Getting started with Google Analytics

Google Analytics may seem confusing and intimidating when using the platform for the first time. You are likely sitting there looking at dashboards and numbers that look interesting but with no idea what you are supposed to do with them. The good news is that you are not alone. Plenty of business and website owners add Google Analytics to their site, but it sits dormant. When you are low on resources and wearing many hats, analyzing performance is often one of those things that gets left off the to-do list.

However, Google Analytics can provide you with an abundance of data to transform your business. By investing some time to get it set up effectively, you can understand your customers, delve into how your website is performing, and enhance your SEO, all of which are vital components to a successful digital marketing strategy.

In this post, we take a look at what Google Analytics is, why you need it, how to set it up, and some of the most critical metrics to look at when starting out.

What is Google Analytics, and why do you need it?

Google Analytics is a website and app analytics tool that gives you granular insight into performance. It can integrate with other Google products like Ads, Search Console, and Data Studio, making it a top-rated digital marketing platform. There are plenty of alternatives out there, but given the power of Google in the market and the scalability of Analytics, it is the best starting point before using other bespoke platforms.

Google Analytics is free to use (there is a paid version called Analytics 360 for larger enterprises). With that version, you get advanced funnel reporting, multiple views and dimensions, and practically everything you could possibly need to know about your website and visitors.

Setting up Google Analytics

This is a basic guide to setting up Google Analytics. You can read a more complete guide with videos here.

To begin, you will need to have a Google account registered with a Google address and password. Once you have done that, you can set up a Google Analytics account by going here and clicking the “Start for free” button.

You will be asked to add the details of the website that you want to track. The process will then ask you to enter a property (website or app), your industry, and select a timezone, followed by a few other questions. Each property can have up to 25 views in Google Analytics.

Google Analytics then provides a tracking code with a unique ID that you add after the tag of your website that you want to track. You need to add the code to every page template. So if you only have one unique page type on your site, you only add it to that module rather than all of the pages.

CMS platforms such as WordPress, Zoho or HubSpot also have places to paste your tracking code. Some WordPress themes include a field for the analytics code to be entered in. Alternatively, you can enter the code directly into the header of the child theme (if you’re comfortable working in code) or install a plugin that will do this for you. If you have a custom site, add this straight into the HTML. Those using Squarespace, Wix, or another website builder platform have sections set up to paste the tracking code into.

To verify that you have set everything up correctly, visit your site after adding the code and then log in to Google Analytics. It should show that you have had one visitor (you!).

That is the short guide to setting up Google Analytics, but we recommend following tutorials if doing it for the first time.

The graphic below shows how visitors to your website turn into valuable reporting data.

The Google Analytics Process Flow by Devadigm, a Cape Cod Web Developer

Start by defining your objectives

Before considering all the different metrics available through Google Analytics, have a think about your objectives. It is so daunting for many people due to the sheer amount of information that Google Analytics provides.

For example, let’s say your main focus is social media content, and you want to know how many visitors come to your site after clicking on social ads. You will need to quantify that objective with something like:

• Increase number of visitors by 50%
• 70% of visitors to be new customers
• Visitors to view at least 4 pages of the website
• 10% of visitors to convert to a sale

You can set these metrics up in your views to determine if your marketing activity is working. If it isn’t working, you can work to optimize your activity until the metrics begin to improve.

Goals and dashboards can be customized to report on your objectives. This is slightly more advanced and not something we cover here, but once you get a feel of how Google Analytics works, you should take the time to tailor it. As a starting point, you can use the reporting dashboards that already exist and find out which are the most useful to measure your objectives.

There are five different types of reporting dashboards down the left-hand side, namely Realtime, Audience, Acquisition, Behavior, and Conversions. Each of these has a list of sub-reports when you click on the “>” arrows.

Screen shot of the Google Analytics Reporting Sidebar

We will look at the Audience > Overview report to give you a flavor of using Google Analytics. When you open the screen, you will see something similar to the below.

Screen shot of the Google Analytics Audience Overview Report

The Audience Overview report provides metrics on how your audience engages with your website over a specified time. In the screenshot above, you can see:

• The number of website visitors
• On average, the number of pages that each visitor views
• The split between new and returning visitors
• How long each visitor stayed on the website on average
• Your website bounce rate

We will detail the value of some of these metrics below. However, the question is, how do you use this data to your advantage? Let’s say you are getting a vast amount of traffic to your website, but they are only staying for an average of one minute each. From the data, you could infer that they cannot find what they need, suggesting a couple of root causes. First, the site’s content could be challenging to read, and you need to take steps to improve it. Second, you may need to review your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and ensure the keywords you use are attracting the right leads (SEO is another subject in its own right!).

Although at face value, you might think the numbers don’t tell you much, they are highly insightful for augmenting other areas of your strategy. If customers do not engage with your content, it is time for a review.

Every report in Google Analytics can be just as revealing. For example, the Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels report tells you where your visitors are coming from and how they behave on your site. If you invest heavily in social media marketing, but customers from those channels do not convert, you may need to consider your messaging or even the medium as a whole.

Please have a look at all the reports and gauge an understanding of what they are telling you about your digital marketing strategy.

The performance metrics you need to use

In a Content Marketing Survey Report by Econsultancy, the five metrics below were considered the most crucial in Google Analytics for marketing professionals. These metrics are part of almost every Google Analytics report, so it is vital that you understand what they mean.

Most important metrics for Google Analytics

Bounce Rate

The bounce rate is a measure of traffic quality visiting your website. A high bounce rate means that you have many visitors hitting your site without visiting any other pages. It is a direct measure of whether you are reaching the right audience. Bounce rates can vary by industry, but anything over 50% needs to be looked at with some urgency as it means half of your visitors go away without even interacting with your website.

Time spent on site

The time users spend on your site indicates how useful and engaging the content is. If you look at individual pages, you can understand which serve a purpose and which need more work. You can use those pages that visitors stay with for a long time as a benchmark for the rest of the site. Ultimately, you should not be publishing redundant content.

Page Views

Page views are the number of pages viewed, including revisits to the page. It helps define traffic patterns and why some pages might appeal more than others. If you have a page with a high number of views but then low time spent on the page, you can narrow the problem down to the content.

Page Views per Visitor

This is a more granular view of Page Views and Time Spent on the Site. If your visitors are looking at several pages and staying on the website for over 3 or 4 minutes, you can be quite sure they find your content useful and engaging.

Unique Visitors

The total number of visitors to your site. This won’t include return visits (you can use Sessions if you need to see that). Everyone wants to ensure they are getting traffic to their site and measure how it is growing. You can also look at fluctuations by the time of the day or day of the week.

Summary of Google Analytics

This post only scratches the surface of what is possible using Google Analytics. However, hopefully, if you are new to the platform, the recommendations we have given will make it seem a little less daunting. The Google Analytics Academy has many videos to improve your skills once you master the basics.

The key takeaway is to keep asking questions of your data. Every metric is there for a reason, so make the most of what it is telling you, and understand how it can drive your business strategy.

Contact Devadigm today for a consultation to help understand your Google Analytics data and how to use it to drive more traffic to your website.

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