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Imagine that your site is getting thousands of visitors per day. Now imagine that about 100 of them are spending money on the site. Obviously, you probably want to get more of the users that are spending money on the site but how do you know where these users are coming from? Or, how do you know what actions they take while on your site before spending money?
What is website analytics?
This is where website analytics comes in. Website analytics collects data about who our site visitors are, where they are coming from, and what they are doing on our sites. We can see where information about our site visitors such as where they are located, the languages they speak, and the devices they used to view your website.
We can also see information about how site visitors got to our site and which pages they spent the most time on. Additionally, we can see what actions they took on the website such as watching a video, signing up for a newsletter, or adding a product to a shopping cart.Without website analytics, how do you know where your site visitors are coming from and what they are doing? Click To Tweet
By having all this data within one place, we can analyze the different paths visitors take to complete actions on our sites. We can then look into which marketing channels we are using that are the most profitable. This helps us to ensure we are optimizing our marketing to save us time and money.
There are many services out there that offer analytics for your website. Some of the most popular ones include Clicky, MixPanel, Heap Analytics, Fathom Analytics, and Kissmetrics. The most popular service is Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is not only free for most people, but it is also powerful and user-friendly. Even better, you can link it to your Search Console and Google Ads if you use them to add even more information into your reports.
Before we can get too far with using Google Analytics, there are some terminology and concepts that we want to explore first.
Our first round of definitions correlates to the different levels within your Google Analytics account.
Inside your Google Analytics account, you can have different “accounts” for the different companies or brands that you’re using analytics with. For most people who are only using Google Analytics for their one site, they will only have one account. If you are using Google Analytics with your clients, you may have different accounts for each of your clients.
These accounts are all within your Google Analytics account, so you only have the one login to get into and work with these accounts.
Inside each of the accounts, you can have different properties. These properties are individual sites or apps. For example, if you are using Google Analytics for your own site only, you may have one account with one property in it. If you have multiple websites for your company, you may have several properties within your account.
If you have clients who have multiple sites, you may have different accounts for each client and then different properties within those accounts for each site for that client.
Inside each property will be “views”. These views are where the data is actually stored and where you will be reviewing your data. Each “view” is a set of data within a property. For many sites, you only need one main view. However, there may be times where you have a variety of different views to analyze different subsets of data. We will look more into views in a future email.
Our next round of terms focuses on the data that is in Google Analytics.
This is a single individual visitor to your website. When a visitor comes to your site for the first time, Google Analytics creates a unique ID for that user and stores a cookie in their browser. If the visitor comes back to your site, Google Analytics will look for the cookie to determine if this is a new or returning user.
This is a single visit by a site visitor. If someone comes to your site and views several pages, that is one session. If the person comes back next week to view some more pages, that would be considered a different session. By default, Google Analytics ends a session after 30 minutes of inactivity. So, if a person browses your site, leaves, and then comes back a few hours later, that would be two different sessions by the same user on that day.
Browsing Your Google Analytics
Now that we have a basic understanding of Google Analytics, let’s take a look through some of the content in the service. First, we can look at the Audience page to see some overview data about our traffic and its visitors.
On this page, we can see a graph of the number of sessions that the site has had. We can also see the number of users, sessions, page views, pages per session, average session duration, and more.
We can then dive into the Audience section to compare the visitors based on a variety of data such as what language they speak, where they are geographically, what type of device they are using to view your site, and more.
Now, let’s take a look at the Acquisition section. In this section, we can discover where the users are coming from. By default, Google Analytics will break down the channels by search, direct access, social, and referrers as you can see in the image below.
You can then dive into each channel further to learn more about where the users come from in that channel like in this image:
Setting up Google Analytics
Now that you know a bit about Google Analytics and what it can do, it is time to get it set up on your website. The first step is to go to Google Analytics and set up your account. You can sign in with your Google account and then you will want to add a property for your website during their guided setup.
If you are using WordPress, there is a really simple plugin called Google Analytics Dashboard for WP that allows you to simply log in with your Google account and then the plugin will automatically set up Google Analytics for your site. It even displays some basic traffic data in your WordPress dashboard so you can easily keep track when you log into your site. This is the plugin I actually use for this site.
If you are not using WordPress, most CMS’s and platforms have a simple process for setting up Google Analytics so be sure to check out your platform’s documentation or reach out to their support. Lastly, Google Analytics will give you some code when you create your account. So, if you know how, you could simply copy and paste their code into your site and not have to worry about any integration tools at all.
Once you have your Google Analytics set up, there are a few more things you can do to better analyze your data. You can track your conversions and create dashboards to quickly see your most important data.
You can also use UTMs to create custom campaigns and get more specific data.
From there, you can track specific user events such as when a user clicks a submit button or downloads a document. If you are interested in learning more, refer to this article on event tracking with onclick.