How to Draw Conclusions from Google Analytics Data (Part 1)

Hopefully you have Google Analytics installed on your website. (If not, I'll wait for you to go and do that now.)

Done? OK, let's continue.

As you probably know, there's a vast amount of data on Google Analytics – nearly to the point of information overload. It might cause us to gasp and say Crap! My bounce rate went up! or Yes! I have 10% more visits this month than last month!

All of these seemingly deep, thoughtful conclusions may seem well and good, but what do they really mean? For some businesses, an increase in one stat might be great while for another, it might be negative.

I think the first and most important step in analyzing analytics data is ask yourself why something happened. So we're going to go through a series of questions to ask yourself for the six major stats in GA: visits, pagesviews, pages/visit, bounce rate, average time on site, and new visits. (We'll leave some of the deeper sections for another time.)


Crap. Visits went down.

  • Holiday – or seasonal – downturn? It sounds ridiculous, but I noticed a drastic decrease in visits in many clients' statistics in December (those not centered around holiday business, that is).
  • Do you have a blog you've been ignoring? If you have a blog on your domain, or if you're looking at GA stats for your blog, traffic will more often than not decrease if you haven't been keeping up with it.
  • Have you decreased your marketing efforts? Web and/or traditional? There's an obvious reason for a decrease in traffic.

Yes! Visits went up!

  • Did you send out an e-newsletter? I often see a drastic boost in traffic if an e-zine is sent out – and guess what? The more subscribers to an email newsletter, the more visits you'll see! (Hence the need to always include a link back the website.)
  • Did something go viral? An article you wrote? A YouTube video? A tweet? Track back through your analytics to see where the traffic came from.


Crap. Pageviews went down.

  • Did you recently do a redesign? Pageviews going down may not be a bad thing. It may very well mean that people can find what they were looking for more quickly in only a few clicks!
  • Did you launch a new landing page? A simple landing page with an easy call-to-action would certainly decrease clicks. Again…GOOD thing.
  • Do people get frustrated and leave? Are people leaving without doing what you want them to? Double check by looking through the Content section: top exit pages.

Yes! Pageviews went up!

  • Did you recently do a redesign or add a landing page that is a dud? Pageviews going up might be a bad thing. Making more clicks might frustrate your visitors.
  • Did you add a scintillating new post, page, or copy? In this case, say if your pageviews are currently no much more than 1, increased pageviews is fantastic. Look through your content section to verify what did the trick – then keep doing it!


All of the same issues as pageviews, as pages/visit is simply an average of pageviews/visit.

That's going to do it for today. We'll save the other half (bounce rate, average time on site, and new visits) for tomorrow.

Nicki Hicks

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