How to set up Google Analytics to track website visitor activity
Google Analytics was launched in 2005 and has since become the most widely used website analytics service in the world. The standard version is totally free to set up and use and it provides businesses with pretty much all of the insights they might need on their website activity. In this guide I’m going to show you how to create a Google Analytics account, integrate it with your website and then start tracking your visitors’ activity.
Creating a Google Analytics Account
To get started, you’ll need to head over to https://www.google.com/analytics. Once here you should see a small button that says “Sign in” by clicking on this button you’ll be presented with a drop down menu to select the service you wish to login to. You’ll want to choose just plain ol’ “Google Analytics”.
The next steps are made a lot easier if you already have a Google account for services such as Gmail and Google+. If you don’t currently have a Google account, follow the onscreen steps to get yourself registered and then you can continue with the process.
Once logged into Google Analytics you will be presented with the Account Creation screen which will look something like this:
You need to fill in the appropriate details to continue the process so let’s go over what’s needed.
- What would you like to track? This first choice is pretty clear and for the purposes of this guide we’ll stick with simply choosing “Website”
- Account name. You can give your account any name you like but it is always better to pick a memorable and descriptive name. I always like to go with the name of the website or business that this account will be associated with.
- Website name. Again this can be anything you like but try and make sure you’re descriptive enough with your choice that you’ll remember what website this account is tracking.
- Website URL. This is the website address that you have to type in to reach the homepage of the site you’re looking to track.
- Industry Category. The selections here can sometimes be a bit broad and therefore you just need to pick the industry that best describes your business.
- Reporting Time Zone. Pick the time zone you’re in most often so that your reports are set up for your location.
- Data Sharing Settings. You can leave these ticked, or you can untick them as it will make little difference to your website tracking.
Once you’ve filled in the form, click the little blue button the reads “Get tracking ID”. A popup window will appear asking you to agree to the terms and conditions, so first select your country of residence at the top and then click “I Accept”.
You’ll now be presented with your tracking code and various other pieces of information that goes with it.
Adding your Google Analytics tracking code to your website
This is where things can get a little tricky as each website system requires you to add the tracking code a little differently to the rest. At A Tiny Village we take care of the entire process for you and only require the tracking ID which usually starts with UA. If you are using another service or system, the process will be a little more involved. Here are a couple of different ways you might be required to add your tracking code to your site.
Direct paste into website code
The bare minimum that Google requires you to do with the tracking code is to paste the script into the header of the HTML code on each page you wish to be tracked. If you have access to the HTML you just need to copy and paste the Tracking Script, which you were provided with when you set up the account, into the <head></head> tags of your code.
If your website is running on Wordpress you can use the method mentioned above by locating the header.php file of your Wordpress install and pasting your tracking script into that file. The quicker and easier method is to install a plugin onto your website that allows you to paste the tracking script into the plugin’s settings page. This way you can always make quick modifications and you won’t run the risk of losing your tracking if you change your Wordpress theme.
Give it to your website designer
If you’ve hired a good website designer, you should be able to send your tracking code or tracking script to them via email and they will handle the rest.
Making sense of your tracking data
Once you have installed your tracking code onto your website it can take around 24 hours for any data to start filtering through to your Google Analytics dashboard. Once this starts happening you will see quite a variety of information which can be a little difficult to get your head around. Let me clear up a some of the data that will be most useful for you to understand at this point.
When you first access your account’s Google Analytics dashboard you should be presented with a screen that looks something like this:
It’s an overview of how many times your website was accessed (Sessions), how many different people visited your website (Users) and how many pages were looked at in total (Pageviews). There are other bits of information that analyse the relationship between the number of visitors and the number of page views which might be of some use.
At this stage it’s not so much the number of people viewing your site that matters, what you are looking for is the number of pages people are visiting and how long they are spending on your site. This gives an indication of how engaged each visitor is with your brand online.
Where are your visitors coming from?
It is important to keep an eye on the ways in which people are accessing your website. Google groups this information together in the “Acquisition” section which can be found by pointing your mouse to the left of the screen and scrolling this menu down to the bottom.
If you click on the main “Acquisition” button more options for ways to view your data should appear. For the purposes of this guide we’re going to focus on the “All traffic” and then “Channels” section. On the next screen you should see a table of the different ways your visitors are reaching your site, how long they spend on your website and how many from each channel are visiting you. There are quite a few channel types but the most common ones are:
- Direct: People who typed your website address directly into their web browser to visit your website specifically.
- Organic Search: Those that found you by using a search engine.
- Referrals: Some websites may link to your website and if people click one of these links in order to reach your site it is considered a referral.
- Social: Those that visited your website by clicking on a link found on a social media site such as Facebook or Twitter.
If you want to find out more about the visitors from each channel you can click on the channel name to see another table of the exact places and search terms used to reach your website.
What are your visitors doing on your website?
Google allows you to follow each website visitor on their entire journey through your website, from the first page they look at to the last page they view before leaving your website.
To see this information, you need to head down to the “Behaviour” link, found just below the “Acquisitions” link on the left hand side of the page.
There is a lot of available data on your visitors’ behaviour, however for this guide we’ll just take a quick look at the “Behaviour Flow” screen to show you a quick snapshot of how your visitors interact with your site.
This screen gives you a visual representation of how your visitors are flowing through your website. It shows you which pages they entered your site (shown on the very left of the diagram). You can then see each page that was visited after entering the website before eventually showing you the last page viewed before your visitors leave your website. You might need to click and drag in order to show the pages on the far right as Google hides these by default.
What you need to pay attention to here is all of the pages that people are exiting your website from. Hopefully it’s the page that you are hoping they convert on however if most of your visitors aren’t getting past the homepage then something needs to change.
Going any further into how you can use Google Analytics data is outside the scope of this guide however I hope you’ve learned something useful to you and your business.
If you need any more help and guidance on getting set up on Google Analytics, then don’t be shy and get in touch.