Google Analytics for Beginners-Part 1-Setup

There is no need to spend time and money creating a beautiful website if you don't know how many people are viewing or interacting with the fruits of your labour. Email Marketing and other digital campaigns may seem like great ideas at the time, but could be deemed ineffective if you don't track what the recipients do after they open your carefully crafted communications.  To see which pages of your site are the most popular and where in the world your visitors are coming from, you need to get hooked up to an analytics package.

Although it is not the only such service available, Google Analytics is free to use and the most popular of its kind, so we have put together a beginners' guide to setting up your account and linking it up to your site. Part two (to follow shortly) will give a more in-depth look into the variety of reports available, and how to make the most of your new account.

Create an Account

To get started, you first need to create an analytics account, which can be done here.

This is a relatively straightforward process, however if you do get stuck more information can be found here.

Code Installation & Tracking

Once your account is all set up, you need to link your account to your website. You do this by adding the tracking code onto every page of your website. Google Analytics relies upon JavaScript tags on every page of your site to track visitor activity. Any pages that are missed or incorrectly tagged can lead to errors in the tracked data. The code you need should look like that in the image below. Again, Google provides a really useful setup guide if you need a little help.

Consider Universal analytics

Recently, Google released a new Analytics product into beta called Universal Analytics. This new product can be run in tandem with the current analytics tracking, so might be worth considering to help future-proof your site. The new product sees the focus shift considerably from the current 'visit' level tracking to 'visitor' level tracking, which should allow better tracking across devices, multi-visits and paths through the site itself than the current setup. Again, thank you Google for this this extra information.

E-commerce Sites

If your website is transactional you will need to add additional JavaScript code to the receipt/sale complete page of your website. This code is used to submit the contents of the transaction to Google Analytics. Transactional data is very important for assessing the performance of marketing activity and subsequently calculating ROI. Without e-commerce tracking, analytics will not be able to provide e-commerce data in the reports. Here is more help if you need it!

Check Your Data

Once the analytics code has been added to your site, the results should begin to show within 24 hours. Analytics can take up to 72 hours to update, so any recorded figures may change slightly until this time has elapsed.

If you have an e-commerce site, we recommend waiting until at least 72 hours before checking the results. Once this time has passed, you can download a full list of the transaction IDs that Google Analytics has recorded and match them to your own list to see if any are missing.

Incorrectly tagged pages are another common source of errors. If you check the referrals section within analytics, there should be no visits recorded as a referral from your own domain. If there are self-referrals, this suggests an error in the tracking somewhere. Google again comes up with the goods when it comes to explaining the possible causes of self-referrals and how to solve them.

Ensure all traffic sources are tagged

Tagging is a very important part of Google Analytics and should not be overlooked. If a source is not tagged, Google may assign the visitor to a different source - incorrectly inflating the figures in the process.

Google Analytics is able to determine several traffic sources without tagging, however many forms of marketing activity require the addition of tracking variables (these are added to the URL and tell Google Analytics the source and other information about a visitor).

Google AdWords PPC traffic is one example that needs adding. The following links contain information about custom campaigns (campaigns that need to be tagged), a URL builder (to help create the variables required) and best practices for tagging custom campaigns.

Google AdWords has an auto-tagging feature that can be used to automatically tag all links. It does require you to link your AdWords and Google Analytics accounts (which require at least one user to be an admin for both). More information on linking AdWords and Analytics can be found here.

Once linked, AdWords automatically adds tracking variables (similar to ’gclid=asdfasdf’), which analytics then uses to pull in the AdWords information (including campaign, ad group etc.).

Measure Success

Once Analytics is able to distinguish traffic sources, it is important to be able to measure success. To do this, we need to set up goals - or e-commerce tracking for a transactional site (there are other methods not discussed here). If an e-commerce code has been added to the site, the reports should contain e-commerce data (including transactions and revenue). If not (or your website has additional aims), Goals are an important measure of success.

A Goal is something that your website is trying to get visitors to 'do'. For lead generation websites, this may involve getting visitors to sign up to a mailing list. Even if your website is transactional, goals can still be important to assess the performance of alternative site actions, such as newsletter signups.

Each Goal can have an associated funnel. A funnel is a set of steps that precede a goal that a user has to navigate. A good example of a funnel is the checkout journey:

Basket->log-in->Enter Payment Details->Confirm Order - >Order Complete

If a funnel is created for the above journey, it will allow you to visualise drop off at different points in this process.

This link contains more information on funnels.

Official Setup Checklist

Finally, Google have a very handy setup checklist to run through when implementing Google analytics - along with links to the relevant help section. Here is your final helpful link of this instalment of Google Analytics for beginners.