A Beginners guide to Google Analytics

If you run a website or blog and haven’t heard of Google Analytics, then prepare yourself for a whole new world of possibilities! Google Analytics carries on the company’s proud tradition of providing best-in-class tools for web designers and developers and giving those users the guidance they need in order to maximize their potential. If Google Analytics is not installed on your website or blog then get on it now! Seriously; Google Analytics is a tool that no serious website owner should be operating without.

What Does It Do?

Among its many functions, Google Analytics gives you a quick, easy, and mostly automatic way of finding out the vital statistics of your site. For example;

  • How many visitors your site receives over a given time period?
  • How many visitors to your site are unique and how many of them have visited before, or are new visitors?
  • The geographical distribution of visitors to your site and your traffic?
  • How easily navigable your website is when viewed on a mobile device?
  • What other websites are linking to your site and the amount of traffic that is being generated form referrals from other sites versus referrals from search engine queries?
  • How effective your marketing strategy is, Google Analytics offers a detailed breakdown of where traffic is coming from which allows you to identify key targets for your marketing efforts?
  • Where visitors spend their time once they’ve accessed your website?
  • Your conversion rate (if applicable); this is the portion of your visitors who are converted into paying customers. You can apply similar metrics to identify how many visitors to your site register for message boards and mailing lists?
  • How you can streamline the design and coding of your site in order to improve load times?

There is much, much more that Google Analytics can do, the only limit is your imagination!

Setting Up Google Analytics

As with most of their services, you will need a Google account in order to install Analytics. If you already use other Google services then you almost certainly already have a Google account. Keeping all your services tied to a single Google account allows you to do more with them as some of Google’s services can interact with one another and share data. Once you have an account sorted you need to go to the Google Analytics page. The page will guide you through the installation process.

Tracking Code

This is an important part of the setup process; the tracking code, which will be given to you as part of the installation process, must be inserted in the code of every page that you want Analytics to collect data for. If you aren’t the one who usually handles the coding aspect of your website, then consult with someone whose skills you believe in and ask them where you should add the code.

Define Your Goals

Once you have set up the Google Analytics package, it’s time to decide what you want to get out of it and to begin thinking about your overall goals that you hope to achieve for your website. Think about whether you are looking to increase your overall traffic or your traffic to or from specific pages, or any other goals you might have. Once you have defined your goals, it’s time to start thinking about ways that these goals can be achieved and how you can measure the success of your efforts by defining goals in Google Analytics. Fortunately, Google makes much of this process automatic; by clicking on the Admin link on your Google Analytics page you will be presented with a list of settings options, click on the ‘Goals’ option.

How to setup goals in Google Analytics should be mostly self-explanatory but, as always, Google offers official documentation which will break down each option in detail for you. You can have up to 20 goals active for your website at any one time although this should be more than enough. Any more than 20 goals and you will likely find yourself trying to analyze and act on too much data at once. It is better to break your overall goals up into smaller, more manageable chunks and to focus on these.

Gathering Data

In today’s world, data is power from a marketing perspective. With Google Analytics, you can easily collect detailed data about your website and for those who have clearly defined their goals it should be easy to pick out and assess the relevant data streams. Whenever you log in to Google Analytics you will be taken first to what is called the Audience Overview Report. The Audience Overview offers you the crucial statistics about your site at a glance, these include, among others; the number of visitors you’ve had, the number of pageviews you have racked up, and the average browsing duration of visitors to your site. You can adjust the date range to view these statistics over any period you choose and with the click of a button you can overlay two different time periods to make comparisons easy.

There are several other types of report available:

  • Acquisition reports give you a detailed breakdown of where traffic to your site is coming from. This is very helpful to know in order to maximize the effectiveness of your advertising spending. Digital marketing companies can make great use of this data so you should definitely consider partnering with such an enterprise. If you already have a digital marketing partner make sure to share your data with them.
  • Behavior reports let you know how well your site is performing in terms of speed and efficiency. If you have set up SiteSearch (another Google feature) then this is where you’ll find a breakdown of the most commonly searched for terms.

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