This article was originally published on our sister site ClickZ, but it’s so helpful we thought we’d share it here too.
Our beginner’s guide to Google Analytics teaches you how to set up an account that is linked to your site and recommends a few basic metrics to look at.
Google Analytics is a free service that tracks and reports website traffic. Providing insight into the demographics of site visitors, the performance of a specific campaign, and how long people are staying on your site for, are just a few of the many things the program is capable of.
This data gives you an all round better view of how your site is doing and allows you to understand what improvements can be made to make sure you’re optimizing different areas for maximum conversion.
In the below tutorial, we will walk you through some basics of Google Analytics and what you need to do in order to get started.
Set up an account
If you have a major Google account such as Gmail or YouTube, you are eligible to create a Google Analytics account by following the below instructions.
This account should be only accessed by YOU. Of course, you can authorize other people to act on your behalf if necessary. However, you will not want them to take full control over your data.
For example, ClickZ has granted me access to the company account, but I cannot change account and property settings. This is done to protect the publication and ensure that if I leave, other admins will still have access to the overall account.
In comparison, I can do whatever I want with my personal Google Analytics.
Add tracking code to your website
Google Analytics cannot work until it is linked to your webpages. When you finish setting up a new account, Google will ask you to “Get Tracking ID.” Click on the button and you will see your code.
You can always go back to your tracking information under “Property.”
This code needs to be added to every page. How to install it depends on your content type. For instance, some Tumblr templates only require the Universal Analytics (UA) code, as show below.
While some blog platforms like WordPress may ask for full script, if you build a website with HTML files, you can edit HTML and paste the code before “</head>”.
Today many websites like ClickZ are using Google Tag Manager to implement tracking code.
Manage your site search
Once you connect Google Analytics with your website, you can set up site search to know what visitors are looking for on your website.
In “View Settings,” turn on site search tracking and enter your website name and URL. The query parameter is usually “s” or “q.” You can determine yours by searching on your own site.
For example, if you enter “mobile” into ClickZ’s search bar, you will see s= (ClickZ’s query parameters) followed by your query.
You can also contact your company’s web development department to identify the query parameter for your site.
After you save all the settings, Google Analytics will be able to track any searches made on your website.
Goal set up
Aside from site search, you should also set up a goal so Google Analytics can track important activities on your site. For example, an e-commerce platform may trigger a confirmation page for every placed order, or a digital publisher may create a “Thank You” page when a reader subscribes to its newsletter.
To set up a goal, go to “Goals,” create “New Goal,” and choose “Custom” under “Goal setup.” Then go to “Next Step” where you can name your goal (“Subscribe Success” for example) and select “Destination” if an activity ends on a “Thank You.” If your conversion goal is one step further and you’d like your visitors to watch a video clip after they have reached the Thank You page, then you can add “Event” tracking to your goal set up in order to measure this.
Each goal type has its own requirements and can be customized to what your own KPIs are. In the example of “Subscribe Success” below, I decided to forego “Destination” and go straight to “Event” in order to measure conversions.
Google Analytics will start measuring conversation when a described activity is triggered. You can create up to 20 goals on your website.
Basic Google Analytics metrics
You can customize many Google Analytics reports based on your needs. But in “Audience Overall,” you can find some basic yet useful stats around your website.
Take our sister publication Search Engine Watch (SEW) for instance – you can view positive changes in pageviews and sessions from last September to date. Hovering over the line will show you the number of pageviews and sessions for a particular day. (We’ve erased some of the data below as we don’t want to give away all our secrets!)
Under the graph, Google Analytics tells you more about the number of users, bounce rate, average session duration, as well as the ratio of new visitors to returning visitors.
Beneath those main metrics, Google Analytics also shows demographics of SEW’s readers, including their countries, languages, and devices where they consume content.
Other more in-depth metrics include audience report, acquisition report, behavior report, and conversions report. For example, once you have linked social media and Google Analytics, you will be able to track a particular social media campaign and get related stats under “Acquisition.”
We hope you’ve enjoyed our first installment of Google Analytics for beginners. Stay tuned for the next in the series soon!