In digital marketing, there’s no room for guesstimates.
Although there are literally millions of guides out there that can show you what to do, you shouldn’t expect guaranteed results. Only by testing those strategies yourself and measuring their performance over time will you be able to devise a foolproof plan for growth.
This is where Google Analytics steps in.
Understanding Google Analytics for Beginners
It’s safe to assume that this isn’t the first time you encountered the name Google Analytics on the web.
After all, it’s the go-to analytics platform where most, if not all, digital marketers get their data from. Aside from the comprehensive range of information it provides, Google Analytics also offers its core functionalities for the low price of free.
In short, it’s an absolute must-have in your online marketing toolbox.
As the name implies, Google Analytics is an analytics service that can give you a crystal clear view of your website’s performance. It lets you answer questions such as:
- How much traffic am I getting?
- Where are my visitors coming from?
- What is my website’s conversion rate?
In this Google Analytics tutorial, I will show you how to set everything up, how to use the dashboard, and what are the crucial metrics to track if you want online success.
Installing Google Analytics
If you use Gmail, then you’ve already completed the first step to using Google Analytics.
A Google account is the first requirement you need in order to access your dashboard.
The initial configuration process is broken down into three important steps: creating your Google Analytics account, copying your unique tracking code into your website, and waiting for the platform to pull your data.
You should have no problem breezing through the first and last steps of this process. What you need to pay attention to, however, is the middle part.
Before Google Analytics can obtain data about your website, you need to generate a unique tracking code that will be used to verify your ownership.
This can be the most intimidating step to setting up Google Analytics for beginners, especially for those who are uncomfortable working with HTML.
Don’t worry — I’ll walk you through each step.
On the “New Account” page, select “Website” from the selection and fill in the important details. This includes an account name, your website’s name, and its domain URL.
Google Analytics should present you its terms of service prior to sending you to the “Tracking Code” page. Here, you can view your unique tracking ID and Global Site Tag, which you have to copy and paste into your website’s header.
For non-developers, it’s the part of your website’s HTML enclosed in the tags “<head>” and “</head>.”
Here’s a quick tip: If you use WordPress, there are plugins you can use to simplify the installation of Google Analytics.
Insert Headers and Footers, for example, is a lightweight plugin that lets you paste codes into your website’s header and footer without having to access the actual HTML document.
Once active, you can access the plugin by opening “Settings” and clicking on “Insert Headers and Footers.” This will give you access to two fields where you can paste any code you wish to inject into any of these HTML sections.
Google Analytics for Dummies
After the successful installation of Google Analytics, it may take around 24-48 hours before you start to see data on your dashboard.
Feel free to bookmark this post for now and come back when your dashboard looks something like:
Right there and then, you’ve already found four of the most important metrics that you need to track in order to improve your website’s performance — namely the number of users who visited your site, their total sessions, your average bounce rate, and the average session duration.
The metrics users and sessions shouldn’t be mixed up.
While users pertain to unique visitors who have accessed your site within a specific time period, sessions merely measure all the times your page was opened regardless if it involved the same people. That’s why the number of sessions presented on Google Analytics is always higher than the number of users.
Now that your Google Analytics account is ready, it’s time to drill down on the metrics you need to measure to improve your website’s performance:
1. Your Audience
As one of the first metrics you’ll find on Google Analytics, it makes sense for you to use the total number of users on your website to measure marketing results.
More traffic equals more opportunities to generate sales. Furthermore, a steady stream of traffic to your website can also boost your rankings in search engine results.
Apart from your dashboard’s homepage, you can head to the “Overview” page under the “Audience” submenu for more insights.
To convert this metric into actionable plans, you need to understand who your users are and where they’re coming from. This will allow you to tailor your brand messaging to your largest audience segment or modify your strategies to attract a different crowd.
Some of the important demographic information you need can be found in your audience overview, including the top languages, countries, and operating systems of your visitors.
Here are some of the ways to utilize these details:
While it seems self-explanatory, it should be noted that the top language of your audience base should influence the way you develop your content.
If you have an overwhelmingly large number of non-native English speakers, consider using simpler language to make it easier for them to comprehend your content.
It’s also important to keep your audience’s language in mind when performing keyword research.
Different demographics use different keywords. If you want to reach a specific type of audience, you need to target the keywords that they are more likely to use.
Knowing the location of your audience will help you create relatable content about local events. In some cases, it also gives you an opportunity to develop products that are more in line with their needs.
Google Analytics can show you the top cities and countries that visit your site — ranking them accordingly based on the number of users they generate.
Google Analytics also shows you the list of all browsers, operating systems, service providers, and even screen resolutions of your visitors.
You can use this information to determine whether you should prioritize your content’s optimization on mobile or desktop.
Ideally, the user experience should be streamlined and consistent across both platforms. But if you have constraints in terms of budget and time, you should know which experience to optimize first.
2. Bounce Rate
Next up, your website’s bounce rate measures the percentage of users who leave your website before clicking anywhere else.
Google Analytics also displays the bounce rate metric on the audience overview page.
A high bounce rate could point to several problems with the user experience, such as a slow website or a mismatch between your content and the audience’s expectations.
Bounce rate also indirectly affects SEO ranking factors like session duration and overall conversion rate. As such, it’s one of the metrics you should never ignore if you want to improve the user experience and make the most out of your traffic.
What is a Good Bounce Rate?
To determine what passes as a “good” bounce rate in your industry, select “Benchmarking” under the “Audience” submenu and click “Channels.”
Under “Industry Vertical,” go ahead and select your specific niche. You need to be as specific as possible if you want accurate benchmarks.
Just under “Industry Vertical,” you should be able to spot two additional drop-down menus. To compare your website’s bounce rate with the industry average, select “Bounce Rate” on the first menu and “Benchmark Bounce Rate” on the second.
Google Analytics can show you how bounce rates in your industry, including your website, fluctuate each day. You can also “zoom out” the data to view the monthly or weekly averages.
What’s important is that you have an idea of how your website’s bounce rate fares against the competition.
Below are some tips to help you improve your website’s bounce rate:
- Improve your website’s loading speed
- Pay attention to user intent when performing keyword research
- Reduce the number of pop-ups or ads on your website
- Display an “exit-intent” pop-up
- Incorporate featured images to capture your audience’s attention
3. Pages Per Session
From a marketing standpoint, you want visitors to view as much of your website as possible.
In addition to more opportunities to squeeze a conversion, viewing more pages per session will also benefit your website’s SEO.
On Google Analytics, you can view this metric by going back to the audience overview page.
Below are some of the ways to encourage your visitors to view more pages on your site:
- Show Sidebar Navigation Links
One of the easiest ways to encourage visitors to discover more of your content is to present them with sidebar navigation links. These may include links to category pages, your most recent posts, or an opt-in form.
- Use Internal Links
Internal linking is the practice of inserting hyperlinks to another post or page within the same site. As a rule of thumb, only insert internal links if they’re relevant to the current content.
- Feature a Search Bar
As an alternative to sidebar navigation and internal links, you can feature a search bar that visitors can use to find the content they need.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Google Analytics is its ability to track specific goals on your website.
Remember, all your marketing efforts will be wasted if they don’t yield measurable results — be it in the form of sales, downloads, subscriptions, and so on.
To specify the goals you want to measure on Google Analytics, head to your administrator control panel and select “Goals” under the “View” column. Be sure to select the right properties linked to your account.
On the next page, you can monitor your conversions for the past seven days as well as create new goals for Google Analytics to track. Simply click “New Goal” if you haven’t configured any yet.
Suppose you want to measure the number of times a user reaches your “Thank You” page that appears after an email subscription. Start by choosing a “Goal Setup,” which can be “Template,” “Smart Goal,” or “Custom.”
The next phase involves specifying your goal’s name and identifying its type.
Since our goal is to make people reach your “Thank You” page, select “Destination” and click “Continue.”
Lastly, you need to fill in the details of your goal. In this case, you need to enter the specific URL of your “Thank You” page.
You can also assign monetary values to the conversion or specify the “funnel” or path that you’ve designed for this particular conversion.
Upon clicking “Save,” your goal should now appear in your Google Analytics “Goals” list.
You can also monitor your goals by navigating to the “Conversions” submenu, selecting “Goals,” and then clicking “Overview.”
5. Traffic Sources
Finally, Google Analysis can provide you with a complete breakdown of the traffic sources to your website.
You can view this information by going to the “Acquisition” submenu and clicking “Overview.”
If you are running multiple marketing campaigns for both paid and free traffic, identifying your top traffic sources will tell you which methods work best for your brand. This could be social media, organic search, referral, email, or paid.
You can dig even deeper by clicking on any of the traffic sources to view pertinent details, such as the keyword used in organic search or the specific domain where referral traffic is coming from.
For example, clicking on “Social” will show you the top social media networks that feed traffic to your website.
Armed with this new information, you can double down on content promotions through the social network that gets the most results. The same principle applies when you identify your top keywords and referral traffic sources.
I hope you learned a lot from this post on Google Analytics for beginners.
Remember, the only way to concoct an airtight marketing campaign is to constantly track, measure, and improve.
Google Analytics can help you accomplish these objectives by:
- Helping you learn more about your existing audience base
- Making your audience more likely to stay on your site
- Determining how many pages your average visitor views
- Measuring the success rate of your website objectives
- Understanding your most valuable traffic sources
For more information on how to use Google Analytics for your website, check out this post. Cheers!