Chapter 3: Start using Analytics

Now that you have created your account and set up the tracking for your store, let’s do a quick tour of Analytics. If you’re not signed in already, open up the Google Analytics homepage. Bookmark that page so you can get back to it easily in future. You’ll need to sign in using your account details.

The main navigation

At the top of the page, you’ll see the main navigation. From here you can navigate between the different websites you have set up for your account, as well as accessing various different settings. Let’s take a look in more detail:

  • Account home: On the far left, in the orange bar, you’ll see a small icon that looks like a little house. This is the account home button. Clicking it will bring you to the homepage for your account. From there you can access the list of the websites you have. You will only really need to use this if you have more than one website set up.


  • Account/profile selector: To the right of the home button, you will see a dropdown. This is the account/profile selector. Clicking on it will reveal the list of accounts and website profiles you have set up with Analytics. Because this is in the main navigation you can use it to move around between accounts and websites no matter where you are in Analytics.


  • Admin: Clicking on admin, on the right-hand side, will bring you into the section for account administration. From here you can update your account and website settings. You can add new users so that others can view the reports for your website. It is here also that you can set up goals for your website, as you saw earlier.
  • Help: To the far right, clicking on Help will open up the documentation for Google Analytics. If you need to find out how to do something specific in Analytics, this can be a good place to start, though a search in Google itself can sometimes be more fruitful.
  • Settings and My Account: At the top right, above the orange bar, you’ll see links to Settings and My Account. In settings, you will find your user settings such as language preferences and which emails you are signed up for. My Account, on the other hand, will bring you to your Google Account, where you can control the security settings for your account, including your password.
  • Reporting: If you have already been looking at the reports for one of your websites, you will also see a button Reporting in the navigation on the orange bar. This will bring you to the most important part: the reports for your website. We will look at this in more detail next. 
  • Customization: 
    You will also find a button Customization in the navigation when you are looking at one of the reports within Analytics. In this section, you can create custom reports.

The report finder

Let's click into Reporting in the navigation. When you are looking at the reports, the left-hand side of the page is taken up with the report finder. From here you can access all the reports for your website. The report finder has three areas:

  • My Stuff: First up is “My Stuff”, where you can navigate to dashboards, shortcuts and intelligence events. These are three sections with personalized reports. You can create your own dashboard to provide an instant overview of what’s happening in your store. We’ll look at this in detail later. In “Shortcuts”, you can create shortcuts to the reports that most interest you. In “Intelligence Events” you can set up alerts to monitor your store’s traffic for interesting changes.
  • Standard Reports: Now we get to the heart of the matter: the reports. They are divided into five sections that cover all aspects of your store’s traffic: Real-Time, Audience, Traffic Sources, Content and Conversions. You’ll notice that if, for example, you click into the Real-Time section, a panel will open up with a list of five different reports that provide real-time data. Similarly for the other sections, each one contains quite a few reports. We’ll look at the content of these sections a little later.
  • Help: Below the standard reports, you’ll find some quickly accessible help information that relates to the current section or report you are looking at. There’s also a link to the help center and a facility to search through the help documentation.

The standard reports

Let’s get an overview of the five sections of the standard reports. 

  • Real-Time: In the real-time section, you can see what’s happening right now on your website: the geographical location of your current visitors, how they found your store, which pages they are looking at, etc. 
  • Audience: This section looks at what we know about your store’s audience (or visitors): their location, language, what technology they are using to access your site, if they are new to your store or are returning, etc.
  • Traffic Sources: The reports in the traffic sources section show you how people found your store: from which websites, search engines or social sites they clicked to end up on your store. This includes which keywords people used to find your store in the search engines.
  • Content: The content section shows what content visitors actually look at in your store. What are the most popular pages in your store? Which are the products that are consulted the most? What search terms are used in your store’s search facility?
  • Conversions: Though it’s the last in the list, it’s probably the most important for an online store. Conversion is the process by which a visitor to your store becomes a customer. Analytics has two forms of conversion tracking: goals and ecommerce. We set up a goal of a purchase with the corresponding funnel of the checkout process earlier. We also set up your store to track purchases. In the conversion section, we can see the reports for these.

The date selector

Of course, apart from the real-time reports, which are in the here and now, all the other reports are displayed based on a range of dates. You’ll find that range of dates on the right-hand side of the page, just under the main navigation. Click on this to open up the date selector. Using this you can select the exact dates you want to look at. For the more adventurous, you can also compare statistics from two time periods.


Continue to Chapter 4: The most important reports for online stores (Part I) »

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