Google Analytics is an incredibly robust and free platform for tracking the success and ranking of your website or blog. This tool allows you to see and analyze a massive range of data; from what volume of traffic you’re getting each day, average time users spend looking at your pages, to what kinds of devices they’re viewing your content from. In this article we’ll cover the basics of getting set up with and using a Google Analytics account.
Setting Up Google Analytics:
Google Analytics is fairly user friendly once you’ve got the lay of the land. The first step is to create a basic Google account. If you already use Gmail or Google Plus, great! All you need to do is log in. Once you’re logged in to your account, or have created one, you will simply navigate to the Google Analytics feature to sign up.
You will be asked to enter some basic information such as the name of your website, the url, and what time zone you’re in. Next, it will give you some options as to how you want to start tracking data on your site. The two main options are to track data on either your website or mobile app.
Installing Google Analytics On Your Website:
When setting up your account, Google Analytics generates an HTML tracking code that you simply copy and paste directly on to your site to start collecting data. Note: This code must be installed on to EVERY page of your website to accurately track information.
Once the code is installed on your website, it can take up to 24 hours to start recording information and generating data to analyze from your Dashboard.
When you first start seeing all the various metrics and visualizations on your home page, it can be a bit daunting to look at it. Here’s a basic breakdown of some of what you’ll see on your dashboard.
This is a screen shot of the pageviews break down with a visualization chart broken down by day. You can see that this site has 65,000 pageviews but only 47,000 of those qualify as “unique”. Unique pageviews refers to users who have never visited your site before, where as pageviews refers to all site visits. Average time on page shows that each user spent an average of 44 seconds on each page of your site. Bounce rate is when a user clicks on your website but only visits one page before leaving. This can be a good or bad thing, depending on the situation. It could simply mean the user found exactly what they needed without having to navigate between all the different pages on your website. It could also mean they didn’t think they were likely to find what they needed and left before looking any further. The visualizations are helpful to track whether your pageviews, or other metric, are increasing or decreasing over time.
The Audience dashboard is also an incredibly helpful element of Google Analytics. This feature allows you to compare tons of different metrics called segments. In this screen shot, we’ve compared all users to actual conversions. You can see from the image above that the page in question has a 57% conversion rate of new visitors. So in this example the user can rest easy, that’s an awesome conversion rate!
If you’re interested in seeing things happen the moment they happen, Google Analytics has a really cool feature called real time. This allows you to see the number of people currently browsing your site or blog, their location, and conversions in real time.
Other Key Features:
1. Custom Reports
Custom reports are helpful if you’re curious about comparing very specific data points. This feature has tons of options as far as what metrics you can compare. If you need some inspiration, Kissmetrics did a write up on their 12 favorite custom reports examples. Personally, I love the mobile performance report. With so many people spending more time getting their news and updates on their smart phones instead of their desktop, it is absolutely crucial that your website is optimized for mobile viewing.
This is another handy feature I personally really love and use regularly. The goals function allows you to set benchmarks to really take your SEO optimization to the next level. This feature allows you to track goals by four basic categories: events, pages/visits, time, and URL. The visits goal is probably the most intuitive and useful on a day to day basis. Essentially, you can set up a goal to track how many people stay on your site for a certain period of time. This is useful if you’re concerned that your content is weak or not as engaging as you hoped. If you can see that the average duration of time spent on a page is only 5 seconds, that can tell you quite a lot about the quality of content on that particular page.
“Once you understand your customers’ preferences and tastes, you are in a much better position to create a better experience for them, and a better website experience will inevitably lead to a happier customer.” -Daniel Waisberg
Referrals represent visits that come from a link on websites other than your own. Google Analytics allows you to generate a referrals report to track which sites or platforms are earning you the most referrals. This can be an incredibly valuable resource in terms of where to expend your social media energy. If you’re getting tons of traffic from Twitter, for example, you might want to pay attention to what kinds of things you’re posting on that channel because you might be doing something right!
Right brain-ers unite! If you’re a visual learner and your eyes tend to glaze over pouring over spreadsheets full of what might as well be gobbledygook, this feature’s got you covered. There’s a ton of customization options when it comes to the visualizations available. You can create a host of different tables, charts, and graphs to compare data points.
So there you have it folks. If you have a website or blog that isn’t performing well or doesn’t seem to be getting much traffic, don’t panic! Google Analytics takes a bit of getting used to but it’s not as scary as it looks. The best thing to do to orient yourself is to just play around with the different features and metrics. You’ll be an SEO super hero before you can say unique pageviews 5 times fast!