Growth is one of the primary goals for any serious website. Unless the site is a private journal, bloggers want to make sure as many people as possible are visiting. If the site is an ecommerce site, they’ll want to not only grow the amount of traffic but maximize the effectiveness of each web page, placing special emphasis on purchases. The same holds true for blogs and their subscriptions. It’s impossible to maximize the efficiency of a website without knowing how many visitors are coming on a regular basis and what they’re doing.
Enter Google Analytics (GA), a free website statistics tracking tool, offered by Google. Setting up an account is a simple process, which is then followed by adding the Google Analytics tags to each page that needs to be tracked. After the GA account and website are set up properly, it’s just a matter of waiting to gather enough data, after which a huge variety of information about the site and its visitors will be available, giving the site owner the information necessary to maximize each page for their desired result. Using these tools is a fairly straight-forward process, though users with IT degrees or online training will generally be able to make more effective use of them.
Setting up an Account
A Google account, which is provided for free by Google, is required to register for a Google Analytics account. After the user has a Google account, they can proceed to GA account creation, after which they will have to provide a name, domain and time zone to create their first website profile for analytics. The user will also be prompted to share data with services such as Google’s AdSense, AdWords or Webmaster Tools, which are other incredibly useful tools that will generally benefit any website. With Google Analytics, users can choose to share their data with other accounts, allowing them to coordinate with colleagues or provide information to clients without giving out access to their whole account.
Adding Tracking Tags
In order to start tracking data, a tracking code must be inserted into each page the user wants to track. In order to do this, the user must tell Google Analytics whether they are tracking a single domain, multiple subdomains, or multiple top-level domains and whether they wish to link their AdWords account, which will allow them access to advanced AdWords campaign tracking. Users can also track mobile sites or perform other, more advanced functions. After configuring their options, users will be given special HTML code that they will then need to place before the closing of the head tag on each page they wish to track. This code is responsible for sending information back to Google’s servers and must not be altered in any way. Some platforms, like WordPress, may provide a place in which to place tracking scripts, eliminating the need to search through HTML code for the proper placement of the tags.
Reviewing Tracking Data
After all of the tracking scripts are in place and the user’s GA account is configured, Google will begin collecting data for review. If the user has integrated their AdWords campaigns with GA, they’ll be able to view information like, impressions, cost, click through rate (CTR), return on investment (ROI) and margin, which they can use to further target their campaigns, possibly eliminating campaigns that show now return. If the user is tracking a mobile site, they will be able to view traffic, plus the most popular pages on their site and whether or not many users fall back on the full site in order to access features that are not available on the mobile site. Reports for standard sites will probably be the focus of most users and will help easily visualize traffic data and target certain areas of their website. GA users can view customized analytics reports, and if they keep track of changes made to their site, can pinpoint what changes have made the largest impact on traffic, bounce rate, CTR, and conversions. They can also visualize their conversion funnel, seeing where people slip through the cracks and which portions are most effective, allowing them to weed out ineffective portions and utilize the most effective designs on other areas of their sites.
Google Analytics is a powerful tool for tracking site traffic and gauging the effectiveness of site design. Once a user has their Google account and sets up their Analytics profile, he or she can start adding their tracking scripts to their code and begin collecting data to generate reports. Virtually any information concerning traffic can be gathered and sorted in a meaningful way if the user knows what they’re doing.