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Google Analytics 101: What You Need to Know

« Go Back | Posted in: SEO - on July 9, 2013

Once you’ve established your company’s web presence, it’s important to understand how to track whether or not your website or blog is performing effectively. One of the most telling ways to track your performance is to install an analytics tool, like Google Analytics, to help you understand the traffic your website is attracting.

What Does Google Analytics Do?

Google Analytics tracks the traffic that your website is getting. What does that mean? It means that every person who views your website is tracked and reported on in the Google Analytics system. These analytics can be viewed real-time or based on a set time period. This way, you can understand who is on your site right now (real-time analytics) or who has visited it over a given date range (for example, month-over-month or year-over-year).

Essentially, Google Analytics helps you understand the total number of page views, unique visitors, referral sources and other demographics of your website’s visitors. If you aren’t familiar with these terms, here’s a quick overview:

  1. Page Views – A page view is tracked whenever somebody visits a page on your website or blog. This means that if a visitor comes to your site and visits six separate pages, that visitor will increase your total page views by six. A site with higher page views has more opportunity to convert more visitors into sales.
  2. Unique Visitors – A unique visitor is counted once, no matter how many pages are viewed. Understanding how many unique visitors you have is important as it indicates what type of reach you have in terms of actual people reading your site’s content.
  3. Referral Sources – This tool provides information regarding how visitors got to your site. Visitors can arrive on your site by entering your URL directly into their browser, through a search engine or through a referral from a third-party site that’s linking back to yours. Google Analytics breaks this information down so that you can see how many people came through each referral source, their average time on site and the number of pages they typically visited, which can be helpful in terms of determining how to allocate your traffic generation resources.
  4. Demographics – Google Analytics provides information on where your visitors live – down to the city they live in and the language they speak. You can also use this information to understand how many of your visitors are first-time visitors versus how many return to your site repeatedly.
  5. Average Visit Duration – The average visit duration reported by Google Analytics helps you understand how long visitors spend viewing your site. The more time they spend on your site, the more engaged they are with your brand.
  6. Average Pages per Visit – You can also use Google Analytics to determine the number of pages your visitors view during their visits. This information can help you understand if your navigation and internal linking strategies are working, as these features typically encourage visitors to stay on your site longer and peruse more content.

Google Analytics also offers additional features for more advanced users. However, understanding and making decisions based off of these initial statistics is a great place for beginners to start.

How Do You Install Google Analytics?

Once you’ve decided to use Google Analytics, it’s important that you install it correctly. Google Analytics can be installed on virtually any website. To do so, follow these steps:

  1. Sign Up for a Google Analytics Account – This account should typically be associated with your business email address.
  2. Add Your Site as a Property to Your Account – Every website you own can be set up as a separate property in your Google Analytics account. When you’re ready to get started with Google Analytics, add your website as a property by clicking “Admin,” then “Add Property.” You’ll be given the choice to set the property up using Universal Analytics (UA) or Classic Analytics. Setting your property up with Universal Analytics gives you more flexibility in the long term. However, Classic Analytics is easier for small businesses that don’t anticipate in-depth data mining in their future to use.
  3. Install Your Tracking Code – Be sure to install your Google Analytics tracking code in the appropriate section of your website’s code. Your code should be pasted just before the closing tag in your code.
  4. Verify Your Tracking Code – Check to be sure that your status as listed as “Verified” on the Google Analytics Dashboard within 24-48 hours. If it isn’t, you’ll need to verify that your code is installed in the proper place and that you used the code for the correct property.
  5. Check Your Reports – Once your status is verified for your property, you should begin seeing data pull into your reports. If you don’t see this, you’ll need to do some additional troubleshooting (although this is not typical).

How Do You Use Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is best utilized by scheduling times that you will check your statistics. Take time to strategize about the statistics you’d like to track over time. Page views and unique visitors should be on the list for all businesses, but beyond that, you’ll want to identify metrics that are tailored to your business. For example, you may want to track how well a campaign is doing, what your top five referral sources are, and what keyword searches regularly attract visitors to your site.

Once you’ve determined what statistics you’d like to track, determine how often you’d like to track them. Typically, reporting should be done at least monthly, although many businesses track these statistics on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. This will depend largely on the amount of traffic your website attracts and how much time you have to dedicate to this.

After you’ve begun regular reporting, you’ll want to think about what these statistics mean. For instance, if your page views dropped in August, don’t assume it was because of all the people taking summer vacations. Traffic may also have dropped due to a decrease in the number of blog posts you created, a decrease in your social media sharing or a change in the type of products you offered. Think not just about the numbers but what they indicate about your businesses activity. This will help you to derive a successful web strategy.

Google Analytics is a great tool for tracking how well your business is doing online. To get started, be sure that you understand the basic components of your data and how this information can be used to inform website changes. If you do this, you’ll truly be able to make the most of your website.

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