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Marketing With Google Analytics: 3. Traffic Sources

Sarah Jamieson - Wednesday, April 02, 2014


Google Analytics (GA) will help you discover where your visitors come from. You can learn which traffic sources are sending prospects to your site and also find out which sources are driving the most traffic. GA also lets you discover trends.


Here are a few pertinent questions related to online analytics.

  • How do visitors referred from specific traffic sources differ from the average visitor to your site? What are the sources sending your visitors?
  • Direct Traffic - How do visitors arrive at my site?

    By typing my URL directly into their browsers?

    Clicking a bookmark?

    From an offline campaign compare to the average visitor?
  • Referring Sites - How do visitors who arrived at my site?

    By clicking a link on another site - then which site?

    How does this compare with the 'average' visitor?

    What sites are sending me traffic?
  • Search Engines

    How do visitors who arrive from search engine results compare to the average visitor?

    What search engines are sending me traffic?
  • Keywords

    What keywords are sending me traffic from the search engines?

    What keywords are eventuate in sales and other goal conversions?

    GA automatically tracks visitors by the keyword they searched on to find you in over 30 search engines.

    This is a fantastic way to measure the performance of visitors by keyword. You can also find effective new keywords you aren’t currently targeting.

    You can view a lot of data by keyword to determine why a particular keyword is performing well or poorly. For example, you can view the landing page for a keyword – is it relevant and targeted to that keyword?

    Keyword-targeted information is very useful for improving performance in both paid and organic search.

  • AdWords Campaigns

    How do visitors arrive from AdWords ads compare to the average visitor?

    Monitor profitability with cost, impressions, and ROI details of individual AdGroups and keywords.

    See AdWords, below, for more information.

  • AdWords Keyword Position

    See where your ads appear on Google and what effect your ad position has on traffic and visit quality (average pageviews, conversion rates, and per visit value).

    See AdWords, below, for more information.

  • Ad Versions

    Discover the performance of each of your ads.

    Ads with high clickthrough rates are effective at getting users to click.

    Ads with high bounce rates indicate you need to make landing pages more consistent with visitor expectations created by the ad.

  • Campaigns

    Learn how effective your marketing campaigns are. You can view overall trends as well as individual campaigns.

    Use this information to make decisions about campaigns and determine the impact of marketing tests – for example, split-testing two versions of an ad.

  • Campaign Tracking

    With GA, you can easily track your online marketing campaigns from a traffic source through to a conversion on your site.

    Tracking your campaigns allows you to determine how successful you are at driving traffic and achieving conversions.

    And you can achieve this with a great deal of specificity: by keyword, campaign, traffic source, and content.

    This is important because while it’s great if your site is profitable overall, that doesn’t tell you anything about the relative performance of your campaigns.

    Some campaigns may actually be losing money.

    ou need to track at a “granular”, deep level to really improve your performance.

    Remember, tracking is the necessary first step to improving your results!
  • The types of Campaigns you can track include:

    - PPC

    Organic search

    Email marketing

    Online ads

    Web site referrals

    Affiliate referrals

    TV ads

All traffic from web site referrals, such as visitors sent by affiliates, and search engine search queries are tracked automatically.

GA recognizes links from the top 30 search engines and provides the keywords visitors searched to find you.

You can also add tracking for your own search engines.

GA tracks five dimensions of your campaigns:

  • Campaign (for example, “widgets sale”)
  • Traffic source (for example, Google)
  • Medium (for example, “email” or “cost-per-click”)
  • Keywords used
  • Content (the version of an ad that a visitor clicked – useful for testing different versions).

Here’s how tracking campaigns works:

Create coded, trackable links. You need to “tag” the campaign’s links with a campaign-related variable that is added to the end of the URL.

Don’t worry, it’s not as hard as it sounds! GA has a handy wizard to create the tagged links for you.

Install GA tracking code on every page of your site. You can do this manually or use server-side includes or other template systems to do it automatically.

When visitors who clicked the coded link arrive at your site, the tracking code installed on your site is triggered.

The tracking code “reads” the link to gather the campaign information.

The code also tracks the visitors’ activity on your site, including sales or other goal conversions.


You can integrate your AdWords and AdSense accounts with GA for advanced reporting. Analytics can give you in-depth analysis of how effective your AdWords campaigns are.

The ability to dig deep and get granular numbers for your campaigns lets you pinpoint exactly what’s working and what’s not.

Integration also allows autotagging of URLs that automatically create trackable links.

Here are some of the AdWords metrics Analytics will show you:

  • Keywords – The keywords you’re advertising on
  • Visits – The number of visits to your site via your ads
  • Impressions – The number of times your ads were shown
  • Clicks – The number of clicks on your ads
  • Cost – The total cost to achieve a sale or other goal you define.
  • CTR (clickthrough rate) – The percentage of prospects who clicked your ad to visit your site. For example, a 3% CTR means that 3% of prospects who viewed your ad clicked through to your site
  • CPC – Cost per click
  • RPC – Revenue per click. For example, $5.00
  • ROI – A percentage showing how much money you spent vs. how much you made. For example, 100% ROI means for every $1 you spent, you made $2
  • Margin – Your net profit shown as a percentage. For example, if you spend $1 on an ad which results in a visitor buying a $10 product, your net profit is $9. Your margin is 90%: (10-1)/10=0.90
  • How ad position can affect performance – Shows performance of each keyword by ad position.

    For example:
    The #1 right-hand side ad position generated visitors who viewed an average of 10-11 pages of your site.

    The #8 position generated visitors who viewed an average of 5-6 pages.
  • Google TV Ads – An extension of AdWords that enables advertisers to advertise on national TV or online TV and track performance.

    Reports use set top box impressions and audience tuning behaviour to make TV ads more trackable and effective.

    You can even split test your TV ads to optimize performance!

TV Ads

Google TV Ads is an option within AdWords that enables you to advertise on national TV or online TV and track the results.

You can even split test your TV ads to improve performance.

Analysis includes ad impressions (views) and audience tuning behaviour gathered from set top boxes.

For example, you can find out how much of the audience viewed the entire ad, and how many who saw the ad from the beginning watched to the end.

You can then compare your web site metrics side-by-side with your TV Ads metrics in your Analytics account to see the effect of your ad on your site activity.

My next blog: Content Metrics

Marketing With Google Analytics: 2. Site Visitor Reports

Sarah Jamieson - Tuesday, April 01, 2014


Google Analytics has over 80 reports with customizable features so you can see the data you want, how you want. You can also create your own custom report with just the information you want.


Discover how visitors interact with your site, the type of visitors you’re receiving (new vs. returning, geographic region, etc.), and information about their browser and network capabilities.

How many new and repeat visitors came to your site, and how much did they interact with your content?

The answers to these questions tell you how well you’re doing with:

  • Driving new traffic to your site
  • Visit quality and engagement with content
  • Here are some basic terms to help you understand more about your visitors and the pages they viewed on your site:


The total number of pages viewed. Counted every time a page on your web site loads. Pageviews indicate how much your site is used.

Average Pageviews

A measure of visit quality, indicating how much visitors engage with your site.

A high Average Pageviews number results from targeted traffic (visitors who are interested in what you offer) and quality, relevant content (your site meets visitors’ needs).

A low Average Pageviews indicates a need to improve in one or both areas.

Unique Pageviews

The number of visits during which page was viewed. For example, three pageviews of a page during one visit = one unique pageview.

Time on Site / Page

This is a measure of visit quality that indicates the level of visitor interaction at your site. However, Time on Site or Page is not 100% reliable because visitors often leave their browser windows open but are not actually viewing your site.

Length of Visit

A measure of visit quality. A high number of long visits indicate many visitors are engaged with your site. You can see the entire distribution of visit times rather than just Average Time on Site / Page.

Depth of Visit

A measure of visit quality. A high number of visits with many pageviews per visit indicate your site is delivering what visitors want. You can see the entire distribution of visits, rather than just Average Pageviews.

Bounce Rate

The percentage of visits that ended after viewing only one page. Bounce Rate is a measure of visit quality. Often landing pages for ad campaigns are not adequately targeted, causing a high bounce rate. Always make sure your landing page features the product, service, or information that the ad promised.

You may also be driving traffic using keywords or ad copy that is too broad, resulting in untargeted visitors.

For blogs, bounce rate is usually not relevant, because most visitors only view one page.

Visit (or Session)

A period of interaction between a browser and a web site, ending when the browser is closed or the user is inactive for 30 minutes.


Visitors are identified by a cookie so they are counted only once. This is designed to estimate as closely as possible the number of actual people who visit.

New vs. Returning Visitors

Lots of new visitors mean you’ve been successful at driving new traffic to your site.

Lots of repeat visitors mean you’ve been successful at engaging visitors with your content.

Map Overlay

– Visualize visit volume (visits and pageviews) and quality (conversion rates, per visit value, etc.) measures by geographic region, with the ability to drill down to the city level.


Tells you the preferred language visitors have configured on their computers. This can be valuable for targeting your content development and marketing spend.


How often visitors return to your site is a measure of how engaged they are with your site and their readiness to buy.


– A high number of repeat visits indicate visitors who are loyal to and engaged with your brand.

You can also see how recently prospects have visited, and how often they visit.

Browser Capabilities and Network Properties

Optimize your site appropriately for the technical capabilities of visitors’ browsers and networks.

This helps make your site user-friendly and engaging and can produce higher conversion rates and more sales.

Get answers to questions such as, do visitors’ browsers support Java? Which version of Flash is installed? What is their connection speed?

Track and Analyze Segments

You can define a specific segment of visitors to track separately.

For example, visitors who have selected an option on a form can be tracked separately. This is a good way to track the market segments you identified in your market research survey.

You can also define a segment by site interaction. For example, visitors who have joined your email list or commented on your blog.


This is an optional functionality that shows how your site’s metrics compare with data from categories of other web sites.

Metrics you can compare include Visits, Pageviews, Pages per Visit, Bounce Rate, Average Time on Site, and New Visits.

Custom Visitor Segments (User Defined)

User Defined is an area within the Visitors section of GA where you can assign a “label” to track visitors who complete an action on your site.

For example, you can assign the label “Customers” to visitors who make a purchase.

Labels continue through multiple visits to your site, so you can use these labels to track the behavior of visitors in a certain segment.

Labels are called “User Defined Values” or “Custom Segments” in GA.

Assign a User Defined label to visitors, who complete an action on your site, including:

  • Visiting a page

    For example, you can assign the label “Customers” to visitors who reach the “Thank You” page displayed after a sale.

    Or you could assign anyone who visits the “Web Design” pages of your site to the “Web Design” segment.

  • Clicking a link

    For example, you can assign the label “Needs Help” to visitors who clicked your live help chat link (great for identifying pages that are confusing)

  • Submitting a form

    For example, you can assign the label “Sales” to visitors who selected this as their profession on a form.

    Here’s an example: Let’s say you want to divide your visitors into two groups, subscribers to your email list and non-subscribers:

    When visitors sign up for your email list they are cookied so they will be tracked as subscribers when they return to the site.

    You can then compare purchases and other data for the two groups to see if your email list is making a difference to your bottom line.

    You can also track changes you make to your email list over time to see how they affect performance.

    For example, does changing the day of the week you send your email newsletter have an effect?

Let’s look at another example, from GA.

You can see below that there have been:

- 28 visits from people labeled as “Customers”

- 4 visits from people labeled as “Needs Help” and

- “Not set” indicates all other traffic:



Benchmarking is an optional service that shows how your site’s metrics compare to other participating sites in your industry vertical market.

Benchmarking provides a valuable context for site performance and trends.

You can also compare your site to other industries.

This can be valuable, for example, to learn more about industries you are thinking about advertising in.

Metrics you can compare include:

  • Visits
  • Pageviews
  • Pages per Visit

  • Bounce Rate

  • Average Time on Site

  • New Visits

This benchmarking report shows a comparison of apparel sites of similar size:


In my next GA blog I'll discuss Traffic Sources.


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