When used right, Google Analytics can be a powerful tool for any website owner regardless of technical ability. Commonly abbreviated as “GA” in the marketing world, it is likely the most robust analytics platform out there while simultaneously remaining easy to use. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know from the ground up – including installation, features, goal setup, report generation, integrations and common use-case scenarios all businesses can benefit from.
Why Is Google Analytics the most compatible solution for you?
Google Analytics was created with user experience as the main framework for the platform. Other solutions such as Adobe Analytics might have more technical ability – but for many businesses, technical analytics isn’t a priority – understanding users, website behavior and trends to adapt and improve over time is the priority and Google Analytics makes it easier to do just that without involving a developer or third-party help.
Why is Google Analytics compatible?
- It’s easy to install
- It’s easy to use
- It usually does not require developer assistance
- It provides enough data to make smart decisions
- Since 30-50 million websites use the platform, there is a lot of online support
- There are countless tutorial articles and YouTube videos
Let’s look at the most common application scenario for first-time users:
You’re a business that just started a website or just started looking into improving your online marketing. Your built-in CMS analytics platform isn’t supplying you with enough information and you have no idea what your users are doing on your website. You’ve now stumbled upon this article and are looking for enough reasons to finally install the software.
What’s next? You could move forward with the installation and follow our tips on understanding the platform or you could do more research to see if GA is actually compatible with your business model. If you’re a business with more complex analytics needs, I suggest taking a deep dive into common solutions to see what works best for you. If you want answers on user data now, then installation is right for you.
What can you actually do with Google Analytics?
With Google Analytics, you can do a number of things on day one to determine the best way to make changes to your website and improve user experience. Here are a few questions you’ll be able to answer a few weeks after installation:
- Should I improve my mobile experience?
- Which pages on my website do my visitors see most often?
- Do people find me more often on Google or Bing?
- Are there other websites that send users to my website?
- How many visitors have turned into leads, purchases or customers?
- Which devices (iPhone, Android) perform better?
- Which browsers (Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox) perform better?
- Which articles on my blog do visitors engage with the most?
and many, many more. With just a few hours of experience, you should be able to find the answer to most of these questions on your own – if you need a refresher then please feel free to bookmark this article and come back again for a little assistance.
How to Install Google Analytics
Start by setting up a Google Analytics account online. You can create a Google Account by logging in under your main Google account that you use to access Gmail, Google Drive, Google Calendar or YouTube. If you don’t have a Google Account then you’ll be prompted to create one.
If you own the website, you’ll want to make sure you use your own account. If you have an agency set up the account for you, be sure to have them set it up under your personal email address. On occasion, agencies might want to create the account under their own email address and when the contract is complete or terminated they could hold your analytics hostage. To avoid this from happening, let them know you will use your own account.=
1. Set up your account and website property
Once you create an account, log in by clicking “Sign in to Analytics” located at the top right of the page. You’ll be prompted to follow three steps to finalize your registration process.
After clicking “Sign up”, you’ll then need to start step 1 by filling out your information:
If you have multiple websites under one brand, consider naming the Account as your parent company’s name. In Google Analytics, you’re allowed to have 100 Google Analytics accounts under one Google account, with 50 properties per account and 25 views for each property. In most cases for businesses with one website you can simply name the account and move to the next step.
Beneath the form, you’ll find data sharing options. Read through these and select which data sharing option is right for you. None of these will impact performance or experience with the platform.
2. Install your tracking code / snippet
Once you are done registering and reviewing / accepting the lengthy privacy policies you’ll now be able to install your tracking code. Google assigns every user a unique tracking code to place on your website and there are multiple methods to install the code.
The code looks like this:
and as you can see there are a few options available to install the code. We’ll start with the most straight forward option and move to more complex, but often recommended installation methods.
Method 1: Manually copying and pasting the code in your HTML code (requires basic developer knowledge)
- Placing your mouse and clicking into the code section should highlight the entire code for you – copy this code and place this at the very top of the <head> code on in your website’s HTML. It might take some time for the code to populate traffic on your website. Once it does populate, you can test to see if this works by clicking on the Home button and then “Real-Time”. Visit your website then check this section – if you see a user on your site, then you know it’s working.
Method 2: Using your CMS to install the code (typically no developer knowledge required)
Many CMS platforms offer out of the box installation sections within their platform to make GA easier to install. Below are common platforms and guides to help you install this on your website or application:
- Authority Labs
- Campaign Monitor
- Constant Contact
- JW Player
- Raven Tools
- Visual Website Optimizer
Method 3 (Recommended): Installing Google Tag Manager and installing the code with a tag (requires basic developer knowledge)
Installing Google Analytics with Google Tag Manager is our recommended option, but it is slightly more complicated. You’ll need to first install Google Tag Manager using the same technique found in Method 1 of this section. First, set up a Google Tag Manager account then copy and paste the code provided just below the top <head> section of your website. Instructions on setting up Tag Manager can be found below:
After installing Google Tag Manager you can then install Google Analytics. They actually have a direct integration to make this easy to do.
1. Click on Tags then “New”
2. Name your tag and click on “Tag Configuration” then select “Google Analytics”
3. Click on “Select settings variable” and type in your Google Analytics ID provided to you when you started your account.
4. After hitting “Save” you can now choose a “Trigger”. Click on Trigger and select the “All Pages” option to have the code display on all pages of your website.
5. Finally, click “Save” and “Submit” to activate the code live on your website.
This might be a more difficult method, but now that you have Google Tag Manager set up, you can control many different actions and scripts on your website.
This covers how to Install Google Analytics on your website. In the next section, we will cover the basics of report generation and a few optimizations you can make right away to help understand your audience better and make smart website optimization decisions.