Google Analytics is one of the best tools for analysing your website traffic. It takes very little to set up but gives plenty of information on who is visiting your website, which websites they clicked through from, how long they stayed and much, much more. Oh – and it’s free.
How Do I use it?
Briefly, here’s what you do with the tool:
- Create an account
- Add the provided tracking code to each page you want information on
- Wait… wait… wait… wait…..about 4 weeks to get some useful statistics
- Pour through the vast amount of information
First you have to create an account by clicking on Sign Up. If you already have a Google account, such as iGoogle, then you can use that one otherwise provide a new email address and password, check you email to verify and login.
When you have logged into Google Analytics, the first thing you need to do is add your website profile (URL). You will be asked for the time zone you want the tracking information to work on. This is a useful addition if, say, you host your website on a server in a different country.
Continuing on, provide any contact information, read and agree with the terms and conditions then click on Finish or Create New Account.
The next page you see has the tracking code you need to place on the web pages you want information on.
Adding the Tracking Code to Your Web Page
If you have an IT consultant or web designer who takes care of your website, give them the code to add to the web pages.
You must add the code to every web page you want to track, but only track those pages you want specific information back on. Obviously, your homepage is a must.
If you’re going to do this yourself then you’ll need to know a bit of HTML and have access to the raw web pages, either through your development software such as Dreamweaver or using a Control Panel interface on your hosted web account.
There are at present two types of tracking code offered: New and Legacy. I would choose the New code (default) unless you know otherwise.
Open up your web page HTML code and find the </body> tag towards the end of the document. Copy and insert the full tracking code just before this tag, save, close and publish the page if required.
Now, go back to Google Analytics and click on Finish. You should see a table containing the website URL you have just added, similar to below.
If you receive a warning message that reads “Tracking Not Installed”, try waiting a minute or two then click on Check Status. If that still doesn’t work then review and try to repeat the process of inserting your code.
All being well, you are now ready to start using Google Analytics to view reports on your website statistics.
The first page you will see after adding your website URL is the Dashboard. This contains an overview of some important information.
It obviously takes time for statistics to be gathered before any meaningful information starts to show up, usually about 3 or 4 weeks work will give you some useful figures.
At the top right of the dashboard you will find a drop-down calendar allowing statistics to be viewed over any time period. The default is for the last month’s worth of data although you can adjust it to show any time period you wish.
Below that is your line graph showing the number of visitors to your site for the time period you have chosen along with a general site usage table. The graph allows you to quickly spot peak activity as well as lulls and the stats usage table gives a general % breakdown on items such as No. of visits, % New Visits etc.
Using these statistics and others on the page, you can find our more information about these peaks and troughs. Did a peak coincide with a particular article you wrote or a new AdWords campaign you started?
Underneath the line graph and stats you will find a pie chart to the left and a world map to the right.
The pie chart shows the breakdown of visitors to the website according to Referring Sites (websites that have a link to yours), Search Engines (robot crawlers) and Direct Traffic (people typing in your website URL directly into the browser.
The map show the distribution of countries where your visitors are coming from.
Lastly, underneath, you have two tables. The left table shows all traffic sources to your website (where visitors are coming from) and the right table shows what pages they are looking at (obviously you have to have installed the tracking code on the pages you want included in the reports)
And There’s More, Lots More…
You will hopefully by now be grinning at the potential uses of this tool and probably a little apprehensive about the volume of information you could possibly collect.
Look out for my other articles about how to get the most out of Google Analytics.