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10 min read

The most useful Google Analytics metrics for web designers

Data shows us if a website is doing what we intended it to do. Analyzing the right metrics can ultimately improve our web design.

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Data is an important asset for businesses. Without it, everything is an assumption — and there’s no way to sustain a business on guesses.

That’s why your clients hire you. Not only are you a skilled designer who understands what works and what doesn’t in web design, but you also know how to take existing data and use it to build the right website for their needs.

But what about after the site goes live? Are you using the wealth of Google Analytics metrics available to make sure the site does what it’s supposed to do?

Below, we’re going to look at the key metrics for success and how web designers can translate this data into an improved web experience.

8 vital Google Analytics metrics for web designers to take action on

If you understand what the key Google Analytics metrics mean with regards to the experience you’ve designed, you can take steps to repair friction and further strengthen elements that work well.

1. Month-over-month traffic

Where do you find the metric?

Under the Audience tab. Set the timeframe as a comparison between the two months to see how traffic changed from month to month.

Google Analytics metrics - month-over-month traffic

What does it tell you?

You’ll see a direct comparison between visitor traffic levels between the current month and the previous month.

You can also use this metric to compare the same month from different years.

What should you do with it?

Rather than look at a single month’s traffic, a month-over-month or year-over-year comparison allows you to detect trends you wouldn’t otherwise be able to spot.

This metric will help you analyze how the design work you did affected the experience. For instance, did an update of the homepage hero image lead to a higher bounce rate? Or perhaps you redesigned the blog and now the average time on page is longer?

If something you did directly impacted your web traffic as well as user’s responses to the site, you’ll be able to see the change from month to month.

For example, let’s say you’ve designed an eCommerce site. Although your Black Friday sales don’t start until the Monday before, traffic starts to soar two weeks in advance. There’s no increase in revenue yet, but it looks as though shoppers start checking out what’s in stock and making wishlists in preparation for the sale.

If you can pinpoint when this traffic uptick takes place, you can do a number of things in response:

  • Perform all major maintenance on the design beforehand, making sure that everything is up-to-date and that all links and buttons are working.

  • Schedule promotional banners to go up on the site when you know you’ll have eyes on it.

  • Add a lead generation form to collect leads when they’re in the discovery and research phase of the buying process.

The same goes for month-over-month trends. You can use those metrics to detect predictable highs and lows in traffic.

2. New visitors vs. return visitors

Where do you find the metric?

Under the Audience > Behavior > New vs Returning tab. For consistent tracking of this metric, always review one month at a time.

Google Analytics metrics - new visitors vs. return visitors

What does it tell you?

This metric tells you how many and what percentage of your month’s visitors are new to the site and how many have been there before.

What should you do with it?

For most websites, the goal is to have a much larger percentage of return visitors than new.

That’s because it’s much easier and cheaper to market to existing customers rather than constantly having to fight for new business. Also, the longer you retain a customer’s business, the more loyal they’ll be — which leads to fewer returns and refunds, more easily resolved complaints, and so on.

If your new vs. return visitor percentages are heavily skewed towards new, your site may need a redesign in order to reach and attract the right kinds of visitors.

Again, this goes back to intent. If you understand what drives returning visitors to enter the site and then convert, you can more effectively design the user journey. This might mean using more relatable imagery, creating a shorter conversion pathway, or decluttering.

Use this metric in conjunction with others on this list to figure out which changes are needed for your design.

Focus on the data that’ll help you work out the kinks and create a solid first impression with visitors.

3. Audience breakdown and behavior

Where do you find the metric?

Under the Audience tab. The three sub-tags to focus on are:

  • Demographics

  • Interests

  • Geo

What does it tell you?

There’s a lot of data available under these three audience breakdown sections:

  • Demographics tell you the average age and gender of your visitors over a given timeframe.

  • Interests reveal insights about personal interests and professional pursuits of your visitors.

  • Geo helps you learn more about the languages your audience speaks and the countries where they reside.

What should you do with it?

When you first build a website, you have to start with what your client tells you about their target audience. Who they are, what pains them, and why the site and its solution will appeal to them.

But unless your client (or you) has done extensive user research and testing, most of the information you start with is nothing more than an educated guess.

Once your site has gone live, though, the incoming data will tell you exactly who finds the most value in it. The key to deciphering this demographic data is to look at the behavior metrics:

Google Analytics metrics - user breakdown and behavior

Once you have an idea of where your true target audience lives, how old they are, and what they’re interested in, you can refine the on site experience for them.

For example, age is a huge differentiator when it comes to design. If your audience falls into a different generational bracket than expected, you can use these insights to adapt certain elements like typography, color choices, and imagery, to better fit your audience.

4. Average time on page

Where do you find the metric?

Under Behavior > Site Content.

Google Analytics metrics - average time on page

What does it tell you?

Knowing the average amount of time someone spends on a website doesn’t mean much. What you want to know is how long your visitors spend on each page — especially the key pages of the experience like the homepage, services or product pages, blog posts, etc.

What should you do with it?

You design each page of your site to include only the most pertinent content. But what if you find that visitors are breezing right by those pages and missing the critical info they need?

According to a report from the Nielsen Norman Group, users generally spend less than a minute on a web page. That said, if a page is truly engaging, visitors will stay for longer. Based on the Weibull Distribution principle, this research suggests is that if you can hold a visitors’ attention for 20 seconds, there’s less of a likelihood they’ll leave right away.

By studying your average times per page, you can get a sense for where something is off in the user journey. Anything with an average of 20 seconds or less, in particular, needs to be closely examined.

Start with the website menu.

Is the navigation overcrowded? If so, thin it out and put nonessential pages in the footer.

Is the auto-rotating banner overwhelming? If so, choose one key message to show. Or consider stopping the automatic rotation and give your visitors full control.

Also, look at the length of your page. Is every image or word on it absolutely necessary? You can’t afford to waste those first 20 seconds, so it’s up to you to be able to identify the friction and remove or fix it.