Google Analytics is a web analytics service that was launched by Google in 2005. The regular service is free to use, however Google also offers a premium option for companies.
I have been using Google Analytics on all of my websites since it was first launched. The service is easy to use, though it also offers a lot of advanced features for experienced web developers such as conversions and goal tracking.
Today I would like to show you what the service offers and how it can help you analyze the traffic you receive to your website.
Installing Google Analytics on Your Website
As with all Google services, you need to have a Google account in order to use Google Analytics. After you have logged in, you will be see four links in the top navigation menu: Home, Reporting, Customization and Admin. Click on the admin link.
The center column is for properties. At the top of the column you will see a drop down menu that allows you to switch between menus. At the very bottom is an option to create a new property. You need to click on this to track a new website.
There are two different tracking methods available. Universal Analytics is the new standard way of tracking by Google and the one I recommend choosing. Classic Analytics is the old tracking method that they used for several years.
Setting up a new property will only take you a minute. You simply need to enter your website name, URL, industry and your preferred timezone for your reports.
Google Analytics used to be known for slowing down web pages, however Google now uses asynchronous loading to ensure that the tracking code is not executed until the page has already been loaded.
Another page that you will find useful within the admin area is User Management. This page allows you to to add permissions to view and edit your website reports for other people. Up to four permissions can be chosen: Manage Users, Edit, Collaborate, and Read and Analyze.
Once you have installed your website, you will see it listed in the Google Analytics home page with the other websites you track.
Google Analytics Reports
The reporting area is where all of your main reports are located. The page is divided into several different categories. In this section, I would like to give you a brief introduction to each one and explain what they offer.
Google Analytics offers dozens and dozens of pre-made reports. The dashboards section allow you to build a page that displays any report you want.
Google offers a starter dashboard to get you started. It is a great way of seeing how dashboards work and seeing what is on offer.
The blank canvas option allows you to start from scratch and create your own custom report. It is a great way of customising your dashboard so that the reports that matter to you are displayed.
At the top of every Google Analytics report is a menu that features customization and export options. The menu is different on some report, but the menu always includes an option to add a shortcut to the report.
This menu also gives you the option to email a report to someone, add the report to your dashboard, and download the report in one of six formats.
When you click on the shortcut link, Google gives you an option to change the name of the shortcut.
Whereas dashboards allow you to display several reports on one page, shortcuts simply link to selected reports. It is essentially a way to list the reports you use all the time.
Intelligence Events is an option in Google Analytics that allows you to track daily, weekly or monthly events. It allows you to track a wide range of events such as page views, clicks, visits, bounce rates, sales conversions, and more.
It only takes a minute to add a new alert. You can apply alerts to all your traffic or select something specific. For example, you could set up an alert specifically for a certain landing page you have just created.
There are dozens of targets to choose from and you have full control over the exact value an alert should be trigged. All alerts will be displayed on the Intelligence Events page. Alerts can be emailed to you as well.
Real-Time reports give you a live report about visitors who are currently on your website. There are five Real-Time reports to view: Locations, Traffic Sources, Content, Events, and Conversions.
The overview page highlights the number of visitors viewing at the moment. Per second and per minute graphs also detail visits over the last thirty minutes. Top pages, top referrals, top social traffic and top content are also displayed.
There are over a dozen audience reports on offer including reports on demographics, location, and the devices visitors are using to browse your website. It offers so much more than just visits and page views.
The Audience reports essentially tell you who your visitors are. For example, it advises you whether someone is a return visitor, the language of the device they are using, their age, and their gender. It will also tell you about their interests.
Whereas Audience reports give you information about your visitors, Acquisition reports advise you where those people came from. It includes a wide range of reports including channels, referrals, paid search engine traffic, and organic search engine traffic.
It also breaks down social media traffic and provides information on search engine keywords and landing pages. Google Adwords is also integrated into this section.
Behaviour reports give you information about what visitors are doing once they are on your website. It includes reports such as landing pages, exit pages, on site searches, and site speed. Google Adsense is also integrated into this section.
Behaviour Flow is one of my favorite reports. It is a visual report on what your most popular pages are and what pages visitors are navigating to afterwards.
Conversions reports offers many reports for online shop owners including product performance, sales performance, transactions and time to purchase. Sales funnels can also be shown.
This section also allows you to create goals and then monitor them. This can be used to track anything from an email subscription to downloads of specific files. These features are flexible, but it will take you a while to understand it fully.
Google also gives you the option to create custom reports. Dozens and dozens of metrics can be chosen for your reports.
Custom reports are beyond the scope of this article, however you should keep them in mind for the future incase you need to track something unique on your website.
I hope you have enjoyed this introduction to Google Analytics. If so, I encourage you to subscribe to the Elegant Themes blog so that you are always kept up to date with our latest articles 🙂
Article thumbnail image by Elena Kalistratova / shutterstock.com