Google Analytics for beginners can be hard.
But, you don’t want to miss out on the wonderful features and analysis that it brings with itself.
So, you have to make a start at some point.
Ever read the motivational quote –
One Day or Day One?
Let’s make this the ‘Day One’ of understanding Google Analytics.
We will cover up the basics of Google Analytics and help you go through the starting phase.
So, without wasting even a second, let’s dive straight in!
What is Google Analytics?
If you own a website, then we are certain that you must have heard about Google Analytics once for sure.
Google Analytics is essentially a Google-owned platform that is used to analyze your website performance using statistics.
It is a platform that tracks, records, breaks down your website’s key metrics.
With the help of Google Analytics, beginners determine how much traffic your website is receiving and how the visitors are interacting with your website while they consume your content, and more such activities.
Is Google Analytics Free for beginners or Costs Money?
The answer to this question is Yes and No.Well, Google Analytics is not completely free as they call it a ‘Freemium Service.’Click To Tweet
This essentially means that businesses can take the help of Google Analytics without paying any charge.
But, when it comes to using the advanced Google Analytics features, there will be a recurring fee which will be charged.
So, how much are we talking about here?
Using Google Analytics 360 or Google Analytics Premium will cost you a whopping $150,000 dollars a year.
How Beginners can Start using Google Analytics for their Account?
Before we even think of understanding how Google Analytics works, we would have to create a Google Analytics account.
The only way you can have access to Google Analytics is by creating a Google Account.
So, to move forward, you can either use a Google account you already have, or create a new one.
But one thing that every Google Analytics beginner should make sure is that the access to the account should only be given to trustworthy people.
After you have created your Google account, you go forward and find Google Analytics to set up your GA Account.
Once you reach the above page, click on the Analytics tab.
Now you will be sent to a new page which looks like this.
Here, click on the green button that says ‘SIGN UP FOR FREE’.
Once you do that, you will be provided with the three steps you are required to go through to get your Google Analytics up and running.
Here’s how it will look like.
Here on you will be asked to fill out important information for the GA account you are trying to create.
So, click on the ‘Sign up’ button and buckle up.
Step 1: Sign up for Google Analytics!
In this step, you will be required to put down information about your website and new GA account.
Once you are done with entering all the important information, you will be required to configure the setting for data sharing.
Just check the boxes which you think are necessary.
It will look something like this.
Done with all this?
Do you see the blue ‘Get Tracking ID’ button on the bottom?
Clicking on that will help you get a tracking ID (HTML Code).
But before getting the code, you will be asked to agree to the Google Analytics Terms and Conditions.
Next, you will have to click on the Admin Tag to get the tracking code.
Once you do that, you will receive the Tracking ID which you should keep safe.
Step 2: Put the Tracking Code down on your website!
Got the tracking code?
Now head on to the Admin tab, go to ‘ACCOUNT’ column and choose your account in the drop-down menu.
Done that? Now go to the ‘PROPERTY’ column, choose a property from the drop-down menu.
Then go to Tracking info and then Tracking Code.
This tracking code is a very important piece of code.
This will help you track all the activities and performance of your web pages.
Therefore, to make tracking easier, you will have to add this tracking code to all the web pages of your website.
This is important to be able to measure and report the activity on your website.
Well, adding the tracking code depends on the type of website you have.
For example, if you have a WordPress website, you can use Google Analytics plugins like MonsterInsights which will enable you to easily install the code on the pages you want.
But if you have a website built with HTML files, you would have to add the tracking code to the source code of the web pages.
Beginners can add Google Analytics Code with the help of HTML Editors
There are many HTML Editors on the internet.
If you don’t want to use them, you can use Notepad on Windows or TextEdit on Mac computers.To install the tracking code successfully, add it before the tag on the pages you wish to track.Click To Tweet
Since there are a lot of people in our audience who have a WordPress site, we will focus a little more on WP sites.
Let’s learn how beginners can add the Google Analytics Tracking code on a WordPress website.
We hope you copied the tracking code and kept it safe somewhere you can easily access it.
Okay, now log into your website using the wp-admin and get to the Dashboard.
Hover over the Appearance tab on the left and select Editor in the drop-down menu that appears.
On the Edit Themes page, take a look at the Templates section on the right side of the screen.
What you are looking for is a file named “header.php”.
Click on it when you find it.
Now that you have clicked on it, WordPress will allow you to edit it.
Look for the html tag </head>.
Now here’s where you will be pasting your tracking code.
Click in front of </head> tag and press enter.
Paste your tracking code right above the </head> tag.
Now click on ‘Update File’ button.
You’d want to check whether the tracking code works or not.
To do that, go back to the Google Analytics and wait for a couple of minutes and refresh it.
If you don’t see any data, you can force the test by clicking on ‘Send Test Traffic’ button as well.
You can try accessing the Reporting tab on Google Analytics after 24 hours have passed once you are done with updating the ‘header.php’ file.
Step 3: Learn About Audience
One of the top reasons why beginners want to set up Google Analytics for their account is to measure and analyze the activities and behavior of their visitors and their website.
To be able to do that, you will have to set up site search which will help you know what exactly are your visitors looking for when they check out your website.
To track the most important activities on your website, you will want to set up goals.
These are necessary to learn more about your audience and develop your website to provide them with the best user experience possible.
It’s time we get acquainted with the Google Analytics interface.
How Google Analytics Work?
Google Analytics is a free website analytics tool which provides in-depth analysis of a website’s data in the form of tables, charts, and graphs.
Today, more than 50% of the websites in the world use Google Analytics as their primary source of website statistics.Click To Tweet
Let’s understand each of the elements present on the Google Analytics interface.
The Reports menu on the left side of the Google Analytics page provides the webmaster with a deeper understanding of specific areas.
Here are the reporting options you may use under the Reports menu:
The Real-time option allows how the visitors are interacting with your website in real-time.
Here you can find out their sources, what they are consuming on your website, and so much more.
In the Real-Time overview, you are provided with the exact number of active users on your website.
It shows how many of your web pages are being viewed per minute and per second.
It also shows the top keywords that your active users are using and a list of your top active pages.
Real-time reports show the number of active users on each page of your website.
Audience reports, as the name suggests, provides with all the intelligence about the audience or visitors of your website.
You want to use Google Analytics to learn about your audience.
With Audience reporting option, you can look at the demographics of your visitors, how they engage with your content, and what technology or devices they use to visit your site.
In the Audience Overview tab, you can get access to how many sessions are currently active on your website.
You filter this report on the basis of hourly, daily, weekly or monthly reporting.
You are provided with additional information about your audience, including the number of users, the number of page views, number of pages per session, average session duration, bounce rate, and the percentage of new sessions.
Acquisition reporting allows you to know the source of traffic to your website.
Not just that, it helps to know how people are reaching your website and how the traffic source behaves on the site.
It will provide you with an overview of your direct, organic, referral and social (coming from social media) traffic, as well as traffic coming from email.
If you use AdWords, you can see how your PPC campaigns are performing.
All you need to do is go to the Admin tab and link your AdWords account to your Google Analytics account.
The Search Engine Optimization tab in the Acquisition reports shows you which keywords your website visitors searched for to come to your website.
However, in order to use this tab, you need to have a Google Webmaster account and link it to your Google Analytics account.
Behavior reporting is very important for you to note.
Here you get to learn about the people visiting your website.
You can learn how people behave and move around on the website.
Check out the data on bounce rates, page views, time spent on site, and more.
Behavior reports help you know how the website visitors interact with your website.
This gives you a great insight into how the content is performing.
You can check the behavior flow, showing the pages your visitors are navigating, from the landing to the exit page, Experiments, allowing you to conduct A/B testing to see which of your landing pages are performing the best.
This is an immense help when it comes to optimizing your conversion goals and in-page analytics, allowing you to view your web pages along with your Google Analytics data.
You want to keep track of the actions taken by your visitors on your website.
Conversions reporting help you do that.
It helps you track specific actions that visitors take and how effectively your website gets people to take those actions.
The conversion reports are responsible to show the activities performed by any visitor on your website before he converted.
If you are interested in knowing the complete path towards conversion, Conversion report is something you should definitely check out.
These also show how many conversions took place on your website for a particular period of time.
Under the conversion tab, you have four different reports: Goals, Ecommerce, Multi-Channel Funnels, and Attribution.
Goals report helps you in creating and tracking your conversions.
E-commerce reports provide you with an insight into how the customers behave before converting.
Multi-Channel Funnels show how the marketing channels that you deployed are performing to provide conversions.
With the help of Attribution reports, you can assign credit for conversions to specific points on the conversion journey.
Some of the other important aspects of Google Analytics that you as a beginner should know about are
Search option can be used to quickly find reports and help related documentation.
The Discover option lets you read up on the new Google Analytics and its suite of tools which you can use.
With the help of Customization, you can set up your own report dashboard, custom reports, and much more.
The Customization tab lets you create and track custom reports according to your particular needs.
You can create as many custom reports as you want, and you can always access them in the Customization tab.
With the help of Admin option, you can get access to your Google Analytics account; alter the settings, and more.
It is where you can manage your account and switch to different accounts as well.
It is where you choose the website for which you require the reports.
This is the tab you want to use when looking for linking your AdSense and Google Ads accounts and measure the campaign performance.
Google Analytics allows beginners to have reports show up on the homepage which helps them to have a quick look at their site’s performance.
There’s a basic look at some of the deeper data you can find in the various areas of the Reports menu.
Here’s what you can find in the reports on the homepage:
Users refer to the number of unique visitors to a website.
The ‘Pageviews’ metric shows you the number of views of your web pages, but it includes only those that Google Analytics is actually tracking.
The reloading of a page, as well as returning to a particular page after navigating through your site, counts as an additional page view.
Sessions refer to the number of times your website got visited. Now since one user can visit multiple times, so this number will always be equal to or higher than Users statistic.
4. Bounce Rate
Bounce Rate is what keeps webmasters up all night – a nightmare to say the least. It shows how many visitors leave your website without visiting a second page.
5. Session Duration
Session Duration shows how long an average visitor stays on your website.
It is not a metric that can provide you with a precise answer regarding the average time your visitors spend on your website.
This is due to the fact that this metric is calculated by subtracting the duration of the last engagement on your website with the duration of the first engagement, without measuring the time duration on exit pages.
6. Goal Conversion Rate
Google Analytics measures the conversion rate of each and every one of your goals and then shows you the sum of their conversion rates.
For instance, if you have five goals that you have set up for your website and each of them has a 20% conversion rate, Google Analytics will show you that the goal conversion rate for your website is 100%.
However, since it shows you the sum of all of your goals, it means that you still need to make a lot of effort to make sure that your website performs better.
Which Google Analytics Reporting to look for?
Google Analytics provides a number of reporting options for you. Here we discuss them.
1. Traffic Report
With the help of Traffic report, you get an immediate picture of where your traffic has come from.
This can then be used to help to build a well-informed marketing strategy.
2. Audience Reports
Below are the three Audience reports that can help you prepare a well-informed content strategy.
When you know where the majority of your clients live, it will help you localize and personalize your content for maximum effect.
Also, you get a complete overview of the time when your audience visits your site.
This helps you plan when to post new content on your website.
3. Behavior Report
The behavior report provides a keen insight into what are the top pages.
It gives you a quick idea of what content is performing well and what isn’t.
Best Practices: Google Analytics for Beginners
Tip #1: Watch Mobile Traffic Closely
2016 was the year when mobile traffic beat desktop traffic for the very first time.
Since then, the traffic has only risen which has made every online advertiser to make sure they prepare strategies for mobile.
It has never been more important to track mobile traffic on your website.
Lora Kratchounova, Marketing Chief at Scratch Marketing says that advertisers need to make every move taking mobile traffic into consideration especially since Google started emphasizing mobile sites over desktop sites in its search engine index.
For her, monitoring the volume and engagement of mobile visits is critical.
She recommends Google Analytics beginners to check what portion of their website’s traffic is mobile.
What is the amount of time they spend on your website? What is the percentage that bounces off?
Goal conversion is an important metric when considering mobile traffic.
It is essential to know the percentage of goal completions that come from mobile users.
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you form a well-informed website design strategy which is of course mobile-friendly.
This is vital if you want to rank your website higher on Google search results.
Tip #2: Beginners Should Improve Website Speed through Google Analytics
One of the most important Search Engine ranking factors is the speed of a website.
In recent years, Google has started to put penalties on a website with slow loading speed by pushing them down the rankings in its search result pages.
Therefore, Site Speed is one of the most important metrics Google Analytics beginners should focus on while tracking results.
Lisa Hirst Carner, co-founder and marketing director of marketing at ArcStone claims that Site Speed is critical when it comes to User Experience.
You don’t want your website visitors to wait for your website to load completely.The users on the internet have very low patience and they will not think twice before hitting that back button.Click To Tweet
They will leave your website like it’s on fire.
You don’t want your website visitors to leave you for your competitors.
Therefore, the length of time your site takes to load is important.
It not only influences user experience but also influences your site’s visibility in search.
To say the least – your website can make or break your online success.
Google Analytics Site Speed also provides with PageSpeed suggestions and a PageSpeed score for all the pages of your website that have been indexed by Google.
PageSpeed is a set of Google-designed tools to help optimize a site’s performance.
Tip #3: Check Conversions for Maximum Effect
Marketers need to know the business value of their work.
To help them do that, Google Analytics has provided an interface for setting up goals and e-commerce tracking.
Kevin Hill, web and search manager for voice and messaging API at Bandwidth recommends syncing the Google products like AdWords and YouTube with Google Analytics account and then setting up conversion tracking.
This can help your paid and unpaid campaigns to be more effective.
Conversion tracking that tells you what happens after prospects interact with your ads, like whether they made a purchase or signed up for your newsletter.
Embedding specific conversion goals for purchase will be relayed onto Google Analytics.
You can even set specific values for each transaction!
For example, every time a user clicks on an ad then purchases a specific product, Conversion Tracking will be triggered.
From this, you can see who didn’t make a purchase and who did.
In addition, it will even show you total profit (if a value for conversion was entered) which is tremendously helpful when optimizing a campaign based on ROI.
Tip #4: Use Search Console
It feels like there’s a majority of people who know what Google Analytics is for, but only a few know what Google Search console is for and what it can do.
Google Search Console allows you to have a control panel for directing and monitoring how Google sees your website.
Google Search Console shows impressions, click-through-rates, and keyword positions to show you the performance of your organic traffic on Google.
Reporting is one of the most important reasons why we recommend Google Analytics beginners to user Search Console.
In case your website violates any Google’s guidelines, Search console helps you by notifying you in the Manual Actions Report.
Jonathan Taylor, Senior Marketing Manager of Klipfolio says that being able to track which pages are ranking alongside your conversion rate metrics is highly valuable.
Tip #5: Attribution of Goals
When it comes to goal conversion, you as an online advertiser want to know which place exactly that goal got completed.
Therefore, it is recommended to have up to three attribution models set up that you can compare.
This helps you to evaluate the effectiveness of different channels.
But why do that anyway?
Well, let’s take an example.
Let’s say that someone discovers your content from an organic search.
You follow that up with Facebook remarketing campaigns.
Now if the person converts on his second visit, which channel will get the conversion attribution?
Of course, Social Media channel will receive the attribution.
It’s that easy to underestimate your SEO strategies and planning and overestimate the impact of your paid channel on Google Analytics.
Tip #6: Benchmarking for Performance
Benchmarking is one of the most insightful tools in Google Analytics that every Google Analytics beginner should consider.
It helps advertisers compare the website’s performance to previous results and also with the industry’s average.
Benchmarking provides valuable context to the strategies you built for your business, provide you with insights into industry trends, and helps to compare the key performance indicators with competitors.
When you contextualize your site’s performance, you set yourself to win as now you can measure the efforts you have put in planning and setting meaningful targets.
E-commerce benchmarking is valuable because it provides the necessary context of increases or decreases of metrics that you track that may not have arisen as a result of your actions but from wider industry trends.
With the help of Channel Benchmark report, you are able to better understand the performance of your business against similar businesses from an acquisition channel standpoint.
You’ll know whether your social campaigns are performing well, how much more should you invest in display advertising, if your website is search engine optimized as much as your competitors.
Other benchmarks that will help you succeed in online advertising are Device Benchmarks and Location Benchmarks.
Tip #7: Considering Demographics of Audience
Getting the demographics pertaining to the visitor’s age, gender, and interest category, based on their online travel and purchasing activities is highly useful.Google Analytics is a goldmine for getting free information about the different demographics.Click To Tweet
It is important for all Google Analytics beginners to enable the demographics and interest reports in Google Analytics.
Learning about your audience will help you improve your value propositions and tweak the email marketing strategies.
Rob Watson, a Digital Marketing Consultant says that he often shares demographic data with clients.
This is because most of the GA users get addicted to numbers and measuring activities but more importantly, they forget that those numbers are people.
Demographics data can help with building brand presence and crafting better digital marketing strategies.
Tip #8: Check Frequency & Recency Metric
Google Analytics provides you with extremely rich data and a wealth of information about your site’s audience and user actions.
Frequency and Recency metric is one of the greatest features on Google Analytics.
Although these terms are quite self-explanatory, Google uses its own definitions to make the GA users understand them.
In Google Analytics, frequency refers to how often visitors return to your website within a time frame.
Beginners can set the desired time frame using the calendar on Google Analytics.
Google records every session that happens on your website.
It tracks the frequency of visits as it records every first, second and so on a number of sessions.
Google could lump these sessions together into a one ‘n-time visitor’ but it records them separately.
On the other hand, recency refers to the length of time (in days) since a particular visitor came to your website.
This metric is measured in days. Google track when a particular visited your website recently.
Also, it tracks the recency taking the device of use into consideration.If a visitor visited your website from a laptop one day; the next day from a smartphone, and then again from a laptop one day after that, Google would record the user’s activity twice.Click To Tweet
The user, for recency, will be recorded once for ‘days since last session’ on laptops and once for the smartphone.
Tip #9: Pay Attention to New Vs. Returning Visitors
Just pushing out content is not how you win in the digital age.
You got to know whether that piece of content works well with your audience or not.
To know that, Google Analytics helps you with its New Vs Returning report.
It shows how well your new content performs when it comes to getting visitors to come back to your website.
You never want to lose your fan base. And users that return to your website to consume content are the best.
These are the people who are more likely to end up being customers or followers.
With the help of New Vs. Returning Visitors report you will be at a much better position to make a well-informed choice whether to tweak your content and by how much.
To access the reports, go to the Audience, then Behavior where you can find New Vs. Returning reports.
Tip #10: Keep a Close Eye on Real-Time Statistics
You always want to keep a tab on what is happening on your website right now.
You should have an answer to questions like from where are you getting the maximum referrals.
Which is the higher social traffic provider? Which pages on your website are most active?
Beginners can get all of this from Real-Time feature on Google Analytics.
Watching and tracking what people are doing on your site will give you a better understanding of conversions.
It will help you get a better idea of which pages are leading to conversions and which ones require change.
Further Reading: 10 Good Reasons Why You Should Use Google Analytics
Final Thoughts on Google Analytics for Beginners
Google Analytics is deeper than what we cover here.
But by understanding the aforementioned tactics and basics of Google Analytics, beginners can at least begin tracking their website traffic.
This will certainly help you prepare a well-informed online marketing strategy.
But, that will only happen when you execute on creating and learning about Google Analytics.
Reading about Google Analytics for beginners is one thing and doing something with the information is another.
Focus on ‘Doing’, everything else will automatically fall in the right place.
There you have it.
We have reached the end of this post.
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Dinesh has been doing digital marketing since 2007. Now he manages a team of digital marketers, developers, and project managers. As the CEO of Ads Triangle, Dinesh has helped hundreds of businesses to grow their revenue through digital marketing.