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You can’t improve what you can’t measure, and there’s no better tool for measuring your site’s performance than Google Analytics. The only issue is, it’s really hard to use. Half the time, you don’t know what a specific metric even means, and the half you’re stuck guessing where the stuff you’re looking for actually is.

This guide is assuming you’ve already connected Google Analytics to your account and begun to collect data. If that’s not the case, check out this post on how to set it up on your site.

To start, let’s cover some of the basics of working with Google Analytics. Once you login to your account, you should be presented with a screen like this:

There may be some changes based on when you read this guide, but most of it should remain the same. Going from left to right, let’s define what some of these metrics mean.

Users: How many people are on your site, normally shown in either the last 7 or 30 days.

Users By Time of Day: When your site is most popular, shown in your time zone. This can help you when you choose to schedule maintenance downtime on your site.

Users Right Now: How many users are currently on your site.

Traffic Channel: Where your traffic is coming from.

Source: A more detailed breakdown of where your traffic is coming from.

Sessions By Country: Where in the world your users are coming from. If you’re a local business, this should be mostly from a single country.

Scrolling down farther, we see…

What Pages Do Your Users Visit?: Pretty self-explanatory, the top pages on your site.

Active Users: How many “regular” visitors do you have?

Sessions By Device: How are people viewing your site? If it’s highly mobile, you need to make sure your site is responsive.

User Retention: Are your users coming back for more? Not super helpful for local businesses unless you have some sort of funnel or complex content strategy setup.’

Next, we’ll go to the Audience tab in the left menu.

Here, many of the same metrics are shown on the last page along with some new ones. Some ones we want to take note of are as follows:

Pages/Session: How many pages are people looking at before leaving?

Avg. Session Duration: How much time are people spending on your site?

Bounce Rate: What percentage of people land on your site, and leave without looking at any other pages?

For a local business, it’s also helpful to change the demographics tab to “City” instead of language.

Here, we can see where the people who are searching for us live. This is helpful in determining where to focus our marketing efforts or to discover new markets that are interested in what you offer. For a more detailed location breakdown, head over to “Audience > Geo > Location”, and change it from Country to City.

Lastly, we’ll head over to “Behavior > Site Content > All Pages”.

This is going to give us data specific to each page. We can see which pages have the most views, which pages make people leave our site, and which pages people directly visit (say, by clicking a link on Twitter instead of going to our home page and finding it in the menu).

Once you have a grasp of these basics, keep exploring Google Analytics. There’s a wealth of information it can uncover around your business, you might just be surprised by what you find.