While Google has never officially released how many websites use Google Analytics, at the 10 year anniversary mark last year, MarketingLand estimated that based on what information had been shared by the company, there may be as many as 50 million websites taking advantage of the free resource.
If you’re not part of that majority, it may be time to reconsider.
While some feel intimidated by Google Analytics, we’ve put together this post to make it simple, with steps all along the way. By the end of reading this, you’ll not only know how to access Google Analytics, but you’ll have been through a crash course on the major features and benefits it can offer–so you can put it to work right away.
Part One: Creating & Accessing Your Google Analytics Account
The first step for setting up and accessing Google Analytics is to create an account. Let’s look at this process in a step-by-step format. Keep in mind that Google Analytics is 100% free, and you’ll never have to enter any payment method to use this tool.
- Visit the Google Analytics site and follow the instructions to sign in to the option that says ‘Google Analytics.’
- From here, you’ll either use an existing Google account (if you have a Gmail address, you can use this), or you’ll create a new one.
- Next, you’ll see the setup screen, on which you’ll insert the website-related information that will help you gather metrics on your website, such as:
- Website name: The name of your organization will work, as well as your website’s domain name
- Website URL: Your complete website address, such as www.mywebsite.com
- Industry: The category your website best fits into
- Time zone: Your location-based time zone
- Account name: Again, organization name or website name will work
- Data sharing settings: Optional; select whatever you feel is appropriate. Google recommends you opt-in for data sharing, which helps improve the Google Analytics experience. Your information is secure here, it just means you’re granting the Google support team access to your account should you need help down the road. It also means you get the best possible data collection, as Google has built-in features that reduce duplication, redundancies, etc. that can lead to inaccurate numbers.
- When all of this data has been entered, the next step is to click on the blue ‘Get Tracking ID’ button after you’ve read and agreed to the Terms of Service.
Part Two: Installing Your Google Analytics Tracking ID
Once you’ve been given your tracking ID, the next step is to install it on your website so that your website traffic can be properly monitored. Your tracking ID is the UA-numbers code that appears on the setup screen, which will automatically be generated once you’ve clicked the ‘Get Tracking ID’ button.
NOTE: Each UA-numbers code is unique, so make sure you are entering your own numbers, not the numbers seen below in the example.
From here, you’ll need to:
- Copy your UA-numbers code (including the UA part)
- If you’re using WordPress, simply install the Google Analytics plugin and enter your code under ‘Settings.’ If you’re not using WordPress, follow these steps:
- Open up your website’s HTML code and paste in your tracking ID before the ending head tag in your HTML code. (You can find the head tag by searching with ‘Ctrl+F’ on a PC or ‘Command+F’ on a Mac. In the Find box, just type </head>)
- Hit save.
- Next, you’ll wait for Google to recognize the installed tracking ID (which can take up to 24 hours.)
- Verify your tracking is working: “Status: Receiving Data” should appear next to ‘Tracking ID.’
And that’s it!
Yes, there is a little bit of legwork needed to get this part set up, but it’s very much worth it. If you take the time to get your tracking ID installed, you’ll reap the benefits of being able to track, analyze and improve your site on an on-going basis.
5 Basic Features of Google Analytics
Once you’ve mastered accessing Google Analytics, it’s time for you to start taking advantage of all of the helpful features this resource has to offer. We’ll look at some of the benefits of using this tool, as well as how to get the most out of its various metrics.
Keep in mind that these are some of the basic features for beginner level users, and that as you get more advanced, there are many more advanced tools you can explore as well. If you’d like to get official training on how to use your Google Analytics account, Google’s Analytics Academy offers free online courses and tutorials that are worth checking out.
Dashboards present a large amount of important data on a single page, in a simple, easy format, and are customizable so that the data you need is included.
How to use it: Dashboards are great for getting a quick overview of information from a high level perspective. Use them as a starting place before taking a deeper dive into analytics.
Annotations allow you and your team to comment on reporting and graphs right within the tool, which makes it easier to remember what caused specific traffic spikes or site errors.
How to use it: Make notes on graphs so you remember what tactics worked well (or not so well.) Without notes, it can be easy to forget which tactics produced strong results.
Flow Visualization reports can be used to show how visitors arrive and move through pages on your site. Think of it like having a snapshot of a user’s entire journey on your site.
How to use it: Spot areas where site visitors are getting frustrated, or to find common user paths that are resulting in high conversions. Let your visitors show you exactly what works and what doesn’t.
Site Search allows you to study what website visitors are typing into your search tool on your site.
How to use it: This is helpful because it allows you to spot missed opportunities, to make easier paths to common search queries, and to improve your overall sales funnel.
Goals can be set so you can actively measure how your website is helping you achieve a specific goal, like sales, video plays, downloads, etc.
How to use it: Set benchmarks for your website so you can effectively gauge how successful your current efforts are at meeting a core objective.
When you’re just getting your feet wet with Google Analytics, these are some simple, easy to understand features you can start using right away. If you ever get stuck or confused about how to use a specific feature, go to the Analytics YouTube Channel or the discussion forum for troubleshooting help.
Next up, let’s explore some of the most helpful dashboards you have at your disposal, as well as how you can use the information.
Google Analytics Dashboards & How to Put Your Data to Work
Choosing a select few from the the multitude of important dashboards Google Analytics has to offer isn’t easy, but we’ve done it for you.
In the Audience Overview dashboard, you can learn all about who your website visitors are and what they’re doing on your website. Let’s start by looking at some of the terms you’ll see in this dashboard, as well as what they mean.
Sessions: A group of interactions that take place on your website within a given time frame. This includes pages visited, transactions, etc.
Users: The number of individual people who came to your website.
Pageviews: Number of total pages viewed on your website during the set time frame.
Pages/Session: The average number of pages a user visited while on your site.
Avg. Session Duration: The average time a user spends on your website.
Bounce rate: The percentage of users that only visited one page before navigating away from your website.
New Visitors vs. Returning visitors: Percentage of users coming to your site for the first time versus the number who have visited your website before.
Within the Audience Overview tab, you can also take a deeper dive to learn more about the demographics of your website visitors. By clicking on ‘Demographics> Overview’, you’ll get a breakdown of the ages for your site visitors, as well as the percentage of men and women visitors.
Acquisition Overview is another dashboard you’ll want to explore, as it will tell you where your site visitors are coming from when they arrive at your website. When you know what are your best drivers of traffic, you can better allocate your time and money to ensure you’re getting the highest ROI possible. You should be checking on this dashboard fairly regularly, as it will help you better understand your most effective sources for acquiring website traffic.
When you look at the basic acquisition dashboard, you’ll initially see a breakdown of the types of referral sources for your website, grouped by categories like:
- Social (social media)
- Organic search (people who find you through a search query)
- Referral (external websites)
- Direct (people who came directly to your website)
The Behavior Overview Dashboard is another important area you should study, as it helps you see which pages or blog posts on your website are producing a high volume of traffic. This dashboard shows you exactly which pages are being visited most frequently–and you can use this data to write more relevant, engaging blogs, or to pinpoint your most effective website pages.
NOTE: The ‘/’ is your home page or the main landing page that your website URL directs to.
Looking at your Real-Time Overview Dashboard, you can see your website activity in, you guessed it, real time. See how many users are currently on your site, where they’re at geographically, how many pages they are viewing per minute, and which site pages are being viewed. This is particularly interesting if you’re launching a sale, hosting an event on your website, or want to study traffic immediately after sending out an email to your audience.
Feel like you still need some insight into how you can actually use and apply data from different dashboards? Google has an entire page of use cases for various industries you can explore and learn from.
Analytics Is Not As Hard As It Sounds
With the information you’ve gained about setting up and using Google Analytics, there’s no reason for you to not to start using this powerful resource right away.