Google Analytics is a range of exceptional tools that are free to website owners. Rather than spending a fortune on data analysis, simply enter a code into your site’s HTML and Google will do the rest for you, curtesy of its Analytics software.
Signing up for Google Analytics
Sign-up is through a Google account. You’ll provide information about your “Property”—your website or mobile app—and verify your ownership. The easiest way to verify a website is to install the Google Analytics tracking code, which has to be installed anyway in order to see your site’s performance data.
The tracking code needs to be installed into your site’s HTML, and if you’re not tech-savvy this is the most complicated part of getting started with Analytics. Google’s instructions tell you to install the code before the </head> tag. To find that location, you’ll need to go into your site’s script editor. If you’re struggling to find the tag, don’t panic. The code will work wherever you install it in the site’s HTML, but the further down it is, the later it will load on the site, meaning if a user quickly navigates away from a particular page, their presence there might not be recorded at all.
WordPress.org users can take advantage of Google Analytics plugins that will install the code for them, and even show them Analytics software on their dashboard. Shopify users can paste their Analytics code into a section in their settings.
Once the code has been correctly installed, it can take up to 24 hours for data to start being recorded by Google.
Set a goal
If you’re running an eCommerce store, the most important function of your website will be getting people to buy from you. A simple way of seeing how users navigate your site, and when they do and don’t make a purchase, is to set a goal. To do this, go to the Admin tab. You’ll see three sections: Account, Property, and View. Analytics is made up of nested layers: one Account (your profile) can monitor 50 Properties (websites or apps). For each Property you can create 25 Views, which are reporting profiles with different filters applied. For an average user monitoring one website, you don’t need to worry about creating additional Views unless you’re being bombarded with spam (more on this next week!).
Under the View column, select Goals, and hit the red New Goal button. There you’ll see a variety of suggested goals, such as “create an account,” “newsletter sign up,” and “place an order.”
For a simple goal, it’s easiest to use the Templates. Select the goal you’re interested in (for the purposes of this example, we’re using “place an order”). Set the indicated action that will confirm the goal is achieved. If you’re selling on your website your checkout will likely lead to a thank you page. Reaching that page means you sold something, so set that as the goal.
The instructions will guide you how to complete the destination. Note you can omit the full URL of your site, using only the final part of the specific page name.
Now you’ve enabled a very simple goal that will show you how many users who visit your site make a purchase, and you can isolate them to examine their browsing behaviour.
Reading your reports
Once Google Analytics starts collecting data, it will present it in a series of charts and graphs. The Reports home screen shows a general overview of activity on your site.
You’ll see the visitors per day in a graph along the top, with other data below. Sessions refers to the number of times a user navigated to your website and away again. And this is regardless of how long they spent on the site or how many pages they visited. The number of Users indicates how many individuals visited. In the example above, 68 Users created 219 Sessions. Unsurprisingly, the pie chart of new vs. returning visitors shows a majority were returning.
Drill into the demographics data to get more detailed information about users. This will show you their language, where the hit came from, and their operating system.
Using the data
Now you’ve got the information, you need to use it. How it applies to your site will depend a lot on the site’s purpose. If you’re a florist based in New York and 90% of your hits come from California, maybe you need to set up national delivery options. Or tailor your website to more closely focus on local users. Perhaps both.
If the majority of your users access your site through their mobile phones, also make sure the site is mobile-friendly. This ensures you’re giving those users the best possible experience. If half your traffic drops out at the shopping cart without completing their purchase, it’s probably because an error is costing you sales.
How to interpret and use Google Analytics data will vary depending on the individual site, owner, and their goals. Knowing how your visitors interact with your website is the first step to improving their experience. It will also help boost your web presence with a tailored site that makes the most of your brand.
If you’re not sure how to start, pick a plan and let TechTe.am’s friendly experts help.