• Are you a business with a website?
  • Do you have useful content or unique products?
  • Is your desired audience attracted to your website?
  • Are you able to hold and convert the potential customers into loyal customers?

Using tools such as Google Analytics will help you not only understand who your audience is, what they are looking for and how often they are engaging with your site, there are host of other metrics that will help you improve your website and overall business performance but first you need to understand what is success for your specific website.

There are so many ways that a website can increase rates of retention and conversion. But first you must figure out which specific Google Analytics Metrics you are trying to improve.

This is a guide to help you determine which Google Analytics Metrics are the most important to track. You will find most of these metrics in the Audience section within the dashboard of Google Analytics. Along with other metrics that aid you in tracking your website traffic.

To measure your Website’s performance, your primary focus should be on  establishing KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that are vital to reaching your website’s end goal, be that completing a form, viewing some content or making a purchase etc. When using Google Analytics or any other analytics tool, you will be presented with many reports showing various data. How do you know which KPIs are important for your website?

“A Metric is a quantifiable measure that is used to track and assess the status of a specific business process.”

Acquisition – Behaviour – Conversion (ABC)

Google Analytics clusters data and reports based on ABC‘s:

  • Acquisition
  • Behaviour and
  • Conversions

Why ABC’s Are Important Google Analytics Metrics?

We described the importance of measuring KPIs that are vital in achieving your website’s SMART business objectives. Regardless of your website’s specific objectives, measuring the Acquisition – Behaviour – Conversion (ABC) cycle will be crucial to reaching them, and here is why:

  • Acquisition measures traffic to your website and tells you how your website acquires visitors.
  • Behaviour tells you how effective your website is at engaging visitors; it also points out what pages they view and the actions they take on the website.
  • Conversion tracks the effectiveness of your website in persuading website visitors to take a desirable action.

A conversion is the completion of an activity on your website that is important to your business’ success. Tracking it will ultimately measure your website’s overall business performance.

“Conversion” is typically the most important metric for showing whether or not your website is on track. It is very important for meeting your SMART business objectives. It usually refer to sales (checkouts), leads (in the form of completed Contact Us forms), user registrations, and other actions users take. This helps in measuring your website’s effectiveness in persuading them to take the desired action.

Acquisition Google Analytics Metrics:

Without traffic, your website is like a shop with no front door. Regardless of the level of effectiveness your website has, it cannot fulfil its mission if there aren’t any visitors. Therefore you must track the following Acquisition KPIs:

  • Sessions & Users
  • % New Sessions
  • New Sessions
  • Traffic
  • Entrances
  • Page views
  • Channels

Sessions & Users :

Sessions show the number of times users have stayed on a website (for a specific amount of time). Google Analytics records sessions based on two factors: time and campaigns.  Campaigns are the different traffic sources, such as search engines, referring sites, or other tracked URLs that drive traffic to your site.

A visitor can leave your site, return, and still be in the same session. However, if a user is inactive on your website for 30 minutes or more, then returns, Google Analytics records that as a new session — something called “time-based expiration.”

Campaign-based expiration occur when a user enters your site via one source — a search engine, for example — then leaves and returns via another source such as an email. Each time a user’s campaign source changes, Google Analytics opens a new session.

Increasing the number of sessions for your website is important. However, there is a catch. Since a single user can have multiple sessions for a website, the total number of sessions can increase even with a decrease in the number of individual users.  This is one of the few Google Analytics Metrics that you should not miss tracking.

Along with tracking sessions for your website, you should also look at the number of individual users contributing those sessions.

Users measure the number of unique visitors to your website. It includes both new and returning visitors. These unique visitors account for the total number of sessions. While your website sessions are increasing, it is important to make sure that the users are also growing.

Both Users and Sessions show how effective your marketing effort is in generating traffic by bringing people to the website. Ideally the traffic to your website should be consistent while increasing over time.

% New Sessions:

This metric measures how many of your site visits are from first time visitors or returning visitors, indicating the efficacy of your marketing efforts at driving new site traffic. However, this is an important KPI  for measuring the ‘stickiness’ of your site, or whether your site is worthy of multiple visits from users.  If you website has only recently launched this metric will show a high % of new sessions so it is important that this metric is viewed with caution at first until traffic levels gain equilibrium.

Users should be viewed in context of what is happening and what you are trying to accomplish. A high % of new users is a reflection of how well your advertising and marketing draws in new potential customers. However, a high percentage may also represent a substantial base of one-time visitors which could mean you are not building a loyal following or giving a reason to return to the site.

What percentage is ideal for New Sessions?

There is no set benchmark as new and returning rates will depend on the nature of your offering and the type of marketing activity you have been running.  I often see a range of 45 – 75%.

A good site will have a mix of new and returning site visitors, this will vary depending on your site goals, business and industry. If your goal is to generate leads from your site, then a healthy number of returning visits will be desirable as it often takes multiple interactions with your site for users to convert.

However, don’t get so lost in driving new visits and neglect your existing audience.  In addition, it’s important to note that not ALL site visitors are worthy of retention.

New Sessions:

New Sessions are the number of first-time visits (people who had never previously visited your site). If this percentage is high, lots of new traffic is coming to your site. If this percentage is low, most of your users are return visitors having visited your site before. While new traffic means your marketing is reaching new users, you also want to maintain a good Repeat Visitor Ratio (repeat visitors / visitors in a month), as these are more engaged users which are cheaper to market to and convert into customers.


The number of visits and visitors to your website, reported as sessions and users. Most often referencing the number of visits (sessions) to your site.

Traffic, specifically number of visits, is a fundamental measurement of site reach and growth. It’s helpful at gauging how well your marketing efforts are working, and helps to give a great overall snapshot of site performance. You spend all this time figuring out how to get traffic to your website, but the key is to make sure it’s the right traffic.

Site goals based on a number or range of visits should not be used as an indication of success. Your only goal should be to do better than you did this time last year.

At a general site level, there’s very little value in measuring goals in overall site traffic without context from traffic channels and location (if you’re a regionally based business). Additionally, month on month trends of traffic should be adopted to show improvements, it is also important to understand and seasonality.  The best measurement of success when it comes to traffic is a year over year performance comparison and growth progression. This is one of the few Google Analytics Metrics that you should not miss tracking when you have enough data.


An entrance occurs when a visitor enters your site and begins a new session. Entrances differ from visits in that only one entrance can occur during a session, while multiple visits may occur during a single session.

This metric is most useful when combined with particular content pages, at which point, it will indicate the number of times a particular page served as an entrance to your site.

Page Views:

A “pageview” is a view of a page on your site by a visitor, which Google Analytics tracks. The Pageview metric shows how often visitors access your web content.

A high number of pageviews could be due to the value and quality of your site content. It could also be that visitors are unable to find what they were searching for or are reloading pages that don’t render correctly.

This measures the total number of times your website’s pages are viewed. If a page is viewed more than once in a session, each view counts towards this number.


Channels are the paths or processes that led a visitor to your site. You should monitor four main channels: organic search, direct, referral, and social. You can also monitor paid search if your firm is engaged in a pay-per-click (PPC) or Google Adwords campaign.

  • Organic search is when someone finds your site from a search engine. This is usually broken down into either branded or unbranded keywords. Once someone selects your site listing in the search results, they are registered as organic search traffic.  Organic search is the most important metric to monitor when it comes to how your site is performing from an overall SEO standpoint.
  • Direct traffic is when someone types the URL of your pages directly into the address bar of their browser or has your website bookmarked would register as direct traffic.
  • Referral trafficis registered if someone is taken to your site via a link on another website other than a search engine. The quantity and, more importantly, the quality of links that point back to your site play a major part in how Google ranks sites in organic search. Therefore, it is important to make an effort to earn quality links back to your site.
  • Social traffic, much like referral traffic, is registered once someone enters your site via a social media link.

Behaviour Metrics:

Behaviours are best thought of as a path towards a goal. Behaviour KPIs inform you of users’ Behaviours on your website. This insight is crucial to ensuring optimal user experience and improving it over time in order to maximise conversions. Following are a few basic Behaviour KPIs you should track:

  • Bounces
  • Bounce Rate
  • Pages per Sessions
  • Average Session Duration
  • Exit Rate


Bounces are defined as the number of visits to your site with a single page view before exiting.   

Bounce Rate:

At the site level, Bounce Rate % (BR %) is useful as a general measure of user engagement and the quality of your content, it also helps to identify when problems exist on your site. However, Bounce Rate is very dependent on the site, and unreliable in isolation thus it must be used alongside other engagement metrics such as average session duration and pages per visit.

You also need to consider the page content and whether a high Bounce Rate % is a positive i.e. if you have a landing page with a Phone Number as the call to action, then you would expect the Bounce Rate % to be high.

What is a good Bounce Rate %?

There are many suggested bench marks for Bounce Rate, these tend to show acceptable Bounce Rate % of between 40 and 60%, however this is across many sectors and types of website.

An abnormally high Bounce Rate is generally a warning that people are leaving your site, and aren’t willing to stick around to explore the rest of your website.  Standard Bounce Rate (in Google Analytics) has nothing to do with time on site or how quickly a user leaves the site, so if you’re judging the success of your site on a high Bounce Rate, you’re missing key information about how users are interacting. For instance, consider a user that clicked on your site from a search result, spent 5 minutes reading the content on your landing page, then leaves or completes an off-site call to action. In Google Analytics, that’s technically considered a bounce, even though it lead to an interaction.

Many factors can be responsible for high Bounce Rates. Anything from the ease of navigation, slow page loads, poor aesthetics, low or irrelevant quality content. Once you can identify there’s an issue, dig a little further with segmentation to determine why your visitors are leaving.

With all this said, it is important to understand your own Bounce Rate %, ignore industry standards in many cases and make sure that your own website Bounce Rate % is not increasing dramatically, review any pages with a High Bounce Rate % and act upon the accordingly, also look at any marketing campaigns with a high Bounce Rate.

Pages per Session:

Pages per Session shows the average number of pages viewed during an individual session. It counts multiple views of a single page. More pages / session means users are engaging with your site by delving into more pages.

Pages/Session helps determine how well the visitor flows through your website content, from one page to another. The closer your Pages/Session is to the number one, the less likely visitors are proceeding along the path to conversion. Ideally, your Pages/Session would be close to the number of pages required to complete a conversion.

For most websites, the overall goal is keep users engaged, nurturing their interest, and get them to take the next step. This is an excellent way of measuring interest and curiosity about your company.

Additionally, while you may think the greater the number of pages per session, the better, this isn’t always the case. If you consider the average time on site and Bounce Rate to piece together a better idea of what’s happening at large. A site with a high number of pages per session, low session duration, and a high Bounce Rate can indicate page flipping Behaviour due to irrelevant content, poor accessibility, or disinterest. Similarly, a site struggling with low number of pages per session coupled with low session duration, and a high Bounce Rate can indicate low quality content or user engagement. However, it’s best to always consider your goals. In some instances, this might be exactly what you want for your marketing campaign.

Average Session Duration:

Average Session Duration measures the length of time users are spending on your website in hours, minutes, and seconds. If you have short session duration, you’ll probably see a high Bounce Rate as well. Greater session duration means more time spent interacting with site content. The more relevant your site is to the visitor, the longer the average session duration will be since a visitor will spend more time accessing information that interests him.

Alongside Bounce Rate and pages per session, average session duration contributes to the user engagement story by illustrating how long users stay on your site. At the site level, it’s a helpful metric for indicating engagement the true value of your site content.

What should be average time on site?

The industry standard is 2 – 3 minutes, again this is across many different sectors and industries.

What can happen in two minutes? Two minutes might not seem like much time, but it’s enough time for users to read content and interact with your website.  For this reason, longer sessions indicate more engaged visits. For us as human beings, Time is the most precious commodity we have, this number shows us how much of their time users are willing to sacrifice for your content.

However, because this number is an average based metric, we must be careful at trusting this number without further context. This metric is most helpful when looking at segmented views, traffic sources and in consideration with other engagement metrics.

Exit Rate:

Exit rate is the percentage of visitors that land on a web page and leave.  Unlike bounces, exits are counted whenever users leave a web page, regardless of whether they browsed other web pages earlier in their journey.  All bounces are exits, but not all exits are bounces.

Exit rate is associated with individual web pages and not a website as a whole.  Each page of the website will have its own exit rate.  This is a great metric to identify the web pages of a conversion funnel where traffic is lost.  Web pages with a high exit rate in a conversion funnel require immediate optimisation.

Much as in improving Time on Page and Bounce Rate, it’s important to consider your user to ensure they aren’t exiting important pages. Engaging content, whether visual or written, is essential, so revisit your content and revamp it as necessary.

Conversion Metrics :

Once your Goals are set, Google Analytics will start recording data each time a Goal conversion happens.

Once data is received, you will see a number of Goals reports.  Here are some basic conversion KPIs you will see across Google Analytics reports.

  • Conversion Rate
  • Completions
  • Goal Value

Goal Conversion Rate:

This shows the percentage of visits that resulted in a conversion as defined by your individual Goal. In many cases, there is no better indicator to gauge your website’s effectiveness than its conversion rate. All steps taken from this point on should be focused on maximizing this conversion rate.

If the conversion rate is high, and you’re bringing in more quality traffic, you will reach your business objectives faster. On the other hand, if the conversion rate is low, it doesn’t matter how much traffic you’re bringing in your website, you are effectively throwing good money after bad.

Goal Completions:

Conversion  rate measures the effectiveness and the number of conversions measures the impact on your business. As quality traffic to the website grows, a healthy conversion rate should translate to results in sales, leads, subscriptions, registrations etc..that you consider to be a conversion.

Goal Value:

It shows the monetary value of conversions if this is applicable. It measures both the quality and the quantity.

You can assign goals a monetary value, so you can actually see the worth of each conversion to your business. We can also track actions like average order values, total amounts sold, purchasing trends, or top selling items.

You can assign arbitrary numbers to your Goals for example if you believe that leads originate from LinkedIn are twice as valuable as those from Facebook, set dollar amounts accordingly.

Not any one metric should be used alone to indicate performance success. Each metric presents only a piece of the puzzle, and the full situation can only truly be understood when used together.

Other Key Metrics

In addition to Goals, you should also consider the use of Advance ecommerce metrics along with the additional flexibility Custom metrics allow when segmenting your audience and site activity.

In Summary:

  • Understand what is success for your own business.
  • Make sure that your analytics is setup to measure your own KPI’s.
  • Don’t use a metric in isolation as you may be making wrong decisions.

If you need help understanding your current analytics setup or need support on how to create easy yet actionable insights, then please do get in touch and lets start the conversation to increasing your performance.

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