Congratulations! You have decided to embark on the engaging and rewarding journey that is Google Analytics. Whether you are already committed to implementing Google Analytics as part of your business strategy or simply want to educate yourself on the basics, this blog post is for you! Google Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google that tracks and reports web traffic. Its users range from beginners to specialists who run Google Analytics as their profession. You may find it overwhelming at first, but even the Google Analytics professionals had to start somewhere! In this post, we hope to give beginners a Google Analytics starter kit, outlining some valuable functionality and highlighting what makes it such an important tool for marketers.
WHAT IS DIGITAL ANALYTICS?
To start, let’s understand what digital analytics is and what makes it so important to marketers.
Avinash Kaushik defined digital analytics as: “the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data from your business and the competition to drive a continual improvement of the online experience that your customers and potential customers have which translates to your desired outcome (both online and offline).”
Ideally, you should start by understanding your business objectives and how you expect to measure those outcomes. Then you can look to web analytics for both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data can tell you the size of your audience, where they are located, and what they do when they visit your site. Qualitative data tries to measure the “why?” Why did they come to your site, and were they able to complete that task? As more and more technology becomes available, it becomes increasingly difficult to measure customer interaction with your websites; this is where Google Analytics comes in.
WHAT IS GOOGLE ANALYTICS?
Next, let’s understand how Google Analytics fits into digital analytics.Google Analytics is a web analytics service that Google offers. It tracks and reports web traffic. Google Analytics also allows you to collect and analyze data across a variety of devices and digital environments.
As a marketer, you will likely want to focus on reports (which we will cover in a moment) since they will help you evaluate the performance of your campaigns and make decisions on how to best apply your resources. If you focus on content, you will most likely use Google Analytics to learn what content is popular, how people navigate through your website, and how you might improve their experience.
Many organizations use Google Analytics to better understand how customers find and interact with their websites and mobile apps. In fact, you can use it to measure behavior on many other devices, such as game consoles, ticket kiosks, and even appliances (although in this article we will focus exclusively on web interaction). The key is to use Google Analytics to meet your company’s specific needs and goals.
HOW DO I GET DATA?
The script tracks details such as how the person arrived at your website, where they landed, what page(s) they look at, and whether they have been to your website on a previous occasion.
Once someone reaches your site, four things should happen for you to receive the data: Data collection, Data processing, Configuration, and Reporting.
1) DATA COLLECTION
The Google Analytics tracking code collects user interaction data and information from your website or mobile application and sends it to the Google Analytics service for processing. One such data package is referred to as an “interaction”. Every time a user moves to a new page on your website, the tracking code will collect new information. Google Analytics has many customizable features that allow you to collect additional data that you have identified as useful during your measurement planning process.
2) DATA PROCESSING
This step turns the raw data into information you can use, based on configuration settings that you have specified. You can choose to add filters specifying what you do and do not what to see included in your data. Google Analytics then merges all the source data to create the reports you eventually see in your account.
Google Analytics applies your configuration settings to the raw data received from your website. This helps you align the data more closely with your measurement plan and business objectives. You can also configure Google Analytics to import data directly from other Google products, such as Google AdWords, Google AdSense and Google Webmaster Tools. You can even configure Google Analytics to import data from non-Google sources, including your own internal data.
One very important thing to know: Once Google Analytics has stored and processed data, it cannot be changed.
Most users will rely on the standard web interface to retrieve their data. We will discuss Google Analytics’ built-in reports in a moment. However, you can also export your analytics results to review them using your own application. This is achieved with the Core Reporting API (application program interface).
WHERE DO I START?
You will need a Google Analytics account, which can be linked your existing Google account. After clicking the Sign-Up button, you fill out information about your website and configure where your data can be shared.
ADDING GOOGLE ANALYTICS CODE TO YOUR WEBSITE
Once you have completed the site information, click the Get Tracking ID button at the bottom, accept the Terms and Conditions pop up, and your Google Analytics code will be displayed. You need to install this code snippet on every page of your website.
The process for installing code depends on the type of website you are running. You can find instructions on how to install Google Analytics code by searching for your platform, for example: How to install Google Analytics on WordPress.
We strongly recommend using Google Tag Manager to help simplify this task and keep your website running smoothly. If you deploy other marketing automation or analytics tools, you will also need to add each of their tracking codes to your website. Each additional piece of code will increase the time it takes your website to load, which can have negative consequences for SEO (search engine optimization) and make your site less visible. Google Tag Manager handles all those tracking tasks behind the scenes, replacing them with just one piece of code for your website to load.
SETTING UP VIEWS
Remember when we said that once Google processes data, that’s it, there’s no changing it? You will want to set up multiple views of your property to ensure that you have all your raw, unfiltered data as well as data that has been processed and corrected as you want (example is filtering out your own activity on your website). To do this, go to your Admin console and in the right column under View, click the drop-down menu and select Create New View. Set up 3 new views:
1. Unfiltered View – where your raw data will be housed
2. Test View – where you can test filters
3. Master View – the final, clean version of your data
HOW DO I LINK THIS TO MY OBJECTIVES?
The next thing you should do is set up some goals. Goals instruct Google Analytics when to notify you that something important has happened on your website. They allow you to measure high-value interactions as they occur on your website and tie them back to your objectives and corporate goals.
Under the right view, click on the New Goal button and follow the on-screen steps to specify which activity you want to track and on which page(s) you want it to be measured. You can create up to 20 goals on your website, covering activities such as email list sign up or making a purchase. Your actual goals will depend on your website’s purpose.
WHAT ARE SOME USEFUL REPORTS?
Google Analytics includes over 90 standard reports offering different ways to display who is visiting your website, how they are getting there, what they are doing, and whether they are performing the tasks you desire (in the trade we call this ‘converting’). As soon as you start receiving data, you can begin exploring this functionality and decide how you prefer to view your data.
Dashboards allow you to instantly view a range of important information in a single place. You can select from over 9,000 stock dashboards or customize your own to meet your reporting needs. To create a Dashboard, navigate to Dashboards, and select New Dashboard. Next, select either Blank Canvas or Starter Dashboard. Selecting Blank Canvas will allow you to customize your own dashboard with all the features you want to see.
Each time you log into Google Analytics, you will be taken to your Audience Overview report first. This will tell you everything you want to know about your visitors, such as demographics, interests, geographical location, language, how often they visit, and what device they are using to view your site. This is also where you can see statistics like average time on site and bounce rate for visitors from different groups. This is useful for comparing visitors coming from different online sources, countries, states, or other demographic groups.
You may also want to look at the Frequency and Recency report, which shows how often individuals are coming back to your site and the length of time between their sessions and the User Flow report, which visualizes how people are navigating through your content. You can examine traffic patterns to troubleshoot the efficiency of your website, if needed.
The Behavior report provides details on how often people access your website and how they get there. You can see whether people are visiting your website for the first time or if they are returning after a previous session. This report can help you decide what content keeps users engaged with your site, and identify content that isn’t working so well.
The Acquisition Overview report shows how people are finding your website. This enables marketers to understand which channels are performing best so they can identify opportunities for improving their marketing strategies. For example, you can find out which channels are driving the most people to your website, which ones are creating the most engagement, and which are resulting in the most conversions.
Select Site Content and then Pages to see which page visitors stay on the longest. Use these insights to produce more content that people will appreciate in the future. Under the Content menu you will find the Exit Pages report, which tells you how many people are arriving on, and leaving from, a page. This is useful because it can flag when people might not be finding what they are looking for on your site, and leaving. These reports help you to re-evaluate your content.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
HOW MUCH DOES GOOGLE ANALYTICS COST?
Good news, it’s absolutely FREE! However, if your websites generate more than 10 million hits per month you have the option to upgrade to a premium version (Google Analytics 360). This costs $150,000 per year. If you hit the traffic limit, you will experience sampling issues which could skew your reports.
HOW CAN I SHARE MY GOOGLE ANALYTICS DATA?
To email a report, simply look for the email button just above the Google Analytics chart you’d like to share. Choose contact addresses and the file format in which to send the data when prompted to do so. You can also set up recurring reports and pick which days of the week to send them.
HOW DO I PREVENT GOOGLE ANALYTICS FROM MEASURING MY OWN VISITS TO MY WEBSITE?
Create a new view in your Google Analytics account and applying a filter that excludes your IP address. You may need to apply several filters if you regularly access your site from different locations or if more than one person on your team is a regular visitor.
IS THERE ANY DOWNSIDE TO A STARTUP USING GOOGLE ANALYTICS?
Since there is no cost to use Google Analytics, the benefits are endless and there’s nothing to lose. A small investment of time to get an account set up results in a detailed understanding of what is and is not working on your website, which can lead to major improvements in your startup’s business strategy.
DOES GOOGLE ANALYTICS HAVE A DATA COLLECTION LIMIT?
If your website exceeds the limit of 10 million hits per month, Google Analytics may begin sampling your data rather than sending you the full detail. At that point it’s time to upgrade to GA 360.
WHAT IS REMARKETING?
Remarketing (also known as retargeting) refers to show your ads to people who have visited your site while they are on other websites. This type of advertising encourages them to come back. You can turn on remarketing in your Admin settings.
DOES GOOGLE USE GOOGLE ANALYTICS DATA TO IMPROVE SEARCH RESULTS?
No, Google does not use data from Google Analytics to improve search results. However, Google may use these metrics and analytics in other ways.
WHAT OTHER RESOURCES ARE AVAILABLE TO ME?
Google hosts the Google Analytics Academy, where you can take lessons and courses directly from Google Analytics experts. They cover everything from Digital Analytics Fundamentals to Google Analytics Platform Principles, and even Mobile App Analytic Fundamentals.
Should you decide to complete all the courses, you will have the option to take the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (IQ). This demonstrates proficiency in Google Analytics and is offered to anyone who passes the Analytics IQ exam. Passing the IQ exam provides tangible validation that you understand the fundamentals of Google Analytics. This may be useful if you are seeking a marketing position that requires demonstrable knowledge of the package.
Integrating Google Analytics into your business will provide lasting benefits. There are three steps to driving improvement with the tools provided by Google Analytics: Measure, Analyze, and Improve. First, measure the traffic passing through your website. Generate customized reports to analyze your visitors and their behavior. And, lastly, study the data to decide where you can make improvements to your site and marketing activities.
There are almost endless possibilities. Google Analytics is an incredible useful tool that will ultimately help you maximize your websites’ capabilities!
Marketing Interface President, Melanie Jones, gave a Google Analytics 101 Seminar on December 13th, 2016 in Houston, Texas. You can watch the Facebook Live recording here: Marketing Interface Google Analytics 101 Seminar.
Questions? Feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, we’re here to help!