Google Analytics (GA) is capable of creating incredibly detailed and comprehensive data. It provides the insights needed to fix your site, minimize UX friction, and ultimately maximize conversions.

But there is a catch. This is effective only when you actually know how to interpret the data.

Unfortunately, not all users fully understand core metrics, and there is uncertainty about how to interpret them.

Here, we’ll take a look at six of the most misunderstood metrics in GA to find out what data means to optimize your site and how to apply it.

1. Direct traffic

At first glance, direct traffic seems very direct.

There is usually one of two scenarios. This is the result of either manually entering your domain name directly by a user or using a bookmark to access your site.

It wraps traffic directly in a neat little package.

When you are just below it, Google cannot name any other referrer at any time.

Technically, whatever users are unaware or undefined, they get stuck in direct traffic, which can make the data very misleading.

It is important to keep this in mind and understand that direct traffic can go beyond users entering your domain manually or accessing your site via a bookmark.

What are the implications?

It is easy to see why GA users can get a little confused about direct traffic. Data can be inherently misleading.

So what does direct traffic mean?

When you boil it down completely, having a high volume of direct traffic creates a correlation in brand awareness. If a large percentage of visitors are reaching your site directly, it means that they are already aware of your brand.

There is no need for these visitors to search you through search, a referenced site, social media, etc., because they already know about your brand.

Now, of course, there is always the “we have no clue where they came from factor at the end of GA” where it simply cannot identify a referrer.

But generally, a spike in direct traffic usually means that your brand awareness is increasing.

It provides information about your brand awareness.

A high amount of direct traffic indicates that the search for your brand is doing well, and a significant percentage of your visitors already know about your brand.

This is important because it has a meaning – you are not highly dependent on Google for traffic. In turn, your traffic is less likely to be adversely affected the next time Google issues a mandatory new algorithm update.

There is an inherent level of consistency in your traffic, leads and ultimately conversions.

2. Behavior Flow

In other words, the behavior flow marks the guides that visitors take and shows which pages they are viewing after arriving at the initial landing page.

It provides insight into how visitors are searching for your site and if a particular page results in site abandonment. This is, of course, important for overreaching UX and understanding what the average person travels like.

By analyzing the behavior flow, you will be able to determine which content / pages are getting the most engagement and any potential content issues you may need to address.

Red areas indicate the percentage of people “dropping-off” (excluding your site) at this stage of the funnel. The thicker the red section, the more people fall.

If you notice that there is more degradation on a particular page, then it is possible that you need to be addressed. These are areas that can use improvement, and most attract your attention.

What you want to do is check the pages with high drop-downs and determine what potential obstacles are on the way and prevent them from completing the desired action (eg, shopping).

You may need to place a link or CTA in a more specific location. Or perhaps there is excessive content that it is distracting visitors from clicking on links or CTAs.

You can also consider removing pages that have a high rate of return and that are not directly contributing to your goals. The friction they create may simply mean that they are more upset than they deserve.

This can do a little bit of detective work, but the flow of behavior helps you figure out what to prevent visitors from moving liquids through your private tunnel. From there, you can make the necessary adjustments.