Digital marketers typically use a rather large arsenal of tools and dashboards to do their job effectively.  Some of them are simple and easy to understand, and others are wild beasts that require heavy training to tame. Enter Google Analytics.

Google Analytics can be as simple or as complicated as you wish. With all of the different reports you can pull (and all of the ways to filter the data), sometimes it is difficult to understand what you are looking at. Let alone what kind of insights and actions should come from the data. Thankfully, Google provides a plethora of articles and training videos on the subject - but the sheer number of articles and videos to absorb can be daunting to say the very least.

Because of this, we’ve decided to create a comprehensive Google Analytics guide for beginners. This resource was created to aid new users through all of the different reports and functions within the platform, and to touch base on some of the more complex features it has to offer as well. Let’s get started!


So, What is Google Analytics?

Before we dive into the specifics of this platform, let’s talk about what it actually is (and what it actually does).


The Origins of Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a web analytics service offered by Google as a part of their marketing suite. It began as a product called Urchin that was developed by Web Depot, a web consulting service, in the early 2000s. The Urchin platform saw quick success, so Web Depot shifted its focus from consultation services to promoting Urchin. Google took notice and bought the company in 2005, re branding the platform as Google Analytics. Released in November 2005, the platform has been a mainstay in marketing agencies to this day.


What Does It Do?

Google Analytics’s primary use is for tracking and reporting website activity. When you start an account, you are given a tracking code that is unique to YOUR website/property. Once you have this code, you simply drop a tracking code snippet into your website (Google Tag Manager is the best option for this, but that’s another post for another day), and you will see live data flowing in. This data is there so you can see how users are interacting with your website, where they are coming from, and more.

Basically, Google Analytics is meant to help you improve your web presence by understanding what is working and what is not working.


Setting Up A Google Analytics Account

Setting up a Google Analytics account is a very simple process that takes approximately five minutes to complete. The first thing you’ll need is a Google account. Having an account with any Google service like Gmail or Drive will automatically give you a head start. A rule of thumb to remember is to never use any personal accounts, and instead create one for your business (example: businessname@gmail.com). Once you have that, go to https://analytics.google.com to be brought to the Google Analytics homepage

Google Analytics Homepage

Once you’re at the homepage, hit “START MEASURING” to get started

Step 1: Account Setup

When signing up with Google Analytics, you’ll be introduced to a page asking for details about your website. This look like so (as of the writing of this post):

Heads Up! Google updates frequently so “Create an Account” page will change in the future

First, It’ll ask for the account name.


Best practice dictates that you use the name of your business for the main account. Next, you’ll be asked the website name. An example: “NerdyMind” would be our account name, and “www.NerdyMind.com” would be the website name.

Next, you’ll be asked about account data sharing settings This part explains that the data collected is kept secure and confidential by Google, as well as, used to maintain and protect their service to perform system critical operations and legality. Here, you’ll be able to check Google services will have access to your data:

  1. Google products & services: This service asks for you to share your data with Google so that they can improve their products and services by analyzing online behavior and trends. This is setting is required to use the Demographics and Interest Reports. These reports can give great insight, so we normally encourage our clients to check this box.
  2. Benchmarking: Enabling this gives Google the ability to compare your site’s performance with other sites (anonymously) within the industry, pinpointing performance problems and more. This feature allows you to know where you stand within your industry and helps track market trends within it
  3. Technical support: This setting allows Google tech support reps to access your data and account whenever necessary in order to help with any problems related to technical issues. Disallowing this will remove contact with Google reps coming in and providing troubleshooting for your account.
  4. Account specialists: Much like the tech support option this setting lets Google employees, this time within marketing and sales, access your data and account so they can find ways to improve it and share these tips for you.

It is generally recommended for you to leave these boxes checked when setting up your account as they are required for certain reports to be accessed and obtained. Don’t worry, none of these options are spam!



Step 2: What Property Are You Measuring & Property Setup

From there you’ll be directed to a page asking about what you’re planning to measure with Google Analytics; a website, app, or both.

Select what you are planning to measure and then proceed to the next section.

You’ll then be asked for details about your property. If you set up analytics for a website you’ll need to provide:

  •  Website URL
    • Make sure you appropriately select the HTTP status on your site when entering this in (and it should be HTTPS, as Google wants all websites to employ a proper Secure Sockets Layer certificate).
  •  Industry Category
    • Google wants to know what industry you are in so you can see how your site traffic compares to others within that industry. You can view this data in Benchmark Reports under the Audience section (more on that later). The options Google provides are very general, and depending on your business, may not be specific enough to describe what it is. Use your best judgment in these cases and know that you can always change it in the settings of your account. 
  •  Reporting time zone 
    • When it comes to the reporting time zone make select the time zone you are currently in. If you are maintaining someone else’s analytics account who is in a different time zone don’t select theirs. Using the time zone of the person viewing the reports makes things much easier. 

Use the actual name of your website and don’t put anything else there. Simplicity is the name of the game. Copy and paste your website URL and select the industry from the industry category. Google offers a wide variety of broad categories to choose from, so pick the one that seems most relevant to your business.

The same steps apply for setting up measuring app properties. The only major difference is that you will be asked which currency you want displayed.


Step 3: Inserting the Snippet

There it is! You’ve created your Google Analytics account and you now have your tracking snippet to insert into your website. But, how do you insert your snippet? It depends on a lot of things, but sometimes you will need the help of a web developer to get the code snippet into the website <head> and <body> tags. Since most websites are running on WordPress these days, Google released their own WordPress plugin.

Other platforms like Squarespace and Wix have a designated area to place your Analytics ID number in. These platforms have very descriptive directions on implementing analytics tracking so perform a quick Google search on which platform you have and follow the instructions provided.

One last thing to note, in order to test and make sure that the Google Analytics snippet is working go to the Realtime “Overview” Report



and in a separate tab go to your website homepage. If you inserted your snippet correctly you should see this in the report.

If you don’t then you should check your snippet placement and make sure everything is in order.

Note: Keep this in mind, it takes Google Analytics around 24-48 hours to populate tracking data in your account. So don’t panic if data doesn’t appear after a few hours upon setting up your account and getting your snippet installed. 


Conclusion

You’re all set! Your analytics account is ready to start measuring traffic, conversions, and activity coming onto your site or app. However, now the real fun begins. In the next part of our series we’ll go over the different reports and their functions so you won’t get lost navigating through vast amounts of data you’ll be collecting.


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