Setting up Google Analytics for the first time can be intimidating. Rest assured, Google Analytics can be implemented on your website easily and simply at first. As your knowledge grows, and the complexity of your website grows, Google Analytics can grow with your needs.
For the majority of websites, you will not need every feature available from Google Analytics. There are a few items you should setup right away to put you on the right track fo growing your site.
Using the SeeMe Media methodology, let's approach the implementation of Google Analytics on your website in a way that helps you get the biggest gains for your analytics tracking right from the begining.
What content do you want to track?
Phase 1: Research
Google Analytics, a free tool offered by Google, allows you insight into the user behavior on your website, web app and other web-based properties.
When setting up Google Analytics is the first step to understanding what you want to measure. The goal here should be to determine what Key Point Indicators (KPIs) are important to your website. Here are a few questions you should be asking:
- Who is visiting your website?
- Where on your website are they landing?
- What pages are they visiting?
- Are your Call to Action (CTA) buttons, forms and products converting?
- How are people behaving when they get to your website?
- Are your blog articles effective?
- Are people using their phones or computers to visit your site?
Here are a few data points that Google Analytics tracks:
- Amount of user traffic your website gets
- Where in the world your traffic came from
- Individual pageviews and traffic
- Traffic sources (Search, Direct, Email, Referral, Social Media, etc)
- The value of conversions and sales
- Demographic information of visitors (male/female, ages and location)
- Viewport size (mobile/tablet/desktop)
What information will be important for your site?
Phase 2: Collaboration
Your website may not require all the data Google Analytics can provide, or your time may be limited for your implementation. For this reason, it is a good idea to focus on a few goals you hope to track, based on what you determined if Phase 1 was necessary.
Common tracking signals:
- Form Fills
- Search Engine traffic
- Conversion Value tracking
- Cart Completion/Abandonment
Go through your website, and identify the CTA/buttons you want to more closely track? Do you have a product you are selling? When someone clicks add to cart, what is that worth to your company? When people get to your cart, are they completing the transaction?
- User Traffic
- New User Traffic
- Average Pageviews
- Time on Site
- Traffic by Device type (mobile/tablet/desktop)
- Landing Page Entrances
- Page Exits
How to implement Google Analytics on your Website in 4 steps
Phase 3: Approach
What you will need to implement Google Analytics:
- A Google Account, usually a Gmail account or Google Workspace account
- FTP or Admin Access to your website files/CMS
- Ability to edit the <head></head> and <body></body> tag areas if your website
Systems you will need to access:
- Google Tag Manager
- Google Analytics
To set up Google Analytics, you simply have to follow these steps:
Step 1: Set up Google Tag Manager
Goal: Setup your Google Tag Manager Container on your website.
Google Tag Manager(GTM) is a free tag management system provided by Google to make adding code tracking scripts into your website easier and more effective. GTM is a very powerful tool to have in your analytics tool belt. It works by creating a container on your website that allows you to execute and manage tracking codes from a central location, tagmanager.google.com. If it is not yet implemented on your site, now is the perfect time to do so. Another great reason to install GTM is it allows you better and easier access to the newest Google Analytics 4 (GA4) version of Google Analytics, the preferred version as of 2021.
With a CMS, like WordPress, and a good theme, adding tracking code is simple and usually done through the WordPress customizer.
To install Google Tag Manager, you will need to add two snippets of code to your website (see below).
Step 2: Create a Google Analytics account
Goal: Create an account and get a tracking id for your website property.
Once you have GTM installed on your website, it is time to get yourself a Google Analytics Account. Head over to analytics.google.com.
Follow the instructions to set up your first property. When setting up the property be sure to include the correct URL. I suggest copying directly from the browser on your homepage. Also, provide as much information as you can, including Time Zone you are in, and your industry. Anything you skip will not be provided in your analytics in the future so be sure to add all you need here.
Let’s say you want to be able to track how many people clicked on each of the downloadable whitepapers you are providing on your site. Without Google Tag Manager, you’d have to go in and manually add code to each of the download links to do this. With Google Tag Manager, you can just add a new tag to your Tag Manager to track the downloads.
Google Tag Manager also provides versioning of your updates. If you make a mistake, you are able to revert back to a previous version of the code. This is super helpful when you get more advanced and really will be a savior someday.
Once you have set up your GA property you will receive either a Universal Analytics Code (UA-000000-1) or a GA4-tag (g-00000000) depending on the type of property you setup. If you are setting up GA for the first time, opt for the GA4 tag, to get the latest, greatest, and most flexible code from Google.
Already set up with a UA code? Now might just be the time to add a GA4 tag to your site as well. I do recommend running the two site properties (UA & GA4) for the first year your site is on GA4 as you get used to the differences in the system. If you have never had a UA code on your site, no need to add it now, you can skip it.
FAQ: Can I have both a GA4 and UA code running on my website at the same time? - YES, and it is perfectly normal to do so. You can have multiple UA codes running as well if needed. As long as you implement them through GTM, you should not see an impact on your site's performance due to the extra tracking.
Step 3: Set up Google Analytics tag within Google Tag Manager
Goal: Add a new tag to GTM with your GA tracking code on all the pages of your website.
With that new Google Analytics tracking code in hand, head back over to tagmanager.google.com. On the main window, click "new tag".
You will be presented with a new tag creation box. In the top left of the window, add the title for your tag, "Google Analytics". Then click on the Configuration box. From the right side, select the "Google Analytics: GA4 Configuration" (if you setup GA4) or "Google Analytics: Universal Analytics" (if you set up a UA tag).
In the provided box, add the Measurement Id for your GA4 Account. For a UA account, you will need to create a Google Analytics Variable.
Once your tracking ID is added you will need to add a Trigger.
Click on the Trigger box below the Configuration box. The standard install of GTM includes the "All pages Tag". For this initial setup, select the All Pages Tag.
When it is all complete it should look like this:
Click Save in the top left.
Now Publish your changes by clicking Publish in the top right of the main GTM window. Name the update "Google Analytics" and complete the process. Once published Google Analytics should be active on your website.
That's it! You are now tracking users on your website. But hold up, we can do better!
Step 4: Set up goal tracking in Google Analytics
Goal: Setup one custom goal for tracking
In Phase 2, we provided a few common KPI's. Many of these are available right out of the box with Google Analytics. You probably have a more pointed goal for your visitors, like visit 3 pages, or click on a CTA, or enter through a blog post and go anywhere else on the site. All of these are Goals we can program into Google Analytics.
To setup goals, head back over to Google Analytics, and go into your property. Click on the admin button at the bottom of the left menu. Open the property and find the goals section of your site and click on it. You’ll be taken to the “Goals” dashboard where you’ll be able to create a new goal. Click on the "+New Goal button".
From here, you’ll be able to look through different goal templates to see if one matches your intended goal. You’ll also need to choose the type of goal you want. They include:
- Destination. e.g. if your goal was for your user to reach a specific web page (example: check out page).
- Duration. e.g. if your goal was for users to spend a specific amount of time on your site (>3 minutes on the site).
- Pages/Screens per session. e.g. if your goal was to have users go to a specific amount of pages (visited 3 pages or more).
- Event. e.g. if your goal was to get users to play a video or click on a link (Click on a CTA button).
From there, you can get even more specific with your goals like choosing exactly how long users need to spend on your site in order to consider it a success. Once you’re done, save the goal and Google Analytics will start to track it for you!
Start with less complicated goals here. There is a lot to measure out there, but sometimes too much detail, too early can cause you to lose track of the forest through the trees. I highly recommend using macros KPI's at first, then work your way into more pointed data. If your site does not receive lots of traffic, getting enough information for how to setup these goals may be difficult.
Once Google Analytics is setup what do you do?
Now that you have Google Analytics active on your site, and you have confirmed through the GA live dashboard that you are receiving data, your first step is to wait. You need data to better understand how users are using your site. With too little data, you may make decisions based on false positives, so be patient.
While your site is collecting data, now is a good time to head over to google's Marketing Platform and learn more about all Google Analytics has to offer. Here are a few articles I recommend: