What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a premium web analytics service offered by the Silicon Valley tech giants, that has been around for over 13 years now. Its role is straightforward, but far from simple: to pull web analytics data together and allow people to analyse the traffic their website receives.
That audience data is incredibly valuable, because it can give insights into what people like – and, just as importantly, don’t like – on your site.
This, in turn, can help business owners and marketers alike make informed decisions about what actions will keep customers happy… and in doing so, drive sales.
Google Analytics is the industry standard for web analytics. It’s held in such high regard that over 27 million websites across the internet use it to analyse their traffic and find opportunities for improvement.
86.3% of the top 100k websites in the world use it, and for the top 10k, the figure is even higher, at 90.4%.
But why is it so popular?
Well, people turn to Google Analytics to find answers to a whole host of questions about their website, such as:
- How many people visit my site?
- Is my site mobile-friendly, and should it be?
- Where do my visitors come from?
- How can I improve my site’s speed?
- What kind of sites does my traffic come from?
- Which pieces of content did my audience like the most?
- Which are the most popular pages on my site?
Not only that, but Google Analytics integrates seamlessly with Google Ads, which is the world’s largest display network. That’s really useful, especially if you plan on building campaigns through the Google Ads interface in the future.
Now if you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’ve heard about Google Analytics, but you’re not entirely sure how it works, or what it can really do. If that’s the case, then great. You’ve found the article for you.
If you don’t know what Google Analytics is, if you don’t have it installed on your site, or if you installed it a while back but never got around to looking at the data, then you’re in the right place.
This guide is intended to help you get started with Google Analytics – from a complete beginner’s point of view – and take you all the way up to your first site review.
How do I install Google Analytics?
Good question, and the best possible place to start.
First of all, you need to sign up for a Google Analytics account if you don’t already have one.
For this, you’ll need to use your Google account to sign in. If you have both a business account and a personal account, go with whichever one you’ve used to build your website, or the one you’ve used on your business’ Facebook page.
Alternatively, if you don’t have a Google account that you think is appropriate, create a new one.
Bear in mind that this is an account that you’ll want to have for a long time… even forever. You can always give other people access to your Google Analytics account, but it’s better to keep full control over it yourself.
Your data is sacred. Make sure that you keep it safe and secure.
Setting up your account and property
Once you’ve decided on the Google account you’ll use, make your way over to Google Analytics. On this page, you’ll see that there are three steps you must take to set up your account.
Click the “Sign Up” button.
You’ll be taken to a page where you need to fill in your site’s information.
Google Analytics lets you organize your account into hierarchies. You can have up to:
- 100 Google Analytics accounts under a single Google account.
- 50 website properties under a single Google Analytics account.
- 25 views under a single website property.
Now we’ve thrown a few different terms out there, so let us explain things in a bit more detail by giving you a few scenarios to imagine.
- If you’ve only got one website, you’ll only need one Google Analytics account to associate to one website property.
- If you’ve got two websites – i.e. one for your business and one for your personal use – then you could create two separate accounts. You could name one “Business” and one “Personal”, keeping work and play distinct.
- Let’s say you’ve got several businesses (but less than 50) and each one has a website, you could put them all under a single “Business” account. Then, you could have a “Personal” account for all your personal websites.
- If you’ve got several businesses, each with dozens of sites – numbering more than 50 sites – you could create an account for each business.
Basically, it’s up to you. There’s no right or wrong way to set your Google Analytics account up.
It’s vital to keep everything organised from the start. Establish a naming convention and organisational structure from the start. If you don’t do this, you’ll risk losing track of things over time as you accumulate assets. Don’t let your structure hold you back.
You can always rename properties later down the line. What you cannot do, however, is move a property from one Google Analytics account to another.
To do that, you’d have to set up a new property under the new account… which means losing the historical data you’ve accumulated.
For this guide, we’ll go with the assumption that you’ve only got one site to connect.
Once you’ve filled in the fields, you’ll get to decide where your Google Analytics data is shared.
How does Google Analytics actually track your data?
Another good question.
Google doesn’t just assume control of your website like a benevolent dictator and let you see your data.
Once you’ve completed the above steps, you’ll arrive at a page that looks something like this.
This is your dashboard.
To have Google Analytics track your data, you need to install a section of code into your website’s HTML source code.
This Universal Analytics tracking code needs to be copied and pasted into every page of your website.
Here are the steps you need to take to find the code and then install it on your site (for sites built with HTML files):
- Click “Admin”.
- Click “Tracking Info”.
- Then click “Tracking Code”.
- You’ll see a section called “Global Site Tag”. You’ll need to copy that code.
- Install this code on every page of your website, after the <head> tag and before the </head> tag on each of your pages.
Keep In Mind the Platform You Are Using To Host Your Website:
Google Analytics integration varies based upon the platform that you use.
For WordPress sites that use the Genesis Framework, you can add custom header and footer scripts.
Alternatively, you can use the Google Analytics by Yoast plugin to easily install your code, regardless of what framework or theme you are using.
If you use Shopify for your Ecommerce store, you’ll need to head to your Online Store settings and paste your tracking code.
If you have any doubts about how to install the Google Analytics code, don’t worry; I can guarantee that thousands of people have been through the same steps that you’ll need to go through before.
This is the internet after all; there’s a YouTube explainer video, a WikiHow guide, or a forum answer for almost every question you can think of these days.
What are the key metrics I should look at?
To start, here’s a list of the basic metrics that you should keep an eye on when you first review your site:
Bounce rate covers the percentage of people who visited only one page before they “bounced” off your site altogether.
This can often seem quite high; however, many people will get to your site and realize that that’s not what they were looking for. You might have a popular image indexed by Google’s Image Search that generates a lot of “drive-by” traffic, which could skew your numbers.
Alternatively – and this is the worst-case scenario – it could indicate that your site is difficult to navigate, slow to load, or difficult to understand for new visitors.
The relevance of this metric will depend on your business model. Some business may want lots of new traffic, or some – Netflix for example – will expect repeated visits, and seek to generate those instead.
I’ve connected my Google Analytics account to my site. Now what?
Well, you probably won’t be surprised to hear that that’s up to you.
If you’re just starting out, it’s unlikely that you’ll have a process set in place to help you analyse your data at all, let alone intelligently.
If you already have a process in your head, then read on; maybe these 10 steps will give you something to think about.
1. Think about your goals
What do you want to achieve with your website?
Are you driving sales? Pushing people towards content? Looking for signups? Trying to attract leads?
Whatever your objective, it’s essential to think about what you want your website to do before you throw yourself into data analysis and site optimization.
Visit your site, and learn which data points matter most to you, which are your most important pages, and how they fit into your overall goals.
2. Take a look at where your traffic comes from
On the homepage of your Google Analytics account, you’ll see a number of different sections: general statistics, the times that users visited, traffic sources, and so on.
Use this data to get an idea of who’s visiting your website, where they’re coming from, and what they’re searching to reach you. See when your site is busiest.
In step 1 your established what your goals were; now it’s time to see how your site compares to the goals that you’ve set for yourself.
3. New and old traffic
Work out the ratio of new to old visitors.
If you measure your loyalty and recency metrics, you’ll get a good idea about acquisition and retention. These are really important, because they tell you how many people come to your site in the first place, and how many of them decide to come back.
Of course, this depends on your business model and your marketing efforts.
Remember this: the better a user’s experience, the more likely they are to come back to your site.
4.Mobile and desktop
It’s essential that your site performs well on both desktop and mobile.
If you built your site using WordPress, then you’ll know it’s perfectly easy to test it on both platforms. If the build was more complex, your designers should have tested it for you.
You can never know whether or not a site has been properly tested, however – it’s best to make sure. The worst-case scenario is a drop in traffic, which is costly for any business’s online presence.
5. How are your landing pages?
Landing pages play a huge part in both the functionality and the success of a website. They’re a constant source of optimization.
Remember, keep your form and CTA button above the fold!
6. Paid and organic search
Are you running paid or organic search marketing campaigns?
This is something that should be done in conjunction with the work you do on Google Ads. Your objective here is to work out how effective each marketing channel is at bringing people in.
7. How are your conversion rates?
Your conversion rate tells you how many people have fulfilled what you define as a valuable action – such as sales, or downloads – compared to how many viewed a page where a valuable action could be performed.
The bottom line is that a higher number is better.
8. How are specific campaigns performing?
Your website is part of a larger marketing plan.
See how well your marketing platforms are performing by finding out how many site visits – and conversions – those platforms have achieved.
9.Where are the points of failure?
Have you seen big drop offs at certain stages of the marketing funnel?
This feeds into the work of website optimization – something we discuss at great length in our blueprint, How to Crack Content Marketing for SEO.
10. Never stop analysing
There’s always more analysis you can do to find more places to optimize, features to make better, copy to rewrite.
Everything you need to know is hidden in the data.
Thanks for reading!
Now you know how to link your website to your Google Analytics account, and how to make a start with analysing the data that it will bring in.
Explore the software and get to grips with it. Try building new reports, ones that reflect the goals that you want to measure.
Don’t be scared to get your hands dirty; the work you do at an analytical level will reap benefits later down the line.