A Beginners Guide to Google Analytics 5 Fundamental Performance Metrics

A Beginners Guide to Google Analytics: 5 Fundamental Performance Metrics

Understanding and utilizing Google Analytics is key in helping you also understand your audience. Google Analytics is based on a bundle of dimensions and metrics.

  • Dimensions describe data.
  • Metrics measure data.

For example, one dimension measured in GA is a user’s browser. You can then measure that browserdimension with different metrics, perhaps gauging how many viewers have browsed your site in Google Chrome.

There are five essential, customizable metrics that will help you understand what traffic your site receives and what visitors do while they are on it.


Visits are interactions that occur on your site within a specific time frame, and helps you understand the traffic your site receives. One visit can involve multiple page views and transactions, so someone browses your catalog, adds items to a shopping cart, and completes a transaction, all of that comprises a visit. Google Analytics allows you to also view unique visitors, meaning how many separate individuals visited your site in a given time. Several months ago I attended the Google Analytics Summit, and Avinash Kaushik, one of the leading minds in the world of analytics, spoke about how we need to change the way we think about analytics and think of these stats as “People”. At the end of the day, people are who buy from you, so think of Visitors as your customers.


Each time a visitor navigates to another page on your site, GA tallies it as a pageview. Multiple visits to the same page count as separate pageviews. This information tells you what pages on your site are receiving the most engagement and can show navigational patterns over time.

Time on Page/Avg Visit Duration

Time on Page measures the time spent on each page. When someone first navigates to a page on your site, GA sets a timestamp and the clock starts running. When the visitor then navigates to another page on your site, GA timestamps it, and so on until the visitor leaves your site.

Average Visit Duration takes the total duration of all visits and divides it by the total number of visits to determine the average amount of time visitors are spending on your site. These two metrics help you see how much total time visitors are staying on your site and what pages engage them the longest.

Bounce Rate

The Bounce Rate metric shows the number of visits that exit the site after visiting only a single page. Unless there is a good reason visitors would leave after viewing just one page, a high bounce rate is not good and means your visitors are not engaging with your site due to a number of possible reasons such as site design or incorrect tracking code.

Traffic Source

This metric breaks down where your visitors are coming from. Some traffic sources are:

  • Search Engine: Google, Bing, etc.
  • Referral: Third parties such as blogs or other sites
  • Direct: The result of a person entering your URL into a browser directly.
  • Social: Social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook

This metric helps you understand how your audience is finding you. This information can be very helpful when building an marketing or advertising strategy.

Google Analytics can be intimidating at first glance, but understanding the basic components and how the information can help you is the first step in gaining valuable insight into your audience and their needs.

Hope you fine this “Beginners Guide to Google Analytics” helpful. If you are interested in learning more about Web Analytics, I highly recommend the book below.

8 thoughts on “A Beginners Guide to Google Analytics: 5 Fundamental Performance Metrics”

  1. Finally! I’ve been overwhelmed by my Google Analytics dashboard for weeks now. It’s a lot of data, and all I wanted was a brief overview to get my feet wet. Thank you for posting this comprehensive article. It has really helped.

  2. Hi Tom! Would you be able to elaborate on the bounce rate a bit? I’m wondering what percentage is considered too high…

    1. Hello Pamela,
      It really depends on what you are looking at. If you are looking at your entire site overall, then that is a really broad generalization. typically if its over 50% overall, I but that in the bucket of significant issues that need to be addressed asap. The real way to analyze this metric is to look at a page, one you think should be very engaging and see how many people are bouncing. I tend to like to sort the worst pages on down and tackle the bad ones, just make sure they have a decent amount of traffic. No use spending to much time optimizing a page that gets 1% of the site traffic.

  3. Good article here. I’m glad to see you also recommended the book Web Analytics 2.0 by Avinash Kaushik. I read the book about a month ago, and it was a lot of help for anyone looking to dive into analytics for the first time.

  4. I only just started using Google Analytics. It’s an incredibly powerful tool for understanding your site visitors. It can also be very intimidating. I’m struggling with making the information actionable. Now that I have all of this data, I’m not sure what to do with it!

    1. Thats a good question. When I started out, I remember going through a couple years of reading metrics and wondering… “What do I do now!”
      Thankfully there is a lot more info on this then there was back in the late 90’s.
      Here are a couple things to remember:
      1. Look at trending data – Grab 3-6+ months and get a sense for whether you are going up or down.
      3. Use the date range comparison, select the last 3 months and then compare to the prior 3 months. Make sure you understand any seasonal impact on your business and put the data in context.
      4. Pick a couple things you think you can improve and work slowly, you dont have to fix things overnight.

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