it is not possible to delete a goal. If one of your goals becomes obsolete or irrelevant, turn off recording instead.

Share and import goals
After you have created and saved a goal, you can share it with other Analytics users, just as you can other assets, such as Dashboards, Segments, Channel Groupings, etc. When you share assets, only the configuration information is shared. Your data remains private.

Importing goals from the Solutions Gallery
Instead of creating your own goals, you can import them from the Solutions Gallery. When you import a goal from the Solutions Gallery, only the template is imported into your account. You can use that goal to track the conversions in your Analytics account, not the conversion data from the person that created the goal.

Audience: Who are you reaching?

Source: Google

The Audience section of Google Analytics looks at metrics that describe who is visiting your website. The main overview section is a quick way to look at the number of users visiting your website. Other sections that provide audience data you may want to look at now and then are:

Age, Gender, Language, Location, Interests — These sections can tell you what audience your website is attracting. These should be checked once in awhile and compared to your ideal consumer, or buyer persona.

Are you reaching your target audience? If this audience data is a close match to your buyer persona, you’re doing great! If not, you may want to rethink how you can attract your target audience to your website.

Devices (under Mobile), Browser & OS (under Technology) — These sections are important to look at when evaluating your website’s performance or during a website update.

Which browsers and devices are visitors using to access your website? Is your website optimized for accessibility and ease of use on these browsers and devices? Are there technologies that visitors could use to access your website that aren’t being used, perhaps suggesting that you could concentrate on providing content that is optimized for those?

Double check the technology visitors are (or aren’t) using to access your website. Make sure your website is optimized for popular technologies and try to identify opportunities to improve website accessibility and user experience to increase visits.

Engagement, New vs. Returning (under Behavior) — Audience loyalty is important for your website’s growth. It indicates that you are providing valuable content that motivates users to spend more time on your website and return in the future.

Under Behavior, examine the Engagement section to get a look at the big picture of how much time users are spending on your website. Session Duration can tell you whether or not users found what they were looking for quickly, and then found the information useful or interesting enough to stay on that page longer.

Also under Behavior, New vs. Returning can give you an idea of how many new users you are attracting to your website, as well as how your loyal audience is growing, as users choose to return to the website.

Acquisition: Where is your audience coming from?

Acquisition is the next section of the left navigation in Google Analytics. The metrics in this section describe how users are getting to your website. It includes sections on referring domains, social traffic, search traffic, marketing campaigns, and Google AdWords. We are not going to go over Google AdWords here, as this deserves it’s own devoted guide for advertising.


Campaigns is the last section in Acquisition, but we’re going to look at it first because campaigns are mentioned in the other sections.

Source: Google

By adding UTM parameters to your URLs, you can identify the marketing campaigns that send traffic to your site. When a user clicks a referral link, these parameters are sent to Analytics, so you can see the effectiveness of each campaign in your reports.

Having trouble keeping track of your UTM parameters and campaigns? Download our Ultimate UTM Codes and URL Builder Template!

If you have campaigns from Marketo, Google Analytics will automatically pick them up. If you want to create custom campaigns within Analytics, here are their instructions on how to do just that.


Source: Google

Under All Traffic, you will find a section labeled, “Channels.” This section describes the channels by which users came to your website. This is a very important section for you to pay attention to because it can tell you where you may need to spend more resources, and help you to effectively allocate your team’s time and resources.

The channels listed in this section include:

  • Organic Search: Users found your website by searching for information in a search engine.
  • Direct: Users typed a link directly into their browser to get to your website.
  • Referral: The Referral metric listed under Channels measures users that clicked on a link on another website which led them to your website, but does not include social referrals (versus the Referrals under the All Traffic section). If you click into Referral you can view the traffic for each referring domain separately.
  • Paid Search: Measures traffic that came from paid advertisements or promotions on search engines.
  • Social: Measures referral traffic from social media websites. If you click into social you can view the traffic for each channel separately.

IMPORTANT: When clicking into a specific Referral section, make sure to look at both the amount of traffic (sessions and users) as well as the number of conversions. Change the Dimensions to Source/Medium and Campaign (other). Then, change the Conversions dropdown to “All Goals.”

Source: Google

Now you can see what referring websites and which of your campaigns led to the greatest number of conversions on your website. You can target ads, partnerships, and guest posting efforts around the channels that led to the most conversions.

Search Queries

Source: Google

Under Search Console, Queries lists the search terms visitors used to find your website. These are useful for helping to define whether you’re reaching the right target audience and for finding new keywords to use when optimizing your website content.

Behavior: How are users engaging with your website?

Source: Google

The next tab is Behavior, which provides metrics that describe how users are engaging with your website content. The two most important sections here are both under Site Content: All Pages and Content Drilldown.

Under All Pages, you can see how all of your website pages have performed by different dimensions, as well as your overall website traffic. Here is a good place to search for a specific page, making sure to search for words in the URL. You can click into a specific page to get more detailed information on its performance. If a page is performing badly in terms of pageviews, you may want to repurpose it, optimize it, or redirect it. If a page is performing well and getting a lot of pageviews, you can update your CTAs on that page to direct traffic to new content or other pages. Pageviews are not the end all be all of website metrics, but they are useful for identifying areas of high and low traffic which you may need to address

Source: Google

Under Content Drilldown, you can examine how pages have performed in specific sections of the website. For example, if you wanted to just look at how blog posts have performed compared to each other (and not all other pages on the website) over a specific time period, you can click on that section. Under blog you might also have years and months broken down, so you can see, for example, which blog posts published in the last month have performed the best.

Conversions: What actions are users taking on your website?

The Conversions section is the last tab in Google Analytics. Here, you can look at the purchasing path, or conversion path, users have taken from arriving on the website to making a purchase or submitting a lead form.


We provided information on how to create and manage Goals in Google Analytics earlier in this guide. Goals are important to establish for your website so you can measure success more easily.

Source: Google

Reverse Goal Path allows you to see the previous step taken (or pages visited) on the website prior to conversion. This tells you not only what the converting page was, but also what pages contributed to that conversion by nurturing a visitor to take an action. What blog posts did users look at that led them to download a whitepaper or purchase a product? Identifying these previous steps shows you a fuller picture of the marketing funnel you have created for your website visitors.


Under Ecommerce, B2C companies can look at product performance, sales performance, transactions, and time to purchase. These are important to examine for evaluating the ability of your website to nurture customers once they are there.

Ready to start tracking your campaigns in Google Analytics? Download the Ultimate UTM Codes and URL Builder Template now!