There are multiple tutorials online on setting up and running Google Analytics accounts, including the one by Google Analytics team. There are very detailed and written to cater for different categories of users: from amateur bloggers to advanced webmasters. Still, there are some pitfalls that require additional explanation, or a number of overlooked opportunities that need an extra focus.
Google Analytics is a tool with endless opportunities, yet you need to organize it properly for it to really provide the answers you need. What I mean is that your needs go beyond traffic stats. You’re looking for deep insights into how people who land on your pages interact with your site, why they come and what you can do to give them more value so that they convert better.
The breakdown of topics to be covered:
Part 1. Setting up your account and grabbing your code
Part 2. Putting together your goals to measure impact, not Visits
Part 3. Google Analytics tweaks that help you see how exactly users interact with your site
In the first part I’ll be going through the process of setting up a Google Analytics account with two scenarios in mind: when you have and you don’t have a content management system.
How to set up your Google Analytics account
To get started with Google Analytics you need to do three things:
- Sign up for a free account,
- Create a new web property in your Analytics account, and
- Add tracking code to your WordPress website.
All three steps are pretty simple and Google provides solid instructions on how to set up your account and create your first property.
First go through the sign-up procedure at Google Analytics start dashboard.
You will then be greeted with the three steps you must take to set up Google Analytics.
After you click the Sign Up button, you will fill out information for your website.
Beneath this, you will have the option to configure where your Google Analytics data can be shared.
Install your tracking code
Once you are finished, you will click the Get Tracking ID button. You will get a popup of the Google Analytics terms and conditions, which you have to agree to. Then you will get your Google Analytics code.
You need to add this code to every page of your site that you wish to track.
At this point, there might be two options:
(1) You have a CMS (content management system)
(2) You don’t have one
How to insert Google Analytics code if you have a CMS system
You might be using WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or some other services as a CMS system. As an example I’ll show you how to insert your code into WordPress because it’s one of the most popular options.
In Appearance -> Editor, choose Header on the right of your menu.
Insert your Google Analytics tracking code before </head> and Update file.
This single action lets you set tracking for all pages on your blog.
After you hit Update File, view the pages in your browser to make sure you’ve made no accidental changes.
As an easier option you can use any WordPress SEO plugins that provide Google Analytics integration: Simple Google Analytics, Google Analytics for WordPress, Google Analytics Master , Google Analytics Dashboard , to name a few.
For solutions with other CMS providers, please check corresponding Help sections or contact their Support teams directly.
It’s also often the case that you had your website built with a design or web development agency, so you’ll have an agency-branded CMS. It might have a sort of Edit Themes option where you find templates for separate sections of your site, so you can take actions similar to the ones described above.
If you don’t find anything similar, contact your developers for instructions on pasting the tracking code.
How to add Google Analytics tracking code if you don’t have a CMS
If you don’t have a content management system, you’ll have all components of your website as separate files. If there’s some sort of IT guys in your team, ask them for help when installing the code.
If you’re in a DIY mode and want to add Google Analytics code yourself, follow these instructions:
(1) Download an FTP client
An FTP client is software designed to transfer files from a remote server and edit them. One of the popular options is Filezilla FTP client, a free tool that can be installed on Mac, Windows and Linux.
(2) Install the FTP client
(3) Connect your remote server
Your hosting provider has informed you on your host (IP), username and password for FTP access. Populate your FTP app with this data.
Now you have all your pages displayed as separate files and you can edit them, adding the tracking code.
Filezilla operates mostly like any desktop file manager. It will be relatively easy to find the files (pages), where you want to insert your Google Analytics tracking code.
Open these files with a text editor of your choice (e.g. Notepad) and insert the tracking code before < / head >. To speed up the process, use Ctrl+F < / head >. When finished, view the pages in your browser to make sure the layout remained intact.
Then verify your web tracking setup: visit your Google Analytics account to check if its status has changed to Receiving Data.
If things go right, in a few hours you’ll start receiving your first traffic data in Google Analytics. If you’re mining for SEO data with Rank Tracker, SEO SpyGlass or WebSite Auditor, you can connect your Google Analytics account to your SEO PowerSuite tools at this stage.
Web tracking with Tag manager
Alternatively to the actions described above, you can enable web tracking to your site with Google Tag Manager. This Google service lets you update all your tags and tracking codes from Tag Manager, without the need to alter your site’s code. Apart from Google Analytics, Tag Manager lets you control your AdWords and DoubleClick Floodlight campaigns.
You can follow the instructions in this introductory video to create your account and add Tag Manager tracking code.
Now that you’ve set Google Analytics account, get started on setting up your online goals.
Setting Up Your Goals to Measure Impact
Now that you have your Google Analytics account set and you have your first traffic stats coming in, you know how many people visit your site, where they come from, where they land, how long they stay and so on.
But how many of them did exactly what you wanted them to do? How many subscribed to your newsletter, downloaded your eBook or followed you on Twitter?
Depending on what you aim with your online business, your goals might be different. As software providers, we at Link-Assistant.Com have goals set to download and purchase of each of our products: BuzzBundle, SEO PowerSuite, Rank Tracker, WebSite Auditor and LinkAssistant.
How to define your online goals
Your goal is the WHY behind your website. An e-commerce generates sales, a forum relies on paid membership, a blog is monetized via paid ads, etc. However, these are ultimate goals, you also need to look for smaller steps users make to get to the final goal.
If you’re running an e-commerce site, your visitor’s ultimate goal is buying stuff from you. However, as part of interacting with your site, users complete a series of smaller goals: they might subscribe to your blog’s newsletter, request a live demo, download an ebook by your company – and these are also goals you need to account for.
To define all your goals that make sense, start with making a sketch of how your prospects interact with your brand. That’ll be your goal tracking framework.
When it comes to internet marketing and web analytics, goals can be positive and negative.
For instance, a customer can contact support to ask for a discount for your great product or they can issue a complaint. For sales process, visitors may complete the purchase or bounce at the final stage.
Or you might notice that users with German IPs abandon their shopping cart at the final stage. Digging for the reasons, you might find out that there’s no delivery option to this country and fix that since there’s an obvious demand for your products there – that’s an example of how following a negative goal helps you make informed decisions.
If we treat goals not only as business incentives but as all possible scenarios, you can imagine their number is infinite.
Here’s what Google Analytics lets you track:
- Pages/Screens per Visit
These are URL-based goals often used to track sales, downloads, subscriptions, live demo requests, etc. When visitors subscribe, download, fill out a form, they’ll be headed to some sort of Thank you page, that informs them that they have successfully completed an action.
How to set up a destination goal
Get the URL of your Thank You page, e.g. http://yoursite.com/thankyou.html
To create your destination goal, go to Admin – Goals – Create a Goal and select Destination type.
Each goal you create has an ID and belongs to one of the four sets. You’ll be allowed to create 20 goals total with one Google Analytics account, up to 5 goals in each set.
Though you’ll be able to move goals from one set to another later, it’s worth organizing your goals neatly from the very beginning. Use different sets to track different types of actions. For example, you can use the first set to track purchase, ascribe the second set with form completion actions, reserve the third set for ebook downloads and such.
Now enter information about your goal. Provide a descriptive name, e.g. Book1_Download, Newsletter_Subscription, etc.
As a next step, provide additional information about your goal. In most cases you’ll have a specific URL to track, so you’ll choose Equals to option. You can read up on Regular expressions here.
When you’ve created your first goal, run some test transactions to check the goal was set up properly.
Duration-type goals are normally goals that let you check if specific pages of your site are user-friendly.
It’ll let you spot visits that last specific amount of time or longer. For example, you’ve set a support page, which is supposed to explain how your app works in very simple words. However, you wish to check out if readers get through your explanation really easy. So you set a filter a duration filter and get notified if your users get stuck on any page for longer than 5, 10 minutes or any other time span you choose.
Pages/Screens per Visit
This goal type will let you spot if there’ve been any visitors who looked through more than 5 – or 10 pages – of your site.
In some cases many pages loaded suggest a high engagement level. For example, a user lands on a post of yours they find in Google, gets interested in your site, reads similar posts, checks out your About page and signs up to your RSS feed.
As part of a totally different scenario, multiple pages viewed may suggest that a person couldn’t find required information straight away, so you may consider brushing up your navigation or content.
Whatever the outcome is, setting up Pages/Screens per visit type of goals will let you take a closer look into how your visitors interact with your site. You can use this data to visualize typical user scenarios or funnels and take actions to streamline your conversions.
Any action of visitors to your site can be viewed as an Event, from playing an embedded video and clicking a banner to pressing a Tweet button and hitting external links. In other words, with Events set as your goals, you can track any sort of action users perform on page, without being redirected to another page of your site.
To track goals for your Events, you’ll have to start with setting up Events in your site’s code.
For example, you want to see how many people watched your embedded video, you’ll have to set up this action as an event and then set tracking it as a goal:
How do I check progress on my goals
Now that you’re all set with your goals, you can check how well your goals are accounted for.
You’ll find your main stats on goals in “Conversions – Goals.”
You’ll get stats on the number of times each goal has been completed during a given period:
When you’re checking for traffic sources, you’ll see how well people coming from different places (from organic search, referral sites or accessing your site directly) complete target actions. With this data at hand, you’ll be able to take informed decisions about improving the performance of your site.
Your goals are the backbone of your online project. Set them properly from the very beginning and you’ll get a clear picture of whether you’re heading in the right direction with your web project.
Measuring how visitors interact with your site
Yet Goals described in the previous article are just the tip of the iceberg in understanding if your visitors interact with your site properly, if they get the value they’re looking for and if there are opportunities you’re missing to make their user experience better and encourage them to convert more.
In this post I’d expand on the following Google Analytics features:
- Weighted Sort for Bounce rates
- Weighted Sort for Organic keywords
- Visitors Flow
In my opinion, these are three most powerful yet easy-to-use Google Analytics features that can help you quickly and easily get insights into whether you’re attracting the right type of traffic and whether these people coming over are getting enough from your site.
Weighted sort is an advanced feature of Google Analytics that draws users’ attention to stats that are remarkable in some way.
Use Weighted sort for Bounce rates to see if your site is engaging enough to people coming from different places
Below find a strategy to spot traffic sources that fail bringing targeted visitors.
In your Google Analytics account, go to Traffic Sources – Referrals and sort the Bounce rate column in the descending order. Then set the sort type as Weighted:
As you can see from the example above, Google Analytics will point you at traffic sources that bring many Visits, yet people don’t get engaged with your content and they leave relatively soon. Depending on your project and the traffic source, it might suggest different things.
It might imply that the referring site is not a match to you thematically, so if you’re buying an ad there, you should rethink if it’s worth it.
It might also mean that you need updating your landing page to make it more appealing to your readers.
In any case, it’s a great way to get insights into how well people coming from different sources interact with your site.
Use Weighted sort to check which keywords convert best
If you’ve already set your Goals, you can check out how well your organic keywords meet each set of your Goals.
Go to Traffic Sources – Search – Organic, choose a Goal Set and sort data by Goal Conversion rate. Then choose Weighted sort.
The second position in the image above suggests there’s a problem with the second keyword on the list. It brings the majority of traffic, yet its conversion rate is the lowest and close to Avg. Goal Conversion Rate.
What does it mean and what actions you should take?
In the majority of cases, it would suggest that people do come from Google to your site, using this keyword in question as a query, but they have search intent other than converting to your goal. They would fail to download your ebook, signup to your newsletter or buy your products, still this traffic is relevant to your site. In this case, you can do the following to fix this problem:
- Change the landing page in such a way that users will get what they were intended to get with their search, yet showcase the action you want them to perform more explicitly. For example, your users search for information, which they find on your blog, yet they don’t convert to sign up to your newsletter. Showcase the benefits of signing-up and add more sign-up widgets.
- Do some additional user intent-driven keyword analysis. As a result, you should get a list of well-targeted keywords that are non-confusing and are divided into categories (branded/non-branded; short-tail/long-tail, etc.). Tools like Rank Tracker can be of great help when looking for keywords, better focused on user’s search intent.
Apply Visitors Flow to visualize common ways users of different categories interact with your site
Using Visitors Flow, you’ll be able to see how people coming from different sources interact with your site: which pages they view one by one and where they drop off. You can specify this data by location (Country/Territory, City), by novelty (New vs Returning Visitors) and by device (Mobile, Tablet and Desktop).
The real power of the tool lies in its ability to segment the traffic sources and users with pinpoint precision.
You can access Visitors Flow in the Audience section of your Google Analytics account:
Here’s how you can use Visitors Flow:
- You can at a glance detect new opportunities to reduce high Bounce and Exit rates. Red segments in Visitors Flow show where your site is most vulnerable for drop-offs, thus giving you directions where to look for.
- You can find content appealing to certain user categories, be it geography or device they use to reach out.
- You may find room to enhance site navigation and internal linking.
- Right on the top of your Visitors Flow, you get the conversion funnel that really works, so all you’ll need is just a few tweaks to make it even better.
And which Google Analytics stats do you check daily or weekly? Which features do you find most helpful in checking how your visitors interact with your site? Share your views in the comments below!