Using Google Analytics: The Basics

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You may have heard that Google Analytics is easy to set up and use. All you need to do is add a snippet of code to your website and you’re ready to start recording. In fact a lot of the reporting is set up out of the box, so if you’re just getting your toes wet in the world of analytics, you won’t feel lost or overwhelmed. So if you’re ready to get started, read on!

Setup

To start using Google Analytics, you’ll need access to your website’s coding and a Google Account (generally just a Gmail address). You’ll only be able to view insights on sites you have access to—this can be your own site or any other website you have been granted access to.

To start:

  • Go to the Google Analytics website.
  • Either login with your existing Google account—or create a new account if you don’t have one yet.
  • Provide Google with the URL of the site you wish to monitor.
  • Give the site an account name that is descriptive and easy to remember.
  • Select the country your site is based in, or the country it is serving. Then select the appropriate time zone. For example, if your site is based in the UK but all your users are in the U.S., you can either select a U.S. time zone to figure out when in their day most choose to use your site, or you can set it to your city’s timezone.
  • Next you’ll be prompted to provide your contact information and approve the Google Analytics Terms of Service.
  • Finally Google will provide you with a block of code. Copy this, as you’ll need to paste it into your website. Some website management systems have built-in fields for the Google Analytics code, however some more custom websites require the Google Analytics code to be inserted into the website’s coding. For more information about adding Google Analytics to a website’s coding, refer to Google’s Help Desk.

Get Planning

As you start using Google Analytics, you’ll see that there is a wealth of information available for use. So before you get too deep in Google Analytics, a first step should be to determine goals and KPIs—Key Performance Indicators—to measure your successes.

Available Metrics

The main navigation of Google Analytics is along the left side of the screen. Included in this navigation are sections including Visitors, Traffic, and Content.

Visitors

When you first log in to Standard Reporting on Google Analytics, the default screen is the visitors overview. This screen gives the number of visitors, unique visitors, page views and other metrics. The Visitors Overview will give you a good, high-level overview of how your site is doing for the selected timeframe.

Within the Visitors section there are some basic location demographics, operating system, browser and mobile reports available.

Knowing who is coming to your site, how they arrive, and how they interact with content before leaving can give valuable insight into improving your website or ecommerce process.

Traffic Sources

The next section of note is the Traffic Sources section. This area will tell you a lot of information about the strength of your SEO campaign, including popular search keywords, incoming links and AdWords information (if you are using paid advertising). And as you refine your site and move through your digital strategy, you’ll also see where your weaknesses are.

If you use AdWords, you can view detailed reports for your ongoing campaigns. This will show you a lot of the information available in the Visitors section, filtered for your AdWord campaign results.

Content

The Content portion of the site tells you a lot about the inner workings of your site, such as most popular pages and top landing and exiting pages. This portion is particularly helpful in determining if any pages are not user friendly (for example if they have an uncharacteristically high bounce rate) or if people aren’t spending a lot of time on specific pages.

Conversions

Conversion tracking can be a powerful tool when set up. Two types of goals are available for you to use: goals and ecommerce.

Setting up goals is straightforward. Simply set up a goal by including the end of a URL, such as “/success” for “www.website.com/success,” and selecting the match type. You can have up to four sets of goals, and each contains up to five individual goals. These can be particularly useful for tracking user interactions like newsletter sign ups, contact form pages, or anything else that requires a user reaching a specific page or funnel of pages.

Now that you’ve started using Google Analytics, what are your goals for your site? Leave us your goals in the comments below!

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