How to use the Google Analytics Visitor Story

The Talu Google Analytics Visitor Story provides a weekly summary of how visitors are getting to your website and what they did when they first got there, using your Google Analytics metrics.

The report is delivered weekly on Monday and accounts for the prior week’s activity on your site. The report is broken down into 5 key questions focused on initial site visitor activity.

Question 1 - What was the initial activity of your website visitors?

Question 1 provides you an overview of activity to your website. 

The first chart (sankey diagram) ties together data that shows you who visited your site, how many times they visited, and the top pages they viewed. This may seem like a lot of information at first but here’s an analogy that may help...

Example: Say you’re an owner of a brick-and-mortar clothing shop. The number of people that came into your store would be your visitors (called “users” in Google Analytics). The number of times they came into your store within a time period, such as a week, would be visits (called “sessions” in GA). The number of times a person looked at a product, such as a t-shirt, would be akin to a page view on a website.

In the Sankey chart, you see how each of these google analytics website metrics are connected for who visited your site for the first time (new visitors) compared to people that visited your site more than once (returning visitors).

How to use this question:

  • Get a quick gauge of weekly traffic performance to your site
  • Understand if new visitors are increasing or decreasing and if people are returning
  • See if any of your top 5 traffic pages have changed from week to week and if the distribution of those visits are changing
  • Check pageviews per visit to see if engagement on your site is going up or down
  • See what percentage of traffic to your site was affected by your top 5 pages

How we use this at Talu:

  • We check weekly to see if we've been able to grow our new visitors to our site and ensure our return visitors are maintaining and growing.
  • Since we are looking to grow our customer base it is important that we are getting enough new visitors to our site each week so we have an opportunity for them to convert into our free trial. 
  • We run weekly and monthly ads and campaigns around our journal/blog articles so it is important to see if any of these campaigns become one of our top 5 traffic drivers for our site.

Question 2 - How are people getting to your website?

This question helps you know what channels are driving traffic to your site. We show the default category structure from Google Analytics which is made up of of the following categories:

  • Direct: Includes visits from a typed URL into the browser. Also can include clicks (not tracked with special parameters) from bookmark/favorites, emails, or PDFs.
  • Referral: Includes visits from other websites that link to your site
  • Email: Includes visits from an email campaign (that has a special parameter of “email”). Email tools such as Mailchimp offer options to include GA friends tracking.
  • Social: Includes visits from social media networks, such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, that are not the result of paid promotion
  • Organic Search: Includes visits from search engines, such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo, that are not the result of ads
  • Paid Search: Includes visits from paid search networks, such as Google Adwords, Bing Ads, and Yahoo Search Ads.
  • Other: Includes visits that don’t fall into any other category. In other words, this is a catchall bucket for the remainder of your traffic.

The top links to your site shows you the number of visits from all the traffic sources that drove traffic to your site. In Google Analytics, a source can be a webpage or a custom source based on special UTM parameters.

Below the overall traffic sources, you get a deeper look at your traffic sources and the specific networks per category. For example, the organic search breakdown will include report visits from Google, Yahoo, and Bing. 

How to use this question:

  • Get a weekly pulse of what channels were driving traffic to your site and how they change over time
  • Learn if there were any new drivers of traffic
  • See if existing links are gaining traction or losing traffic
  • If you are using paid ads, see if they are performing in line with your traffic goals and how adjustments to your ad spend has an effect
  • Look to see how much traffic is included in the “other” traffic source. If it is over 10%, consider optimizing how you tag your links in order to get better insights for this data. Use Google’s URL Builder to following along with their best practices..
  • Understand which social networks work best for you. For more insights, we recommend using our Social Media Roll-up Story.

How we use this at Talu:

  • Since we are still a relatively new company we are still working on building our SEO efforts so we use this report to closely monitor our traffic trends over time.
  • Paid traffic generates a decent portion of traffic to our site, so we track what kind of impact it has on building our referral and organic search traffic.
  • We run weekly campaigns so keep an eye on how this affects the top links to our site.

Question 3 - What were users doing when they entered your website?

This question is one of our favorites because it shows how people enter a site and whether they continue on or if they leave the site, all in one view. The top three entry pages are highlighted so you can see how people interact with them.

FYI: A bounce occurs when a person leaves your site after viewing only one page and not continuing on to any other content. Typically, this signifies you have an opportunity to better guide a user to other parts of your website. However, a high bounce rate is not a huge cause for concern if your most important content is on the front page, such as on a blog or one page site.

Watching these trends over time is very powerful in that it helps you determine if the paths people are taking naturally align to how you intended your site to be used. 

How to use this question:

  • Investigate if visitors are going to the pages you want them to see
  • Ask.. Are new pages or campaigns driving entries to your site? Are visitors being sent to the right landing page and continuing on, or are they leaving?
  • Understand what pages visitors are gravitating to and look into why that might be the case
  • See if your bounce rates are increasing or decreasing

How we use this at Talu:

  • Overall, we want to see the health of visits to our site. For us, it’s critical to make sure that people continue on to other key pages beyond the homepage, such as the demo and sign up page. If we see that traffic is not moving toward the goal pages, we would take that as a sign to revisit our marketing strategy and make sure to place the most relevant content to our visitors.
  • Since we are heavily invested in writing quality blog articles and other content marketing efforts, we check which posts are the best landing pages and see if users are continuing on to other content throughout our site.

Question 4 - What technologies were people using to access your site?

The purpose of this section is to show what platforms and devices people are using to access your content. While it could be easy for some people to dismiss this, as it may not change much at a high level on a weekly basis, but this section highlights a few key insights.

The browser sophistication helps you understand if your content is being served to your website visitors appropriately. 

Example: if you’re planning to update your homepage to include cool graphics and parallax scrolling, you should really validate that the majority of your users are accessing your site from Cutting Edge or Modern browsers, or else you’ll be alienating your core demographic unless you create a fallback version so those visitors can still get a good user experience.

Each device category comes with more in-depth information about the top browsers or operating systems, as well as the top pages that are accessed from each device type.

Tip: Compare the top pages for each device type and make sure that your content is optimized for each device and screen resolution. For example, on our site, our journal articles rank higher for mobile devices since users visit from Facebook and Twitter. So, we need to make sure that our blog posts render quickly and that even the longest post is still enjoyable to read on smaller devices.

How to use this question:

  • Look to see that your site is in line with greater trends and technology shifts. Is your mobile traffic growing? Are your top pages structured well for mobile consumption?
  • Ask… Do you have a new device type or operating system that is growing? Have you reviewed your website in that browser to make sure there are no issues?

How we use this at Talu:

  • As a software company it is extremely important for us to know what devices are using our service. We test our site from the top devices that our customers are using and make sure everything looks the way we expect. 
  • It helps us determine the severity and priority of issues as well. For example, when we found a bug with how our site looked in IE, we learned that less than 3% of total traffic was affected by this issue. While we rectified the situation quickly, we decided to reach out directly to the affected users (sending out just a few messages) rather than bothering our entire user base.

Question 5 - Where are your users?

This question shows you where users were located when they visited your website. 

The first chart overlays the top countries that generated traffic on a world map. This can yield surprising results week to week, such as when we saw a 5% increase of visits from India.

For a deeper look, we show you the top regions, metros and cities all on one place so you can get a better feel of where your website traffic originates. With this data regional or international businesses to see how campaigns are performing and where there might be new opportunity for business. Also you can determine if other languages need to be supported on your site.

How to use this question:

  • For regional or local businesses, see if your website traffic is coming from your region or city.
  • Target your local SEO and any paid advertising to be more location based and then watch your traffic to see if you are attracting people from the right region.
  • For widespread national or international businesses, learn where your customers are naturally coming from and try to increase your online presence with organic search and paid advertising to those regions since they already have traction.
  • See new regions that are starting to build website traffic.

How we use this at Talu?

  • As a software company, anyone in the world can come to our site and sign up to use our app. We only support English at the moment, but we monitor where interest is located in order to target outreach and ads around those markets.
  • We watch traffic trends for cities to determine which conferences or speaking engagements would have the most active users or potential customers. It enables us to reach out and potentially meet people to gain more insights around our product.
  • We observe whether we are getting any international website visitors and if we should consider any additional languages in the future.