Websites require regular maintenance to ensure they’re always running efficiently and generating sufficient traffic. This is made easier with data-driven tools such as Google Analytics. In this article, we’ve made understanding Google Analytics simple, with details around what it is, what it does, how to set the tool up, and how the software is used.

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a useful tool offered by Google to help website owners understand how their domain is performing.

Is Google Analytics free?

Google offers a free version of its Google Analytics software, which allows you to record and track website performance data. However, there is also a paid premium version, which offers advanced features. This advanced version costs the equivalent of $150,000 per year though, and is reserved for large corporations.

Fortunately for small and medium sized businesses, the standard version of Google Analytics should suffice, with the level of data you’re recording unlikely to come close to the platform’s maximum capacity.

Why use Google Analytics?

No matter the size or stature of your website, you should be using Google Analytics to measure digital performance. Once you’ve become accustomed to the Google Analytics dashboard, you can begin to use your domain and traffic data to make informed decisions with a focus on driving more visitors, increasing sales, and improving user experienced. Ultimately, Google Analytics should form a part of your overall marketing strategy.

What is the difference between Google Analytics and Google Search Console?

Data analysis is key for website optimisation, because it gives an indication of the direction you should be taking. Google Analytics and Google Search Console both offer insight into your website’s performance, with optimisation in mind, but they’re subtly different.

While Google Search Console is focussed on how well your website is operating internally (how Google reads your pages etc), Google Analytics is more interested in your website’s visitors and their behaviours upon clicking through. To make your data go further, it’s important to adopt each of the two tools.

What does Google Analytics do?

Google Analytics is a popular platform among marketers, because it allows users to track and analyse important website traffic and consumer behaviour data. Google Analytics metrics are orientated around:

1.  Website audiences

One of the most significant benefits of using Google Analytics is that it allows you to track your website’s traffic and how many people are visiting your domain. This allows you to determine which of your on-site pages are most successful, and which could do with a little extra attention or optimisation.

2.  Visitor profiles

Another great aspect of Google Analytics is its ability to show you visitor profiles. This includes demographic data (e.g. where website visitors are coming from geographically) and how users are finding your website (through SEO, digital PR etc).

3.  Visitor behaviour

As well as registering information around the kind of visitors your website attracts, and how they land on your pages, your Google Analytics dashboard will also offer behavioural insight. This includes how long users are spending on your website, the bounce rate of your pages, and how many users are converted into customers. You are also able to analyse where converted customers are coming from.

What Google Analytics metrics should I be measuring?

Within the three categories of Google Analytics metrics outlined above, there are numerous factors you should be measuring. These include:

  • The number of unique website visitors, and how often a single user engages with your content. You should also measure the ratio of new to returning users.
  • The length of time a user spends on your website, and how many pages a user engages with per session.
  • Organic search data such as which pages have a high click through rate but a low ranking. To receive even more effective reporting, link your Analytics profile to you Google Search Console account.
  • The ratio of organic vs paid website visitors. Which avenue is proving more fruitful for your brand? For an even more detailed report, link your Google Ads account with your Google Analytics dashboard.

The different types of Google Analytics dashboard reports

Part of knowing how to use Google Analytics is being able to understand the data dashboard, and what the information represents. We’ve outlined three crucial categories of Google Analytics metrics your data dashboard will focus on.

1. Audience reports

Audience reports are found within your Google Analytics dashboard, and highlight who your customers are. This includes where users come from, geographically and demographically, as well as the devices used to access your website.

2. Acquisition reports

Acquisition Google Analytics dashboard reporting reveals how customers are accessing your website. For instance, do users find your content through organic search, backlinks as a result of digital PR activity, paid advertising, or social media? This data set allows you to compare domain traffic data, so you know which channels to focus your attention.

3. Behaviour reports

Behavioural data reveals what customers are doing when they land on your website. For example:

  • What subdomains are users visiting?
  • How long do customers stay on each page?
  • What is the bounce rate of your pages?

The behavioural element of the Google Analytics dashboard helps gives you a clearer picture of how users are engaging with your content.

How to set up Google Analytics?

Now you know exactly what Google Analytics can offer, it’s time to look into how you can go about creating an account. Setting up Google Analytics requires you to follow a particular process, but the dashboard will prove to be a priceless addition to your marketing strategy in the long run.

1. Create a Google Tag Manager account

Before setting up Google Analytics, you should first create a Google Tag Manager account. This channel allows you to track activity across specific areas of your website without having to recode - you can simply add and edit elements of code by including a ‘tag’. In short, by using Google Tag Manager alongside Google Analytics, you can more easily and efficiently collect, analyse, and manage your website data.

2. Open a Google Analytics account

After signing up with Google Tag Manager, you can start setting up Google Analytics. To do this, simply follow the registration instructions on-site, including choosing an account name.

Once you’ve registered, you should receive a Google Analytics tracking ID. This tracking ID is unique to your website, so make sure to take the appropriate steps to keep it secure.

3. Adding Google Analytics to WordPress

If you have a WordPress website, you can easily add a Google Analytics plugin, to record and track your performance levels. This is a straightforward process, and allows you to get started straight away. The alternative is you having to recode your WordPress website manually, which can be tricky for beginners.

How to use Google Analytics

Understanding the theory behind what Google Analytics offers is one thing, but it’s another to know how to get the most out of the software and understand some of the tool’s most impressive features.

We’ve covered how your Google Analytics dashboard can give you some insight, but what about internal search trends and measuring data for multiple domains?

If your website has a search bar, you should be tracking what people are searching for. This allows you to register such data as what terms consumers use and the navigation journey they’re taking, which offers insight into the type of content you should continue to develop. To enable internal search analysis, you’ll need to amend your Google Analytics dashboard settings.

Measuring data across multiple websites

It’s not uncommon for a website owner to also manage other domains. But that doesn’t mean you have to neglect one in favour of another; You can measure data across multiple websites within one Google Analytics account. In fact, it’s possible to have up to 50 domains within your area. To achieve this, make sure to create one overarching ‘Google Analytics property’ at an account level. You can then add multiple tracking IDs to this top-level property.

Do I need Google Analytics certification?

You might have seen that Google Analytics certification is available, and wondering whether it’s necessary to acquire the qualification before using the tool.

The short answer is that there is no formal requirement to obtain Google Analytics certification, but it can help to give you a clearer idea of the complexities of the software; the Google Analytics for beginners course is especially useful if you’ve no experience using the tool.

This course should take you between 4-6 hours, and covers all the Google Analytics basics, with modules orientated around understanding the metrics and dashboard. While we’ve comprehensively outlined the fundamentals of the Google Analytics tool, the online course provides you with a more in-depth experience.

For even more expert guidance to help you grow your consumer base and expanding your reach, discover all there is to know about building a business and marketing your brand, or alternatively, to set up your own website, buy your domain.