Google Analytics is one of the best resources for gaining a better understanding of your site’s audience so you can create content that will keep readers coming back for more — and the best part is, it’s free!
With so much information available for you to dissect within the data, it can be tough to determine what is actually useful to you. We’re here to help you find the most valuable features in Google Analytics, so there can be less guesswork and more strategic planning based on your site’s data.
How does AdThrive use Google Analytics?
Google Analytics never affects your ad earnings — your ads have their own built-in analytics based on impressions — but it does affect how we track and report your ad performance, so it’s important to make sure it's installed accurately.
Remember, RPM is a simple breakdown of your ad earnings per 1,000 pageviews:
(Ad earnings ÷ pageviews)*1,000 = RPM
If those pageviews aren’t reporting correctly, then the calculation will be off, even though your actual earnings stay the same.
For example, if your Analytics isn’t recording every pageview to your site, your RPM can look higher than it actually is. On the other hand, if your Analytics code is installed twice, it will report double your actual pageviews, and your RPM will look much lower as a result.
If you make any changes to the way Google Analytics is installed on your site (moving the code, changing themes, switching Analytics plugins, adding additional tracking or other Analytics codes), let us know so we can make sure pageviews are tracking correctly to report an accurate RPM for you!
High-Volume Analytics Delays
Google Analytics can experience processing delays from time to time, especially as daily traffic hits certain thresholds:
“Standard accounts that send more than 200,000 sessions per day to Analytics will result in the reports being refreshed only once a day. This can delay updates to reports and metrics for up to two days.” (Source)
Although the listed threshold is 200,000 daily sessions, we often see processing delays happen when sites start reaching 6-figure daily sessions. When a processing delay happens in Google Analytics, the full data isn’t available yet when our system pulls in Google Analytics information for “yesterday”. To prevent inaccurate RPM and RPS calculations (for that day and the entire month), the system waits to update your dashboard until Google sends over full data. Once Google finishes processing the data, you’ll see everything pulled into your AdThrive dashboard the next day!
Main Analytics Views
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of information available to you in Google Analytics. Data is only as good as the way you choose to apply it to your business strategy! This article will focus on reports in Google Analytics that our team finds the most useful for understanding traffic, reader behavior, and how that relates to ad earnings.
Your Google Analytics dashboard has a few main sections to organize data. On desktop, you’ll see these sections in the left-hand sidebar under the heading “Reports.”
This section gives you information about the people who are on your site right now. The Overview page gives you a snapshot of how many users are on your site (or have been recently), which pages they are visiting, how they got to your site, and where they are located in the world. The rest of the Real-Time pages give a closer look at each of these areas.
Good to know: If you’re receiving an unusually high volume of hits to your site, the Real-Time dashboard may stop processing them. Those hits are still happening. They just won’t be reflected in the Real-Time reporting.
Keep reading: Here’s Google’s guide to Real-Time data.
The audience section is all about your readers!
Here, you can see important metrics like sessions, pageviews, and pages per session, for the date range you specify. You can also view your readers’ demographics such as what language they speak and what country they’re from — and if you enable Google’s “Demographics and Interests” reports, you can drill down further.
Lastly, you can find out more about how your readers are viewing your site (desktop, mobile, or tablet) and which browsers they are using.
Besides shaping your content strategy, understanding your site’s unique audience is crucial to understanding your site’s unique RPM. Certain types of readers are more valuable to advertisers, like US-based readers and desktop-device-users, so advertisers are willing to bid more to reach those users. Viewable ads can refresh every 30 seconds, so higher Time on Page can equal higher earnings and as a result, a higher RPM. If your site receives a particularly high ratio of pages per session, your RPM calculation can be lower, but your RPS (earnings per 1,000 sessions) can be higher.
Dig Deeper #1. Identify your visitors’ main browsers
Audience > Technology >> Browser & OS
Why is this useful?
Certain browsers (like Safari) use technology that blocks a lot of information about the user, making those pageviews less valuable to an advertiser. Many mobile apps on iOS (including Pinterest and Facebook) use Safari for their in-app browser as well, so those pageviews monetize at a lower rate than pageviews using another browser.
If you have a spike of viral social media traffic (generally lots of pageviews coming through a mobile app), you’ll likely see a corresponding dip in RPM.
But remember, more pageviews can STILL mean more ad earnings overall, so definitely celebrate that viral spike! Just understand how it relates to your RPM that day.
Dig Deeper #2. Identify your visitors’ main device types (and set up a time frame comparison)
Audience > Mobile >> Overview
This breakdown is also available in the Traffic tab of your AdThrive dashboard, in the Traffic by Device widget. It’s quick and easy to view there, but in Google Analytics, you can also set up comparisons between different time frames at the top of the page.
Why is this useful?
Understanding your site’s breakdown between desktop and mobile traffic is really useful for understanding your RPM. Advertisers often pay several times more to reach desktop users than mobile users.
If you have a spike in mobile visitors to your site, you’ll likely see a corresponding dip in RPM. But again — those visitors are still earning for you, so you can still earn more overall, even if that RPM calculation dips from those less-valuable pageviews.
This section of your Google Analytics dashboard covers how visitors are coming to your site. Understanding how readers find your site and how readers from different traffic sources behave once they reach your site can help you hone your site’s marketing strategy. And understand how those segments of traffic are paying off for you in terms of ad earnings!
Dig Deeper #3. Identify the main acquisition pattern for your site
Step 1: Acquisition > All Traffic >> Channels
Step 2: In the menu bar above the details, click “Secondary dimension”, then choose “Users” from the dropdown menu, then “Device Category.”
Step 3: Once the report refreshes, choose the pie chart option from the views in the top right (see screenshot below).
Step 4: Now you’ll see a breakdown of your traffic by 5 main channels — Organic Search, Social, Direct, and Referral — AND by device category — mobile, desktop, and tablet.
In the screenshot above, you can see that Social traffic on mobile makes up the largest percentage of the site’s traffic at 28%.
Why is this useful?
This gives you a quick snapshot of your site’s main traffic channels by device. It’s good to have a quick mental snapshot of how these percentages relate, because it will help you understand your site’s unique RPM and any traffic swings that affect that.
Have a large spike in mobile Social traffic that really swings that percentage of users? Your overall RPM will probably take a dip. Have a surge of desktop Organic Search traffic that significantly increases that percentage? You probably see an RPM spike.
Knowing your site’s typical percentages and understanding how those change over time can give you a handy frame of reference for understanding your RPM.
Extra credit: You can set up a comparison time frame in the date selector at the top of the page! (See Dig Deeper #2 for instructions.)
In the Behavior section, you’ll see what visitors are doing once they come to your site.
Dig Deeper #4. View your high-traffic content
Behavior > Site Content >> All pages
Here, you can view your most visited pages.
Extra credit: Compare pageviews to time on page. How is your most-engaging content different from your most-visited content?
Dig Deeper #5. Investigate traffic sources on posts with the highest traffic
Step 1: Behavior > Site Content >> All Pages
Step 2: Choose one of the pages receiving the highest pageviews, and click on that link. This will show you all the traffic information for that single URL: pageviews, unique pageviews, average time on page, etc.
Step 3: Click “Secondary dimension” and select “Acquisition > Source/Medium” from the drop-down menu that appears. This will show you all the source traffic going to this individual URL.
Step 4: Jot down the top traffic sources from this post, and repeat the process for your other top posts to determine how the majority of your traffic gets to your most popular posts!
In the screenshot above, you can see that this page gets 82% of traffic from Pinterest and search traffic doesn’t even make up 1% of traffic.
Why is this useful?
Your highest-traffic posts have the biggest influence on your overall earnings and RPM. This report can help you understand how visitors reach those posts and identify marketing opportunities on channels that aren’t sending traffic to your most popular posts.
Eager for more?
Dig Deeper #6. Set up Google Analytics Site Search
Site Search is a great way to learn what your readers are looking for, directly from your readers! When you track what readers are searching on your site, you can create content based on that information. Follow the steps to set this up on your own site here via Google.
Keep reading: Google’s guide on Five Questions to Ask of Your Site Search Data.
Dig Deeper #7. Take advantage of Google’s free Analytics Academy!
There are free courses available for all skill levels, from entry-level to “power users” -- you just need a Google Analytics account to join! You can enroll in these courses right here.