The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics

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beginner's guide to google analytics

This is the ultimate beginner's guide to Google Analytics.

If you’ve got a website of your own, you know how valuable it can be to understand your website’s traffic and what type of user is visiting your website, when they visit, and more. 

Google Analytics is one of the best ways to do exactly that, but if you aren’t sure what Google Analytics is and how it works, haven’t installed it on your website, or even have installed it but never use it, this post is definitely written just for you. 

It seems shocking to most that there are websites still not taking advantage of Google Analytics, or any website analytics at all, to understand website traffic and create actionable goals based on the data. 

If you are one of those people, don’t worry— we’ve got you covered. We are going to review all the details of how to use Google Analytics, considering it from the perspective of an absolute beginner using it for the first time. 

We’ll discuss key points like: 

  • Why you need Google Analytics
  • How to get Google Analytics 
  • How to use Google Analytics 
  • Troubleshooting problems on Google Analytics 

Let’s get started! 

Why you need Google Analytics

Do you have a website or a blog? If you answered yes to either (or perhaps both) of those questions, then you need Google Analytics. It doesn’t matter if the blog is for personal use or business use; Google Analytics is valuable for answering a range of questions. 

These are some of the most valuable questions that Google Analytics will answer:

  • Where do my visitors live? 
  • What websites send traffic to my site? 
  • How many people visit my website? 
  • What blog content do my visitors like the most? 
  • Which pages on my website are most popular? 
  • Which marketing strategies drive the most traffic to my website? 
  • Do I need a mobile-friendly website? 
  • How many visitors have I converted into leads or customers? 
  • Where did my converting visitors come from and go on my website? 
  • How can I improve my website’s speed? 

This is just a snapshot of the most relevant question Google Analytics can answer, but there are tons more that can also be answered for website owners. Knowing this, we’ll now look at how to use Google Analytics, starting with how you can get it on your website.

How to install Google Analytics

The first thing you will need to run Google Analytics is a Google Analytics account. If you don’t have a Google account, you’ll need to create a new one; if you already have an active Google account that you use with services like Gmail, Google Drive, Google+, Google Calendar, or YouTube, you can use that account to set up your Google Analytics. 

The key factor here is that you plan to keep the Google account forever and that no one else has access to the account but you. Down the line, if you want others to access your website analytics, you can grant access to Google Analytics to other users, but you should be the primary account holder that has full control. 

Note: even when working with a team, including web designers, web developers, SEO experts, etc., you should be the person to set up Google Analytics. They may offer to set up your Google Analytics and manage it for you, but if they ever stop working with you, they’ll be the ones in control of your Google Analytics, forcing you to start over. Avoid this issue by setting up the account and then granting access to any relevant players on your team. 

1. Set up your account and property

After you have a Google account, visit Google Analytics and click the Sign into Google Analytics button. 

Three steps will appear so that you can get started and set up Google Analytics. If you’ve already done this, you can skip these steps. 

set up your property

Google Analytics is designed to fit into a hierarchy of organizations, accounts, users, properties, and views, meaning that you can have a variety of different Google Analytics accounts linked to one main Google account. 

You can have up to 100 different Google Analytics accounts, 50 website properties, and 25 views on one website property. 

Here are some different scenarios for website owners in terms of Google Analytics hierarchies: 

  • Scenario 1: If you have one website, you’ll have one Google Analytics account and one website property. 
  • Scenario 2: If you have two websites, i.e. one for business and one for personal use, it may be wise to create two separate accounts, one for business only and one for personal. You can then set up your business Google Analytics under the business account and your personal website under the personal account. 
  • Scenario 3: If you own multiple business websites (less than 50), you should consider putting them all under one business account; any additional personal websites can go under a separate personal account. 
  • Scenario 4: You have several businesses, each of which has multiple websites totalling over 50 websites, you may consider creating a separate account for each business account— Business Account 1, Business Account 2, etc. You can then set up each business account with their own Google Analytics. 

Ultimately, deciding how to set up your Google Analytics is up to you; do what works best for you and your websites. You’ll be able to change the name of your accounts or properties at any time, but they’ll need to remain under the same Google Analytics account. 

You won’t be able to move a property (website) to a different Google Account later; you’ll have to create a completely new property under the account and all past data will not be imported from the previous or original property. 

For the purpose of this guide, we’ll be abiding by scenario 1— one website, with one view (default, all data view). This is the setup that you can expect to see. You can see the data sharing section at the bottom of the setup page. 

You’ll also need to input different information about your business, including the company size, industry, among other details. 

You will then enter the data stream information, which is going to be a website. Enter your URL information and name your site. Once this is confirmed, you’re ready for the next step on how to use Google Analytics. 

set up your web stream

Note: Google Analytics has two different types of setups, Universal and G4. The default is G4, which is the direction that Google is going in, and you can only set up a Universal account if you choose the advanced settings when setting up your account. 

advanced options in property setup
create a universal analytics property

You can create a Universal Google Analytics site as well as a G4 site at the same time so that they run side by side in your account admin page. If you want to set Goals (see later section), you’ll need a Universal Google Analytics site. 

2. Install your tracking code

After a successful setup, you’ll get access to your Tracking ID— this is what is used to track all of the data coming from a particular website. 

At the bottom of this page, you can view your tracking code in the Tagging Instructions; click on the menu for Global Site Tag so that you can add this CSS code to your website. 

Remember: You can also run Google Analytics through Google Tag Manager (which we recommend)

You must install this code on every page of your website. Depending on the type of website you have, the installation may vary. On WordPress sites, you’ll have a specific option for header and footer scripts to be added to the website. 

install global tracking code

You can also use a WordPress plugin to install your code in a simple and easy way. MonsterInsights is a favorite option, placing all of your Google Analytics directly into your WordPress dashboard and requires no code from you.  

If your website is built with HTML files, you want to add the tracking code before the </head> tag on each page. A text editor program is the best way to do this; you can then upload the file to your web host with a FTP program. 

For Shopify eCommerce, you’ll go to your Online Store settings and paste the tracking code in the Google Analytics section. 

shopify google analytics setup

If you have a Tumblr blog, you will navigate to the Edit Theme button at the top right, and simply enter the Google Analytics ID into the settings. 

Based on the previous examples, it’s clear that Google Analytics will be installed differently based on the platform you use, the theme you use, and the plugins you use. If you need additional support, you can search for instructions on your platform, or even Google search platform name + how to install Google Analytics. 

Set up goals

Now that your website includes your tracking code, you’re ready to configure the next useful setting on your website’s Google Analytics profile, which is the Goal setting. 

In order to find the setting, you’ll click the Admin tab and then you’ll see the Goals option (note: this is only available in the Universal Google Analytics profile). 

website goals

The purpose of goals is to tell Google Analytics when something important has happened on your website. For instance, if your website generates leads via contact forms, you want to create a “thank you” page that users are directed to after successfully sending the form. 

You can then use that page to track your goal of lead generation through Google Analytics. 

To do so, hit the New Goal button and follow the prompts. You can choose the type of goal and then you’re going to input the goal description and the URL for the “thank you page” that visitors see after giving their information. 

new goal

You can also select a dollar amount if you are tracking conversion to a certain degree; ultimately, the settings you choose here will depend on the particular goal that you have. You can also set goals based on duration, page/screens per session, as well as an event. 

You can create as many goals as you want by following the same steps; you can have up to 20 goals per site. Create goals that are relevant to your business in the sense that it promotes user action; lead form submissions, email list sign ups, and purchase completions are all good examples. 

goal description

Goals will vary for your particular site and business. 

3. Set up site search

We’re well on our way on the quest of how to use Google Analytics, and if you want even better data in the long term, you can set up Site Search. Note: This is only for websites with a search box on it; if you don’t have a search box on your website, you can skip this step. 

The first thing you will do is run a search on your website and keep the tap open when the results appear. 

Visit your Google Analytics Admin menu > View > View Settings

setting up site search

Scroll until you find the Site Settings and toggle it to On

Go back to your site URL where you did your web search and enter the query parameter and identify if it’s S or Q. Enter this into the Query Parameter in your Google Analytics. This will help you to track any relevant searches so that you know what people are searching for on your website. 

4. Add additional accounts and properties

If you want to add a new Google Analytics account, it’s a simple process. You can visit your admin menu, and hit the blue Create Account link. 

adding additional accounts

If you want to create a new website under the same Google Analytics account, you can easily do so from the same tab. Look for the blue Create Property button and hit that, then follow the steps to add in the new website. 

Once you have your Google Analytics site installed with your website(s) and you’ve entered all of the tracking code onto your website, created goals, and set up site search, you are ready to roll and start tracking your data. 

You should wait at least 24 hours so that you can start building data and then you can view and analyze the results. 

5. View Google Analytics data

Now that you’ve started to get Google Analytics data and website analytics, you’ll be able to learn some valuable insights about your website traffic. Once you log into Google Analytics, you’ll be taken to the All Web Site Data page, showing a variety of different metrics. 

If you have more than one website, you’ll be able to select the website that you want to view and navigate to the data for that particular site. 

viewing analytics data

There are over 50 reports that you can view on Google Analytics, so this is the first one and the main overview that will tell you about your performance. 

One of the best things about Google Analytics is that you will have literally all of the information about your website performance right at your fingertips. This information would be completely inaccessible if you didn’t know how to use Google Analytics, or didn’t have it set up on your website. 

The best thing about having this understanding and seeing the metrics is that you can then create a plan of action to get your website performance where it needs to be based on real facts and not just conjecture. 

Let’s take a look at some of the report features you can see on Google Analytics. 

6. Standard report features

The standard reporting features that you can find in Google Analytics look basically like this. You can switch to all of the different websites that you have by clicking the site and then choosing the one you want from the drop down menu on the left. 

You can also click the Home link at the top of the page. 

The report at the top right allows you to change the date range of the data for viewing. You can also Compare your data entering different date ranges (such as this month vs. last month) so that you can view the data. 

data range for analytics data

You’ll be able to see a variety of information when you hover over different areas on your Google Analytics report. For example, if you hover over a different part of the graph that you see, it will give particular information for that moment that you are hovering over, helping you to understand what each metric means. 

You can also switch between reports in order to see the top 10 languages, countries, cities, browsers, operating systems, and more, helping you to better understand all of your visitors. 

At the bottom of each report you can expand them for more information by clicking on the link that corresponds to each report. For instance, if you want to see more information about the location of your visitors, click and you will be taken to a full report. 

aquisition report and location overview

You can hover over each part of the world to see where your particular visitors are coming from. You can use the map to find that data and you’ll also see a chart with expansive information about Acquisition, behavior, and conversions through charted information under the map. 

in-depth location overview

When you are curious about how to use Google Analytics, one thing is very useful— the reports are very interactive and allow you to hover over many different points for clarification and more information. This is invaluable in understanding your website analytics. 

interactive hover reports

You’ll have access to astounding information when you dive into these reports. 

7. Types of Google Analytics reports

Here we’re going to help you understand how to use Google Analytics by defining some of the most common report types and what you can find in each one of these reports. You can choose the reports in the left side bar. 

types of analytics reports

Audience reports

Audience reports will help you understand your traffic and know everything there is to know about your visitors. You can find out many different details that you’d otherwise be oblivious too. 

You can understand age and gender (demographics), what their interests are (interest), where they come from (location), what languages they speak (language), their behavior, and tech that they use and what devices are most common to view your site from. 

Acquisition reports

As the name suggests, this Google Analytics report will give you insight onto what brought you traffic to your site (all traffic). You’ll be able to then view mini-categories of traffic in channels (all traffic > channels) as well as the different sources of traffic (source/medium). 

Now, with the importance of social media, you’ll also be able to see traffic from social media. Google Analytics can also be connected to AdWords and understand PPC campaigns, as well as Google Webmaster Tools and Search Console so that you can understand your search traffic and SEO. 

Behavior reports

Here we can learn our website analytics in terms of what your audience does with your content and what pages are performing best. You’ll be able to see all pages, landing pages, as well as exit pages (when a visitor left). 

If you set up Site Search as we instructed above, you can also see what searches happen on your site and where they are searched from (site search > pages). 

This will also give you information about how fast your website loads (site speed) and find out how you can make your website faster (speed suggestions). 

8. Conversions

When you set up goals within the Google Analytics Universal view, you’ll be able to see all of your conversions (Goals > overview) and where the conversion happened (URLs). You’ll also gain information about the path that the user followed in order to complete the conversion. 

You’ll be able to see this information in the location overview as well as from a variety of other reports on Google Analytics. Most of the tables that appear, in fact, are connected to conversion in some way because this is the driving metric for many different sites. 

If you want to see the conversion based on URL, based on location, and much more, you can view this information easily. For location, visit Geo and see the Location report. You’ll be able to see information about conversions via social media in Acquisitions > All Traffic > Source/Medium report. 

conversions sales google analytics

There is no shortage to viewing conversions and Google Analytics makes it so easy to see where your success is happening. 

You can also view your goals in particular and identify how they are being met, if you prefer to track your conversions or behaviors in that way. 

9. Shortcuts and emails

Now that we understand how to use Google Analytics to view detailed information about our website analytics, it’s clear that there is a huge scope of information that is available to us. It’s unlikely that you’ll always use all of the information that Google Analytics provides, but you should definitely explore all sections and see what you can find. 

That will give you a better understanding of which reports and data points are most relevant for your site. One beneficial thing about Google Analytics is that if you’re looking for something in particular and can’t find it, simply search for it at the top search bar and you can find what you need quickly and easily. 

After you review the site and find what you are most interested in, you can create a Shortcut so that you can easily access that page again later. You can also use saved reports, custom alerts, and scheduled emails to help you manage the reports that you want to see and be informed about. 

alerts and saved reports

Custom Alerts are particularly useful if you have to keep your website conversions or traffic at a certain level; you can then be alerted when it drops lower than that so you can take immediate action to drive traffic and get things moving. 

alert conditions

FAQs about Google Analytics

Now you should have a solid idea about how to use Google Analytics; this is our go-to guide for getting started, but there is so much that you can do with Google Analytics, the best thing you can do for yourself now is to go through and become familiar with all of the different reports, data points, and functionalities of Analytics. 

In addition, Google has an extensive support guide for Google Analytics, so you can always have help when you need it or if you want to explore a particular feature. The search bar is also always available to you at the top of Google Analytics while using it, so you can use that as well for minute-to-minute assistance. 

If you have a few remaining FAQs about Google Analytics, however, we’re here to help. We’ve taken some of the most frequently-asked questions about Google Analytics and put a quick guide together here. 

1. How do I share my Google Analytics data with someone?

Remember that you’re the one that is in charge of your Google account as well as the Google Account analytics, and that means you have complete control as to who is able to view your analytics. 

One important thing is that you don’t have to give your Google login information to someone wanting to view your website analytics; you simply have to give them permission to access everything. 

sharing google analytics data

It’s a very simple and straightforward process. Visit your Admin menu and under the Account, Property, or View you want to share with someone, click the User Management menu that is listed. 

userpermissions

You can then add them via the blue + button; you can add individual users or user groups. Open the menu and then you can customize the access they have, what they can do, how they view your Google Analytics, if they get notified by email, and more. 

adding permissions for user sharing in google analytics

Remember that you don’t want anyone else to create your Google Analytics for you because you need to be the one that has access. It’s very easy to give all of your team members access to Google Analytics later on, so make sure you’re the primary creator so that you can keep your historical data if your team members change or leave later down the road. 

2. I don't like viewing the reports in Google Analytics. Can someone just summarize the data for me?

Google Analytics can be overwhelming and perhaps you don’t really like how they look, can’t figure out how to view them in the way you want, or perhaps you just want someone to summarize all of the information and make it more user-friendly. 

The good news is that there are services out there that will take all of the data that you have in your Google Analytics and create a simple, easy-to-understand report, making your life much easier. 

One of these sites is Quill Engage; the site is free to use for up to 10 profiles (websites) and will provide you with accessible information that makes your Google Analytics easier to understand. 

quill engage

While these reports are undoubtedly useful, it’s still absolutely vital that you understand how to use your Google Analytics and take the time to go through and see what it offers you. If you don’t do it yourself, that’s fine; but make sure one of your team members does. 

As a website owner, it may be tedious work, but it’s a good idea to have a grasp on how to use Google Analytics so that you can make your own decisions and be in the know about your website’s performance. 

3. I have a dozen websites, and I don't want to check each of their Google Analytics on a daily basis. What do I do?

It can certainly be overwhelming when you are managing a variety of different websites and have to keep tabs on all of them. There are a few options that can help. 

The first thing you can do is to visit your Home screen on Google Analytics; you’ll find an overview of the top metrics, including things like sessions, average session duration, bounce rate, and conversion rate. 

These are some of the most relevant metrics and probably the ones that you’re going to need on a regular basis, making it easier for you to have access to the data that matters for your website analytics. 

Alternatively, you can find numerous business dashboard solutions that can help you with this, including Cyfe. This service isn’t free, but you’ll be able to create widgets and visual dashboard graphs and charts to help you have a visual overview of everything happening with your Google Analytics. 

cyfe

This can also include data from Social media, keyword rankings, and more, making it a comprehensive tool that provides value. 

4. Google Analytics says that 90%+ of my organic keywords are (not provided). Where can I find that information?

Google protects search engine users by hiding keywords that they implement in order to find your website, hence the (not provided) organic keywords. This is done in order to protect their privacy. 

If you want to gain more insight into your search results and understand how your website measures up, you can use Google Search Console to do so. The benefits of Google Search Console are numerous and valuable.

There are some additional services that are paid services, including Now Provided Reports and Hittail that will help you to uncover these organic keywords so that you can leverage them in different marketing. 

5. How do I use Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments?

using custom reports

If you’ve become familiar with how to use Google Analytics and are ready to move on to a bit more advanced tools, you can consider using Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments, as they provide a lot of value to your website analytics. 

Dashboards allow you to view Google Analytics data in a dashboard format, making them more accessible to you. You can find this from the top left sidebar. Once you click the menu option, you can create the dashboard by following the prompts.

creating a custom dashboard

Segments help you to view Google Analytics data based on dimension, for instance all of your visitors from a particular location or based on a certain traffic source. You can even then compare the data points against other dimensions, like location 1 vs location 2, search vs social traffic, mobile vs desktop, and more. Segments are available for each of your individual reports. 

acquisition overview

The best thing here is that you won't have to create any reports from scratch; you can use predefined Custom Reports, Dashboards, and Segments that you can find in the Google Solutions Gallery. Google Analytics is very intuitive. 

In Google Solutions Gallery, you’ll have access to Custom Reports, Segments, Dashboards, and more so that you can import them into Google Analytics, then edit them based on your particular needs. You can edit them using the Edit button. 

You can also Add Widget, Email, Export, or Customize Dashboard as well via buttons at the top. 

widgets and customization for dashboard

In addition, you can use the Action button to edit sections via the Segments selector box, then clicking Edit. 

You can also edit your particular widgets and segments by using the Pencil icon found in the right corner of that particular widget. 

editing user

It may take a bit of getting used to, but once you become familiar with these tools, you can see how they work and customize them to help you have more effective data on Google Analytics. 

In conclusion

Thanks for checking out how to use Google Analytics with our introductory guide. We’re sure that using Google Analytics will help you to gain insight into your web performance and have access to the website analytics that matter. 

If you are just starting out and have more questions, let us know! We’re happy to help. 

How do you like Google Analytics? What’s your favorite feature or data point? Let us know in the comments! 

By Nicole

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By Nicole

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