Google Analytics makes it easy for website owners to understand the performance of their websites. Tracking website performance can help you make better marketing decisions and increase conversion rates. However, not all business owners know how they can monitor the effectiveness of their websites. To determine how well your website is performing and pinpoint areas for improvement, you must use data. Data can help you learn about your customers and the effectiveness of each website page. Unfortunately, many business owners don’t know what to do with the data when they have it, and others don’t know how to obtain it in the first place.
But what is Google Analytics used for, and how can it help your business thrive in a competitive marketplace? Continue reading to find out.
What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a platform that measures and reports on website traffic. It provides information about how people use your website, which includes the most popular content, the time spent on each page, and what devices are used to browse. Google Analytics can be connected to Google Ads to learn which campaigns are driving the most traffic and converting casual visitors into customers. Additionally, the platform offers rich insights about your audience, such as terms they use to search and location data.
Today, marketing analytics revolves around data. Data tells you how people behave, what they want, and even when they want it. But all the raw data in the world is worthless if you don’t know what it means.
Using the right tools to collect and examine data from your web properties allows you to make sense of patterns and act on what you find before the competition does. And the best tool to use is Google Analytics.
Thousands of companies use Google Analytics, and you can too. But first you need to understand what Google Analytics can tell you and why that information is important. Armed with that knowledge, you can get Google Analytics up and running and working for you.
Why you need Google Analytics
Whether you run a blog or want to promote a new business website, there are some vital questions to answer that will help you understand what’s working for you and what’s not.
- How many people visit your website?
- Where do your website visitors live?
- How are people getting to your site?
- Which pages on your site are the most popular?
- How many visitors have you converted into leads?
- What kind of content attracts the most viewers?
- What devices do your website viewers use?
Google Analytics integrates with an entire suite of marketing products such as Google Ads and Google Data Studio. The tool combines data from multiple points to create an incredibly detailed map that will help you navigate your audience. The more you learn about your people, the better you’ll be at giving them what they want.
How Does Google Analytics Work?
Google Analytics works by taking data from your website and displaying it to you on a dashboard. To implement Google Analytics and begin gathering all the website data available to you, all you have to do is install a tracking code on each page of your website.
This tracking tag collects data from a visitor’s web browser and sends it back to your analytics dashboard. Once the tracking tag is installed, collecting data is automatic. However, you can configure your Google Analytics account to use other types of data, including website events like button clicks, with the help of Google Tag Manager and other tracking tools.
How to install and set up Google Analytics
Don’t use someone else’s account to manage your Google Analytics data. If they leave your company and your Google Analytics account is registered under their name, all your data will go with them, and you’ll have to start from scratch. If you need someone else to manage your Google Analytics information, grant them access—not full control—to your account.
Step 1: Enter your account and property information
Once you have a Google account, visit the Google Analytics website and click Sign into Google Analytics or Start for free. Either button will take you to a page where you can click a blue Set up for free button to create your Google Analytics account.
Then follow these steps.
- Decide whether you want Google to track a website or mobile app.
- Provide your account name.
- Enter your website name and URL or the name of the app you want to track.
- As an optional step, select your industry and time zone.
You may choose to use a hierarchy to organize your account.
- Top Level: “Organizations” let you manage individual user accounts and permissions, integrations, and more.
- Mid Level: “User Accounts” let you access Analytics, select properties to track, and share Analytics data with other users.
- Low Level: “Properties” are the websites, mobile applications, or devices being tracked.
You, the user, decide what properties to track.
- You can track up to 50 properties with one Google Analytics account.
- You can manage up to 100 Google Analytics accounts under one Google account.
Each property can be viewed up to 25 different ways. At a minimum, you should set up 2 views per property.
- One view that excludes traffic from within your own company.
- One view that provides an unfiltered view of the data.
Figure out which properties you want to track with which accounts. You can’t move a property from one Google Analytics account to another. You have to set it up as a new property under a new account, a process that would lose you all the previously collected data.
To make properties easier to organize, it’s a good idea to give your properties and accounts simple, clear names. You can always rename properties later.
Below where you set up your property, there’s a section that allows you to configure your data-sharing settings. Here, you can check or uncheck what kinds of data you want to share with Google to help the organization maintain its service. Options include:
- Tech support
- Google product data
Step 2: Install your tracking code
Once you fill out the account and property sections, follow these steps.
- Click the button that says Get tracking ID.
- Agree to Google’s terms and conditions—this will appear as a pop-up box.
- Get your Google Analytics code.
The code you receive is a collection of numbers, letters, and symbols that you embed into your web pages so Google Analytics can track them. You will need to copy and paste this code on every page of your website.
If you have a large website with upwards of 50 pages, don’t worry. You only need to install the code in the page templates. Afterward, you can duplicate those templates as often as you need them.
How you install your Google Analytics tracking code will vary based on what website builder or platform you use.
- If you run a website with your own HTML files, access the HTML files using a text editor and paste the Google Analytics tracking code before the tag on each page. Then save and upload the file to your server via an FTP program.
- If you use WordPress, the Genesis Framework provides dedicated spaces for header and footer scripts where you can paste the code. You can also use the Google Analytics WordPress plugin by MonsterInsights, which lets you paste the code into any WordPress page.
- If you use Mailchimp, you can integrate Google Analytics into your website, landing pages, and email marketing campaigns to track everything from site visits and clicks to conversions.
There are many other ways to integrate Google Analytics into your website. If you use a website builder or platform that’s not listed here, you should be able to find instructions for how to add tracking codes to your pages in the site builder’s admin menu. Look for an option labeled “Google Analytics” or “analytics.”
How to use Google Analytics
Once you’ve set up your Google Analytics accounts, selected properties to track, and pasted in your tracking code where appropriate, you’ll have everything in place to start collecting valuable data. After gathering enough information, you can try out different reporting features to figure out how to best use your data to your advantage.
Viewing Google Analytics data
When you log in to your Google Analytics account, you’ll automatically be taken to your Audience Overview report, or, if your account tracks more than one website, to a page that lists your websites. Clicking on a website takes you to that particular property’s Audience Overview report page.
The Audience Overview report gives you information about user demographics, languages, operating systems, and devices. The report also provides data on metrics such as page views, view duration, and the percentage of new visitors versus returning visitors.
Information is displayed numerically in tables and visualizations such as graphs. Selecting a statistic will give you a graph and pie chart for that particular stat, so you can examine each number in more detail.
There are more than 50 reports available through Google Analytics. Access these reports via the Reporting link in the top menu.
Many reports in Google Analytics look like the Audience Overview report. To make the most of your data, be sure to try several features and procedures.
- Select a range of dates to view data over a specific time period.
- Compare data from different time periods by selecting date ranges and checking the Compare box.
- Hover over sections for more detailed information and explanations.
- Switch between reports to view information filtered by categories such as languages, locations, operating systems, and more.
- View full location reports for users from different geographic regions.
Google Analytics provides you with opportunities to delve into more detail about almost every data point. You can sort and filter data to find exactly what you’re looking for or look holistically at each individual data point—discovering everything from a user’s geographic location to the screen resolution of their device at the time of viewing.
Take the time to play around and adjust your data filters. Find out what data is most useful for you to answer questions like what parts of your site are most popular and who finds your content the most attractive.
Types of Google Analytics reports
If you click into the left sidebar of your Admin menu, you’ll find a list of different reports you can access. Each report shows you a different aspect of your audience.
Audience reports give you in-depth information on your site visitors or your mobile app users. They provide insightful data on areas such as:
- Geographic locations
- Behavioral patterns
- User devices and technology
You can also create custom metrics to learn more about your audience’s behavior, interests, and more.
Acquisition reports tell you how users in your audience report landed on your site. Your website traffic gets broken down by category and sources, such as which of your visitors came from which social media channel or advertisement.
Behavior reports provide information on how your content performs with viewers. Among other things, you’ll learn about:
- Your website’s top pages
- Your blog’s most popular posts
- How long people stay on your web pages
- How fast your website loads
You can also configure your behavior report to display more nuanced information, such as what queries or terms users search for on your web pages. With this information, you can begin behavioral targeting to automate marketing campaigns based on actions users have taken on your site.
Conversion reports are part of Google Analytics’ goals feature. They tell you how well you are achieving the goals you set with metrics such as how many conversions your website generates.
Conversion reports are tied to the standard Google Analytics reports. For example, using information from the audience reports, you can create filters to view the number of conversions from particular locations or from people who speak a particular language. This integration is particularly useful if you divide your target audience and draft separate marketing strategies for each segment. It’s also useful for tactics such as A/B testing, as you get to easily measure the performance of different versions of different pages.
Adding report shortcuts
When you start out, it’s smart to explore all the reports Google Analytics has to offer. As time passes, however, you’ll find some reports more useful to you than others.
To make navigation easy, Google lets you create shortcuts to the reports you use most. To create a shortcut, click the Shortcuts link at the top of the report you want to add. You will then see the report show up in the shortcuts menu in the sidebar.
You can also configure reports to be regularly emailed to you and your team members. To do this, click the Email button in the top menu, select the messaging frequency, day of the week to send the report, and the relevant recipients, and then hit Send.
How to add additional accounts and properties
To add a new Google Analytics account:
- Navigate to the Admin tab.
- Click Create new account under the Account drop-down menu.
- Fill in the relevant account information.
To add a new property to your Google Analytics account:
- Click Create new property in the Property drop-down menu.
- Fill out the relevant information for the property.
Top metrics to track
As we’ve mentioned, Google Analytics serves you data in the form of metrics. But what is a metric in Google Analytics? Essentially, a metric is a number that provides you with insight into your web performance. They can be percentages or whole numbers that help you understand your website and its users. The top metrics all website owners must track include:
Your traffic consists of the number of people who have visited your website. In Google Analytics, you can measure traffic by sessions or users. Sessions are the number of visits your website has received, while users are the number of unique people who have visited your website. A single user can account for multiple sessions, but a session can only be attributed to one user.
Bounce rate is the percentage of sessions where users only viewed one page before exiting the website. These metrics vary from page to page, so it’s not always a good idea to measure your entire website’s bounce rate. Instead, look at the bounce rate of different pages to determine if your visitors are following your set marketing funnel and going down the correct paths. For some pages, it’s normal to have a high bounce rate. For example, blogs typically have higher bounce rates than service or product pages.
Your website’s conversion rate tells you the percentage of visits that resulted in a conversion. Depending on your website and the types of conversion goals you set up, a conversion rate might measure the percentage of individuals who purchased a product or filled out a signup form.
Landing pages inform you where users land on your website from external sources, including referrals and search engines. Your landing pages are important to track because they can help you understand why your content may not be converting.
Exit pages tell you on what pages users leave your website. If you notice a trend and many visitors are exiting pages that are in the middle of the journey, you can look at those pages to determine why they’re leaving and figure out a new strategy.
Average time on website
How long someone spends on your website may not seem like a big deal, but it can tell you a lot about the quality of your content. Measuring time on your website can help you determine whether or not you’re attracting qualified visitors. You can also measure time on individual pages to see which pages get the most attention from visitors.
Page views tell you how many pages a visitor views on average before leaving your site. If you have a large site and expect visitors to view multiple pages, you should have a fairly high number of page views. However, if your page views are low, you can dig deeper into your analytics to find the number of views per page. Tracking page views can help you understand the types of content your audience is most interested in, allowing you to target your audience more effectively through content creation.
Custom settings to help you get the most from your data
Sometimes, Google Analytics’ default tracking mechanisms and metrics won’t tell you everything you need to know. But there are built-in tools and customization options, ranging from custom metrics to goals, that will help you get the data you need for your business to succeed.
How to set up goals
Once you’ve set up your profile and installed your tracking code, you’ll want to set some goals. Goals in Google Analytics track specific user interactions with your website to help you better understand user behavior and measure how well your web pages accomplish their intended purpose. To access this feature, click the Admin link in the top menu of your Google Analytics page and then select Goals under your website’s View column.
When setting up a goal, Google Analytics provides templates that fall specific categories such as:
Each category has its own set of options you can choose as a goal. Under the revenue category, for example, you can choose:
- Buy tickets
- Register an account
- Buy merchandise
After you’ve selected a template, you’ll be prompted to enter a description, type, and details for the goal. The details section lets you create a funnel to track people’s path to the goal. If you want to track purchases, for example, you can enter the URLs of each page related to your business’s buying process. Google Analytics will measure how many people make it to which steps in the process, and how many people abandon their purchases.
You can also set up custom goals.
- Select the New goal button.
- Choose the Custom option.
- Click Next step.
- Name your goal something relevant; for example, “Landing page hits.”
- Click Next step.
- Enter the part of your landing page URL after “.com” in the destination box where it says “Begins with.”
- Depending on the goal, you can choose to configure a dollar value and sales funnel stage. This is important if you’re trying to track lead conversions.
- Click Create goal to save your new goal.
You can create up to 20 goals for each website, so think about what’s important to you and take the time to configure as many of them as you can. Goals in Google Analytics help you measure how well your web pages perform to gauge whether your marketing or content strategy is hitting the mark.
How to set up Site Search
A search box provides valuable data about your website and how users interact with it down the line. Google Analytics can use your search box to track what people look for when they visit your website, so you can learn what your audience wants the most.
To enable the Site Search feature:
- Run a search on your site and keep that tab open to save the URL.
- Navigate to your Google Analytics admin menu.
- Click View settings in the View column.
- Scroll down to Site Search Settings and toggle Site search tracking to On.
- Enter the internal query parameters in the admin menu’s “Query parameter” field. It will usually start with an “s” or “q” at the end of the URL: it will look like “s=[search term]” or “q=[search term].”
- Click Save.
With this feature set up, Google Analytics tracks any search made on your site. This data will provide valuable information about what content you should add to your web page in the future. If you run a blog, for example, track what people search for the most on your site, then create a blog post—or a series of posts—on that topic.
Google Analytics FAQs
Now you know the basics of Google Analytics for beginners. Have some questions? No worries. Here are answers to some common questions.
How do I send my Google Analytics data to other people?
To share Google Analytics data with other people:
- Navigate to the admin menu and click User management under whatever account or property you’d like to share data about.
- Add the email address of any user you would like to view your Google Analytics data.
- Choose what permissions you want each user to have.
You do not need to provide access to your Google account to share your Google Analytics data.
Is there a way to summarize the data in Google Analytics reports?
Yep! There are various services available to make your Google Analytics data more accessible.
For a native solution, you can configure monthly summaries for each property in Google Analytics by opting in to share your monthly data with Google:
- Sign into Google Analytics.
- Click Admin.
- Select User settings.
- Check the box next to “Selecting performance suggestions and updates.” (Clear the checkbox if you want to stop receiving monthly performance reports.)
After completing these steps, you will receive an email each month that summarizes the previous month’s data for your selected properties in Google Analytics.
Google Analytics says keywords are (not provided)? What does that mean?
Sometimes you’ll see a message like “90%+ of organic keywords are (not provided)” in a report. Google Analytics uses “(not provided)” as a way to list users who protect their privacy when searching, so the keywords they use aren’t recorded.
There are tools you can use to try to uncover keywords and access blocked information. Some tools are:
These tools are not guaranteed to work, but they can help uncover enough for you to get a better sense of relevant online search trends.
Put Google Analytics to work for you
Google Analytics is a powerful tool that gives you the information you need to optimize your business’s marketing or content strategy. As you experiment with the tool, you’ll get a better idea of what data you need and what patterns to look for. In time, you’ll gain crucial insights about your audience and your website and be able to make informed decisions for your business to thrive.
Once you’ve analyzed your website data, you can start theorizing and planning ways to improve your digital marketing strategy with real information to back up your plans. Then, you can easily make changes to your website pages with Mailchimp’s website builder, which allows you to drag and drop elements into your design to improve user experience and experiment with ways to improve website usability.