A Beginner’s Guide for Navigating the Google Dashboard

Posted on September 23, 2023 | Updated on June 11, 2024

Few marketing tools are as critical for businesses as Google Analytics — a free analytics web service for anyone with a Google account. Business owners and marketers receive key visitor insights and statistics from the Google Dashboard to understand their website performance. Data includes website traffic, trends, conversions, user behaviors and demographics.

Google Analytics and its comprehensive dashboard benefit your business in several ways. For instance, examining consumer behaviors allows you to modify your marketing approach to improve traffic, search results and retention.

Experienced marketers should find the Google Dashboard easy to navigate. However, newcomers may need an overview of how it works. Let’s uncover everything you need to know about your Google Dashboard and how to obtain the most comprehensive information for your business. 

Google Dashboard Overview

Marketers will agree the information on Google Dashboard is invaluable. However, a first glance at the screen may intimidate a beginner. What do all those terms mean, and how do you read the insights? Here’s a breakdown of your Google Dashboard so you can tell how well your business is performing online.

Homepage

The Google Dashboard homepage delivers an overview of your analytics. You can adjust the report to show you data from specific days.

On the left-hand side of the screen, you will notice additional tabs, including “Realtime,” “Audience,” “Acquisition,” and others. Expect to use these tabs often. 

Realtime Data

The Realtime Data tab tells you how many people are active on your website at any given moment. This section can also inform you about the devices users are visiting from, the pages they are on and how they arrived at your website.

Audience

The Audience tab provides information about your website visitors, including the following details:

  • Users: Total website visitors — including returning visitors — within a specific timeframe
  • New users: How many first-time visitors to your website
  • Sessions: How many times people visit your website overall
  • Sessions per user: How many times individual visitors visit your website
  • Pageviews: How many pages users visited during a specific period
  • Pages/Session: The number of pages visited during each visitor’s session
  • Session duration: Average time users spend on your website
  • Bounce rate: How many users leave your website after viewing one page

The average user spends about 54 seconds on a website. Your goal is to find ways to keep users engaged with your website for one or more minutes. 

Acquisition

The first thing you might notice under the Acquisition tab is a pie chart and graph — these indicate how visitors found your website, such as through organic search results, social media or affiliates. A breakdown of the Acquisition report is as follows:

  • Organic search: Traffic derived from search engine results, such as Google
  • Referral: Users who have found your website through a third-party link
  • Direct: People who visited your website by typing in the URL
  • Social: Those who have found your website through social media
  • Affiliate: Often indicative of e-commerce sites, affiliate traffic comes from clicking on an affiliate identification code

Behavior

If you’re wondering what users do when they visit your website, the Behavior tab will tell you everything you need to know, including:

  • Which pages users visited
  • The number of users visiting various pages
  • Average time spent on a page
  • How many leave immediately after clicking your website

The Behavior tab also tells you the Exit Rate. Unlike the Bounce Rate, the Exit Rate is a percentage of how many people leave your website from a specific page. Users should leave your website from a thank you or contact page rather than another page. Otherwise, your website may not have had the answer to their query.

Conversion

The obvious goal of an online retailer is to make a sale, while someone in financial services will want users to reach out through a contact form for a consultation. 

The Conversion tab delivers insight into how well you’ve achieved these goals. However, you must first set your goals in the Conversion tab to see results.

Measuring the Performance of Google Ads

Business owners often link Google Ads to their Google Analytics platform to analyze their website performance further. Google Ads strictly delivers information regarding ad campaigns. The key performance indicators in Google Ads are as follows:

Impressions

You can think of an impression as you would when first introduced to someone new. In Google Ads, an impression indicates a user saw a link to your website in Google Search, News or Discover.

Impressions may not seem like a big deal, but they are a crucial tidbit of information. These metrics are not all created equal, though. A meaningful impression signifies your website offered something of value to the user. Otherwise, you may accrue a higher bounce rate.

Click-Through Rate

The CTR is also straightforward — the number of people who saw your ad to the number of those who clicked on it. CTRs reveal your website’s SEO and ad performance and relevancy. 

For instance, if your ad has seven clicks for 100 impressions, the CTR would be 7%. Use this information to update ad content for higher user engagement.

Clicks

Google Ads counts every ad click, even if the person doesn’t reach a temporarily unavailable site.

Your CTR will help you determine whether clicks landed on your website. Like CTRs, improving keywords and content can boost the click metric.

Position and Ad Rank

Position indicates where your website lands in Google search results only. You should strive to reach the top spot in local search, if not on the first page.

Conversely, Ad Rank measures where your ad lands on a page so users see it. In some cases, they may not appear at all. Focus on your top KPIs to determine where your ads fall. 

Cost

The cost is the average daily budget you have set up to run your ad campaign. You determine how much you want to spend for ads and can edit the amount as you see fit. 

Cost-Per-Click

CPC references a bidding campaign in which you pay according to each ad click. For instance, marketers will set up a maximum CPC — the highest amount they’ll pay for daily ad clicks.

Google will run your ads and charge you every time someone clicks on it. If someone clicks on your ad after you’ve met your maximum bid, Google will not charge you anything.

Tips for Optimizing Your Google Analytics

There is a lot for you to learn when you first set up your Google Analytics account. Some business owners may not have the knowledge to utilize its features comprehensively. Fortunately, you can tweak your Google Dashboard to improve tracking and boost your website’s performance. 

The first thing business owners should do is enroll in Google’s free digital marketing course. “Fundamentals of Digital Marketing” has over 40 hours of content in 26 self-paced modules. At the end of the course, you will receive a Google certificate and walk away with basic knowledge of how to maximize your analytics and ads.

Other things you can do to improve your website analytics in your Google Dashboard include:

  • Segment your visitors by location, device, conversions, IP address and more
  • Apply filters, such as dates or unnecessary traffic reports
  • Set up your website objectives to ensure you reach your analytics goals
  • Utilize Google’s annotation features for reminders and notes on specific data
  • Subscribe to weekly or monthly reports of your top insights
  • Link your Google Analytics and Google Ads accounts so your information appears in one place

In July 2023, Google rolled out Google Analytics 4 — a new design to enhance measuring the customer journey, including improved privacy settings and predictive capabilities. Users can still see their Universal Analytics platform but should integrate Google Analytics 4.

Use the Google Dashboard to Maximize Website Performance

Understanding your online target audience is critical. The Google Dashboard has everything you need to understand your reach and boost your website performance. 

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About The Author

Cooper Adwin is the Assistant Editor of Designerly Magazine. With several years of experience as a social media manager for a design company, Cooper particularly enjoys focusing on social and design news and topics that help brands create a seamless social media presence. Outside of Designerly, you can find Cooper playing D&D with friends or curled up with his cat and a good book.

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