An Introduction to Google Analytics
Google Analytics (GA) launched on November 14th, 2005 and it’s been the face of website tracking ever since.
Sites are able to track visitor behavior with accuracy and precision, allowing their most valuable metrics to be measured against the brand’s digital marketing efforts.
And did we mention it’s free to use?
Google Analytics lends site owners unparalleled access to the comings and goings of users on their website. It allows owners to stay on top of their data so they can change course when the need arises. Best of all, GA can be used by any type of business. This includes brands ranging from complex ecommerce sites to small local brands
Whether you are thinking about installing Google Analytics for the first time, or you have it installed but are unsure how to get the most out of it, we are here to help.
This entry-level piece will give you all the info you need to navigate the waters of Google Analytics as a beginner. GA insights can help you improve your entire digital presence, from SEO on your website to social media marketing and beyond.
What is Google Analytics Used For?
Google Analytics is a free data analytics utility that collects all kinds of statistics for websites and apps, providing crucial insights into your business.
These statistics can tell you which channels your audience is using to find your site, which pages they are visiting once on your site, and what actions they are taking throughout the process—like are they clicking the button to sign up for your products or services?
Despite the platform having a nearly infinite number of uses, GA is fairly simple to customize so you can display the data that matters most to you. Easily organize reporting segments based on your top KPIs.
Once you understand the basics, Google Analytics becomes a robust tool for spotting trends across your website.
You can identify problem pages and make necessary adjustments faster.
Using Google Analytics for Your Website
To take advantage of Google Analytics, you must first create an account and install the pixel correctly on your website.
Sign Up for Google Analytics
The sign up process is quick. Just go to analytics.google.com and create a free account. There are three layers to any new GA tracking, the Account Level, the Property Level, and the View Level.
You will need to create a new account if you are using Google Analytics for the first time. You might also need to make a new property, although you can create multiple properties off of the same account. It’s up to you.
Finally, you will have the view level. This will default to “All Website Data” which will remain your pure, unfiltered view. DO NOT edit this view by adding a filter to it, simply create a new view if you want to add specific filters.
Once your account has been created, it’s time to place the GA code onto your site so you can begin tracking.
How to Find UA Code for Google Analytics
The UA code is found in your Google Analytics dashboard area under the “Property” section and the option for “Tracking Info.”
If you are using an analytics plugin within your WordPress dashboard, you may only need to enter the “UA-XXXXXX-X” code to get GA live on the website. Otherwise, you will need to enter the whole “Global Site Tag (gtag.js) script in the box within your “Tracking Code” section—don’t worry, they let you copy/paste it onto your site.
How Long Does it Take for Google Analytics to Start Tracking
Once your UA code is live on the website, you should start tracking data right away.
To test this, go to your website and right-click to get to “view page source.” This will display your HTML code which should include the same UA script you saw in your Google Analytics dashboard.
You can also go into your Google Analytics dashboard and click on “Real Time” on the left hand side. This will display a number greater than zero if there are web visitors on your website at that particular moment.
How to Use Google Analytics for Marketing
Once everything is set up and functioning correctly, it’s time to start using GA’s statistics to your advantage.
Here are the main sections of the platform that you need to learn to love…
Understand your audience on a deeper level. The audience section lets you drill down on your site visitors using a number of characterizing factors.
Learn the country and city where each visit takes place as well as the language used to navigate your site.
You can also see your visitors by device type and browser used, and see the mobile versus desktop split. This will help determine whether your site needs design work to become more mobile-responsive.
Best of all, you can slice and dice this data to gather specific insights for any type of audience. For example, how many mobile users are visiting your target landing pages? Is the bounce rate too high or acceptable?
Another cheat code is the Users Flow report. This uniquely displayed report shows the path users take to navigate your website. It’s laid out like a funnel so you can see exactly the progress made as visitors transition from one page to the next.
See how many of these users are new or returning visitors to the site to get a sense of how different types of users navigate your pages.
When it comes to identifying where your visitors come from, the acquisition section is your best friend. Here you can gauge whether visitors are landing on your site from a referral source (a link from a different site), organic search, paid search, or direct (by typing in your web address).
Measure your most effective channels using the Channels section under All Traffic. Here you can see the acquisition breakdown to determine which channels are your most effective.
The “secondary dimension” dropdown gives you the ability to pair each channel option with a second category. For example, let’s say you want to see what pages the majority of SEO traffic is landing on. You would first click on “Organic Search” for the channel, then choose “Landing Page” from the “secondary dimension” dropdown.
For specific SEO keyword information, connect your Google Search Console account to view the Search Console report. This is fairly easy to connect, even for beginners. Simply click on Acquisition -> Search Console and follow the prompt to connect your Search Console account.
While you won’t unlock any additional information that you can’t already find in Search Console, it is just more convenient to have all your data analytics in one place. Rather than having to go into the stand alone Google Search Console, you can view this data within your GA dashboard.
The Social report is a useful resource for social media marketers. While many of GA’s features relate specifically to your website, this report has more to do with your brand’s overall digital presence. Here you can view your traffic acquisition breakdown per social media network as well as seeing which URLs were shared by those users. Adding URL parameters is a smart way to traffic from other sources, i.e. traffic from Facebook ads versus organic Facebook shares.
The Behavior section covers user actions once they’ve landed on your site. Think of it as the next step in the funnel after the Acquisition section.
The Overview area is convenient if you want to take a quick glance at total pageviews per page or per search term. You can identify your top performing pages and the percentage of visits to each page.
For the best visual representation of insights, head to the Behavior Flow section. Here you can follow the most common paths that users are taking to navigate your site. See how users move from one page to the next and note where they are dropping off. Pages with higher drop off rates are usually the ones you need to work on most.
Site Content shows you how many users are visiting each page on the site as well as their time on page and bounce rate. These are important metrics to consider when determining if a page is performing at its highest level.
So you’ve acquired the traffic, monitored their behavior, now you need to see if they’re buying. This is where the Conversion section comes into play.
Google Analytics allows you to create “goals” which are used to track conversion-oriented actions. Goals may range from form submissions to phone number clicks or completed purchases. You are able to view all goal completions within the Goals -> Overview section, and you can see which pages each goal was completed on.
The best part of GA is how easy it is to combine sections. You can view goal completion stats either within the Behavior tab, or as standalone stats in the Conversions section.
To create a goal, go to the Admin area -> View -> Goals. From there you’ll click “+ NEW GOAL” to create whatever conversion element you want to track. You can trigger these conversions based on user actions like visiting a destination page, time spent on page, or specific events taken (like playing a video).
Google Analytics for Social Media
Measuring social media progress in relation to your website can be challenging. Google Analytics provides some helpful features to make this data more easily accessible.
It starts with the Acquisition section where you can find key social insights under the “Social” area. These data points are specific to social media acquisition, but you can use them in tandem with your existing social media analytics tools to gather a more complete picture.
Marketers can add UTM parameters to their URLs to denote which social media platforms that traffic landed from. It’s a good idea to do this in order to gather more platform-specific insights.
You shouldn’t rely solely on Google Analytics for your social media related tracking needs, but it provides a nice complement. For social media marketers, GA bridges the gap between the data provided by social media analytics tools and website-specific tracking.
Google Analytics for YouTube
Yes, you can analyze your YouTube channel performance in GA too. This is especially valuable because you can track two kinds of users, a) people who visit your YouTube channel and b) people who visit your website via YouTube.
The easiest way to get started is by creating a new Property in your GA account. You could instead decide to create a new View and Filter, but that’s not the easiest way to go for beginners.
Once your Property is created, simply add the tracking ID to your YouTube channel. Within YouTube you will open the channel settings, click the View Additional Features link, then navigate to the Advanced settings where you will copy and paste your GA property tracking ID.
Give it a few days to populate, then go into your “Site Content” section under the Behavior tab to see which videos people are watching. These video URLs will display the same way as your normal website URLs would look, only the “pageviews” will really be video views.
See how viewers found your YouTube channel in the first place by going to the Acquisition tab and clicking on the “Source/Medium” report. Here you’ll see if they entered your channel name directly or found you through another social media platform/referral source.
Next there’s the ability to track clicks on YouTube links that lead viewers to your website. For example, in your YouTube description you might say “to learn more, visit xyz.com.” You just need to make sure that the link has a UTM code attached for tracking purposes and you can now monitor that traffic flow in GA.
Tracking clicks to your website would occur in your primary GA property, not the one you created for YouTube. To see the YouTube specific traffic go to Acquisition -> Source/Medium, then type “youtube” into the search box to filter results accordingly.
Google Analytics for eCommerce
Thinking of adding Google Analytics for WooCommerce or Shopify powered stores? The process is pretty much the same as on any other site. WooCommerce sites would be handled the same way as any WordPress site, and Shopify has its own way of adding your UA code (it’s very intuitive).
The benefits of GA tracking for your eCommerce store are numerous. Firstly, you can integrate specific product/SKU data into analytics to get detailed purchase reports and see how certain products are performing. You can also drill down into shopping behavior and learn more about your buyer’s journey.
Turn on eCommerce Tracking
In the Admin area under View, click on the “Ecommerce Settings” option to start adding and tracking user-funnels from within Google Analytics.
Turning this on will give you more store insights than you have natively with WooCommerce or Shopify.
Check Out the eCommerce Tab
Once you enable your eCommerce setting from the admin menu, you can head over to the E-commerce tab to start gathering data.
This section is valuable for monitoring shopping behavior, product performance, and overall sales performance across your website. You can marry this with other key Google Analytics stats like New vs Returning Visitors to see which types of users are the most successful across your store.
It also shows you sessions that include product views, add to carts, check-outs, and other transactions.
Shopping Cart Abandonment
It’s no secret that shopping cart abandonments are a massive problem for eCommerce stores. Nearly 70% of online shopping carts are abandoned which translates to billions of dollars in non-purchased goods.
Many stores are losing out on sales due to an inefficient checkout system, and Google Analytics can help.
Using GA to track your online store’s shopping cart abandonment rate can help any store resolve their issues before they get worse.
To start tracking, just create a Google Analytics goal and specify that a visitor must complete an order or purchase.
Pro Tip for Combating Cart Abandonment
Although it’s not specific to analytics, it’s good to have some cart abandonment emails on the ready to remind prospective customers about their forgotten goods. Cart recovery emails are proven to have better open rates and drive sales.
Google Analytics for Marketing
Google Analytics helps marketers receive the most benefit from their campaigns. Once you’ve established your marketing goals, the role of GA becomes a lot clearer and you can tailor the platform to fit your specific marketing aims.
When it comes to tracking, size really doesn’t matter. Google Analytics for bloggers can be equally effective as it is for eCommerce professionals, it just comes down to priorities.
Someone whose main objective is content marketing might get the most benefit from the Behavior tab, showing them which blog posts are getting traffic and which aren’t. They may even create some goals targeting time on page, session duration, or amount of pages visited.
Conversely, an eCommerce brand would focus more heavily on the Conversions tab, analyzing shopping behavior and cart abandonment. There’s no right or wrong way to maximize your Google Analytics account, it comes down to needs and preferences within the campaign.
SMBs and enterprise companies alike use Google Analytics as their go-to resource. Maybe you should use it too?
Google Analytics SEO
Tracking organic search campaigns is a breeze. Start with the Acquisition tab -> Channels -> Organic Search to see activity across your web pages, then connect Google Search Console to see which search queries (keywords) people are using to find each page.
When you see keywords that are getting impressions but no clicks, it probably means that you aren’t targeting them well enough on the specific page. Identify some of these keywords and simply go back through the content to make it better optimized.
Site speed is another area that can hamper SEO progress. GA shows your speed across devices via the Behavior -> Site Speed section which you can hand off to your developer to make improvements.
Finally, for SEO campaigns that aren’t only focused on traffic growth but are also focused on conversions, you can track the conversion rates of organic visitors across all pages within the Behavior tab. It’s extra helpful to sort this data by device types and locations to get a fuller understanding of where your customers’ conversions take place.
Intro to Google Analytics
This has been an introduction to Google Analytics for beginners who are just getting acquainted with the software. Although there are many ways to utilize GA to your advantage, try sticking to learning the high-level tabs at first, then adapting that knowledge for use in a specific campaign.
Learning these software tools is never a walk in the park, but if you have the right experts to speak with it becomes a lot easier.