Google Analytics is a free, and powerful tool to see how users interact with your website.
You’ll want to start collecting data as soon as you possibly can, so having the analytics integration setup at launch is key.
How to install Google Analytics
The first thing you’ll need to install Google Analytics is to setup the analytics account from within Google Analytics’ dashboard. Visit analytics.google.com, sign into your account (you’ll need a Google/Gmail account for this) and follow the steps to setup a new property.
If you need step-by-step instructions on how to setup a property in Google Analytics, follow this tutorial provided by Google.
Once your property is setup, you’ll need to copy a short script (tracking code) that will go into the code on your website. The optimal place to install this code is in the <head> tag of your website. This way it fires on each page of your website.
You can refer to your theme’s documentation on how to add this type of code. Often theme developers will provide “hooks” where you can easily add this information.
If you’re feeling less techie, a plugin like MonsterInsights Google Analytics plugin will help you connect your website without having to dig through code.
Testing your analytics
The easiest way to test your analytics is to use two browser windows (or tabs). In one, you’ll log into your Google Analytics account and go to the “realtime” report located on the left side of the screen.
From there you’ll be able to see any “live” traffic on your website.
In your second browser window, simply visit your website.
Within a few seconds you should see the number on your live report change from 0 to 1 (that’s you in the other tab!). This means that Google is now tracking activity on your website. To be sure, try navigating to another page and see if your analytics report shows you that the user has moved.
What should I be looking for in Google Analytics?
Google Analytics gives you enormous amounts of data to analyze how people are using your website. Sometimes it can just be too much!
But there are a few metrics that are universally important…
- Pageviews. Page views will tell you exactly how many views you’re getting on your pages (catchy name, right?). You an also measure unique page views which will show you how many individual users looked at a page (vs those who might have looked at a page multiple times.
- Source. Where is your traffic coming from? The Acquisition tab will help you monitor how people are finding your site: organic search, direct, email referral, or social. This helps you determine which marketing efforts are driving the most traffic.
- Bounce rate. Bounce rate is measuring how many people land in your site and view a single page without taking any further action. In most cases you want to see your bounce rate to be low… However, some pages (like landing pages with no menu) will naturally have a higher bounce rate— and that’s okay.
- Locations. Location data helps you understand where your audience is at on the map. You can view which countries, states, and even cities are visiting your website.
- Devices. Mobile viewing has quickly become the most popular way for people to browse websites— but that’s not the case 100% of the time. Google Analytics will help you understand what devices are visiting your website so you can optimize for them.
- Site Content. Which pages are most popular on your website? Viewing your Site Content data will help you understand what content on your website is most popular. This is great for measuring how changes might increase (or decrease!) visits to a specific page (or pages).
- Conversions. Google Analytics allows you to setup ‘Goals’, which often are some sort of conversion metric (like a sale or sign up). You can give your goals monetary value and see how well your conversions are performing at a glance.
- Demographics. Demographic data isn’t on by default, but if you opt in you can view information like gender, age, and interest of your visitors.
Make sure to connect your Analytics and Search Console accounts
Google provides both their Analytics software as well as the Search Console. Both of these are highly valuable on their own, but when integrated together you can get much more interesting data that communicates between the two platforms. Here’s a tutorial on how to connect the two platforms.