How To Read and Understand Google Analytics in 2023

How To Read and Understand Google Analytics in 2023

Whether it's the first time you are logging into Google Analytics or you find yourself diving into it on a frequent basis, knowing the key reports inside Google’s website performance reporting tool can be overwhelming. 

It can be difficult for even marketers who are well versed in Google Analytics to take all the data the tool provides and translate it into answers for the broad questions we all have about our website content. 

Don't let the data get you down! In this post, we'll cover how to use Google Analytics to measure your specific goals, so you can understand not only how many people are visiting your webpages and content, but also whether they found it interesting, and whether it led them to take further action or complete goals. 

Understanding Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports website traffic. Now, with the release of Google Analytics 4, users can track not only website performance but also website and app performance all in one location. 

The primary use for Google Analytics is to observe a website’s performance —  how a user discovered the website, who that user is, and what was their performance once they have started their session.

When analyzing website traffic, there are two sides to the data: the quantity of traffic and the quality of it.

Website traffic acquisition within Google Analytics

To get an overview of what is the ‘welcome mat’ of your website, head to Acquisition → Overview. 

First things first, you must establish how users are finding your website. There are many reasons to know how users are discovering your website but ultimately, it can determine where to invest time and resources to boost user acquisition. Was it a digital ad campaign? Did the user conduct a Google search related to a product or service? Or is there a referring website with a link to your website? 

There are various channels: Organic, Social, Paid, Display, Referral, Email, Direct, and Other.


Organic traffic most likely came from a Google Search. A user searched for a product or service, your organization’s name, or some other keyword phrase that prompted your website to show up in the various options of search results. Google Search Console, another Google Marketing tool, can give more insight into what users are searching before landing on your website.

Social traffic is exactly what you are thinking. If you click into the social option, you are able to get a better understanding of which social media channels are leading users to your website. This data can guide social media strategy. Are users coming to your website from Facebook spending a lot of time on the website, converting at a high rate, or performing in a way that proves them value? That information can bring to light which social media channel may be best for advertising, supplemental content, or extra engagement.

Paid and display channels house the data for users who come to your website though paid search or advertising via display ads on another website. Often, this will be the first time these users are visiting your website. 

On the other hand, direct traffic groups together the users who directly accessed your domain by typing it into their browser. If you are running traditional print advertising, users may be accessing your site this way if the URL was listed on a billboard, mailer, etc. 

Referral traffic can be some of the most valuable traffic, depending on the referring website. If another URL has your domain linked on their website and a user clicks on it, that website has now “referred” that user to you. Some of the top places for this can be review websites like Yelp or “Listing” websites such as Tripadvisor.

Email traffic includes anyone that clicked on your website link from an email, whether that was from an email marketing campaign or from your email signature. It is important to track this traffic closely if you are investing in email marketing.

When you add up all channels of traffic, it will give you the total number of sessions on the website.

Website traffic quality and performance within Google Analytics.

Where can you find this info? Acquisition →  All Traffic → Channels


Now that we understand how users are finding your website, let’s figure out where to find website performance in Google Analytics. We would not want to invite users to your party (aka your website) but neglect their experience once they walked through the door.

There are a few key metrics related to the quality of traffic coming to your website that can give good insights into what is working well and what may not be. 


Percentage of New Sessions breaks down sessions (through their IP address) that are hitting your domain for the first time. If you are running discovery ad campaigns, you would want to see this high on the channels where those ads are running - social, paid, display, etc.

Have you ever walked into a store and immediately turned around because it was not what you were expecting? That is similar to Bounce Rate. A user lands on your website and then immediately leaves before engaging with any content. Slow load time and a lack of a mobile-responsive design are the top contributors to a high bounce rate.

The pages per session number can not only vary by channel, but also how your website is structured. If you have your content set up in a way where a user has to click from page to page to complete an action, or you are an e-commerce website with a high volume of products, you may see a higher number here. 

Average Session Duration explains the average amount of time a user is spending within their session on your website. If your goal is to have a user fill out a lead form once they’ve landed on the website, this number may be low. If you are publishing long form editorial content, this number should be higher. The “target range” for this stat largely depends on the goal of your website.

The numbers for session duration and pages per session statistics may be lower than expected, however, it is worth noting that as more users browse on mobile, the average session duration and pages per session have decreased. It is important to put the important content right in front of your user and then use calls-to-action to guide their user journey.

From just these two views, you can quickly get a glimpse into both the quantity of traffic coming to your website and the quality of each channel’s performance.

The amount of data that Google Analytics provides does not stop there. You can dive into user behavior, device information, page performance, site load speed, conversion rates, audience geographics, demographics, and so much more. As you continue to better understand the complexities of your data you will be able to make more informed decisions about your overall marketing strategy. 

Let’s Chat

Still having trouble making sense of your data? Our experts can help you understand the numbers and provide strategic recommendations for your organization based on the behavior of your site users. From getting set up to GA to crafting a strategy around it, we’re here to help.    

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Posted by Abi Devins at 08:20