Interpreting your dashboard data
Your dashboard provides an overview of the main data from Google Analytics and Search Console to give you an idea of the usage of your site.
Lots of lovely numbers and charts are fine, but what does it all mean? What do they tell you about how your pages are performing? and what should you do next?
Here is a breakdown of what you should be looking for.
Visits and engagement
For the vast majority of website editors or owners across the College, the main data you want to be looking at for each page is:
1. Number of unique pageviews
This tells you how many distinct visitors there have been to a page during the specified time period. This is a better indicator of visits than pure pageviews as it doesn’t include duplicate visits and bots.
2. Time spent on the page
This gives an average time of each visit to the page. You have to expect there will be some bot traffic mixed in with this, but it is still a good indicator of user engagement.
3. Bounce rate
This shows a percentage of the visits where that page was the only one they visited. You have to be careful with this metric because a high bounce rate may not always be negative. For example, if you have a piece of communications which points someone to a single page, there is a chance that they will just visit that single page and leave the site.
4. Search queries
Search data is a really important thing to look at. The majority of traffic to the College website is via search, so understanding which terms or queries people use to access your website is really important for the following reasons:
- It helps you understand the language your visitors use. Trying to incorporate this language into your content will really help to make the content understandable and easy to navigate.
- If there are really common search terms then you can request a promoted search for the internal website search. You can do this by emailing Geoff Day in Communications and Public Affairs. Once set up, your page will appear at the top for any searches for that term. For example, a search for ‘GDPR’ will show the following promoted search result denoted by a green line.
Other tools for analysing search trends
As well as looking at Imperial search data, it is also worth considering other tools when looking at the words and phrases that people use to describe your subject area. Google Trends is a great resource for this as it looks a wider search trends, not just those pertaining to Imperial. AnswerThePublic is another useful tool for this as it utilises the data from several search engines to give you the most popular search phrases based on a keyword, which is basically a report of the autocomplete searches you get when you start typing a word in Google.
Traffic sources and devices
It is always interesting to see how people arrive on your site. As you can see from the chart, most of the traffic to the College website comes from Google search (approx. 61% for 10 April – 7 May 2019). When you look at your dashboard, this figure may be higher, but this data also gives you an idea of how your other communication channels are performing e.g. newsletters, social media etc.
This will tell you what proportion of your visitors use desktops/laptops, tablets or phones to access your website. Looking at the overall website for the period 10 April – 7 May 2019, around 60% were desktop/laptop users, with 35% using phones.
When making decisions on content and layout, you should consider trends. i.e. if you are seeing a growing number of your visitors are using mobiles, then you should really factor in the mobile user experience when creating your content or deciding on layout. For example, where your call to action buttons go - sidebar content appears at the bottom of the page on a phone and highlight box content appears right at the top.
Combining metrics to aid decisions
Trying to determine user engagement
Engagement is something that is always hard to measure, but there are a few metrics that can be combined to give you an indication of user engagement with your content. One of the simplest things to do is to look at the unique pageviews and bounce rate alongside the time spent on the page. If you have a page with a low number of views, a high bounce rate and the average time someone spends on the page is low, then it is likely users are not finding this page useful.
You can strengthen this case further by assessing the readability of your content using tools like Readable or Hemingway which will give you the number of words, readability score and estimated reading time. For example, a page may have these stats:
- There are 1,200 words
- It takes 5 minutes to read the page
- There have been 10 pageviews in the last 6 months
- The average time spent on the page is less than 20 seconds
- The bounce rate is over 80%
This is a fairly extreme example, but you can clearly conclude that engagement with the page is very low - there is quite a lot of content, but very few people are looking at it, and those that are, are not reading it. In this case, the most obvious action is to delete this page, but you could consider other actions such as rewriting or raising the profile of the page in search results and discoverability from the homepage of your website.
Downloading data from your dashboard
When you navigate your dashboard it is possible to download the data from any of the sections to a CSV, Excel or Google Sheets spreadsheet. To do this move your mouse pointer over the relevant section and click on the 'more' menu button in the top right of the section (represented by three vertical dots). You can then select one of the options. Please note that you will need to be logged into a Google account to be able to export data. If you do not have one already you can set up a Google account login using your College email address.
Other useful resources
- Full glossary of your dashboard
- Interpreting Google Analytics (Ocreative design)
- Web marketing: How to interpret boounce rates in Google Analytics (dummies.com)
Video - In Analytics, What do the Numbers Really Mean?
Katie Sherwin, Nielsen Norman Group
Need further help?
In the first instance you should get in touch with your Faculty Web Officer (FWO)