How To: Get Started With Google Analytics
Google Analytics is an enterprise-class, web analytics solution which gives you timely and rich insights into traffic at your website and effectiveness of different marketing strategies. It is very powerful, flexible and easy-to-use with features that allow you to see, analyze and interpret your traffic data novel, revolutionary and evolutionary ways.
Google Analytics helps commercial sites to compose well-focused advertisements and strengthens the marketing initiatives of your company and also creates websites with better and higher conversions. If you are non-commercial, Google Analytics will help you evaluate your site to make it better in its targets and goals.
A market-share analysis states that at least 49.95% of the top 1,000,000 websites (based on Alexa rankings) make use of Google Analytics. With the latest additions which enable even mobile-tracking, any site that has not got Google Analytics enabled is losing out on something big. All that you need to do is to register for a Google Analytics account.
Adding the Code
Adding the code is as simple as to copy and paste a generated code above the tag, present in your template or page. The looks and any other features of the page will remain unaffected and Google Analytics begins its work! Simple right? To generate this code, set up a profile for the site that you wish to track. The step-wise process for doing the same becomes available once you set up a Google Analytics account.
If you are making use of a blogging platform like WordPress, Tumblr or Blogger, you only need to add the code once to the template or theme. The propagation of the code thereafter will be taken care by the theme or the template. Blogging sites like HubPages will automatically link you to Google Analytics. When you are using a custom-built site; you need to manually enter the code into each page of the site. Better would be to contact the administrator to find out how content is generated by the site and seek advice on implementing the code. Once the code is in place, the possibilities for information gathering and evaluation are almost infinite.
The Metric possibilities
There are five distinct metric possibilities through Google Analytics. While each of them is comprehensive, Google Analytics makes it possible to cross link two such possibilities in a complex matrix and derive insights and wisdom! Note however, that while a wealth of analytics is possible, it is not necessary that one makes use of all of them, every time. The usage is entirely need-based. So, though measuring is made easy, you must have an idea of what you want to measure!
The most sought-after metric nowadays is the number of ‘hits’, ‘likes’ or ‘visitors’ that a site or page receives. Further, this can be filtered based either on the demography or the geography of the visitors. You could even study the behaviors like how many visitors are new and how many are returning. You can check the frequency of their visits, the duration of their visits and the recentness. It is also possible to get data on the operating systems, the networks and the browsers being used to access the page or site.
After getting to know about the visitors who got to your site, you can now discover how they got there. Some might have landed there via an organic search (through Google or Yahoo or any other search engine) or through a paid search. You can also see if visitors arrived directly to your page or through referrals. The terms and words used by the visitors, landed on your page, are also given in case you would want to perform an SEO of your site.
After getting to know who come to your site and how, you could also learn the ‘why’ of it. This tab will give you insight into very specific pages hosted on your site. The landing pages, the exit pages, content drilldown and pages are some of the insights you obtain about your content. Note however that this tab would require the webmaster tools to be enabled. Then, you would even derive insights on the site search and site speed along with overview of events and adsense revenues.
In this tab, you will find the data about actions desired from users which include download, purchases and registrations. Goals might include sales, viewing a particular page, lead generation or even downloading a file. You could set up your objectives and objectively evaluate the reports here to see how well/bad you are doing with respect to your stated objectives. For instance, marketers could evaluate how effective an ad campaign is.
In case you are selling via your website, this tab opens up a new world of data on all your transactions and revenue activities.
As soon as you access the Google Analytics page of your site, you will be welcomed with a summary of all the data. This is the data that is put as default based on what Google think; you can customize the dashboard based on what data is important for you. To do this, just visit the various reports that are listed in a column on the left of the screen. Once you get there, just hit the button titled, ‘Add to Dashboard’ and that is about it!
Apart from gathering and collecting all the data that you would wish to see in your dashboard, you could also arrange them and order them as you like. Clicking the ‘View Report’ by the site of each item in the dashboard will allow you to drill into the depths of the report.
Time range for the data
Another beautiful aspect of Google Analytics that assists you in evaluating progress of dip in growth is the time-range. The upper, right hand corner of every report has a time range that can be specified. By default, it is set for a month-long range, which ends on the day prior to the day on which you are viewing the report. This can be easily changed and changes over time can be studied. You could also set a weekly, monthly, quarterly or even yearly time frame based on what works best for you.
You could also compare date ranges by simply hitting the ‘compare’ button given below the date range. Now, instead of one set of calendars, you will get two sets of calendars.
Visualizations and tables
Presentation of the information is everything and Google Analytics gives you great power, flexibility and versatility through its graphs and charts. Most of the reports by themselves contain linear graphs for the specified time range with dots on the line. Mousing over the dots, reveal the data corresponding to the same. The power to change the axes of the graph is entirely left to you. Thus, you could choose to compare against the site average instead of the time range. This kind of flexibility in cross referencing data is very helpful in evaluating goals.
While the graphs present an immediate visual representation, given below them is a host of other information. The Site Usage, Goal Conversion and Ecommerce are three common tabs located above the scorecards of most reports. Further analysis is made possible via the tables given below each graph. These tables can be visualized either as bar graphs or pie charts. The number of results displayed can be varied from 10-500 per page.
The data can be refined for visualization by the ‘Find Source’ box. This helps to enter relevant keywords to reveal specific information. If you are a first timer, some of this might seem confusing. Google Analytics has taken care of that too. You will find many ‘?’ – Question marks – next to the different metrics and headings. Scrolling the mouse over it reveals what it is and thus the whole experience becomes intuitive.
Another elegant and wonderful feature in Google Analytics is that sharing all the reports and insights is very easy. An email button below the title of all reports makes it possible to dispatch it right away to all concerned. You could also export the data as a CSV, TSV, XML or PDF file for offline work and storage. For presentation of the reports, the PDF format would be preferred.
Google Analytics is not fool-proof. Many ad-filtering programs prevent the Google Analytics trackers from functioning properly. Also, privacy networks mask the user’s identity and location. Since users have the option of deleting or blocking the Google Analytics Tracking Cookies (GATC), there are bound to be loopholes in the reports. But unless you are running a space shuttle programme, you will not need such accuracy of data. Google Analytics is a very powerful tool to enable the site owner and administrator to get valuable insights. The same insights would cost a fortune if they had arrived through an external agency. Arriving at the insights oneself will also lend greater understanding on the workings of the world wide web and the efficiency of one’s site. With the ability to add up to 50 site profiles to one account, marketers and webmasters around the world can rejoice.
About the author: Alia Haley is a blogger by profession. She loves writing on technology and luxury. Beside this she is fond of phones and bikes. Recently an article on network security attracted her attention. These days she is busy in writing an article on bike accessories.
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