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Getting Started With Google Analytics

Posted 22nd May, 2014 by Aliysa

Do you know how many people are visiting your site? Where they are arriving from, where they are leaving? There’s a free tool that can provide you with this info, and so much more. Google Analytics. It’s the most widely used analytics application, and for good reason. Whether you’re new to it, or you need to brush up on your analytical skills, here’s an overview and how-to guide.

Google Analytics provides you with the answers to how your site is performing, by tracking the behaviour of your visitors. By interpreting this data you can better understand where you’re going right, and where you’re going wrong, and adapt accordingly. For instance, your sites bounce rate - the proportion of visitors who visit just a single page and then leave - may be high. This data could mean users aren’t finding your content interesting, or you’re not internally linking to other pages on your site successfully. To counteract, you may redefine your content strategy, or improve your sites navigation and internal linking. There are many, many other statistics that can be used to indicate your performance.

How to setup

_Note: this setup guide is for classic Google Analytics, not universal analytics. For info on setting up universal analytics see Google’s documentation, or install this WordPress plugin._

First of all, you need to add your unique Analytics tracking to your site. After creating a Google Analytics account (it’s pretty straight-forward), grab your tracking code - about 8 lines of code - from Admin > Tracking info > Tracking code. You’ll need to add this snippet into each page (right before the closing tag) or into your page header. If this goes way over your head, get a webmaster or developer to add it for you.

If you’re a WordPress-er, you can do this by adding the snippet to your theme's header.php file (In the admin go to Appearance > Editor > Header) directly after the < body > tag. Alternatively there are a number of plugins to easily do this, so you don’t have to get into the code. You can also add your tracking code through functions.php, but this is slightly more advanced and only recommended if you have a degree of coding know-how.

Once you’ve added the tracking code it can take up to a day or two for Google to recognise it. You can check if Google is receiving data from the page where you grabbed the code snippet.

Google Analytics is packed full of features and functions, check out Google’s feature list and interface map to familiarise yourself with the application.

What Next?

  • Customise the Dashboard

    For a quick overview of your sites data, use the dashboard. The dashboard is the start point you’re directed to upon signing in, and can be fully customised in terms of metrics shown, how the data is displayed, page layout and timescale. By default Google includes the most popular reports here e.g. Unique visitors, bounce rate and the worldwide visitor map. If there’s any metrics you deem to be of real importance or significance to your site, it’s a good idea to add them to your dashboard.

Custom dashboard
  • Add Custom Reports

    Through the Customisation tab you can create and monitor custom reports. This is a brilliant feature for grouping together specific dimensions and metrics that are relevant to your site, which can be easily viewed from one place. You can customise how the data is displayed and easily share reports with others.

Custom reports
  • Setup Goals

    To get the most out of Google Analytics you need to track what really matters - your goals. These might be metrics like downloads, newsletter signups, leads or even the duration that a user is on your site (for instance, if you’re a blogger, high durations may signify that your content is of real interest).


    To setup a goal navigate to the Admin tab, select Goals and then +New Goal. Name your goal something easy to understand and interpret e.g. ‘Newsletter sign ups.’ Next you have 4 goal types to choose from:

    1. Destination: The goal is triggered when a user visits a certain page, e.g. a transaction complete confirmation page.
    2. Duration: The goal is triggered when a user stays on your site for a certain period of time e.g. more than 2 minutes 30 seconds.
    3. Pages/Screens per visit: The goal is triggered when a user visits a certain number of pages in one session e.g. more than 5 pages.
    4. Event: The goal is triggered when a user performs an action or elicits an event e.g. downloads a PDF, uses social media buttons. This is more complicated, as you need to setup the events within Google Analytics too. It involves adding a bit of code to the element you want to track. You can track pretty much anything you want using events.This guide provides a great indepth insight into goals and how to create them.
  • Configure Custom Alerts

    You might not have time to check Analytics in depth all the time, and that’s understandable. However, should something drastic happen to your site, for instance, referrals significantly drop, you’ll want to know straight away. It could be due to a number of reasons, for instance a change to Google’s search algorithm (which has hit many sites hard in the past); it’s important that an issue is highlighted and diagnosed as soon as possible. This is where the Intelligence Events tab comes in. Here alerts are generated whenever your sites statistical data strays from the norm - automatic alerts are provided, but you can also set custom alerts for predefined variations.


    The great thing about custom alerts is, not only can you set specific variables to monitor, but you can also opt in for email or text message notifications when an alert is triggered. To create a custom alert, go to the Admin tab and select Custom Alerts from View. From here you can specify your alert conditions, so you can easily monitor your most important metrics.

  • Create Custom Campaigns

    Through the Acquisition > Campaigns section of Reporting, it’s possible to track the performance of your campaigns (e.g. Adwords) to gauge the value of your efforts and what can be done to enhance them. By creating custom campaigns, you’re able to monitor the resulting traffic from specific campaigns and elements.

    To create custom campaigns you need to add UTM parameters to your link URLs. URM parameters are a globally recognised format that you’ve more than likely seen before.

    Here’s an example of a URL with UTM parameters:


    - Source = Newsletter
    - Medium = Email
    - Campaign = April email

    All it involves is adding a tracking code to a URL which will not affect the link destination, it just provides Google Analytics with information about the source, medium and campaign name of the traffic, and optional parameters about the campaign content and term. And to make it even easier, Google provide a URL builder tool for custom campaigns. The information you add will display in Google Analytics and can help you determine the performance of anything such as email newsletters, banners ads offsite and onsite.

    • *

There’s a lot to Google Analytics - more than just the features mentioned. Another noteworthy feature is e-commerce tracking. Once setup it provides detailed information about your products, transactions and time to purchase, which helps you gain a better understanding of how your online business performs and how customers interact with your site. Setting up e-commerce tracking is a bit trickier and less ‘non-developer’ friendly, but you can find step-by-step guides through Google’s support pages.

A recurring word throughout this post has been ‘custom,’ and this reflects exactly what Google Analytics is all about - customisation. Google Analytics really is a limitless analytical tool - it can be as indepth as you want it to be. It’s an asset to your site as it gives comprehensive indicators to how you’re performing, which can shape the future direction you take.

Categories: Tips

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