Getting Started With Google Analytics

One of the great things about running a website is that you can easily track much of what takes place on the site. But a surprising number of small businesses either don’t have this ability setup, or don’t take advantage of it.

Google Analytics is a free (and great) program for tracking the activity on your site. I’m going to quickly run through getting it setup, and then highlight some of the things you might want to look at once it’s collecting data.

If you already have this on your site, jump to Setting up a Goal, or Looking at the Data.

Setting Up Google Analytics

Don’t have an easy way to add Google Analytics to your website?

It will be included automatically on your business website from Small Business Shift.

Create An Account

To begin, visit the Google Analytics website. You’ll be asked to either sign in with your Google Account (which you should already have for your Google Places page), or create a new account. Google will land you on a screen with a quick description of Google Analytics – click “sign up,” and you’ll be here:

Google Analytics Account Signup

Google Analytics Account Creation

Fill out the form with your website’s address, an account name (using the website name would be fine), and your country/time zone and then move on. You’ll be asked for your name and country, and the have to accept the user agreement. Finally, you’ll see this:

Google Analytics Tracking Code Setup

Google Analytics Tracking Code Page

There are some options here – for most situations, you can just stay on the standard page and say that you’re tracking a “single domain.” If you run Adwords campaigns, check the box on the left and it will have you login.

Install Tracking Code

Now we have to install the code. A few options:

  • If you can edit your website, copy the code in the box, and past this before the </head> tag on every page of your website.
  • If you have a webmaster, use the optional “Email these instructions” to have them sent.
  • If you use WordPress, there are plugins that make this easy. My favorite these days is Google Analytics for WordPress. Another related plugin is Analytics 360, which adds a tab to your admin area that allows you to view basic Google Analytics data right there.
  • If you use another website builder, it’s pretty likely they have an easy way to install Google Analytics, unless they provide some custom solution. You may want to note your account number, which is visible on the 4th line of the code, looks like “UA-99999999-1.”

Once this is done, click save.

You’ll go to the main Google Analytics account screen, listing all the sites under your account.

Right now, Google Analytics has an old and new interface. In order to make this useful a few months from now, the tutorial’s going to continue with the new version. To make your screens look like mine, click the red “New Version” link at the top of the page. You can then make the new version the default if you wish.
You should now have your site setup in Google Analytics. From the account screen, click on the site name, and you’ll go to the overview for that site. To make sure you’re in the right place, it should look like this:

Google Analytics New Account Overview Screen

Google Analytics New Account Overview Screen

There is a gear-shaped icon near the top right – this is the settings link. Click the gear. To make sure the Google Analytics code is working, you can then click the “Tracking Code” tab. It should say that the tracking code is installed. It may say that no data is being received, but this is ok – it takes some time for Google Analytics to start receiving data.

Set Up Goals

If you have a contact form, collect emails, or anything similar on your website, you’ll want to setup a goal. This might as well be done before the data starts coming in. Goals will make it easy to keep track of how many times the given action is being completed, and even let you see whether a higher percent of visitors from Google or Facebook fill out your contact form, for instance.

Go back to the main settings page, and under the second set of tabs, click “Goals” – here’s what you should be seeing:

Google Analytics Goals Page

Google Analytics Goals Page

Click “Goal” under (set 1). You’ll have all these options:

Google Analytics Goal Setup

Google Analytics Goal Setup

You’ll need to  name the goal, and choose a type. If you would like to set goals for number of pages viewed or time on site, that’s fairly self-explanatory. Events are a bit more advanced, and I’m not going to cover those today – but we will setup a goal for a particular “URL Destination” (page on your site).

To start, you’ll need to have a page on your site that is the goal page. If you want to track contact forms or email signups, the easiest way to do this is to have your form forward signups to a “thank you” page (otherwise you’ll need to use the “Event” option). Once this is happening, take note of the URL (http://yoursite.com/thank-you/) for the thank-you page.

Back at Google Analytics, choose “URL Destination.” You’ll be using “Exact Match,” which should be the default. For the “Goal URL,”, enter the URL you noted above, but remove the http://yoursite.com/ portion. Leave the case sensitive box unchecked, and then consider adding a “goal value.” This is the amount you feel the goal is worth – it makes for some nice reports if you assign a dollar value here.

Finally, we can consider using a “funnel.” If you have a particular page that includes a form, this will track how many of the people that visit that page actually end up filling out the form.

This is a lot like setting up a URL Destination goal – you’ll need to note the page’s URL, and enter it in the box. You can have multiple steps if there is a multi-part path you expect visitors to follow. Be careful with the “Required step” option – if there is any other way to complete the goal, this will eliminate some completions.

Looking At the Data

Once you have Google Analytics up and running, you should start receiving data within hours. To be really useful, you’ll want to wait a few weeks and check back.

This is what the main site overview screen looks like. The data’s from a small business site:

Google Analytics Site Overview Screen

Google Analytics Site Overview Screen

An overview of terms:

  • Visits – This is the total number of times people have visited your site.
  • Unique Visitors – This should be less than “visits,” as it eliminates repeat visits from the same person (or really, from a particular web browser on a computer).
  • Pageviews – This is the number of total pages loaded. Should be higher than visits, because people should on average view more than one page.
  • Pages/Visit – This is pageviews divided by visits. Most sites want this number to be high, as it shows that people are engaging with your website.
  • Avg. Time On Site – The amount of time a person stays on your site. Again, a higher number probably indicates people are engaging more with the site.
  • Bounce Rate – The % of people that only view one page on your site before leaving. A very high number is sometimes taken to mean that people are not finding what they want when landing on your site, but there can be other explanations. Sometimes more interesting to look at on a page-by-page basis.
  • New Visits – The % of people that visit your site that have not been there before. A high number indicates you are attracting new visitors, which is good – but also that visitors probably aren’t too loyal, which might be a negative.
  • Demographics, System, Mobile - There are a variety of links here, which let you see information about your visitors. It may be especially interesting to see where your visitors are coming from, and how many of them are using a mobile (generally a phone) operating system.

This main screen provides a lot of interesting information. A few things to note:

  • Towards the upper-right you can adjust the date range. You can also compare to a prior period – great for looking at this month versus the same month last year.
  • In the upper-right section of the graph, there are three useful options
    • Metric – Use this to show information other than visits in the graph.
    • Compare Metric – Use this to compare one piece of data to another.
    • Graph By – You can graph by hour, day, week, or month. As you start collecting more data, graphing by week or month is often more helpful than by day. Most sites have busier days of the week, which makes that data messy-looking, and it’s even worse if your sites has low traffic counts.
  • In the upper-left portion, above the graph, there is label “Advanced Segments.” Click this and choose, for instance, “search traffic,” and you can see how bounce rates/time on site/etc. varies from your average visitor. You can also create custom segments for all kinds of fun with data, but that’s fodder for another article.

Beyond the overview screen, there is a huge amount of data available in the menus on the left-hand side. I’ll be covering some of that in the future (you can subscribe to updates here), but for now, here are a few things to explore:

  • Under Traffic Sources, check out “Incoming Sources” to see how people are coming to your site. Direct is usually directly typing your site into the address bar, referral will be people sent via links from other sites, and search will be the search engines. This is a great way to see if particular promotion channels are working. You can also use campaigns to track promotions – see the Google Analytics URL Builder to get started.
  • Under Content->Site Content->Pages, you can see what the most popular pages are on your site.”Landing Pages” are where people arrive at your site – and you can check out the bounce rate to see if some tend to turn people away. Finally, “Exit Pages” are the last pages people view on your site before leaving. Again, you can see if a lot of people are being pushed away at a certain place.
  • If you setup goals, be sure to view Conversions->Goals->Overview, where you can see how many have been completed. Check out “Reverse Goal Path” to see how they tend to come to the goal page, and “Funnel Visualization” if you setup a funnel. If you have goals, you can also find goal data on many other pages. You’ll see a link for “Goal Set 1″ above the graph if that is available.

Conclusion

You should now have Google Analytics up and tracking, hopefully with a goal or two. This is great, because data takes time to collect – and if you don’t have tracking setup, you can never go back and get that information.

As you can see, there is an overwhelming amount of information available – enough that people have jobs dedicated to analyzing all this data. You’ll never reach that level of skill, but even a basic understanding can provide insight into what needs work on your website, and what types of promotion are paying off.

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Need help? Small Business Shift provides website and online marketing services.

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About Chris Piepho

Chris is the founder of Small Business Shift. You can learn more about him here. If you would like to work with Chris, please get in touch.

7 Responses to “Getting Started With Google Analytics”

  1. Keith Rozario June 18, 2011 at 2:59 am #

    I did a short tutorial on google analytics sometime ago, but this one is far more in-depth and takes the usage of google analytics to the next level.

    Even without setting up goals, I believe Google Analytics has so much information for a entry level blogger to use , sometimes it borders on too much information. So the biggest challenge isn’t finding what you want, but rather determining what you don’t need to be looking at, and focusing on key bits of data from analytics to generate more traffic and meet your readers needs more effectively.

    • Chris June 20, 2011 at 1:55 am #

      Keith – Thanks for the comment. And you’re right – sometimes the amount of data available can be a bit overwhelming.

  2. Subrata September 27, 2011 at 4:31 pm #

    My google analytics is receiving data but I cannot get my site verified by google using google analytics!
    Thanks for the informative article.

    • Chris Piepho September 27, 2011 at 9:36 pm #

      You mean you can’t get verified in Webmaster Tools? If that’s the problem, make sure you’re using the same account for both, and are an admin for the Google Analytics account.

  3. Bumpus July 30, 2014 at 2:00 pm #

    Seriously, exactly just what a great post. I am really surprised with such indepth information which you have actually discussed with your visitors. I’ve already been individually using wordpres for virtually 4 many years and I also think we was never likely to appear at every other content administration system or blogging platform. The biggest reason to like wordpress is it’s powerful features, plugin and numerous of large quality no-cost and premium wordpress motifs.

  4. chocolate Sprinkles August 9, 2014 at 4:51 am #

    Howdy superb blog! Does running a blog like this take a great
    deal of work? I have very little understanding of coding however I
    had been hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyways, should you have any recommendations or techniques for new blog owners please share.
    I understand this is off subject however I just needed to ask.
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  1. How To Setup, Verify, and Use Google Webmaster Tools | softseotips - April 22, 2013

    [...] you have setup Google Analytics (must be with the newer “async” tracking code), and you are an administrator for the account, [...]

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