One of the first things we do when onboarding a new client, is to ensure that they’re able to track where their website traffic is coming from, the number of visitors they’re getting, how visitors use the website, what content is being viewed the most, and how long visitors are staying on the site or page.
This information directly impacts the marketing strategy for the website owners, because it reveals whether or not our client is properly targeting their ideal customer.
With this information, we then create an action plan to optimize our client’s website and content to make sure it’s as effective as it can be.
So, how do we do all this? It all starts with the Google Analytics web analytics tool.
By implementing this tool properly, we can gain the insight we need to understand web traffic and improve the performance of our clients’ marketing campaigns and increase their conversions.
Today, we’re going to give you a step-by-step rundown of how to utilize this tool as a professional so you can maximize your site’s performance.
Part 1: Setting Up Google Analytics
I. Getting Started with a Google Analytics Account
Step 1: To create a Google Analytics Account, you must first create a Google Account or use an existing one.
Step 2: Once you’ve created a Google account, or logged in to an existing account, navigate to the Google programs tab, and select “More From Google”.
Step 3: Scroll down to “All Products” then click on “For Business” and there you will find Google Analytics.
Step 4: Select “Start for free” and fill in the information for your new account.
Step 5: After creating your account, scroll over to the “Property” column and click on Tracking Info -> Tracking Code and copy your Google Site Tag.
Step 10: You now need to install this tracking code on every page of your website that you want to track. How you do this will depend on the type of website CMS you’re using. We deal primarily with WordPress sites so the next section will detail how we install tracking codes with these types of sites.
II. Install Your Tracking Code on a WordPress Site
There are a few options for installing the tracking code on your site.
Option 2: For more advanced users and developers, if you’ve built your site with custom HTML, you can add your tracking code to the source code of every page you want to track using an HTML Editor by adding it before the </head> tag on each page.
You’ll then need to upload the new files to your site’s pages via an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) program like FileZilla. Again, this step is advisable only for advanced users. If you would like to go this route, there is a useful guide you can use here.
III. Set up Site Search
Now that you’ve created your Google Analytics account and connected it to your WordPress website, the next step will be to set up Site Search within the tool.
Site Search provides you with insight into what site visitors are looking for when they reach your website.
Step 1: Bring up your Google Analytics account and go to the Admin tab, then go to the View column and click on “View Settings”.
Step 2: From the settings, you will need to turn “Site Search Tracking” to ON.
Step 3: Then the Query Parameter box will appear and you will need to enter either “s” or “q”. To know which to choose by using your site search box to search for something. Once you click search, you will be looking for the letter just before your search query.
In the example below, we try this on Interrupt Media’s site by searching for marketing automation and the URL reads “https://interruptmedia.com/?s=marketing+automation”. Thus, we know our query parameter is “s”.
Step 4: Click “Save” and now every search on your site will be recorded by Google Analytics.
IV. Set up Goal Tracking
Now we need to tell Google Analytics what our goals are for visitors. What do we want visitors to do, ultimately, when they visit our site? Tracking the actions that lead up to this is very important for optimizing conversions.
For example, when a potential client fills out a contact form or opts in to an email list, we want to know what their journey on our site looks like so we can identify which types of content work the best for increasing sales and conversions.
Google Analytics allows you to create up to 20 goals to track, and here’s how you can start creating them.
Step 1: From the Admin tab, go to the View column and click on “Goals”.
Step 2: Then click on “New Goal”. You can then create your goal in one of three ways.
- Option 1: Templates. With the template option, you can choose from one of four templates aligned to your objectives: Revenue, Acquisition, Inquiry, and Engagement.
- Option 2: Custom Goals. If you’re experienced and have a unique goal that doesn’t fit the templates, you can set up a custom goal.
- Option 3: Smart Goals. Smart Goals allows Google Analytics to give your website visits a score which enables you to understand which is most likely to lead to a conversion, and creates a goal based on that. You will simply need to give your Smart Goal a name and proceed to the next step.
Step 3: Once you’ve selected your goal, you’ll need to name your goal. Be sure to name your goals well because you will need to understand what they are when you review your Google Analytics reports later on.
Step 4: Next, choose a type: Destination, Duration, Pages/Screens per session (screens refers to apps on mobile devices), or Event.
- Destination: Best for goals trying to drive traffic to a certain page, where pageviews are the conversion criteria.
If you choose this option, you will need to enter the page URL for your goal and select the appropriate match type from the drop-down menu. You can assign a monetary value to your conversions, if necessary unless you’re choosing Smart Goals. You can also specify a funnel if there is a particular path your visitors will need to take to reach the desired destination.
- Duration: If your conversion criteria are to get a visitor to spend a certain amount of time on a page, select this option.
If you choose ‘Duration’, indicate the amount of time visitors need to spend on a page to hit a goal conversion.
- Pages/Screens per session: If the number of pages viewed is your conversion criteria, this is the right goal type for you.
If your goal type is Pages/Screens per session, you need to specify the number of pages that must be viewed to equate to a conversion.
- Events. If you want to track an action such as completing a form, viewing a video, or downloading a file, choose events as your type.
You will then need to enter your event conditions and the components required to complete the event.
Step 5: Once done setting your goals, click the “Save” button to finish.
Now that your account is set up and optimized, it’s time to move on to the next section of this guide: using your Google Analytics account.
Part 2: How to Use Google Analytics
In this section, we’re going to explain how to utilize the reporting features of Google Analytics to improve and optimize your website for conversions. There’s a lot of information here so feel free to bookmark this guide to refer back to later on.
From the home page of your Google Analytics account, you can select the website property you want to view and get an instant breakdown of your website traffic stats, average session duration, bounce rate, and goal conversion rate.
With customizations, you can tailor your dashboard views with additional widgets to enhance your experience, create custom reports, or view existing saved reports. You can also create custom alerts that indicate when traffic has reached a threshold you have previously indicated.
Real-Time reports can show you who’s viewing your website at that moment. On the overview screen, you can see the number of active viewers, the number of pages that are being viewed, the top keywords being used, and the most popular pages.
Additional tabs under the Real-Time reports can also show you location, traffic sources, content, events, and conversion data for current users.
Audience reports provide insight into who your website visitors are as well as how many sessions they’re having on your website per hour, daily, weekly, or monthly.
It also provides the number of visitors, page views, number of pages per session, session duration, bounce rate, and percentage of new sessions vs. returning visitors.
You can also see which geo region your web traffic is coming from, their language, what type of browser they employ, service providers, operations systems, and when they visit your site.
Furthermore, additional tabs can organize your information based on demographics, interests, behavior, technology, and more. All of this information is extremely valuable in understanding your target market.
Acquisition reports show you how your visitors found your site. Did they enter your URL directly, perform an organic search, use a referral link, a social media post, click on an ad, etc.
Via the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tab, you can see which target keywords visitors are using to find your site if you create a Google Webmaster account.
With Behavior reports, you can see how your visitors are engaging with your website and how your content is performing. You can see the pages visitors are going to from the first page they land on to the exit page.
This allows you to see which landing pages are keeping visitors on the site, and which might be costing your conversions. You can also view in-page analytics with a simple Google Chrome extension.
Additionally, under Behavior reports, you can view site content, site speed, site search, and events- all to get more insight into the specific actions your visitors are doing while on your site, and which factors may need to be optimized to improve conversion.
Conversions reports is a critical one as it shows the last actions taken before the visitor converted, the full path it took for them to get there, as well as how many conversions have occurred on the site.
Within the Conversions tab, you can also view goals, eCommerce, multi-channel funnels, and attribution.
Attribution is a newer, advanced tool added to the Google Analytics repertoire and is currently in beta. With this tool, you can create an attribution model, which is the rule, or set of rules, that determines how credit for sales and conversions is assigned to touchpoints in conversion paths.
Under the Discover tab, you will see all the available add-ons to enhance and tailor your tracking experience within Google Analytics, as well as training resources to expand your knowledge and expertise with Google tools.
Under the Admin tab, not only can you adjust your account and property settings, but also segment your users, create alerts, attribution models, and schedule emails.
Google Analytics is undoubtedly a key player in our arsenal when helping our clients to optimize their site and increase website traffic and conversions.
The analytics data it provides show us what’s performing well and what can be improved so we can take actionable steps to achieve positive results for clients.
We hope this guide has helped you to get started using your Google Analytics account to the best of your ability. If you’d like to learn about other tools available in the Google Suite that can help you optimize your account, please see our post on Google Search Console and Google Data Studio.