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A simple look at Google Analytics. Understanding reports and knowing where to look.

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

Google Analytics can seem so simple and so daunting at the same time. Yet it is essential for any business. If you are just starting a business, pro tip, get Google Analytics and set it up right, or hire someone who can.

Google Analytics helps you analyze 4 key questions:

  1. Who are your users?

  2. Where are they coming from?

  3. What actions are those users taking?

  4. What are the results of those actions?

Without the right data and the ability to understand it, you’re blind when you don’t have to be. Google Analytics is the world’s most popular digital analytics and provides insight on where to focus, making sure your energy is going to the right places so you can allocate marketing resources efficiently and effectively.

Throughout this post, I will give a very simple overview of what reports give you what information. Keep in mind, the depths you can go into Google Analytics feels endless, and it kind of is. We are not going there, but you can really drill down to any specific question you want answered. I cannot stress the importance enough of making sure everything is set up properly from the get go. Make sure if you are hiring someone, they really know their stuff, and hopefully, you’ll get to the point where you can troubleshoot things too.

Let’s dive into reports

As you can see below, reports are dropped into 5 buckets: Realtime, Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversion.

Realtime Reports: Is this thing working?

Realtime reports show you what is happening on your site at that very moment in time - give or take 5 minutes. You can see exactly how many active users there are, where they are in the world (creepy we know), what traffic source brought them in, (social, organic, youtube etc), and more. However, this report should NEVER be used to make big marketing decisions. This report should be used for testing purposes only, and to see if something is tracking properly.

Audience Reports: Who are my users?

Yes, your audience reports are about...your audience! Your people! You can understand who they are, what they are in to, where they are buying from and so much more! But just look how much information you can get underneath that one report. The insight and ideas are endless. Again, this is the very tippy top view of these reports. Simply to just give you an idea.

You can look at their demographic, age, gender, and what their interests are (shown below). From here you can really hone in on are you targeting your target market? If not, how can you adjust to do so? Based on their interests (shown below) maybe you start to target a different industry that you didn’t know your users were interested in!

Acquisition Reports: Where are my users coming from?

The Source/Medium report is an amazing report to understand the traffic sources that are sending your users to your site. How much traffic is coming from Google Ads? How much are your users engaging with your site from those sources? What is the quality of those engagements? Ultimately, you will see and compare what the results are from specific

traffic sources.

Conversion Reports: What are the results of all my users actions?

This is all about results. You set goals, and you see if those goals were achieved, and how they were achieved, and from where. There is a deep sea here (just want to keep reiterating that). An interesting report you can see below is the Reverse Goal Path report that shows your user completed ‘X’ goal that was set, and where they were before that, and before that, and before that.

Keep Exploring

There are so many interesting reports to get into under each bucket. Start to click around your Google Analytics, and explore! From a beginners perspective, it’s really interesting to see all it offers. Maybe even come up with questions you want answered and see if you can find those answers based on the data you find.

If you want to dive more into specifics, and truly learn Google Analytics, I have the person and place for you! Chris Mercer at the CXL Institute is your guy.

“Chris ‘Mercer’ Mercer is considered an authority in helping marketers know their numbers in an easy-to-understand manner…. Apart from training people how to measure and improve their sales funnels, he is a top contributor and speaker at multiple analytics and optimizations conferences and blogs.”

I cannot say enough amazing things about ‘Mercer.’ He’s my instructor for Google Analytics at the CXL Institute and he is not only an expert in the field, but also makes learning this massive, daunting program, easy and actually enjoyable! He kind of sounds like a game show host, or news anchor, or the voice behind the movie trailer, but in the best way possible. Learning an analytics platform can sometimes put you to sleep. But his enthusiasm is contagious and it gets you inspired and intrigued. Google Analytics also has endless support pages to help you grasp concepts to deepen your understanding. So any question you have, you should be able search and find your answer through their support pages.

A few things to leave you with

Data is SO vital in finding solutions, understanding your user, and moving the success of your company forward. Google Analytics collects, stores, and reports on behavior. However, it only really does one of these well, and that's storing data. That’s where Google Tag Manager comes in. Tag Manager is amazing at collecting info well and you want to use it with Google Analytics. In addition, if you want to present your data to anyone, Google Data Studio is the best for reports, and makes your data visibly friendly and easy to read.

And voila! Have these three talking to each other and you are winning!


Need help with Digital Marketing? Here at McMillan & Phillips we have a team of experts to make all your brand growth a reality. Reach out todayand let’s start optimizing your website and ultimately, your brand!

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