If you haven’t installed Google Analytics on your blog, get ready to meet your new best friend. I’m going to help you register a Google Analytics account, put the tracking code on your blog, then give you some basic insight as to what kind of information you’ll find when you have Google Analytics up and running.
While you can find many tools that will track your blog stats, Google Analytics is the industry standard. It’s the number one analytics tool available, and it’s used by more than 15,000,000 websites.
How Do I Get Started with Google Analytics?
The first step is to visit Google Analytics. When you get to the Google Analytics main page, in the upper right corner you can either register a new Google account or log in with your current account. If you have a Google account registered, you can log in with that information and add your first Google Analytics account.
Once you’ve logged in, follow these steps:
- Click the Admin button, then click the +New Account button. The Accounts Administration page appears.
- Type in your website name, URL, select a category and choose your time zone.
- Click the Get Tracking ID button.
On the next page you will find your Google Analytics tracking code. There are some options available if you want to use the code for sub-domains or several domains at the same time, but in general you can just leave all options the way they are and scroll down to the tracking code. This post deals solely with the basic set up of Google Analytics.
How Do I Install the Google Analytics Tracking Code?
A normal Google Analytics tracking code will look something like this:
var _gaq = _gaq || ;
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
var s = document.getElementsByTagName(‘script’); s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
For Google Analytics to work you need to install this code on your blog. If you use WordPress.org as your blogging platform, you can easily do this in one of the following ways:
- Use a plugin. Download a Google Analytics plugin and insert the code to the plugin. Google Analyticator is a great tool that allows you to see statistics right in your WordPress Admin dashboard. Another tool to consider is the Google Analytics plugin, which is easy to use and all you need to add is your tracking number (for example: UA-12345678-1).
- Choose a theme that makes it easy. Some WordPress themes give you the chance to add the code inside the theme settings, so if you use such a theme, just paste the tracking code to your theme. Genesis themes are usually very easy to work with. In fact, you can create your own WordPress child theme.
- Do it yourself. If you want to do it yourself, log in to your WordPress dashboard and click Appearance > Editor. In the editor, find your header.php and paste the code somewhere between the <head> and the </head> tags (most guides say that the code should be added just before end of the head tag, meaning just before </head>). Be aware of the fact that if you make changes to the header.php and later update your theme automatically in WordPress, the theme will overwrite the existing header.php file with a new one. Any changes you made previously (i.e., the Google Analytics code in the <head> field) will be removed. That means any tracking code for Google Analytics added directly to header.php will disappear after a theme update in WordPress. I suggest you only use this method if you are completely comfortabel working with your theme files and code.
Once this is in order you are ready to go and Google Analytics should by now create statistics for every visitor visiting to your site.
How Do I Know if Google Analytics Is Working?
After installing the code it will take some time before the first stats show up, but if you visit the Google Analytics real-time tool (on your Google Analytics dashboard) you can immediately assure yourself that the tracking code is working. If it is working you should be able to see and follow your own movements on the site in the real-time tool. In general the real-time tool can show you the amount of active visitors currently on your site, you can see from what sites they came to your site, what keywords brought them there, where the visitor is located in the world and what articles they are currently looking at. This is a brilliant way to see how many people visit your blog immediately after publishing a new blog post, or to find out how many comes to your blog as you share a blog post on a social network. Be warned that the real-time tool is strongly addictive!
What Data Should I Pay Attention to on Google Analytics?
If you visit the Audience option in the Google Analytics menu you will normally be presented with statistics from the last 30 days (excluding today). If you want to include today modify the date range in the top right corner of the curve! At the Audience front page you will see the total amount of visits, the amount of unique visitors, number of page views, average duration visit, the bounce rate and the amount of new visitors. What do the data tell me?
- Visits: This is the total number of times people have visited your page. If the same person visits your page twice, this will show up as two visits.
- Unique Visitors: The number of unique people who have visited your page. If the same person visits your page on two different occasions it will count as one unique visitor, not two.
- Pageviews: This tells you how many times individual pages and articles have been viewed. If one user visits your front page and reads three articles, this will count as four pageviews.
- Pages/Visits: When someone visits your website or blog, how many different articles or pages do they look at on average? If everyone visits your homepage, but never read anything else the average will be 1.
- Avg. Visit Duration: This statistic tells you how much time a visitor normally spends on your site. The longer, the better!
- Bounce Rate: You will want a low bounce rate, because the bounce rate tells you how many people leave your page from the same page they entered (meaning that they did not visit any other articles on your site).
- % New Visits: This number tells you the percentage of new visitors coming to your page, and how many of your visitors are regulars. I guess you want more of both!
What Are the Other Google Analytics Functions?
The mentioned statistics might be the most important to you as a Google Analytics beginner, but here is a list presenting some other functions that you might find interesting and helpful.
- On the Audience front page you will find information about the demographics of your visitors. Here you can get to know more about their system languages and location in the world. Why write about social problems in the USA if all your visitors come from India?
- Another thing useful to know about your visitors is whether they visit your site from a computer or from a mobile device. You can easily find out this as you visit Audience > Mobile > Overview.
- I always enjoy the Traffic Sources section. Here I can find out how my visitors came to my blog. Did my visitors find me on Google or have they come to my site through links elsewhere? On the Traffic Sources front page you can see the most popular keywords by which people have found your blog and you can easily find out if the visitor came from Google or some other search engine. On the Traffic Sources front page you can also find information about referral traffic and see what sites have sent their visitors to your page and what are the most popular arrival pages for visitors coming your way.
- As you visit the Content section of Google Analytics you will get information about the most popular content on your site. If you go a bit deeper and visit Content > Site Content you will find more information about the different landing pages, number of unique visitors to the different articles, and the most popular exit pages on your site.
- In the Conversions section you can create goals and Google Analytics will help you find out whether you reach your goals or not. You might not need it in the start, but as your blog and your business start to grow this can be a really helpful section.
The goal of this how-to guide was to give you some basic information and to help you get started with Google Analytics. There are many more functions to discover in Google Analytics than described in this article, but as a start-up guide this should do.
Google Analytics is a great tool which will help you as a blogger and webmaster. However, be warned! Google Analytics is addictive and it is easy to sit and watch real-time events instead of creating new and awesome content.
This post was written by Sigbjorn Heier. His blog is Siggiblog. Please visit him there to find more articles with useful advice on how to blog and how to earn money with your blog.