Google Analytics is a beast. Within it, you can access all the data about your website that you could ever need. Unfortunately, since it is so jam-packed with great data, it can be hard to even know where to begin. I consistently meet with car dealers who aren't sure what reports they should be looking at and what data they should be gleaned from those reports. Today I will walk you through two reports that everyone should be looking at, from first-time analytics users to the most advanced. I'll also give you a few data points to watch on each report, along with some standard goals to aim for! Just these two reports give you an excellent starting point to understanding what is happening on your website.
These two reports provide valuable information about the behavior of your site visitors and what channels are driving good and bad behavior. When you can identify this, it is easier to fix what is wrong and boost what is right.
The two reports are Audience Overview and Channels.
When you first log in to Google Analytics, it might seem confusing. My advice for beginners? Ignore the home page (it aggregates data from a variety of reports and isn’t a bad thing to look at, but today we are looking at some specific reports to get specific data). Look at the left-hand side of the menu. One of the options you will see is customers who are currently on your website. This is real-time data on what customers are doing at that moment. However, it is such a small sample set that you should ignore that as well. The larger the data set, the more you can learn from it, and the 10 people that are on your site at this exact moment is a tiny data set. Instead, skip down to "Audience" then to "Overview."
This will show your audience (user) activity for the entire site during a given date range. I suggest setting the date range to 1 month (top right). As covered in my last blog (LINK), you want to look at data sets of a minimum of two weeks. Generally speaking, a month of data should be enough for you to make educated decisions. Here are the specific data points I suggest you look at on this report:
This tells you the number of devices that were on your site during the given date range. This gives you a general idea as to how many people were on your site during the given date range, but keep in mind that a single user could come to your website from multiple devices, and each would be counted as a user. Regardless, this is the most accurate data you have today in analytics as far as the number of users. So, the question is, how many users should you be getting? Roughly 10% of a market is shopping for a car at any given time, but it is entirely unrealistic to think that you will capture that entire market. It is much more reasonable to shoot for somewhere between 1%-3% of your PMA’s population on your site monthly. The goal you set should be realistic. Consider what percentage market share your store owns in your market and set your goal, but 1%-3% of your PMA population is a solid number to set as a goal.
b) Sessions & Sessions per User
Next, take a look at sessions. This is how many times your users came to your site during the selected date range. Now look at number of sessions per user. Let’s say your website has 10,000 users, with a combined total of 20,000 sessions. That averages 2 sessions per user. This tells you how many times, on average, your users came to your site during the selected date range. You want sessions per user to be as high as possible because it means people are returning to your site. It's difficult to set an optimum goal for this metric, but you really want to shoot for anything above 1. Again, the higher, the better, but some of the top sites I see range from 1.5-2.0.
c) Pageviews & Pages/Session
The next metric to look at is pageviews. This tells you how many total pages our users viewed onsite during the selected date range. Now, look at pages/session. This tells you how many pages your users looked at during an average session in the given date range. This is another metric that should to be as high as possible. The more pages your users are looking at, the better. A reasonable goal for this metric is 4 pages/session and above. In general, this means that a user has been to your homepage, SRP, and a couple of VDP's.
d) Average Session Duration
The average session duration shows how long visitors stay on your website. The longer they are on your website, the more engaging it is to them and, most likely, the lower in the buying funnel they are. You should aim for a 4-5-minute time-on-site for average session duration. If this number is too small, visitors are coming to your website and finding irrelevant information or are not able to find what they want.
e) Bounce Rate
Bounce Rate is the final statistic you should look at on your Audience Overview Report. Bounce rate is the percentage of your website traffic that visits, then leaves, without engaging with your site in any way. We should be shooting for a goal of 35%-40% in this category. You may say, well, that seems high, and you want it to be lower. Just keep in mind that bounce rate is natural and will always happen. In fact, sometimes, it makes sense. Perhaps someone googled an event you were hosting at your dealership and clicked through to a page specifically about that event. It would make sense for them to then leave the site without engaging in any way. They got the information that they came for, and then they left. You also don't want this number to be too low. Anything around 10% is too low and could indicate a setup problem in Google Analytics or Tag Manager.
The Audience Overview Report gives you an excellent basic overview of website performance and goals you should set, as seen in the example below:
When you look at the numbers, you will probably find your dealership is not hitting every one of them. So, in addition to the Audience Overview Report, you need to know what is driving the numbers, both good and bad. For that, you need the Channels Report.
Scroll down on the left side menu and click on “Acquisition,” "All Traffic," and then "Channels." This report is where you will identify which channels (i.e., PPC, social media, organic search) are meeting the goals that you have set, and which are falling short. Here is an example of the Channel Report:
This report breaks down traffic by referrer, which is just where did my traffic come from? Across the top of the report you will see the metrics that you looked at in the audience overview report. This report is the exact same report that you just looked at, except broken down by channel. The channels are lifted down the left-hand side of the report.
The goals that you set for the audience overview report still apply for the most part. I would advise speaking with your provider if you see any channels where you are not meeting the goals that you have set and discuss why they feel you aren't at the goal you have set. Remember, certain channels will have very different results than others. For example, PPC tends to have a slightly higher bounce rate than most other channels, and display often has bounce rates as high as 90%. Because of this variation, the goals set above are a great guiding line. Still, you will need to discuss with your provider, or someone very familiar with automotive web traffic behavior to determine if there is a cause for concern in a given channel.
The final thing to note in this report is the goal completion metric. This is a metric that is not on the audience overview report. Ask your website provider to track form fills for this metric. You will then be able to see which specific channels are driving most of your website leads! You can actually track almost anything as a goal, but this is a pretty standard one for automotive websites and is a great way to help see what value your various advertising campaigns are delivering.
In summary, while Google Analytics provides a treasure trove of information that you can use, these two reports and key metrics can help you discover how to quickly and easily improve your website performance without being a digital marketing genius. If you can isolate what is performing well, you can up your spend in that area and further improve results. And, if you can also identify underperforming channels, you can improve their performance or significantly reduce or eliminate spends on those channels. I have been using Google Analytics for years, and these are still the first two things I look at on any site I advise on and are great reports for Google Analytics beginners and experts alike.