Google Analytics: website performance metrics

Google Analytics Made Simple: your website’s health

Part 4. Tracking website performance metrics

This is Part 4 of a series on Google analytics for freelancers and bloggers. Previously, we created customised dashboards  to master the data, looked into traffic metrics with the Traffic Dashboard, and analysed the best performing content with the help of the Content Dashboard.

An important part of your SEO strategy is to know how your website is running. With the Performance Dashboard consisting of 8 widgets, you’ll see:

– How quickly your website loads
– Where your visitors are coming from
– If you should act because something isn’t working as it is meant to

Website Performance Dashboard: Google Analytics

Website speed has key importance for user engagement. If your website makes users wait, they will eventually get bored and leave. Page load time is also a factor in Google’s desktop search results rankings.

If you have a high page load time, it’s not always the content to blame. Since the number includes all steps, the time depends from redirects, server-side calls, the user’s location and network connection.

To see the speed of separate pages, go to Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timings. The report details each page along with the total average loading time (in seconds). Copy the URL and add it to the widget if you need a clickable widget title. Get an overview of website speed at Behavior > Site Speed > Overview.

Some other simple site speed tools:

  • WebPageTest: results are collected from real browsers running common operating systems.
  • Pingdom: a simple tool but method of testing is undocumented.
  • GTmetrix: gives actionable insights about the best way to optimize webpage speed.
Website speed overview - Monitoring website performance2. MOBILE PAGE LOAD TIME (SEC)

The last few years have all been about the mobile: after 2014 mobile usage is greater than desktop use. In July 2018, Google adds mobile page load times to the factors for mobile search result rankings.

According to Google, the average time it took in 2017 to fully load the average mobile landing page was 22 seconds. However, research also indicated that 53% of people would leave a mobile page if it took longer than 3 seconds to load.

There are insights available for speeding up your site for mobile devices. These can be found under Behavior > Site Speed > Speed Suggestions. The Hostgator’s blog offers more free Google tools to improve your mobile page load time.

Mobile page load time insights

Here you can compare the average page load time with the metric for your most popular posts.

If you want to speed up your most viewed pages to enhance their visibility further, consider optimising the images (you can use the image optimisation method offered by HubSpot). You can also hide certain elements on the sidebar that are not so necessary.

The full report available at Behavior > Page Timings shows the load time for popular pages compared to the site’s average.

Popular pages loading time: Google Analytics

The average amount of time that it takes for the site’s server to respond to what a user is doing such as clicking through pages. A well built web page will still be displayed slow if the server response time is slow. Google recommends to reduce the server response time under 200ms.

To improve server response time look into caching plugins and content delivery networks like Cloudfare. It’s also important to compress your assets using a method such as Gzip or Brotliminify your CSS, JS, and HTML files, and optimise your images.

To add a direct link to the widget’s title, go to Behavior > Site Speed > Overview.

Google recommends to reduce the server response time under 200ms.


Here you can see if certain countries are slower to load your website’s pages. To get the full report, go to Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timings and switch to the Map Overlay tab.

If country-specific performance is important for your strategy, you might consider using a server based in that country (with the help of your hosting provider) or use a content delivery network.

Server response time by country


Defined simply as the total number of pages viewed divided by the total number of visits to the site, Average Pages Viewed per Visit is a key indicator of your content’s attractiveness.

You want people to visit multiple pages on your site (over 3 to 4) because it means that readers come to your blog and want to stick around.

If you think there’s still room for optimisation, ask yourself:
1. Is it possible to update high-bouncing pages with news facts or research?
2. Could the formatting be better?
3. Could any images or videos be added?
4. Do the pages really match the keyword phrase ranking for in Google?
5. Could you improve the title tags and meta descriptions?

Go to Audience > Behaviour > Engagement to see the number of pages viewed by different users. The highest number for me this week is 19.

To make a clickable widget title, navigate to Audience > Overview. You can copy and add the link to the widget in the Performance Dashboard.

Number of pages veiwed per visit


Average session duration (time spent on your website) is a simple number fundamental for content sites like blogs. More time means better connection with the content.

Watch for dramatic changes in the average time the visitors are spending on your website as they indicate a significant change in your audience. Remember, though, that the results can be misleading because the visitor could have left the browser window open and was not actually viewing your page.

Additionally, it is an average of metrics which are themselves averages of other metrics which are themselves averages, and so on. To get a better insight, consider the average session duration for each individual traffic source (Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels).

The direct link for a clickable title is the same as for the previous widget: Audience > Overview.

Average time on website: average session duration in Google Analytics


Do your visitors only come once and never return? Or do some visit your website three times a week or even more?

The widget shows the number of days between the latest visit and the visit before that. 0 days since last visit means that the user have been to your website once.

The full report available at Audience > Behavior > Frequency and Recency shows both days since last session and the count of sessions with pageviews to understand how loyal your visitors are.

To make better use of the Recency report, click Add Segment and choose Returning visitors.

Days since Last Visit - New and Returning Users

Next month comes the forth dashboard, the Social Dashboard. And after that we’ll see what metrics should be monitored weekly, monthly, and yearly.

analyzing traffic for bloggers

Google Analytics made simple: Know your visitors

Part 2. Analyzing traffic for bloggers with the Traffic Dashboard

Now that we have our Google Analytics dashboards ready, we’ll go into specific areas of Google Analytics for a more refined approach.

This is the post on traffic analytics for bloggers. Next comes the Content Dashboard.

Traffic metrics are the best stats for analyzing how your website and blog are growing. See which channels are working and what needs revision. Evaluate all you marketing channels driving traffic to your website. Ideally, your aim is to come up with new concepts for attracting more targeted visitors.

Check the incoming traffic to know:

– How visitors are finding your website
– What your most popular pages and posts are
– Who your referrals are

Our Traffic Dashboard has 8 widgets. We’ll have a look at every widget, slightly improve it and see how to analyze the metrics.

My customised dashboard for traffic

1. How did people find you?

The widget shows us the main sources of our traffic. Here, search engines are likely to be on top positions. Pay attention to the percent of new sessions: which channels are brining you new visitors and which are for user retention?

The term ‘direct’ refers to the visits in which users took the following actions:

  • Typed the domain name directing into the URL bar
  • Clicked on a bookmark
  • Clicked on a link in an email that isn’t tagged using tracking parameters
  • Clicked on a link in a mobile messaging app

In our default All Traffic report, we see only sources but not the pages they are referring to. Let’s fix that by adding one more dimension.

Go to the Source tab. Click Secondary dimension. Type in Landing Page. Now you see your traffic sources AND the landing pages which attracted visitors. (You can delete your secondary dimension anytime if you do not need it any longer.)

We can add a direct link to the detailed report making the widget’s headline clickable. Go Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium. Copy the address in the URL field. Open the Widget Settings window and paste in link in Link to report or URL field. Now we have a clickable widget name in case we need to drill down our data.

2. Visitors by Channel

The chart shows the main channels bringing us traffic. What is the difference between the source and the channel?

Source is the URL where your traffic originated: a search engine like Google or a domain ( Medium is the format: organic search (organic), cost-per-click paid search (cpc), web referral (referral) or none (direct traffic has a medium of ‘none’). Channel in Google Analytics is a group of traffic sources with the same medium. Organic Search is a channel consisting of Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Aol traffic sources with the same medium called ‘organic’.

Be aware that not all social traffic goes into the Social category. Sometimes you’ll see it in your Referral section.

To add a link to the main report, go Acquisition > All Traffic > Channel. Copy and paste the link. From the same Channel overview page, you can click on the channel of your choice (e.g. Organic Search) and set your Primary Dimension to Landing Page.

3. How many readers are reading my posts?

Obviously, our aim is to get the figure up every month or so. Note that for each set of metrics you should consider both short-term and long-term values.

Try at least 30 days to study your most recent publications. To analyze larger trends, extend the graph for 3–6 months.

Beginning from 2016, the default time range for Google Analytics switched to seven days. But the system allows you to set the default date range to the last 7, 14, 28, or 30 days. You can access this setting from the User Settings in the Overflow Menu (three vertical dots).

Go to Audience > Overview and copy the link in the URL field. Now open your widget for editing and add the link.

Try choosing various time periods to look at how much traffic you’re getting. Do you receive more traffic on a particular day of the week? Does it come in the afternoon or in the evening?

4. What posts are the most popular?

Any old post appearing here is your potential gold mine as it is already ranking high in organic search. If you see that the traffic brought by these pages is important for you, create more content like this.

Spend some time looking for old posts which get pageviews all the time or at the same time each year. Such posts are called evergreens.

Revisit your evergreen posts regularly to make sure links work, the images aren’t broken, and the info is still accurate. You can even refresh an evergreen post by re-sharing it.

To learn more about user behavior, let’s add and use the report link: Behavior > Site Content > Content Drilldown. Pay attention to the percent of exits. If it is close to 100%, chances are high that the post header and the description are not relevant to the content or do not match user expectations.

5. Referral Websites

Top ten websites bringing us traffic (excluding major search systems and social networks as we have the Social Dashboard for analyzing them).

To see the full list, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals (and add the link to the dashboard if you wish).

To find out how your links got onto other websites, add one more dimension: click Secondary dimension and type in Landing Page. Check the engagement of this traffic to see how long visitors are staying at the website and how many pages they see.

If you are happy with the results, consider ways to further build traffic from these domains. Let people know you appreciated the reference. You will be far more likely to generate more referrals from the same people in the future.

6. Where do your readers live?

Visitors are accessing your website from various countries across the globe. The darker shades represent more traffic and more visitors from specific location.

To add a link to the report: Audience > Geo > Location. Pay attention to dimensions: you can switch to cities, continents and sub continents.

If you publish translated content on your site, you can study geo trends to see how many visitors are using translated pages compared to the originals.

8. Keywords

Most of your visitors are likely to come from search engines. Here you’ll find the (known) keywords that brought them to your website. And what can you do about them?

You can take the keywords you are happy with and provide more niche content targeting at long-tail keywords (phrases consisting of three or more words). Long-tail keywords return fewer results but bring you more targeted traffic. And it is much easier to rank high with them!

To add a link to the report: Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels. Then switch to Primary Dimension > Other > Type and select Keyword.



customised dashboards for bloggers.jpg

Google Analytics made simple: mastering your data

Part 1. Creating dashboards to know what happens

Suppose you are doing all the things you’re supposed to do for improving your SEO and online image: writing great content, maintaining your site, being active on social media, and so on. But it takes another level to measure and analyse your results.

Have you installed Google Analytics?

When was the last time you looked at it?

Do you feel overwhelmed because you are not sure what to look at?

Two main services I tried to use for my website and blog were Google Analytics and Google Search Console. But they offered me so MUCH data that I preferred to ignore them completely.

Things had to change. So I’ve passed the Google Analytics exam and now I am going to dive into analytics weekly and monthly as one of my steps to getting more valuable leads.

If you are interested in managing your website’s data, follow me with 5 not very simple steps to find everything you need each time you log into Google Analytics without navigating through numerous reports.

We’ll learn how to create customized dashboards for bloggers and freelancers to find meaningful data more easily. In the next posts, I’ll analyse ways to use each of these dashboards.

If you are new to Google Analytics, follow the instructions here to create Google Analytics account. After registration, you are provided with some code to install on your website. If everything is correct, you get your first statistics within 24 hours.

Note: If you are unfamiliar with Google services and relevant terminology, you could start with some basic course like Digital Garage by Google.


If you want to take a quick look at how things are going, the default report (the page you see when you log in) is the only page you need.

Basic things to learn from the report:

  • Pageviews: how many times your web pages have been viewed
  • Users: number of unique people who visited your website
  • Sessions and session duration: the time when someone visits your site and leaves it (or stays inactive for 30 minutes) is one session
  • Pages per session: important as it shows potential interest and relevance
  • Bounce rate: the percentage of visitors who viewed only one page
  • New and returning visitors

Google Analytics Home

Frankly speaking, I do not like this AT ALL. Neither do you? Click Customization (left upper corner), then Dashboards. We are going to create our own reports.


To make things more meaningful, I chose my own widgets for analysing statistics.

My first dashboard is for looking at the incoming traffic to know:

– How visitors are finding my website
– What my most popular pages and posts are
– Who my referrals are

1. To start, log into Google Analytics

Click Dashboards (on the top side of the left navigation) > Create. Name your new dashboard. It’s time to see how widgets work.

  • Click Add Widget.
  • Name your widget How people found you.
  • Click the blue outlined box that says Add Metric.
  • Type Source in the search box and then click the Source item that appears.
  • Now click the green outlined box that says Add dimension.
  • Do you see the next column of our How people found you table? Yes, type Users and click the option when it appears below.
  • Now click another green box that says Add dimension and type in… yes, New Sessions. Scroll down and save.

Bingo! You have added your first widget. Go on.

2. Widget: Visitors by Channel

Why: This widget provides a look at the sources of your traffic with a percentage breakdown of the traffic source, i.e., organic, direct, referral, social. You know where your visitors are coming from.

How to create it: Click Add Widget > Pie. Title you report Visitors by Channel. Under Create a pie chart showing: select Users. (Type Users in the search box and then click the Source item that appears.) Under Group by: select Default Channel Grouping.

3. Widget: How many people are reading your posts?

Next widgets are mostly self-explanatory. I’ll add only their basic parameters. Use the same scheme with the Add widget command.

Widget type: Metric. Metric: Users.

4. Widget: Which posts are the most popular?

Widget type: Table. Dimension: Country. Metrics: Users, % Exit.

5. Widget: Referral Websites

Note that we are excluding major search and social engines as we’ll have a separate dashboard for them.

Widget type: Table. Dimension: Full Referrer. Metric: Users. And we need a lot of filters here to exclude major websites (see the screenshot below).

Referral filters for Google Analytics6. Widget: Where do your readers live?

Widget type: Table. Dimension: Country. Metrics: Users, Pages/Session.

7. Widget: Traffic by Device

Widget type: Table. Dimension: Device Category. Metrics: Users, Sessions.

8. Widget: Keywords

To know how people find you in Google search if applicable.

Widget type: Table. Dimension: Keywords. Metrics: Pageviews, Pages/Session.

And again a couple of filters here.

Filter this data: Don’t show > Exactly matching > (not set)

Filter this data: Don’t show > Exactly matching > (not provided)

You did it! Your final dashboard should look similar to mine:

My customised dashboard for traffic


Now that you know where you are heading, let’s dive into the content analysis to learn:

– How your content works
– How long visitors are staying
– Where visitors come from
– How many pages they view and where they exit

Create and name your new dashboard.

Note: By default, Google Analytics will display results from the past 30 days. Don’t forget to look at longer periods like 6 to 12 months or even further to determine pages that bring you the majority of search engine traffic, page views, and daily visits by users. Use the filter in the top right corner.

1. Widget: Pageviews by Page Title

Widget type: Table. Dimension: Page Title. Metrics: Pageviews, Unique Pageviews.

2. Widget: Visits and % New Visits by Landing Page

Note: Landing page here is the first page your visitor sees when entering the website.

Widget type: Table. Dimension: Landing Page. Metrics: Sessions, New Sessions.

3. Widget: Avg. Time on Page and Bounce Rate

Widget type: Table. Dimension: Page Title. Metrics: Avg. Time on Page, Bounce Rate.

4. Widget: Exits and Pageviews By Page

Widget type: Table. Dimension: Page. Metrics: Exits, Pageviews.

5. Widget: Pageviews by Country / Territory

Widget type: Pie. Create a pie chart showing: Pageviews. Grouped by: Country.

For now, your final dashboard will look like this (you can drag and drop widgets making the layout easier to read):

Content Analysis Dashboard for Bloggers


Social media is an important source of traffic. Use this board to know:
– How many visitors are coming from social media
– What they prefer to read
– What social networks work best for you

And now comes my favourite trick. You can find a lot of free cute dashboards to import for your own use!

This one was imported from the Buffer blog. I only changed a couple of widgets to make data more meaningful for me. Just click the link provided in the article and add the view to your website for further customisation. The original dashboard includes the following widgets:

1. Real-time visitors to your website from social channels
2. Which social networks are sending you the most traffic overall
3. Your top landing pages for social traffic
4. How your social traffic fits with traffic from search, direct, and referral
5. Your most shared pages on Twitter and Facebook
6. Your social media campaign results

The widgets I’ve added:

1. Widget: Overall Site Visits

Basic context for the social data: total visits to the site to see if social is a large or small percentage.

Widget type: Metric. Metric: Sessions. Link to reports: Audience / Overview

2. Widget: New Visitor Acquisition from Social

Are you trying to attract a new audience from social media? Then it’s important.

Widget type: Metric. Metric: % New Sessions. Filter this data: Only show > Social Source Referral > Exactly matching > Yes

3. Widget: Social Traffic and Bounce Rate

The bounce rate in this widget shows the quality of social traffic. Do people read some other posts or take off quickly?

Widget type: Timeline. Graph the following metric over time: Sessions. Compare with (optional): Bounce Rate. Filter this data: Only show > Social Source Referral > Exactly matching > Yes. Link to Report: Acquisition / Social / Network Referrals

Social Media Dashboard for Blogging


An important part of your SEO strategy is to know how your website is running. With this dashboard, you’ll see:

• How quickly your website loads
• Where your visitors are coming from
• If you should act because something isn’t working as it should

1. Widget: Average Page Load Time

Widget type: Metric. Metric: Avg. Page Load Time (sec).

2. Widget: Average Server Response Time

Widget type: Metric. Metric: Avg. Server Response Time (sec).

3. Widget: Mobile Page Load Time (sec)

Widget type: Metric. Metric: Avg. Page Load Time (sec).

4. Widget: Average Page Views per Visit

Widget type: Metric. Metric: Pages/Session.

5. Widget: Average Time on Site

Widget type: Metric. Metric: Average Session Duration.

6. Widget: Load Time for Popular Pages

Widget type: Table. Dimension: Page Title. Metrics: Pageviews, Avg. Page Load Time (sec).

7. Widget: Server Response Time by Country

Widget type: Table. Dimension: Country. Metrics: Pageviews, Avg. Server Response Time (sec).

8. Widget: Visits by Day Since last Visit

Widget type: Table. Dimension: Days Since Last Session. Metric: Sessions.

You will find the Performance dashboard here, ready for further customisation.

Performance Dashboards for Bloggers

Congratulations! Your dashboards are ready.

These are basic configurations. I am planning to use them for three months and then go on with the customisation adding some new metrics and deleting those I do not need. There are plenty of resources to find Google Analytics dashboards and widgets if you know what data type is meaningful to you.

It may seem overwhelming at first. But the more you use the tool, the easier it becomes. Spend a few minutes a day logged into Google Analytics and get used to the system

In my next posts I am planning to give the best ways to use Google Analytics and the updated dashboards for blogging and self-promotion.