One of the most important pieces of advice for anyone wanting to succeed in making money online is to know what is going on.
This means knowing your niche, knowing your market and knowing how to go from a website to a website that makes you money.
A critical aspect of this is being aware of the flow of traffic and the way users are behaving on your site.
Knowing this gives you the tools you need to optimize your website and improve both your traffic and your conversions.
To do this, the very first thing you have to do is navigate to the Google Analytics login page.
Google Analytics is a tool that Google offers for understanding your website and it is something that every website creator should be using.
After all, you can’t improve if you don’t know where you are going wrong in the first place.
Before you set up Google Analytics, there are two main things you need.
First, you need to make sure your site is as complete as possible.
I don’t mean you need pages and pages of content, but you do want to have your core pages set up and have all of your links and navigation working as it is supposed to.
Second, you want to make sure you have a Google account.
Some people choose to use one Google account for business and another for personal use while some people use the same Google account for both.
Whatever your preference is, make sure you have your Google account set up and that you know what Google account you want to use.
The Very Beginning: Signing Up
Signing up for Google Analytics simply involves going to Google’s page for the service and going through the sign-up process.
It’s important to make sure you are signed into the correct Google account at the time.
Google accounts are used across a lot of Google’s services, so it’s pretty common for people to have more than one.
If you have multiple Google accounts for whatever reason, make sure you are signed into the one that you want to associate with Google Analytics.
When you are on the Google Analytics site, you’ll notice a log in option at the top right of the screen.
This will be there even if you have never used the service before.
You want to click on this, then choose the Google Analytics option.
After that, it will have you log in.
Here you simply use your Google login.
What comes next on the Google Analytics login page depends on whether you have an account or not.
If you already have analytics setup, then it takes you straight to the service.
If not, you end up on this page:
This sets up your Google Analytics account.
The next thing is to link Google Analytics to a website.
Everything Google Analytics does is related to your website, so you can’t get very far without this link.
Now there are two options here, one is for tracking with a mobile app and the other is for tracking the website.
Since we are looking at a website specifically, we are going to focus on the website option for now and the mobile app is really a topic for discussion in a different post.
When you are signing up through the site, you need a few key pieces of information.
None of these are particularly difficult, but because you need to put in your website address, you do need to have your website up and running.
Once you have filled this out, you have to agree to their terms of service and then you are off – mostly.
The next step is where people start to get a little confused. Google then gives you a tracking id and tracking code.
The code needs to be placed on every webpage you want to track.
You can do this manually if you want to, but a more effective way is to use the WordPress Plugin All in One SEO.
This plugin has the ability to directly connect with Google Analytics without having you having to worry about placing the code on your website.
You can also add your tracking ID into the plugin yourself and achieve the same result overall.
For example, I used All in One SEO to directly connect to Google Analytics.
Once the connection was made, the plugin automatically filled in my Google Analytics ID in on the page without me ever typing it in.
This is actually a faster way of figuring out what your tracking ID is if you ever forget it, rather than trying to find it in Google Analytics itself.
Personally, I prefer using All in One SEO over trying to manage the Google Analytics code manually and this is actually one of the more important plugins to use for any website.
There are also other WordPress plugins that offer similar advantages, particularly ones that are designed around internet marketing or SEO.
For those plugins, the setup process might be a bit different, but the overall outcome is the same.
Finally, some themes also have a spot for the Google Analytics code.
However, do be careful with this one, because it means that your analytics setup might be undone if you change themes, which can be a pain.
Although you can add the tracking code into the WordPress coding itself, this isn’t normally a good approach.
One problem with this is that any update to WordPress will remove the coding, and it can be easy to forget that this has happened.
So, once you have the tracking ID or code in place, you are all set up to go.
If you are setting up analytics on a brand new website, it can take a little bit to see it working.
After all, you have to actually have someone visit the site before you will see anything.
One trick to test this faster is to set the page on real-time tracking and have someone you know visit the website.
While this won’t give you much information about visitor behavior, it will show you whether analytics is working overall.
For any site, particularly a new one, a good rule of thumb is to wait a week before you really start to analyze the data.
If you aren’t getting much traffic, then you may need to wait longer.
Realistically, it will take at least a week before you can start seeing real trends and there isn’t much you can do until you get these.
What Google Analytics Tells You
Now that we have Google Analytics set up, the next step is to make use of it.
When you are new to Google Analytics, it is really important not to overanalyze data.
You are going to get a lot of information about your website, much more than you will know what to do with – and that’s okay.
If you try to analyze all of it or take all of it into account you will spend all day pouring over figures and won’t actually be working on your site much at all.
That really isn’t what you want.
In general, there are four main things that you can use Google Analytics to tell you.
Each of these areas contains a number of different features and options, some of them simple, some of them more advanced.
Everyone ends up finding their own balance for what information they make use of, but I’m going to run through some of the most important ones here.
You can see these sections in Google Analytics itself and each one of them has a number of different sections and subsections.
This area focuses on learning about the people visiting your website, such as:
- Where they are
- Whether they are first-time visitors to your site
- Type of device they are using
This refers to what people do when they are on your website.
It is particularly important because it provides information about how engaged your audience is and offers indications of how the audience is reacting to the content.
Some of the main things that you can look like include:
- Pages that people visited
- Which pages were most popular (and least popular)
- How the site reacted to the visitor
- Speed of site loading
- What the last page they viewed was
This area is focused on how your visitors got to your site (i.e. how you acquired them). So it includes:
- The specific page on your site that they landed on
- Where they came from
- How they found you (e.g. search engine, direct, social media and so on)
In terms of Google Analytics, conversions refers to whether your audience did what you wanted them to do.
This is something you have to set up using goals within Google Analytics, but it can be quite useful.
For example, many sites attempt to funnel users to a specific web page on their site and then get them to click a purchase link or sign up for an email list.
Google Analytics can provide you considerable information on the topic, such as looking at how many visited the page and what specific pages they came from.
This approach isn’t so relevant for conversions that you end up tracking in other ways.
For example, if your end goal was to get people to sign up for an email list, you mightn’t need to track this through Google Analytics, because you know how many people signed up based on how many are on your list.
The same goes for selling a product or service.
Even so, tracking this through Google Analytics may provide you additional information, such as whether some pages were converting better than others.
Knowing this can play a key role in optimizing your conversions.
How to use Google Analytics
When it comes to using Google Analytics, it’s really important to figure out what you want to look at to start off with.
Otherwise, you risk spending all day looking through the data analytics has to offer without really getting anywhere.
If you do that, you might as well just stay at the Google Analytics login page, because you really are just wasting your time.
With so many different options in analytics, figuring out what to look at can seem a little challenging.
However, one of the key things is to consider is what information can you actually do something with.
For example, most of the time real-time tracking isn’t very helpful at all.
Most of the information you want is going to come from looking at long-term trends rather than who happens to be doing what at one specific instance in time.
One of the most basic things you can do with Google Analytics is track views of your site over time.
This lets you see days where traffic was high and where it was low and that becomes your first step in figuring out what was driving those changes.
However, it is always important to remember that traffic will change naturally over time and it will never follow a fully predictable pattern.
So you may get spikes of growth and spikes of decline, this is relatively normal.
This happens because there are many things that influence traffic and only some of these are related to your site.
For example, if there was a story on the news about rock climbing, you might get more visitors to your rock climbing site.
Likewise, you would probably get more visitors to the site in the summer than in the winter.
Useful Things to Look at
One thing that you can look at is how many of your visitors were first time versus how many were new.
High numbers of new visitors might suggest that you are doing well at getting new traffic.
However, it might also suggest that you aren’t doing very well at retaining your audience, so few of them become repeat customers.
Bounce rate is also a common area to consider.
This refers to what percentage of your visitors enter the site and leave again without ever seeing more than the initial page.
Most of the time a high bounce rate means that you are failing to engage your audience and essentially indicates a lost customer.
Because of this, most website owners try to get their bounce rate as low as possible.
However, this does depend a little bit on the type of site and the type of page you have.
For example, if you had a website that was advertising a physical store, you would expect a high bounce rate on the page or pages where you have your contact information and directions to the store.
This happens because people find the information they want on that first page, so there is no need to visit anywhere else.
In that case, a high bounce rate is actually an indication that the page is doing what it is supposed to.
Another useful area to look at is your acquisition overview.
This gives you an indication of where people are coming from when they visit your site.
This information may potentially reveal a new approach to gaining traffic or it may suggest that one of your methods isn’t being particularly effective.
For example, if you were putting a lot of time into trying to get traffic from social media but most of your traffic was coming from search engine results, it might be time to change social media strategies or to focus on search engines more.
You can also click on the individual traffic types and find out more about specifically where your visitors came from.
So, if you were to look at referrals, Google Analytics would be able to tell you what sites referred your visitors to you.
Again, this provides an indication of what approaches are being successful in gaining traffic and what ones are not.
Sessions and Users
The term sessions is relatively new in Google Analytics but the concept isn’t.
The term basically just refers to visitors to the site, so essentially, one session is one visitor.
More specifically, the term session refers to the specific period of time where a single user is on the site.
So, if a person leaves the site and comes back later, it would be a different session.
You’ll find the term used throughout Google Analytics, particularly in the areas of the site that are focused on tracking visitor behavior.
Sometimes Google Analytics will use the term user instead. This is slightly different, and a user refers to a unique visitor.
While the terminology might seem a little confusing, you do get used to it over time, particularly as you start to use the service more.
Tips and Tricks
Many people ‘set and forget’ Google Analytics and assume that the service is working correctly.
This is never a good idea.
There are so many different variables with any website and honestly, Google Analytics is a little complicated to set up anyway.
You need to make sure everything is working in Google Analytics when you set it up and also keep an eye on it over time.
A change in WordPress, in your plugins, in your theme or in something else may be enough to stop Google Analytics from working, or make it work incorrectly.
Additionally, you need to take the time to text Google Analytics from all different angles.
For example, if analytics works on some browsers but not others or on some device types but not others, you can end up with inaccurate information about what is going on with your site.
Realistically, inaccurate data is worse than no data, because you rely on it to make decisions and may not even realize that it is wrong.
Trackbacks is a cool feature of Google Analytics that many people aren’t aware of.
It is a social media feature that provides information about who has provided links back to your site.
This information can help you see what you are doing right, or just give you the information you need to provide rewards to people who link to you.
Look at Flow for Different Visitor Types
Any website will have new visitors and returning visitors.
If you look at the way that these two groups progress through your site, you can often pick up on patterns can be used to help improve audience experience overall.
For example, the time that people spend on each page and what pages your audience drops off at can be particularly interesting.
These two things will often differ considerably between your repeat visitors and your new ones.
Google Analytics is a huge tool and a really powerful one.
It will tell you a lot of information about your website and this information can be used to improve the site, increase traffic and increase conversions.
While some metrics are more valuable than others, everyone looks at Google Analytics differently and will place priorities on different pieces of data.
Because of this, there really is no right or wrong way to use Google Analytics.
The biggest thing is just to make sure that Google Analytics is linked to your website correctly and that you focus on metrics that are actually relevant to you.
If you do this, then it really is possible to take the information and use it to your advantage.
If nothing else, Google Analytics will provide you with a greater understanding of your audience and this can help you serve them better.
So I urge you, don’t just sit at the Google Analytics login page.
Have a look at the service, link it to your website and see just how it can help you.
If you find Google Analytics a bit confusing, have a look at the training at Wealthy Affiliate.
Wealthy Affiliate is a training site and offers a lot of information and support for developing a website and making it effective. This includes video tutorials and information on how to get the most out of Google Analytics and other approaches.