You probably know that all SNO Sites come with access to Google Analytics, a platform that allows you to know who’s visiting your site, how many hits you’re getting, and what your most popular stories are. Or maybe you’ve never heard of Google Analytics, or you’re not quite sure how to process the different types of data you’re seeing. Wherever you stand with Analytics, here’s a quick lesson in “Why does Google insist on using such obscure words and what exactly do they mean?” in order to help you get the most out of your site’s analytics reports.

But, before we get started, you might be wondering– how do I access Google Analytics? Check out our help site article on accessing your Analytics account. You should also be receiving weekly email updates from Google Analytics– or maybe you were, but they’ve stopped. If you need your email subscription renewed, just let us know, and we’ll take care of that for you.

Now that you’re in, let’s start with something you should definitely be paying attention to: “Acquisition,” or, “how people are getting to your site.” Last week, we sent out aSNO Report detailing ways to get your site more traffic; here’s a great way to check if your social media promotion paid off! Common ways audiences access your content are through direct traffic (or knowing your URL by heart), organic search (thanks Google), Referral from another website, and Social Media. This will let you know what you should be focusing on in terms of promotion; aim for Social Media, Direct Traffic, and Organic Search to be the top three.

Now, you probably want to know how many hits you’re getting. You would also probably like to know what is getting the most hits, which pages visitors are viewing the most, and what kind of content seems to drive readers to your site. The “Behavior” section of Google Analytics will be your new best friend. Here, you can track the number of hits each story gets to help determine what your readers care about most. You can also look at how many hits you’re getting on any given day, or how consistent your traffic is over the span of any given time period. You should aim for more of a constant ebb and flow, rather than large traffic spikes after sudden “content dumps.” Posting new content consistently will ensure a more regular traffic pattern.

You’ll also want to learn a bit about your audience. Good news– there’s a whole section for that. Under the Audience tab, you can learn some crucial traits about your beloved readers. Are most of your readers mobile visitors? Make sure your mobile site is fully functional (maybe even consider investing in a SNO Mobile App.)  You should also keep tabs on how many new visitors– and how many returning visitors– you have. A 50/50 split between new and returning visitors is ideal; new visitors are great, but returning visitors implies that you have a solid readership. Having an even mix of both is right where you want to be.

Google Analytics is a great way to monitor everything that’s happening on your site; what’s working, what’s not, and what your audience really wants. Use this knowledge to make your site even more alluring to your readers, and watch those traffic numbers rise.