Google Analytics is an extremely powerful tool to help you understand your website’s traffic and can help you improve your conversions and sales. It may sound difficult to learn and the terms sound extremely technical but mastering the Google Analytics basics will definitely be one of the best skills you add to your repertoire!
Getting Started – The Tracking Code
In order to get Google Analytics working on your website, you will need to sign up for a Google account and then find the tracking code. To do that, see the following steps:
- Sign into your Google Analytics account.
- Click the “Admin” tab
- Select the correct “Account” and “Property” (there will be multiple depending on how many accounts you are managing)
- Click “Tracking Info” and then “Tracking Code“
Adding the tracking code is the difficult or more advanced part because the code needs to be placed onto each page of your website that you want to track. You may want to seek help installing the code.
Before diving into studying and observing the data of your Google Analytics account, it’s important to get familiar with some of the terminology used.
- Source/Medium – Explains where your traffic is coming from, for example Google or Yahoo
- Organic – You will likely see “google/organic” in your report. This refers to unpaid search traffic. In other words, someone discovered your site by performing a search on Google or another search engine
- Referrals – Referrals are visits sent by another website. For example, if a link to your website is on your Yelp page, you will see “Yelp” in your referrals section
- Sessions – Refers to a visit to your website by a visitor
- Bounce Rate – A bounce rate occurs when a user comes to your site and visits only one page. A bounce rate is shown as a percentage so for example, if you had 10 sessions, and 5 people only visited one page and the other 5 visited multiple pages, your bounce rate would be 50%.
- Landing Page – A landing page refers to the page that visitors arrive to the website on. An example would be if someone searched for a blog post about Google Analytics in Google and arrived at your website. That blog post would be the landing page.
- Pages/Session – Refers to the average number of pages viewed during a session. For example if you had 2 visitors to your website and one visited only one page and another visited two pages, your pages/session average would be 1.5.
- Avg. Session Duration – Refers to the average length of the sessions.
Setting the Date Range
In the upper-right corner, you’ll notice a date range. By default, Google Analytics will show you the past 30 days. It’s important to adjust this to see the data for the period you’re looking to view. You can also select a custom date range and better yet, you can compare the date range to a previous time period. For example, if you wanted to see how your current month’s statistics are compared to two months prior, you can set that as well by clicking the “Compare to:” checkbox.
What To View
From the main reporting page, the most basic thing to view would be overall website traffic. To access this information, see the following steps:
- Click on “Acquisition”
- “All Traffic”
From there, you will see your traffic sources, the total number of sessions and a number of categories such as bounce rate and pages per session as defined in the terminology section above.
If you would like to view websites referring to your website, see the following steps:
- “All Traffic”
Another section you may want to view is the landing pages section. To access the data:
- Click “Behavior”
- “Site Content”
- “Landing Pages”
These are the pages that your visitors are arriving to. Generally speaking, you will see a “/” as one of the results (likely the top result), and that refers to your homepage. Most visitors will land on your homepage unless you’re running other campaigns for a specific landing page. For example if you’re running a promotion or a sale, you may want to promote that page via Google or Facebook ads, in which case, that page would be the top landing page.
On this section, you can see which pages are performing better than others by checking each page’s bounce rate, and average session duration. If there is a specific page that is underperforming, you can adjust your efforts based on your findings.
It is highly recommended that you connect Google Webmaster Tools with your Analytics account. It requires a verification process but once that is done, you will have access to valuable data including search queries. The queries will show you some of the search terms that people are using to discover your website. To access this data:
- “Search Engine Optimization”
The “Real-Time” section will allow you to see how many visitors are currently on your website. It is in a sense, a “live-view” of your traffic. You can also see where the visitors are coming from by clicking the ‘location’ link as well as the traffic sources to see where your live visits are arriving from.
Hopefully this guide has gotten you familiar with the basics of Google Analytics. As you become more familiar with the tool, you can set up Events and Goals to help you improve your website conversions. A bonus tip is to begin using the “dashboard” feature. From there you can import pre-loaded dashboards with useful information laid out on one easy-to-read page.