Whether you run your own blog, online business or happen to work in the field of marketing it seems that almost everyone these days is in charge of managing some sort of an online presence.
But having a successful website involves more than just having a stunning design or really creative content. It also involves monitoring many different aspects of your website traffic so you can better understand what’s working and what’s not for you online.
Photo by Ashley Kelemen Photography
A powerful and free tool that makes it easy for anyone managing a website to track and analyze all of this online data is Google Analytics. While you may already have it installed, if you aren’t going into the platform regularly to review the data, you are missing out on a ton of helpful insight about your website and visitors.
Understanding all the different reports and metrics of the platform can feel intimidating, so today I’ll stick to talking about the basics. However, with a little practice and some of my tips below, I know you too will be able to start using Google Analytics like a pro.
Create an Account and Add the Google Analytics Tracking Code to Your Website
Before we get started make sure you have Google Analytics installed on your website. To do this, you will need to first create an account (you can use your current gmail email or create a new account completely). Once you’ve created your Google Analytics account, you’ll need to fill out all of the proper information for your website and follow the instructions on how to install the tracking code from Google onto the header of your website. More info on how to do this can be found here.
Note that it does take about 24-48 hours for Google to start pulling in data from your website so don’t be worried if you don’t see any numbers showing up right away.
Understand What Data is Available to You
There are two types of data you’ll find within Google Analytics, dimensions and metrics. You’ll notice when you open Google Analytics that every report contains dimensions and metrics. Most commonly with the first column displaying the dimensions and the rest of the table displaying the corresponding metrics.
Dimensions are essentially the characteristics about your data, otherwise known as qualitative data. For example: The geographic location of your visitors and the name of your most popular web pages are dimensions.
Metrics are the quantitative data, the actual numbers you see themselves. For example: Total number of visitors and average time on site are metrics.
If you are ever unsure what a certain metric or dimension is, simply click the “?” next to the dimension or metric you want to know more about and Google will provide an short detailed explanation. Don’t be afraid to use this helpful resource as you learn to use and understand the platform.
Think of Google Analytics as a giant department store. Suppose you own it and want to find out more information about your store and your customers. So you stand at the front of the store and before each customer walks in you ask them where they drove from (geographic location) and what brought them to the store (referral, searching online, etc.) and write it down. Then, once the customer walks through the door you track where they go and interact in your store and if they end up making a purchase. This might sound like a tedious thing to do, but that’s what Google Analytics does for your website on a larger scale!
Now think of the department store as your website. If all of your customers are coming live north of your store but you’ve been advertising to customers that live south of your store, you know that you are either advertising to the wrong demographic of people or your advertisement might need some more work. Google Analytics helps you by collecting the right data, but it’s up to you to decide how it’s working for your business.
It can be hard at first not to be dismayed with all of Google Analytic’s available data but the more you use it on a regular basis and get familiar with the data, the easier it will become to manage and improve your website.