My mom scored big points the day she told me about Google Analytics. I’ll confess, at that time I didn’t know exactly what the word analytics meant (“the science of logical analysis” according to dictionary.com) but I got excited when my mom told me what it does. Google Analytics can tell you pretty much anything you could possibly want to know about visitors and your website—and perhaps more importantly, how visitors behave on your website. Google Analytics can tell you how many visitors your site attracts each day, but not only that—it can also tell you how they arrived at your site: by direct input, from a link on another website (and you can see what those sites are), or from a search engine (and you can view what keywords people searched for to find you). You can also look at which pages within your site are viewed most, how many visits are new versus return visits, and even the average time length of a site visit. In this quick tutorial I’m going to show you how you can easily get started with Google Analytics for your website.
1) To open a Google Analytics account, you’ll first need a Google account. If you have a Gmail account, that will work—otherwise you’ll need to create a new account. Visit www.google.com/analytics and below the Access Analytics button, click on the Sign up Now link. Follow the prompts until you arrive at your Google Analytics Dashboard.
3) Now comes the important part. On the next screen, Google provides you with a bit of code. In order for Analytics to work, you must copy and paste this into your website’s HTML code, immediately before the closing <head> tag which looks like this: </head>. Accessing your website’s HTML code will vary depending on which editor you use. Typically there will be a view in HTML or code view option. Look for the closing </head> tag towards the top of the page, right above where you actual page content starts. Important: you need to put this code on each page of your site that you want to see stats for. If you only put it in your main page code, you’ll only see stats for your main page. After you’ve pasted the code, click Save and Finish.
4) Now we arrive back at the dashboard. In my experience, it takes a day or so for Analytics to realize you’ve added the code and get everything in sync. Keep checking back to you GA dashboard, and you will know when things are properly connected because beneath status, you will see a green check mark instead of a yellow warning sign.
Now that you’ve got your Google Analytics account set up and have successfully started an account for your website, it’s time to start analyzing! Here are a few ways in which you can find out more about visitors on your website.
On your website account’s dashboard, you can see a number of important pieces of information already. Beneath visits, you can see the total number of hits your site has received since you opened your Analytics account. Next to that is the average time spent on your site. Keep in mind that the average amount of time spent on a website is less than a minute, so if your average time spent is three or four minutes, that’s a good thing! Next to that is your bounce rate. A bounce is when a person visits your site and then leaves while they’re still on that first page. Typically a bounce occurs when a person either arrived at your website by accident or found the information to be irrelevant to what they were looking for.
To look at some more in depth statistics, click on view report, under Reports. Now at the top of the screen, we see a graphic overview of how many people visit your site each day. Beneath that under Site Usage, we get some more information. We can see both site visits and page visits. Site visits is the amount of people who visited your site, while page visits is the number of pages viewed (one visitor can have multiple page views). Here you can also see what percentage of visitors are first-time visitors. In the map overlay, you can see from which countries people view your website. Beneath traffic sources overview, you can see what percentage of visitors came by way of direct traffic (user entered your URL), search engines, or referring sites (a link from another website). Beneath the traffic sources pie chart if you click view report, you can see even more details like which on which external websites people clicked a link to your website, and also what keyboard people searched for to find your website.
My guess is that by this point you are either totally excited by all this, or else wondering: do I really need to know all this? And in a sense, the answer is no. As a web designer, I am clearly biased on this topic—but if users, on average, leave your site after 15 seconds, wouldn’t you want to know? I like Google Analytics because it allows me to see where the potential problems are on my websites, and encourages me to figure out ways to make my sites more engaging for the user. It also takes the mystery out of site traffic. Haven’t you ever wondered how many people look at your website? Well now you can know. It’s free and easy to use, so you really have nothing to lose. I encourage you to give your website the gift of Google Analytics today.