Google Analytics Part 2 (#31)

Today I’ll explore three core parts of Google Analytics: Audience, Acquisition, Behavior.

If you are setting up GA on your website, start with yesterday’s post: Google Analytics Part 1.

Remember, this broad overview will cover GA only in large brush strokes. I hope to introduce you to the basic concepts in web traffic analytics. After understanding these four areas, you will want to move on to learn more about building Customized Reports, Conversions for e-commerce websites, different views for different stakeholders, and the newer beta features like Attribution as well.

Always Remember the Date Picker (Filter)

The first thing to keep in mind in these three areas of GA is the date selector. Remember that the date selector will always default to showing you the last 7 days through yesterday (that is, eight days ago through yesterday) whenever you open GA.

However, if you make a change to the selector, then switch tabs, you will be taken to the new tab but your date selection will persist. That is, the date you selected will be used to show you the data in the tab you switched into.

This date picker applies to all of these areas we’ll cover today: Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and more of what you will see in GA too, so always keep the date picker in mind when switching between parts of GA.

The date picker gets a little used to. When you first disclose it, keep in mind you are picking both a starting date and ending date. What is confusing is that there’s two little boxes to the right (see below). Be sure to make sure either starting date or ending date is selected (blue), like so:

What’s confusing about this date picker is that it’s easy to confuse yourself between whether you are picking the starting date or the ending date, especially if want to change only the ending date.

You then choose a date on the calendar on the left. (After you pick the starting date, the date picker will switch to let you pick ending date.) Click Apply to apply the new date range to whatever you are currently looking at. The date selector is global to (almost) all of the views in GA (with the Home and Realtime tab as exceptions).

Click apply to choose this date range.


In the Audience section, GA is concerned with showing you who the visitors are. Here we see users, pageviews, and sessions, as well as pages per session (“pages / session”), the bounce rate, and demographics. The demographics include geographic region (GA will geolocate people by their IP address), their browser & operating system, service provider if they are mobile or desktop users and the language that is set in their browser.

All of this information is gleaned “magically” from the user’s web browser and IP address. What happens under the hood is that GA collects all of this in the user’s browser and then sends it back anonymously to GA. The anonymously part is important because GA is a tool that has an opinionated take on tracking identifiable data: don’t do it. (At the very least, don’t do it in GA.)


The acquisition tab is concerned with where the people came from:

Let’s review the fundamental terminology in traffic analysis.

Organic Search — People searched on searchn engines and then found your site through an organic search result.

Direct — People typed your URL into their web browser.

Referral — People clicked a link from another website that was not a social network and then and came via that website to your website.

Social — People clicked links or were directed from a social network (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc)

At first, these are the only ones you will see. Over time, if you start advertising, you will also see Display and Paid Search. Display refers to people who came from a display ad on the internet— i.e., a banner, sidebar, or paid placement. And finally Paid Search refers to an ad that you paid to the search engine to display alongside a search. (These are marked in all search engines as “Advertisement.” Sometimes they appear on the side of the search results and sometimes they appear deceptively within the search results. Either way, the merchant— you— is paying the search engine for that placement. )

Here we see a fictitious view of web traffic for a site with thousands of visitors.

Take a closer look at the pie chart that breaks this down. Remember, the data is always displayed to you using the date selection you indicate.

Here we see that during the date selected, this site had 35.7% of its traffic from Paid search advertising, 225 from organic, and so on. As you can see, you can hover over any of these in the pie chart to reveal the details of its numbers.

The Acquisition section is also where you’re going to connect your Google AdWords account if you advertise on Google. The Acquision area also has views into Social traffic and Search traffic, both essential for understanding where you leads are coming from.


On the Behavior tab GA is concerned with behavioral things they can track about your visitors; sessions per user, session duration, and flow.

The powerful Behavior Flow view shows you a chart of people first, second, third, and so on, pages. That is, where do most people start? From there, where do they go next?

Take a look at this fancy multi-dimensional charge. We see that most people start at my blog on the home page (/). From there you can see where most people go next, broken out into the different pathways people traverse my site.

Take special note of this Behavior Flow screen, which is telling you where your users most commonly start, then go to next, and so on.

This page will make more sense to you if you have a lot of visitors and relatively few pages. For example, your landing pages will always show up first, and then the “where people visit next” question can be used to understand the psychology of what people are clicking on (specifically, the calls to action on your website).

Those red lines you see to the right of green page visits indicate where people don’t continue to another page. These are called drop-offs. If you see a page with a high amount of drop-offs, think about A) whether the content on that page is repelling people from the sales proposition and/or B) if that page has calls-to-action that lead your customer to the checkout.

As you can see GA is an incredibly powerful tool. I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief introduction and that GA helps you get oriented to your site traffic.


Google Analytics Part 1 (#30)

I’m ending this month-long series with a two-part special about Google Analytics.

Today I present part one. Everyone who owns a domain name needs to know about Google Analytics (or “GA” for short). GA is a free tool that is available to pretty much every website. (The one caveat to this is large websites experience slower processing times of some data, which sometimes delays your data for about 24-48 hours. You can still see data in realtime on the Realtime tab, but other data come through after the fact. If that’s you, getting real-time in your reports can be achieved by upgrading to a paid product called “GA 360”).

When I say everyone who owns a domain I mean you: If you have a domain (or set up a new one) always remember to set up your Google Analytics right away. Google collects information about your site traffic as soon as it is installed. However, it does not know anything about the site traffic from before it was installed.

Always install Google Analytics right away on new websites and domains.

— Jason Fleetwood-Boldt

Today I’m going to cover a basic set of what might seem like boring operational stuff that you should start with up-front.

We’ll mostly be in the Settings area, but you must know these settings are available to understand what you will be looking at when you get to the analytics.

Accounts, Properties, and Views

An Account is a Google account, always associated with an email, like or any other domain name that is using G-Suite For Business (Google’s paid business tools.)

A Property is your website or app. You should create a unique property for each project, however, if you have subdomains, you have a choice of whether or not to have multiple subdomains in the same property or to create a new property for each subdomain.

A View is a “reporting view” — it says so specifically when you create one. For the purpose of this series, I will cover reporting views only lightly at the end of tomorrow’s post. A view is a special way to look at the data collected— you can set unique filters, e-commerce funnels, attribution models, and more. Views are best used by different stakeholders in your organization: i.e., the marketing team gets a separate view from the accounting team because they rely on different filters, funnels, or attribution models, or and they care about different data points. (Or, more accurately, they analyze the data differently.)

Add A Property

Your first choice is between:

• Web

• App

• App & Web

For the purpose of measuring websites, we’ll choose Website.

Next, you enter your fully qualified domain name. (That’s the domain where your web server primarily operates. If your website or server redirects users from, for example, to, then you operate at what is known as the apex of your domain. This simply means it has no subdomain and no “www.” in front of it.) If your website does operate at www., however, you ‘ll want to include it here.

What you don’t include is the http:// or https:// part. I highly recommend you use https, which requires correctly installing/configuring an SSL/TLS certificate (SSL and TLS are technologies from separate eras: the old SSL standard is being phased out because of two vulnerabilities known as Heartbleed and Poodle. Most of the time you see “SSL” on the internet, it refers to a technical concept that implements both of SSL, the old standard, and TLS, the newer standard.)

In the old days, an SSL certificate was optional if you didn’t have a checkout, collect a payment, or a login area (for example, a publish-only new site or blog.) However, in 2014, Google publicized a movement called “Always SSL” which effectively means that all websites should now have SSL/TLS certificates and that all web websites should redirect traffic from HTTP to HTTPS immediately if they visit the non-secure site. Not only should websites have SSL/TLS, but doing so actually gives you a small preferential treatment in Google’s search algorithm. (Although Google’s algorithm is proprietary and highly secretive — and changes — I’ve heard from experts the presence of https on your website counts approximately 1% of the total picture of all the things Google uses to rank your website. This number is not insignificant but also it is not monumental. That is, while everyone should put SSL/TLS on your domain the lack of it will marginally but not dramatically affect your search ranking.)

To do this, you need to configure an SSL certificate which is beyond the scope of this post.

Be sure to choose “http://” or “https://” below when creating your GA property.

Then you come to the screen where you can first get the GA tracking code & find the GA Tracking ID.

All GA tracking ids begin with UA-

They follow a format:


The Xs will always represent a number associated with the account where this property was created. The Y number will be sequential: the first will be 1, the second 2, the third 3, and so on.

You will want to copy & paste this code into your “site editor.” Look for a place where you can modify the header, also known as the content inside of the <head> </head> tag section.

If you are working with a content management system, you will want to find where you can modify the <head> tag. Look for this:


Usually, your <head> tag will already contain much content: Do not modify this. Instead, insert the GA code, copied & pasted directly out of the GA interface box above.

Verifying GA On Your Website

When you’ve made this change live on your website, you now need to install a Google Chrome extension called GA Debug.

Once you install and activate the extension, visit your website.

Look for this icon in your Chrome window:

First, hover over the GA Debug icon, but don’t click it.

If as you hover over it you see “GA Debug: OFF” (as shown above), then click on the icon once to turn it on.

When GA Debug is on, the icon changes to blue-ish, like so:

Now that it is on, open the Chrome debug console under View > Developer > Developer Tools. (Or Option-Command-I).

Once you are in the Console pane, you’re going to want to go back to your main browser window and go to your website. Then, you’ll want to quickly switch (as it loads) back into the debugging console window in the background to look for the giant “text-art” that spells out “google analytics.” It looks like this:

Look for a line that says “Initializing Google Analytics” followed by some code-like output that contains your GA property ID:

If you don’t see this, go back and confirm that the GA script has been correctly added to the <head> tag of your website and confirm that this code change has been published and is live on your website.

Before we leave the Properties settings, be sure to note some more features in the Properties area of the Admin settings:

Excluding URL Parameters

Important: If you are advertising on Facebook, you must do this

Go to Settings >View > View Settings

Under “Exclude URL Query Parameters” add fbclid (as shown below) and be sure to scroll all the way down to click Save.

When you are done with settings, click on a tab in the left column (note in the settings view it is probably collapsed like you see here.)

The Home Screen

The GA Home screen shows you a few things. It is primarily designed to show you the last 7 days of traffic, with a blue box on the right that is showing you real-time traffic. (That’s how many people are on your website right now.)

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll cover a visit, session, session duration, and other terms you’ll need to be familiar with to understand what you’re looking at. For now, scroll through this page and see some of the quick insights it gives you: traffic by day over the last 7 days, how you acquire and retain users That means, what site they come from and how well you retain them, shown by cohort. For example, a week-by-week cohort, shown here, show of the people who visited Jun 21-Jun 27, how many of them first came less than 1 week ago (that’s “Week 0”). For everyone who came 1-2 weeks ago, those people are in the “Week 1” cohort.

A month-by-month cohort is typically more useful and helps you measure the quality of your traffic over time. Specifically, it lets you see if a lot of the people who were introduced to your site in a given month keep coming back: If not, perhaps you brought bad qualities leads to the website that month. (Hopefully, you use this to correct the quality of your leads, focusing only on the highest-quality traffic that wants to re-visit your website.)

You get a quick view (and preview) of the time of day your visitors visit, the geographic breakdown by country, and a breakdown by desktop, mobile and tablet.

Conveniently, the Home screen has links which take you to other parts of GA to let you explore all of these more in-depth.

I’m going to skip over Customization because it is out of scope of this basic introduction.

Next, we’ll examine the Realtime tab.


Realtime lets you see in real-time: that is, what/where/how people are visiting right now. Remember, GA knows a lot of things: The device, the IP address, the traffic source (that is, if they came from an ad or clicked from another site), and if you hook it up, events & conversations (I will go over that in tomorrow’s post.)

So realtime is showing you a lot of the data that the rest of GA show you but only for traffic right now. This is critically important if you are on the news, or are affected by cyclical or media-related events that drive people to your site all at once.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief introduction to Google Analytics. Tomorrow I’ll cover some key concepts in traffic analytics and also the Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversion tabs in GA.


Alexa Site Rankings (#10)

Today I kick off a mink-segment on competitive analysis & cold marketing.

Today’s tool is Alexa, a product owned by Amazon.

This fantastic tool ranks the internet’s websites. It ranks all websites on the internet by traffic, with the highest traffic being #1. How does it do this? Well, the truth is that people voluntarily install the tracking plug-in which skews the results. For many years Alexa has been criticized for having inaccurate rankings. And it’s true! The ranking numbers are NOT PERFECT. In some cases, they aren’t even close.

Competitive research is an invaluable tool. The free Alexa tool is quite limited, and tells you a website’s global and US rank and gives you a peek into what the paid version offers.

Although the free tool remains available, Alexa makes it slightly hard to find from their home page.

Nonetheless, let’s start with the free tool first before examining the paid version.

Free Alexa

Start here:

For demonstration we’re going to enter to start.

Here’s your results. Notice you see many things: keyword analysis, time on site. It’s like having Google Analytics for anybody else’s website.

Alexa free view of

Click on the link “Traffic Metrics” and you will be taken to where you see’s rank:

Alexa Google traffic metrics

This tells us that has a global rank of #1 and a US rank of #1. That means it’s the popular website on the planet and also the most popular website in the United States.

#2 website ( is the second most popular website on the internet.

So in Alexa rankings, a lower number means a more popular website, as measured by traffic.

You can see all the top sites globally, by country, or even by category here:

Premium Alexa

Now let’s take a look at the premium Alexa features. You must pay for access to these features. If you are doing competitive research, Alexa is worth it to be able to know about your competitors or the industry. Because the fee is monthly, you can avoid an ongoing monthly cost by doing all of your competitive research at once and then canceling the premium subscription.

Today I will profile the popular website, a site for scholars and lawyers to find legal briefs and information.

It’s a lot so let’s go right in.

(1) Alexa gives us Keyword Suggestions. Look for the “Keywords Opportunities Breakdown”

If you click “Optimization Opportunities”, you will be taken down the page to the “Buyer Keywords” section.

Click “View All Keywords” to see the complete competitive breakdown.

Competitor Keyword Matrix

This takes us to the Competitor Keyword Matrix, where we can see two types of global keyword data for this industry: Organic (that means unpaid traffic from search engines) and Paid (that means paid advertising).

Organic and Paid Keywords

Notice here that FindLaw does not show up in the first four Organic competitors, so you don’t see it in the purple bar.

In the orange bar, we can see that FindLaw comes in second biggest competitor ( at 23.9%) for Paid keyword traffic— that means paid advertisements that show up when someone uses these keywords.

Keyword Gaps, Easy-To-Rank Keywords, and Optimization Oppotunities

Alex takes us further with keyword analysis in the Keyword Gaps and Keyword Analysis sections.

Keyword Gaps, Easy-To-Rank Keywords, and Optimization Oppotunities are all essential if you are doing competitive research to boost your site’s association with specific traffic.

The Alexa Rank

Let’s skip down the page a little to the all-important Alexa Rank. This is the global (or within-county) rank for this website— that is, #1 being most popular. In theory, there are a finite number of websites in existence so hypothetically there is an upper limit (that would be the least popular website in the world, as measured by traffic.)

Remember Alexa measures using tracking that is self-installed by a set of users. Thus, it represents a sample set of users of the internet. As with all sample sets, it is probably flawed.

Years ago Alexa released traffic numbers (pageviews per day, users per day). But because of controversy surrounding its inaccuracy, they took this away so you can no longer get actual traffic number estimates using the tool.

Your site has a global rank— that’s how popular it is on the whole planet.

It also then has a US rank— that is how popular it is within the United States. It has another Alexa rank for each other country where they have non-insignificant traffic. You can easily see the rank for this website in any other country

On the right hand side, it shows me that approximately 76.1% of the website’s come from the US, 6.1% from India, 1.8% from Canada, and so on.

On the left-hand side, I can see that ranks #1352 in the United States today and it ranks #11261 in India (which is shown to you in the order of the percentage of this website’s traffic, not the rank within that county).

Here you have a fantastic view of who’s coming to this website by country, and how relevant this website is for a particular country. You also can see 90 days (3 months) into the past, to see if the website is gaining to losing popularity (the graph below the global Alex rank shows you this).

Site Metrics

Coming into the home stretch we get Site Metrics, which we should note has an orange “Estimate” indicator in the upper-right corner. That means you should rely even less on this data than the rest of the data. In other words— these are just best guesses given Alexa’s capabilities but are not actual measurements that can only be done by the site operator. (If you are the site operator you should use your own analytics — this tool is for competitive analysis)

What we see above is that on average, visitors look at 1.53 pages, spend 1:60 on the website (I don’t actually understand myself how that isn’t 2 minutes— that appears to be a glitch.), and 77.4% of people “bounce,” which means they look at one page only and do not further interact, click, or visit a second page after the first time they see your website. (That is considered not something you want, of course.)

We also see that an estimated 79% of their traffic comes from Search engines (Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc), 1% (barely anything) comes from Social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc), 6% of the websites come from Referral: which means direct links on a webpage to another webpage. And finally, 14% come “Direct.” Direct means they typed the domain name directly into their web browser. (The one caveat here is that sometimes people can be counted as direct if they disable referral trackers, however, this is typically minimal.)


Google, Yahoo, Bing


Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc


came from a link on another website


typed the website’s name directly into their web browser

Flow & Inbound

If you are analyzing your own website, don’t miss the flow section, where you can see the most popular sites people visits before visiting your website and the most popular websites people visited after.

Finally, you can also see how many other websites on the internet have links to this website. In this case, has 16007 other websites on the internet linked in.

Both the flow and inbound link data are shown to you based on data that Alexa captures within the last 30 days.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief walk-through of the powerful tool Alexa.

Be sure to LIKE and FOLLOW (scroll down) for more like this!