Google Analytics is a wonderful (free) tool that allows webmasters to track the performance of their website and digital marketing efforts like Google AdWords or E-mail campaigns. However, there is a lot of data available, which can be very intimidating. So I'm here to boil it down to 10 metrics that every marketer should be checking on a regular basis.
The default report shown when accessing Google Analytics is the "Audience Overview" report and the primary metric in that report is "Sessions". "Sessions" are not simply a count of the visitors that went to your site, there's a bit more to it than that as outlined here. However for the sake of brevity, we will consider this the amount of visits your site has received. Context is key for this metric, I prefer to compare current statistics to the same time frame the previous year. This removes any issues with seasonality of your business or holidays (comparing January sessions to December sessions is not apples to apples). This will give you an idea if you are growing your audience or losing market share.
Goal Conversion Rate or E-commerce Conversion Rate
You should have clearly defined goals for your website, whether it's to drive users to download a PDF, fill out a form, or make a purchase. These can all be defined within Analytics and tracked in the "Conversions - Goals (or E-commerce) - Overview" report. This metric shows the percentage of users that visited your site and completed your desired goal. "Standard" conversion rates depend on your industry, business model and site, but typically you're looking at 1.84% for e-commerce and 2.35% for B2B/Lead Gen. This is arguably the most important metric to improve upon, but it's an outstanding indicator for judging the success of layout changes or website redesigns.
A bounce is defined as the percentage of one-page sessions; in other words, the rate of users that entered your site and left without completing a track-able action. Note that I said "track-able". Some interactions on your site may require additional coding (file downloads, watching a video) or may just be downright untrack-able (Flash applications). So a bounce may not be a failed session; in fact if the nature of a page is purely informational (blog post, article, technical specifications) you may experience very high bounce rates even though the user used the page as it was intended. Bounce rates between 40-60% are not uncommon but the metric varies depending on industry, business model, and site. Use this metric as an indicator of potential problems/improvements and not as your end-all-be-all measurement of the quality of traffic your site receives.
Site Search Terms
This is technically not a metric, but nonetheless important. These are users that are willingly offering up exactly what they are looking for on your site, so you should listen. Located in the Behavior - Site Search - Search Terms report, Analytics stores all the search terms used on your site along with some useful metrics (see I still worked in a metric or two here!) Note: you must setup site search as Google Analytics does not track it out of the box, learn more here. The two metrics to monitor here are "% Search Exits" and "% Search Refinements". The percentage of search exits is a measurement of users that left your site immediately after performing a site search. This can be an indication of something your site doesn't currently offer (but could, content idea!), will never offer (consider how those users made it to your site), or an issue with your site search (fix this ASAP!). The percentage of search refinements shows the rate at which users performed a search for a different term after their initial search. This might provide insights into improving the search results provided by your engine or content that may need to be updated/created to meet your users' needs.
Mobile Device Performance
Sorry, I cheated again, not technically a metric but mobile performance is becoming increasingly essential to success. Mobile Internet usage is skyrocketing and that means webmasters have to provide a solid mobile user experience or be left in the dust. The Audience - Mobile - Overview report will show a breakdown by device category (desktop, mobile and tablet) and the basic engagement metrics for each. Look for differences in the bounce rate and conversion rate for each category and use this data to drive changes to improve your site's user experience.