Using and Understanding Google Analytics for Beginners

Morgan Timm

| Oct 19, 2017

Growing your audience is one of the most important things you can do as an online business owner, especially if you’re just starting out. We talk about audience growth all the time here at Teachable, but one thing that doesn’t get as much airtime: audience tracking. 

Why collect information about your audience? 

If you want a sustainable business, you need some insight into the numbers, beyond just the size of your email list. Keeping track of data in your business will help you:  

 1. Recognize opportunities  

For example, if you find that 80% of your traffic is going to one specific page on your website or blog, you might want to create more content related to your popular post. Your traffic can tell you what your audience wants to see more of.  

2. Identify points of failure  

If you decide to experiment and completely shake up your marketing strategy and see a 30% drop in traffic you might realize your old strategy was actually performing just fine.  

3. Reach more people  

Once you’re able to identify what type of content your audience wants, you can create more of it. Happy followers are more likely to share your posts and recommend your site to their friends. 

There are a million different ways to do this. You can send out surveys or ask your followers to reply to an email and share a bit about themselves. In my opinion, though, there is nothing more valuable for understanding your audience than viewing data in Google Analytics. 

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How Google Analytics can help your biz 

Understanding how people consume your site, what brings them there, and even where they’re geographically located can serve to help you in your marketing strategies. 

If you’re target audience is young women from the midwest you can check to see if your analytics reflect that. 

If you’re actually getting the majority of your traffic from empty-nester moms it the Pacific Northwest, that’s a sign that you should adjust your marketing strategies. 

But for the uninitiated, Google Analytics can be intimidating. For the first 6 months of running my own blog, I was afraid to even look at anything beyond pageviews. Deciphering the information that was hiding behind all of the mysterious links on the homepage seemed like it would require a PhD, and I was happy remaining blissfully unaware of what it all meant. 

But it showed in my blog. When I was creating my content based off of gut feelings and blissful ignorance of what my audience actually was responding to, my growth remained steady. 

Once I started being more strategic and looking to see what it was my audience actually liked to read, I was able to cater my content to the people who were already reading my blog. As a result, my shares increased and I saw a steady upward trend in repeat blog visitors. 

Now that I have Google Analytics set up to work for me, I can get information like which posts are performing the best, how one month is comparing to a previous month, and what social media sites are driving the most qualified traffic. 

Because of all this insight, I can do things like write more content that my audience wants, focus my marketing efforts more strategically, and perform tests and get concrete answers on what works and what doesn’t. 

Google Analytics doesn’t intimidate me anymore. Instead, I see how empowering it is to understand the way my audience is engaging with my content.  

Adding Google Analytics to your Teachable site  

Luckily for Teachable course creators, we make it easy to integrate Google Analytics into your online school so you can understand how your audience interacts with your school. 

The first thing you’ll need to do, is create a Google Analytics account if you haven’t already. 

Now, find the Tracking ID for a specific property by going into Admin > Property > Property Settings. From there, your tracking ID will be at the top of the page.

property settings.png

Once you’ve found your tracking ID, copy it and proceed to log into your Teachable school. Once you’re inside Teachable, click the settings button on the bottom of the sidebar.


From there, a new sidebar will pop up. Click integrations, it’ll be the third option from the bottom. Once you’ve clicked “integrations” the very first option will be Google Analytics. Toggle the integration to “on” and paste your analytics ID in the space available. Don’t forget to hit save!

google analytics integration.png

Adding Google Analytics to your blog 

If you host your blog outside of Teachable, the steps you take to integrate Google Analytics will be a bit different depending on your platform. Here are the steps for some of the most common blogging platforms:  

Google Analytics tour 

When you open up your Google Analytics home page, it’s going to look something like this:


The very first thing you see is a quick synopsis of what’s been going on with your website for the past 90 days.  

This at-a-glance feature lets you know if you’re trending upwards or downwards and even tells you if there are any active users on your website. 

What the numbers mean:  

  • Users are the number of unique visitors that have been on your website. 
  • Sessions are the number of times somebody has browsed your website. This is different than page views because even if somebody looks at four pages on your site, it’ll only count as one session.   
  • Bounce rate is how many people hit your site and immediately leave. This could be because your page isn’t what they were looking for, it’s loading too slowly, or they ended up on your site by accident.   
  • Session duration is how long people are staying on your website on average.  

Acquisition numbers 

Scrolling down you’ll find your acquisition chart. This shows you how people are stumbling upon your website. 

  • Organic search means people found your site by Googling something and clicking your website on the Google results page.
  • Social means that people found your website via shares on social media.   
  • Direct means that people either typed in your URL or clicked on a page that they had in their bookmarks.   
  • Referral traffic comes from links on other people’s websites. This traffic isn’t coming from Google or social media.   
  • Other simply means that Google can’t track it. This could mean people were browsing in incognito mode or there were no defined parameters on the website they came from.  

Popular pages and user trends 

The next thing you’re shown on your Google homepage is your most popular pages and your user trends.

pages and trending.png

The popular pages is one of my favorite pieces of analytics to look like. This shows you what your audience is interested in and what they’re responding best to. After the Google Analytics tour, I’ll walk you through how to best respond to your popular content in your editorial strategy. 

The trending graph shows you how many active users you’ve got on your website on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis. This is valuable because, again, it shows you what people are responding to. 

Active users are simply the number of people coming onto your website in a given period of time. 

As you can see, my graphs are trending downwards. This can mean two things: 1. I need to change my editorial strategy or 2. I’m coming off a viral period. 

Pages and trending go hand-in-hand because you can get a better idea of why your active users are trending upwards or downwards. Looking to my popular posts, you’ll see that most of them have to do with college. Given that back-to-school season is ending and the semester is in full swing, it makes sense that my active users would be coming back down to my normal numbers. 

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Who are your visitors 

Finally, you get a view of how people are consuming your content and where they’re consuming it.

who are your visitors.png

There are three sections here: When, Where, and How. 

When people are visiting your site can give you a clue to who your audience is. If people are visiting early in the morning and later in the evenings you can assume that your audience is made up largely of people working 9-5 jobs. If they aren’t visiting at all on the weekends that could mean your audience likes to be unplugged during their time off. 

Where your visitors are coming from can give you insight to the type of content you should be creating. For example, as you can see I only have a little over 3% of my visitors coming from Australia. With that in mind, it wouldn’t make sense for me to be writing most of my content about celebrating Australia Day or the best restaurants in Melbourne. On the other hand it might make sense for me to write about my favorite United States cities as most of my readers are in the United States. 

What devices your audience is using can help you understand how to optimize your content. Huge images might look beautiful on your huge iMac screen, but if your audience is mostly reading your site from their cellphones, they large beautiful images aren’t going to translate as well.  

Understanding the navigation bar 

The homepage is great for at-a-glance statistics, but if you’re looking to go really nitty gritty, your navigation bar can lead you to just about any statistic you could possibly want to know.

analytics nav bar.png

Home is the page we just previously went over. If you are ever trying to navigate there you can either hit the “home” button or type “” into your address bar. 

Customization allows you to create your own customized reports containing the exact information that you’re interested in. You can create reports letting you know what browser your audience is using or how effective links from referring sites are performing. If you want to install some clever custom reports, Kissmetrics is a great place to start. 

Reports are where you’ll get more raw data that hasn’t been catered to your needs. It’s more of a “what you see is what you get” format, but it’s incredibly useful. 

Real-time overview 

Real-time allows you to see what’s going on with your blog at any given moment. The overview more often than not can give you enough information, but you can also dive deeper by clicking through to each specific option.


Now, you can go beyond the “real-time” view, but at the beginners level of understanding Google Analytics the above is all you really need to know while you’re still learning. 

Audience overview 

Your audience overview is where you can get a better understanding of who is visiting your website and how they’re behaving. This is a lot like the “who are your visitors” section we looked at earlier, except it shows you more in-depth information.

audience overview.png

We already went over terms like users and bounce rate above if you need to circle back to remind yourself what those are, but in the meantime we can talk about the lower half of your overview page and why it’s important. 


For obvious reasons, you want to know what language the majority of your audience speaks. For example, I had a friend who translated every single blog post she wrote into Spanish and French in hopes of reaching a global audience. That went on for a few months until she realized that 90% of her audience spoke English, and 9% spoke Spanish. French speakers were a small fraction of her audience and they weren’t converting so it wasn’t worth the extra hours translating her posts into French. 


Depending on the nature of your business, there are a few ways the country could be impactful. For example, if you’ve got a store where you sell physical items and only ship in the continental United States and find that 30% of your audience is in Europe, you might want to reconsider your marketing strategies. 

Or if you’re planning on going on a tour promoting your latest launch you can see what cities the majority of your audience lives in and which ones would be worth your time to visit. 

System and Mobile 

Understanding how people are consuming your website is important, too. If the majority of your visitors are visiting from mobile but you don’t have a mobile friendly layout then your bounce rate will be higher. 

Or if you’re a fashion blogger and everyone is reading your blog from their cell phone you can use that knowledge to make sure your images can fit on the screen without having to scroll. 

Acquisition overview 

The acquisition overview shows how people are finding your site.

acquisition overview.png

We covered direct, social, and referral sources above. Let’s talk about the new sections you’ll find in the acquisition overview. 

Namely, setting up a goal: I don’t have any goals set up on this account, so I can walk you through setting up our first acquisition goal now. Click “get started” and follow along as I set up my goal.

new goal.png

I’ve chosen to set my goal to increase my pages per session, as that’s something I’ve been focused on increasing through more intralinking to my own content.

verify goal.png

By clicking “verify goal” you can see how well your goal would have performed based on the past week. If you have a 98% conversion rate then you’re probably setting your goal too low, but if you only have a 2% conversion rate you might be setting your goal too high. 

Goals are great for keeping track of how any experiments you are running might be working. For example: If I decided to increase my page views per session, I could try adding large images in the middle of my posts directing people to other posts on my site. If after a week my pages per session didn’t increase, I’d pull that experiment and try something else. 

Goals can also be a success metric to use when deciding what kind of content to create. If you push a new post and nobody clicks from that post to a related one it might be a sign that your audience isn’t interested in that kind of content. 

Other acquisition metrics 

For the purpose of this beginner’s level post, I’ll cover the metrics most beginners know they need for their businesses. 

Social network referrals

social acquisition.png

I’m a big fan of social network analytics because they’re a solid representation of how effective my promotion efforts have been. At first glance it seems like Pinterest would be the best social channel for me, but if you look closer at the other numbers, you’ll see my Pinterest traffic is low-quality. 

Sure, the pageviews are higher, but my session duration and pages per session are quite low. This means the people coming from Pinterest aren’t staying long and aren’t exploring. 

Right under Pinterest, though, is YouTube. And while I may have only gotten 127 sessions from YouTube last week, that traffic was far more engaged. They stayed on my site for longer and looked at more related posts than traffic from any other social media site. 

From that I can conclude that if I want to drive more high-quality traffic I should be focusing more attention on promoting my blog via YouTube. 

Social landing pages


By clicking “landing pages” under the social menu you can see what pages social media is driving people to. 

For me, this information is useless, because I use every social media site under the sun and I want to get more specific. Which social media site is driving traffic to which pages? 

You can find this information by going to the secondary dimension drop down menu highlighted above and clicking “Source / Medium.”  

This will add an extra column to the chart that lets you know what site was referring traffic to those top pages. 

Because I’m interested in seeing where my YouTube audience is going, I scrolled to the second page where I had my first and second occurrence of YouTube referral traffic. Using this information, I found that while my Pinterest audience is interested in succeeding in college, my YouTube audience wants to learn how to blog.  

With that information, I know I should be making more “how to be a blogger” videos on YouTube and linking to specific complementary blog posts in the downbar. 

Behavior overview

behavior overview.png

The behavior overview gives you another view of how people are interacting with your website. The top graph is probably familiar to you by now, but in the lower left hand corner you can toggle between a few different options to get more information. 

The most interesting thing in the behavior overview for me is the “Search Term” results. This shows you what people have typed into the search bar of your website and can signal what your audience is interested in seeing more of.  

Applying what we know 

That quick overview of Google Analytics is nowhere near comprehensive because the analytics dashboard is just so robust. I covered the basics of what you should know about each section, and now we are going to dive more into how you can get the most out of your Google Analytics. 

Creating comparisons


Using Google analytics you can compare two different date ranges. This is great if you want to see how your September performed compared to August, or how you’re doing compared to the same time last year.


As you can see, this week I’m not doing so hot compared to how I did last year. The difference isn’t dramatic, but if it were I’d consider going back and looking to see what I did differently last year. 

You might find that last October you ran a super valuable campaign that your audience loved. If you’re not doing great this October, go back and see if you can’t repurpose any of last years work to reach a larger audience. 

Creating alerts 

A few months ago I joined with a media company to help me manage my blog and they blew my mind by teaching me how to set up alerts for my blog. 

One alert that’s been so valuable? Knowing when my site is down. 

In the past I’ve had trouble with my site staying online all day, mostly because I tried switching hosts to the cheapest I could find. Now that I’m back with a host I trust I’m not as worried, but it’s still nice to know if my site has gone down. 

Creating alerts is easy. Go to admin, then on the far right towards the bottom there’ll be a “custom alerts” option. Click that.

From there, you can fill out the parameters depending on what you want to be alerted on. 

site down alert.png

For me, I know that if I get less than 1,000 pageviews then something has gone wrong. This is what my alert looks like: 

Use analytics to target campaigns 

If you’re running Facebook ads or Instagram campaigns, don’t guess where you think you most engaged audience might be. 

Remember how we talked about how you can see where your audience is located? Well, you can actually go way more in depth.


By clicking “view full report” on the bottom right hand corner of the demographic overview page, I am taken to a page where I can see detailed behavior analysis of users from different areas. This past week I’ve gotten most of my traffic from Ashburn, but those visitors only stayed on my site for an average of nine seconds. Not great. 

On the other hand, visitors from Chicago stayed on my site for well over a minute. I’d likely have better results targeting my ads in Chicago than I would Ashburn. 

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Recording your analytics 

In my opinion, analytics mean nothing unless you’re learning from them. Every month I record this information in my planner:


When it comes to understanding things, I benefit more from physically writing, but you could record it in a spreadsheet, too. 

With the month-by-month view of how my numbers are changing I can then look back and see what strategies I implemented or changed in the last 30 days. 

Often times there is a clear cut reason why my numbers have gone up or down, and it’s something I can learn from and adjust to for next month. 

Even if you don’t have the bandwidth to analyze your analytics every month, do make sure you’re recording them so when you do have time you can see how your numbers have changed over the months or years. 

Do you use Google Analytics to understand your business? Do you have any questions? Let me know in the comments and I’ll get back to you!

Morgan Timm is a content marketer at Teachable with a background in blogging and social media. She runs Mostly Morgan, a life and style blog that reaches an audience of 40,000 people monthly.