Google Analytics Tutorial ~ Best Reports To Use

April 25 / Mark Kelly / filed under Analytics

Google Analytics is a great service. It provides a ton of information about your Website visitors, and, best of all, it’s free.

However, it provides SO much information, that for people who don’t use it everyday, it can be difficult to sort out what is important and what isn’t within the Google Analytics reports.

We’re not going to provide a detailed Google Analytics tutorial, instead we want to highlight what we feel are the most important Google Analytics reports and metrics to look at on a frequent basis.

#1 Traffic Sources Overview Report:

This is by far our favorite Google Analytics report – the one we live in when analyzing client sites.

To get to the Traffic Sources report, log into your Google Analytics account, and then click ‘Traffic Sources’ in the left navigation menu. This gives you the Traffic Sources Overview report. This report is very helpful, it tells you where your Website traffic is coming from.


A few definitions of what you see on this page.

> Direct Traffic: Visitors that either typed your Website URL directly into their browser, or had it bookmarked.

> Referring Sites: Visitors that clicked to visit your site from another Website (other than a search engine).

> Search Engines: Visitors that came to your site from a search engine.

The rest of this overview page is pretty self-explanatory.

The one other thing that will help you quickly answer questions with Google Analytics is to become very familiar with the date range drop-down box in the upper-right corner of the Google Analytics page. With this box you can examine specific date ranges, but more importantly after you click the date range drop-down box you will see a check box called ‘Compare to Past.’ Clicking on this will enable you to select two date ranges. After you select the two date ranges and hit the ‘Apply’ button, Google Analytics then presents your data for each date range, and compares on a percentage basis the differences between the data in each date range.

This is really helpful, for example, when you are trying to determine why your Website traffic spiked up so much on a particular day. Just select that day, and then compare it to the same day of the week in the week prior, and you can then look for what traffic source drove the big increase on that particular day. Maybe a particular site wrote a review of your product, maybe your pay-per-click manager bumped up the pay-per-click budget a lot on that particular day. Using ‘Compare to Past’ you’ll have a great chance of figuring it out.

#2 All Traffic Sources Report

The Traffic Sources Overview report is great, but where we really spend time is the All Traffic Sources report. To get to this report from the Traffic Sources Overview report, click the ‘All Traffic Sources’ link in the left navigation menu.

By default when you go to this report, it starts in the ‘Source Medium’ view. This lists the visits you have obtained to your site, ranked in descending order by the source of the traffic. Sources such as: Google, Direct Traffic, Yahoo, Bing, etc. Next to the name of each source, you’ll see a forward slash and then another word – this will be what Google Analytics calls the ‘Medium’ – this is basically the category of source that it is. So, for your Google organic (or unpaid) traffic source, you’ll see it listed as ‘google / organic.’ For any Google pay-per-click traffic you get, you’ll see it listed as ‘google / cpc.’


We also like to look at this traffic source data broken out by the category of traffic it is. To do this, find the ‘Show: source / medium’ drop-down menu and click it and change it to ‘medium’, then you can see your Website traffic summarized into categories of traffic source types or “mediums” as Google Analytics calls them.

There are of course many other Google Analytics reports, but those are the top 2 that we by far spend the most time in on a day-to-day basis.

One final note – if you haven’t set up Google Analytics Conversion Goals, you are missing out on the true power of Google Analytics. More on that in a later post.