Without any kind of measure on our business, we’re operating without any kind of navigation. Google Analytics is the tool that will help you come to grips with your users online behavior. Otherwise you will feel lost without any metrics.
For so many years, I did exactly this. Mainly because I didn’t really know any better. But if I’m really honest, probably more so because I don’t particularly like digging into the numbers.
It wasn’t just website traffic.
It was revenue figures, setting goals, measuring followers. All that really important stuff.
And it wasn’t until I got help figuring it all out that I realised why I’d been staying stuck for so long, and just how critical it was to my growth.
So if you feel as though your business has plateaued, getting a grip of the numbers is going to give you the boost to get you to the next level.
Of course, metrics in your business happen at so many different levels.
We’ll start with the website stuff, as this is really my bag…
What you're about to read
Are you using Google Analytics to learn about the visitors to your site?
If not, you’re missing out on a wealth of information that can help you pinpoint your best content, most successful campaigns, and pages that need improvement.
If you’re running your business without any data about where your website visitors are coming from or what content they interact with most, you’re operating with a massive blind spot.
Fortunately, this is easily fixed by connecting your site to a Google Analytics account and using the data to make smart business decisions.
In this article you’ll learn how to set up your Google Analytics account and configure a few basic settings so you can collect accurate data.
What is Google Analytics?
A tool that tells you who your visitors are and what they do on your site
Google Analytics (GA) is a free tool from Google that collects data on the behavior of visitors on your site.
While an attractive website is a wonderful business asset, you want a site that does more than look pretty. You want a site that converts visitors into customers.
After all, connecting customers to your goods or services is the reason you put a site up in the first place, right?
While GA can’t track every action a visitor takes on your site, it can gather insights on many behaviors of interest, like clicking a CTA, putting an item in a cart, or signing up for a newsletter.
Why should I use Google Analytics?
It will give you the information you need to focus your marketing efforts
The more information you have about who your visitors are, where they’re coming from, and what they’re doing while on your site, the more effectively you can optimize your site to better meet their needs and refine your business strategy.
It will give you hard facts about how your site is performing
Google Analytics helps you peer behind the curtain to see exactly how visitors are interacting with your site. The data collected by GA will give you concrete information about what’s working and what isn’t.
When you can look at the numbers and see that a given ad campaign drove a 31% increase in visits to your site, or a particular newsletter caused a 22% uptick in sales, you can capitalize on those findings to refine your content and campaigns.
It will help you identify areas of improvement
It’s equally as important to see what’s not working. Google Analytics will let you know if 84% of visitors who land on a certain page bounce immediately, which could indicate that the information on that page isn’t actually helpful, or that something on the page might be broken.
GA opens up a world of insights so you can make smarter marketing decisions and refine them in real time. In this post, we have a look at some of the metrics that you can and should be tracking.
What can I do with Google Analytics?
Google Analytics can’t track everything
While it can do many amazing things, Google Analytics can’t track everything.
For example, it won’t track clicks on a drop down menu or carousel gallery.
You can pull aggregated demographic information about your visitors from GA, but you cannot track a specific user to see how they interact with your site.
GA can give you information about what happened, but not why. If your conversation rate for a recent ad campaign isn’t very good, you can see that data, but you will have to infer the story behind it yourself.
But it offers a wealth of information to help you refine your strategy
To see everything Google Analytics can do, you’ll want to open your dashboard and start exploring. Once you’re comfortable on the platform and confident in finding your way around, you’ll be amazed by the information you can tease out from the data!
Here is a snapshot of just some of the things GA tracks:
- Source: where did your traffic come from?
- Behavior: stats like unique pageviews, entry points, average time on page
- Location: where is your audience located?
- Device usage: is your audience on mobile? Desktop? Tablet?
- Page bounce rates: what pages are sending your audience away?
- Content trends: what content performs best at specific times?
- User flow: what paths do your visitors take to explore your site, page-by-page?
And so much more. If you haven’t been on the GA dashboard yet, you might just be amazed when you dig into everything Google Analytics can track!
When should I set up Google Analytics?
Even if you’re not ready to start analyzing the data, if you have a functional website, set up Google Analytics now so it can start collecting information. Once you’re ready to log in and make use of the tools, you’ll have a good base of data ready to go.
If you are ready to start using GA, then there’s definitely no better time than now! Don’t put it off because it may seem complex. Once you get through the initial setup, you’ll never have to do most of these steps again, and Google Analytics will collect data in the background for as long as your site is live.
Can I ask someone else to set it up for me?
It’s worth the time to set your account up yourself.
Your agency or web designer could set up your GA account on your behalf, but there are some reasons why you should set up your own account for your own website.
The primary reason to set up your own GA account is access. If you and your web designer ever part ways, you want to have access to the historical data.
I’ve seen it happen with so many clients before where they come to me for a new site, and they can’t login to their GA account, as someone else set it up on their behalf. So then they have to start from scratch without any data, and it’s like starting a race with one leg strapped to the other.
Google Analytics is pretty easy to get configured. There are a number of steps, but I’ll walk you through them one by one, so by the time you reach the conclusion of this post, your analytics account will be live.
How do I set up Google Analytics?
You can set up Google Analytics with just a few clicks.
- Create a Google Analytics account by navigating to analytics.google.com. Sign into your Gmail account first, or create one if you don’t already have one.
- Next you’ll name your account and decide what data you want to share with Google. There are a number of items automatically ticked, you can decide if you’d like to keep them that way.
- Once you click ‘Next’ you’ll be asked what you wish to track: website, app, or both. If you’re just using a website, that’s all you need to click. GA will be able to track your site on both desktop and mobile.
- Now, you’ll need to add your website name, URL, and choose your timezone so GA can accurately report when users were on your site. The industry category is optional; fill it in if you wish.
- Once you accept all the terms and services, click Get Tracking ID. It will begin with the letters “UA” followed by a string of 9 numbers. This is a unique code for your website, and you don’t want to share this with anyone outside your organization, or who is not authorized to access the data GA gathers about your site.
- Now you’ll need to add the Global Site Code to your website. This is as simple as copying the several lines of code which you will see in a box under your tracking code, and then pasting it directly after the <head> tag on each page of your website. There are some alternate ways to get the code on your site, including using a WordPress plugin which I will describe below, or Google Tag Manager, which I will cover in a future post.
You’re done! Google Analytics is now tracking visits to your site. You can test that it’s working by navigating to your site and opening GA on another tab. Click Real Time Reports and verify that your visit is being logged.
How to Add Google Analytics to WordPress
Two WordPress plugins to add Google Analytics to your WordPress site
One of the many reasons I advocate for using WordPress is the ease of use. If you have a WordPress site, adding GA to your site is a breeze using the MonsterInsights plugin.
Once you install MonsterInsights, you’ll have access to Google Analytics right in your WordPress dashboard.
If for some reason you’re not as excited about using MonsterInsights as I am, there’s another WordPress plugin called Headers and Footers that makes GA installation quick and easy.
Once you download this plugin, you can drop the GA tracking code into the Header section of the plugin and it will apply the code to all the pages on your site.
Pro Tips: Google Analytics for beginners
Going the extra mile
Congratulations! You’ve got GA set up and connected to your website.
You can stop right there if you like, but there are a few extra steps that will improve the quality of your data and help you get the most out of Google Analytics.
Link to Google Search Console
What is Google Search Console?
Google Search Console(GSC) will give you access to valuable insights right in your GA dashboard that will help you improve your visibility and ranking on the Google search engine results page (SERP). It is simple to connect them so that these reports will appear under the Acquisition tab on your GA dashboard.
With GSC linked to GA, you’ll be able to see which pages your visitors are landing on when they arrive at your site, every site page that ranks on Google, as well as a search queries report, meaning the search terms that led to your site showing up on the SERP.
First, you’ll need to create a GSC account and verify your ownership of your site. This is simple to do. Simply visit Google Search Console and follow the steps.
Once you have your site verified, it’s easy to link Google Search Console to your GA dashboard.
How to Connect Google Search Console to Google Analytics
- Click Admin, the small gear wheel located at the bottom left of your GA dashboard.
- Click ‘property settings’, located at the top of the center column
- Scroll to ‘Adjust Search Console (You have to already have a validated GSC account)
- Click add. This will send you to Google Search Console.
- Scroll to the property you want to link, choose it, and save. This will send you back to GA.
- Click refresh and the page should show the association with GSC. Click save.
Data from GSC will not appear in GA immediately, but eventually reports will come in under Acquisition > Search console. You can use this data to inform your SEO strategy so your site will rank higher on the SERP.
Filter out your own visits so they aren’t tracked
Why would I want to filter my own visits?
If you have a new site or one that has low traffic volume, you might want to block GA from tracking your own visits to your site.
It’s likely that you’ll be clicking around on your site quite a bit when you launch or update it, and if you want the most accurate data, you can tell GA to ignore these visits.
If your site already has significant traffic, this won’t make much of a difference.
To filter your own visits, follow these simple steps:
- Click Admin, the gray gear wheel at the bottom left of your GA dashboard,
- In the right-hand column, click View Settings.
- While you’re here, scroll down and click “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders” and click save. This is just an easy way to filter out non-human visits from your data.
- On the left column of the View Settings, select Filters, and then click the big red + Add Filter button.
- You’ll want to name your filter something descriptive. Choose the predefined type, and then set it up to exclude traffic from your IP address. You can look that up by searching “What is my IP address” on Google. Copy and paste the result into the filter and save.
Now you won’t track your own visits to your site! If you don’t have a static ip address this will not work, because the IP address will change relatively frequently. But if you want to filter your own views as you get your site set up, this is a quick way to do it (and introduces you to the power of GA filters!).
Annotations ensure your data is telling a story
Annotations are notes you can add to your GA dashboard. You might want to add an annotation when you update your website, launch a new advertising campaign, send a promotional email, or receive an influencer shout-out.
Anything that could cause a noticeable spike or dip in your numbers is worth annotating.
Annotations will help you pull the most accurate insights from your data, and also make it easy for a new team member to come in and see why the data may have changed significantly during a given period.
How to add annotations
To add an annotation, select Audience > Overview on your GA dashboard. You’ll see what looks like a little gray drawer under the line graph at the top. Click the arrow on this drawer and you’ll see the option to add an annotation appear on the bottom right.
Once you click to add an annotation, a field will appear where you can enter the date, the information, and decide whether you want it private to your view only, or share it with others who have access to your GA dashboard.
Once you add an annotation, there will be a small gray box on the X-axis of the graph on the date of the annotation. You can click this little box and it will show you the note about what happened on that day.
Now, when you look over your historical data and see a significant change in numbers, you won’t have to wonder “What happened that day?”. You’ll be able to click your annotation and know immediately what led to the change.
How to use Google Analytics goals to track website conversion
Customising GA to make the most of your data
Google Analytics has some pretty amazing tools that you can customise to pull just about any data you need. Two metrics you’re probably interested in are how successful are your marketing campaigns, and how many of your site visitors are converting into leads or customers.
Fortunately, GA can track these metrics easily with the use of UTMs and goals.
I’m going to cover these topics in more depth in a future post, but I want to introduce the tools so you get a sense of the power of Google Analytics to assist your marketing efforts.
Campaign Tracking Codes (UTMs)
You can create campaign tracking codes for links back to your website from any campaign.
UTMs are bits of information that are tacked onto the end of a URL and help GA categorize where the visitor who clicked that URL came from.
You might add a UTM to the link to your site in an ad campaign, on a social media post, in a newsletter, or even your email signature. When someone clicks that link, GA will track the source of their traffic, and you’ll be able to see exactly how many visitors that newsletter generated, or how many people arrived as a result of your last Facebook ad under the Acquisitions tab.
Examples of common goals include:
- Download a PDF
- Place an item in the cart
- Complete a purchase
- Register for a webinar
- Sign up for a newsletter
Before you set up any goals, you want to get clear on which goals you want to track. Tracking too many makes the data meaningless. Once you know what you want to track, creating a new goal is a matter of a few simple steps. Then, you can track the success of your goals under the Conversions tab.
Google Analytics is a powerful tool that will show you a world of information about your customers.
You don’t have to be a GA expert to gain valuable insights from the data, and you’ll find that learning just a few common tools will exponentially raise your understanding of how visitors interact with your content, and how you can optimize your site to turn them into customers.
Even if you’re not quite ready to start using the data that Google Analytics can gather, do yourself and your business a favor and get your account linked right away. The more data you have, the more insights you will be able to find when you’re ready to use it.
If you’re just getting your website set up and feel overwhelmed, especially if you’re linking GA to WordPress, come join the community in the WordPress Happy group where you’ll find useful tips and training to help you build, manage and improve your website.