A Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics
What it is, why you need it and how to get started
If you are unfamiliar with Google Analytics, you likely have not linked the powerful application to your website yet. Here’s why you should: it is one of the best ways to gain valuable insight on your customers and increase your business profitability.
The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates consumers spent $513.61 billion online in 2018, up 14.2 percent from 2017. People are shifting to buying online as opposed to in person. Even if you are not directly selling via a shopping cart on your website, sheer business exposure alone makes your website presence crucial.
Google analytics is an entirely free program that not only measures traffic visiting your website, it can tell you where customers live, what time they visit and other valuable data. In this post, we’ll look at how to get started with Google Analytics from a beginner’s point of view.
Why you need Google Analytics
So now you know you can determine how many people are visiting your website and from where. That can be broken down into time of day that is most popular for traffic, which pages are most popular, and which ones don’t get a click at all.
When you conduct a marketing campaign, such as purchasing Facebook ads, Google ads, or sending out an e-newsletter, you can see the results of that campaign through statistics, including how many leads turn into actual customers.
There are many additional ways Google Analytics can provide insights. Let’s look at how you can get started.
Installing Google Analytics
First, you need a Google Analytics account. If you have a primary Google account that you use for other services like Gmail, Google Drive or Google Calendar, then you should set up your Google Analytics using that Google account. Or you can create a new one.
Use a Google account you plan to keep permanently and that only you have access to. You can always grant access to your Google Analytics to other people later, but you don’t want someone else to have full control over it. This includes your IT manager, web designer, web developer, web host and others. Your Google Analytics account is a company asset. If someone else has control and you part company, you risk losing all of your historical data.
1. Set up your account
Once you have a Google account, you can go to Google Analytics and click the Sign into Google Analytics button. You will then be greeted with the three steps you must take to set up Google Analytics.
After you click the Sign-Up button, you will fill out information for your website.
Google Analytics offers hierarchies to organize your account. You can have up to 100 Google Analytics accounts under one Google account, so if you have multiple websites, or even multiple companies, they can be tied to one Google email address, all accessible from one dashboard.
If you only have one website, you only need one Google Analytics account and your set-up would look like this:
Below this, you can determine where your Google Analytics data can be shared. Read through your options, but note that opting out of data sharing means Google will not share as much data with you.
2. Install your tracking code
This next part is a little tricky, especially if you are not familiar with the “back end” of your website—the part that public does not see.
Whether you decide to go at yourself or seek IT help, you will still want to finish your account setup process and click the Get Tracking ID button. You will get a popup of the Google Analytics terms and conditions, which you have to agree to. Then you will get your Google Analytics code. Even though you can retrieve this code later from your account dashboard, you may find it handy to copy and paste this code into a Word or Notepad document and save it on your computer for easy access.
At this point, you can simply email the code to your website administrator and request they insert it on every page you want to track, or, you can insert the code yourself.
The code installation will depend on what type of website you have. Assuming you are not a programmer, there is a very simple way to do this. First install a small app on your website that will load the code for you.
For example, if you have a WordPress website on your own domain, you can use the Google Analytics by Yoast plugin to install your code easily. There are similar apps for other platforms.
Don’t stress if you need IT help for this part. Once the code is inserted and Google Analytics is gathering data on your website, reading through the statistics if easy. Interpreting data, well that takes some practice.
Monitor your site
The initial period of data monitoring with Google Analytics will not have comparative history. But as time goes on, you will not only be able to track performance, but also see how well, or poor, you are doing compared to previous periods.
Google has excellent help resources to help you analyze your data. Start with the article Understanding User Behavior with Google Analytics.
Ready for the next step? Look for my upcoming article “Should your business use Google Ads?”
Even if you are a beginner, there is a bit of pride in adopting methods to digitally monitor and enhance the performance of your business through Google Analytics.