Google Analytics – How to Learn the Basics

Google analytics logoGoogle Analytics is a powerful web analysis tool that will help you understand and improve the engagement, sales and metrics outcomes for your online marketing efforts. Learning the basics of Google Analytics will help you start to analyze traffic on your website and interactions on social media sites that are associated with your website and all internet properties. It also contains powerful capacities to help you track and evaluate the monetary values of traffic, actual sales outcomes and interactions related to real product data. Getting started with the basics can be the most difficult task you’ll face when using analytics tools, but once you understand the fundamentals of establishing accounts, technical settings, terminology and tools – it gets much easier!

Bing Yahoo LogoBing (Yahoo) also provides analytics tools that are part of their overall webtools platform. Webmasters and digital marketing teams should use both Google and Bing/Yahoo. Marketers also should incorporate Google Webmaster Tools, SEO tools, etc., with their Google Analytics program, and they could also look into other types of 3rd party web analytics platforms. Wordpress sites, for example, can use free plugins that coordinate with Google Analytics or other internet activities for your organizaton’s online marketing objectives.

Step One: Google Analytics Academy

Google provides free web learning programs from their Google Analytics Academy pages. Currently there are two levels: “Fundamentals” and the more advanced “Platform Principles.”  Just recently, Google tutorials have become very easy to understand. Their newer videos and sample exercises are much improved compared to older videos and documentation. Google Analytics is extremely powerful and its complexity can overwhelm users who try to just open an account and start “winging it.” New users should invest a few hours to just watch the “Fundamentals” tutorial videos, at least. Any new Google Analytics user who works through all the new tutorials with exercises will be able to understand the basic terminology, settings, techniques and account synching that can mean the difference between successful tracking and confusion.  WARNING: learners should NOT watch older videos from Google or 3rd party publishers, on YouTube because Google’s search algorithms and Google Analytics coding have changed a great deal during 2013-14, with more changes on the way. Always rely on very recent information regarding any Google-related tutorial information.

Here are links to some of the tutorial videos from “Fundamentals” (*best for beginners)

Step Two: Set up your Account and Website

Google Analytics ScreenGrab 1Start a Google account for the website you want to track. (Using a new gmail address is recommended to help keep yourself organized at first. You can connect accounts and manage all your activity and various websites from a single email/account later on, but you should start with all separated accounts at first.) Then set up Google Analytics as one of the data tools that you use from your Google account. You’ll need to be ready with a live website to assign to your Google Analytics account — free Wordpress sites are easy to set up and “Responsive” WordPress themes that can handle mobile visitors are highly recommended, such as the Responsive theme used for this site. After you set up a Google account you will also be able to set up Webmaster Tools, Google Plus profiles and pages, Google Authorship, Youtube channels, Google Apps and other Google tools that all work together. Plan in advance how you want to keep track of your different website accounts and social media sites as the connections and linkages can get very complicated. If you are a beginner or novice you should start a new Google account and new gmail address for each company/organization/website you plan to manage. Remember that later on you can connect them into one management area.

Step Three: Get the Tracking Code or Script to Insert Into Your Website

Google Analytics Screen Grab 2You’ll get a “tracking code” or script from Google that must be inserted into every page of your website that you want to track.  Even if you have an analytics account, no data will be picked up by Google until you have inserted the code into your site.  You can manually insert script into the meta tag header for each page – or you can use Wordpress plugins like “Google Analytics” that will input your UA tracking ID number automatically into every page. Other website templates have various tools or functions that allow you to put the tracking code or script into one place for automatic insertion into all your pages. This is important for you especially if you are not using a WordPress site with plugins.

Step Four: Check on Other Settings Such As “Social Settings”

Google Analytics Screen 3While your are in your Google Analytics console you can start to set up important functions. One of the most important and easiest settings to take care of at this time is the “Social Settings” that will tell analytics where your own social media pages are, and specifically track them. In “Social Settings” you can easily enter the URLs for your Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Pinterest and other social media pages to be sure you can see how much traffic comes to your website from your social media pages. Be sure to also add your own website URL, not just the social URLs – an odd, non-intuitive requirement for best results.

 

 

Step Five: Users For Google Analytics Accounts

Google Analytics Screen 4You might be the main admin user for your own account and website. But sometimes you will use Google Analytics because you are invited as an additional user to another existing Google Analytics account by that administrator. You can be invited to become a user on another site via email invitation that you must respond to for final verfication. If you are going to be invited as a user on another existing Google Analytics account, you will need to provide them with an email address of your own that Google already “knows” (it’s recommended that you use the email from your Google account – a gmail address.) If you give that administrator an email that is not “registered” with one of your Google accounts, they will not be able to invite you. If you want to invite other users to an account that you create and administrate, invite users from the admin part of your account dashboard and assign the function you want that user to have. They must respond to your email invitation before they will become an actual user on the account. There are various settings that can be applied to any user ranging from full admin capabilities to minor data viewing.

Step Six: Experiment with Dashboards and Reports

  Google Analytics Screen 5   Google Analytics 6

Now that your sites and accounts are ready and you are an official user for an account you should start experimenting with “Dashboards” and “Reporting.”  There are a million ways to set up tracking or to pull reports for any date range “on the fly.” The way you do this will depend on many factors related to the nature of your website’s business and your marketing objectives.  The simplest tools for tracking and examining information are “dashboards” and “reporting” from your Google Analytics console. These functions allow you to see generic tracking data with various settings you can adjust with dashboard widgets, custom reports, date range variation, and so on. You can also export some of that data into spreadsheets or PDF’s, share them via email or stored reports, and other methods that allow you to share reporting with organization planners, administrators and stakeholders. Rely on your tutorials and experimentation to become familiar with dashboard and reporting basic functions.

Step Seven: Advanced Settings for Goals, Funnels, and More

There are many other functions in Google Analytics that allow you to preset goals, tracking flow, sales information, customer behavior, monetary value for website activities, etc. These are advanced features and usually require that you set pre-published URLs into your tracking parameters, or that you learn about how to designate tracking for particular IRLs, categories, product ID’s and much more.  You will need to learn advanced techniques to use these features properly and you should expect to monitor and adjust your settings before your functions are fully optimized.

Step Eight: Link Google Analytics account with Google Webmaster Tools

Google Webmaster Tools allow you to analyze page data and other information that is different than Google Analytics.  You should use both and link the accounts from Webtools. Data that you observe in analytics may reveal a need to improve certain pages content or meta data, and Webmaster Tools will help you dive deeper into page information or page problems for needed improvments. Webtools also assists with stronger analysis of SEO related information and website health. There are WordPress plugins and other template tools to help you install Google Webmaster code into your website, or you can follow instructions from your Webtools console (but those steps can be complex.)

Step Nine: Monitor, Optimize, Adjust, Repeat

Using Google Analytics is a dynamic process and is always a work in progress, especially at the advanced level.  It works synchronistically with your SEO efforts, Webmaster Tools, Call-to-action comments and subsriptions, and other tools that give you information about your site as you interact with all audiences online. Give yourself many months to learn the basics and stay in touch with Google about all updates and new tools.


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