While Google Analytics may look utterly confusing and intimidating, think about how you can conquer this notoriously complicated tool to add value to your business. Let’s look at how you can set up your Google Analytics account and use it to keep track of your website’s progress and performance. Here is a comprehensive guide to Google Analytics in 2021.
Before delving into the deep waters of Google Analytics, let’s first understand what it is and how it is going to help you monitor your site’s performance.
Introduction to Google Analytics
Generating traffic and leads are marketing challenges faced by many, but this is where data comes into the picture as a saving grace. How users find your site and interact with it can all be transformed into massive amounts of data by Google Analytics to record actionable insights for you. Google Analytics works with its advertising and publisher products.
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Google Analytics Versions
There are two versions of the platform. Google Analytics is free of charge and ideal for individuals and small-to-medium-sized companies. Google Analytics 360, on the other hand, is invoiced monthly and more suitable for larger enterprises. It allows for integration with Salesforce, advanced analysis, unlimited access to data, data freshness, and many more features, which could be a good investment if you have the budget for it. The free version is otherwise good to cover everything a small or medium-sized business might look forward to in terms of multiple data accumulation across websites, apps, and devices.
Setting up Your Google Analytics Account
First and foremost, you have to have a Google account with a Google email address. You can only access Google Analytics if you have a valid Google account. The next thing to do is sign up for Google Analytics. But before that, knowing the Google Analytics hierarchy is of key importance to understand the layers and levels of working on this platform.
- Organizations (product accounts and users): The organization is at the top-most level and represents the company. One organization can have multiple GA accounts for different products. Organizations are mainly recommended for larger enterprises and are optional.
- Accounts (users): An account is the access point to Google Analytics. One or several GA accounts can belong to one organization. You can manage the relationship between accounts and properties the way you prefer it: one account linked to managing one property or one account linked with many properties.
- Property: A property can be a website, a mobile app, or a device. You can add to your GA account the properties from which you would like to collect data. You will receive a tracking code with a unique ID that identifies the data associated with the assigned property. One GA account can hold up to 50 properties.
- Views: A view captures the data from a property and presents it to the user in the specified filtered format. Originally, you will receive an unfiltered view for a property, and it is advisable to keep it handy so that you can view all the data. You can add multiple views with filters on them. You should delete a view only if you are completely sure as once you delete a view, the data is unretrievable.
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Users and Permissions
One GA account can give access to multiple users at the account, property, or view level. You can even restrict access to each level. Depending on the permissions assigned by a GA account to a user, the user will be allowed to manage other users, create views and filters, or see the reports.
Now that you have covered the hierarchy of Google Analytics, you can go ahead and set up your Google Analytics account:
- Create a GA account
- Add a property to the account, as well as provide the name, the website URL, the industry, and its reporting time zone
- Create a view from the menu; name it; select the type of view (web or app), and answer a few questions. You can add up to 25 views for a property
- Add the assigned global site tag after the <head> tag on each site page. If you’re working with an App + Web property, you will use a Measurement ID instead of a Tracking ID. You only need to add the GA tag to a page template (and it will reflect on every individual page having the same header module). However, you will have to do it separately in the case of different page types
- Verify your own activity in the Real-time GA report by visiting your website and navigating around. It should show at least one visitor
Google Analytics Parameters to Analyze and Calculate SEO Performance
In this guide to Google Analytics, you will learn about the two basic parameters of data:
- Dimensions: Dimensions are the attribute-based data of a user, e.g., name, location, the device used, etc.
- Metrics: Metrics is a quantitative variable, e.g., the average number of people using your app in a month, how many visitors you have on your website in a day, etc.
In a Google Analytics report, you will observe that your dimensions are given in rows and metrics in columns. You can also customize your dimensions and metrics according to your requirements.
Google Analytics Audience
Google Analytics has included several built-in audience categories to segment your audience based on location, age, etc. GA will automatically break down your visitor data into these audience reports. You can also customize your target audience and segment it based on your preferences.
Google Analytics Segments
A segment in Google Analytics is a subset of your data. GA lets you isolate and analyze these subsets of data to make it easier and more organized for you to analyze and take action. You can create segments as the basis for your audiences. Google Analytics allows four segments at a time, and you can get and compare the data side by side in the reports.
Types of Segments
You can create segment types based on:
- Subsets of users: For example, users who have completed a purchase, users who had added an item to their shopping carts but didn’t buy, users who have signed up for newsletters, etc.
- Subsets of sessions: For example, all sessions originating from a specific marketing campaign, all sessions during which an item was added to the cart, all sessions during which a purchase had occurred, etc.
- Subsets of hits: For example, all hits in which the purchase was above US$40, all hits in which an item was saved to the wishlist, etc.
You can get as creative as you want with your segments and filter the same for users, sessions, and hits.
- Users: People interacting with your property are the users.
- Sessions: Interactions by one user can be grouped into single or multiple sessions.
- Hits: Interactions (page views, transactions, events, etc.) during a session are called hits.
Google Analytics Reports
The left-hand sidebar in Google Analytics is where you will find your Reports section divided into 5 categories as shown below:
A Guide to Google Analytics Real-Time Reports
The name is pretty self-explanatory. A Real-time report records and displays real-time insights of users and their interactions. Typically, Real-time reports cover the last five minutes of data. A few of them will allow you to view the activities that happened in the last half an hour. Below are a few ways how Google Analytics Real-time reports are helpful:
- To see how much traffic you are getting from a new social or blog post
- To get the current user location, city, language, etc.
- To know how long a user has stayed on a particular page
- To gain insights into whether a special event or campaign is boosting your views and/or conversions
These can be insightful. However, the other GA reports are far more so. But before that, let’s take a deeper dive into what kind of Real-time reports Google Analytics is offering:
Location: This report allows you to see which location your current users are from, what page they are currently viewing, and for how long.
Traffic Sources: This report highlights from where in the web users have come to your site, whether they typed in the URL themselves or found your site from the search engine results page (SERP), etc. This is a useful way of tracking where your audience has mostly come from and obtaining insights to focus on the platforms that are generating traffic for you.
Content: This report shows which page on your website users are landing on and having the most dwell-time (time spent on a particular page). The report shows you the page title, the URL of the page, and also the percentage of active users on the page. This report sheds light on what kind of content pieces are more popular on your website with the users, and you can maximize on that accordingly.
Events: You can set any action by users as an event to track whether your users have signed up to receive emails from you, downloaded content from your page, clicked on an ad, etc. It is purely customizable, and you can also filter data according to specific categories.
Conversions: At the end of the day, for a business, it all comes down to meeting your marketing goals and checking whether users are going for it. This report will help you track user conversions in real time and understand which of the goals and strategies are churning out better results.
A Guide to Google Analytics Audience Reports
Google Analytics Audience reports give an overview of the user activity and data based on set parameters for a specific property. If you want to learn about the number of users and their activities on your website for a particular period in time, this report will be your go-to report. Your segmented audience reports will be generated here. It is quite helpful in measuring audience interests.
There are two things you can do to use the Google Analytics Audience reports well:
- First and foremost, you have to define your audience and segment them based on the parameters that are of use to you.
- You have to make sure to use the new GA Audience report feature that records how the audience is responding to your re-marketing efforts. Although, the report will only generate data once you have enabled the demographics and interests reports and if you have your audience configured in your Google Analytics account.
Active Users: Unlike what its name suggests, this report will allow you to view the number of users for any time of the month for any duration. Audience retention can be seen in this report. You can also apply segments as you wish for a more filtered report.
Lifetime Value: This report will give you a sense of the long-term value of your users or customers. Here, data can be acquired through social, direct, organic, referral, or more sources, and you can drill it down to view average goal completions, revenues, page views, etc. to analyze what is working for you and what is not. The GA Audience Lifetime Value report captures a maximum of 90 days of data.
Cohort Analysis: The Cohort Analysis report is what you need to shift your attention to because this is, by far, one of the most insightful reports out there. This report will allow you to set a cohort for, let’s say, a particular event where you are trying to get the customers to use your referral code and buy your product/service. You will then be able to view how many people are using the referral code and purchasing, which devices they are using to buy, from which city or location, etc.
Audiences Report: That’s right! The GA Audience report has a sub-section called Audiences. Rather than giving you an overview of the user behavior data, it gets into more specifics, e.g., a certain segment of audiences you want to view data for. It will analyze the behavior of a specific user or users.
Users Flow: The Users Flow report shows how your users travel through your website. This behavior analysis will help you fill the gap where the users are losing interest and re-strategize based on user types.
A Guide to Google Analytics Acquisition Reports
Google Analytics Acquisition reports shed light on how users find your website and on their actions after they reach there. The sources for this report can be categorized into direct, organic, social, email, referral, display, affiliate, paid search, and others. Google has announced that Image Search reports will soon be added to the Acquisition reports.
All Traffic: This section shows which source or medium sends the most traffic to your website. You can then view user actions, including pages per visit, bounce rate, goal completions, etc.
Google Ads: This report will analyze the performance of paid searches when you are using Google Ads.
Search Console: You need to connect your Google Search Console account with the Google Analytics account to access this report.This report highlights how your site performs in organic searches. It contains data such as organic page ranks, clicks, impressions, click-through rates, etc.
Social: The GA Acquisition Social report will show you how users are interacting and engaging with the content that you are putting up on social media.
Campaigns: This section will show you how your paid campaigns are performing, and you can compare them to the organic initiatives. You can also sort the report according to campaigns, paid and organic keywords, cost analysis, etc.
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A Guide to Google Analytics Behavior Reports
Google Analytics Behavior reports record the data of user actions on your website, the website search data, the content, how fast your page loads, etc. They are helpful to gain actionable insights into areas where your site is not performing well or as intended.
Behavior Flow: This report shows how a user travels through your website. This is helpful in identifying what content on your website keeps users engaged and what does not.
Site Content: A Site Content report looks into the following sections:
- All Pages: Identifies the pages with the most traffic and the user engagement on each page of your site
- Content Drilldown: Breaks down the data of your website according to subdomains and subfolders (For example, a website with a Blog subdomain can be further separated into subfolders such as Digital Marketing, Data Science, Business Intelligence, etc.)
- Landing Pages: Gives information on a visitor’s first interaction with your website and tells whether landing pages have high engagement enough to convert leads
- Exit Pages: Shows the last page a user had visited before he/she left your site to give you an idea of which page on your website needs improvement
Site Speed: This report shows you how quickly the content of your web page loads, and you can further filter it down to learn about the traffic source, location, etc.
Site Search: This report allows you to identify what users are searching for on your website and to optimize it accordingly.
Events: You can define ‘events’ as certain user interactions with your content. An event can be downloading an ebook, watching a video, filling out a form, etc. This report will help you analyze what events the users are more interested in and will help you pay attention to those areas.
Publisher: If you have monetized your website with Google AdSense or Ad Exchange, you can use Ad Manager and Google Analytics to monitor how your ad units are performing.
A Guide to Google Analytics Conversion Reports
Conversions can vary from business to business. If you have a hair salon, you might want users to book an appointment. If you are selling items on an e-commerce site, you will want people to buy your items. If you have a news website, you will want readers to read a lot of articles and stay on your website for a long time. How Google Analytics works for these goals you have set is by giving you actionable insights into what made the conversions happen, how many conversions happened in a specific time, the devices that were used for the conversions, etc. The first and foremost thing you need to do is to set your goals. You will then move on to the following reports:
Goal URL: This will help you track where a conversion has happened on your website.
Reverse Goal Path: This report will allow you to view the last three pages the user had visited before completing the goal. It will help you gain insights into the path users generally take to reach the goal.
Funnel Visualization: This report can best be explained by an e-commerce site. You will want to set goals in a sequence like Product page > Add to cart > Checkout > Payment page > Order confirmation page. In case you see users mostly exit from the Payment page, then you might want to look into what is causing this issue at that step.
Goal Flow: Unlike Funnel Visualization, the Goal Flow report will show you all the sessions that led to goal completion. It will also show you if a user has refreshed a page or gone back to the previous page and all data from the past—unlike the Funnel Visualization report, which only shows you the data from the point of creation or editing.
Smart Goals: As the name suggests, this report displays your data smartly using Machine Learning to identify your best sessions or the ones which are more likely to generate conversions. However, the data is minimal in this report, and you will get better insights if you manually set up your conversion reports.
Now that you have an idea of the scope of the Google Analytics tool, I am sure that you have realized how much of a value it can add to your business or website. Google Analytics is the place to be if you truly want to monitor the performance of your business online. Yes, it is extensive but also much useful, convenient, and worthwhile to consider including it in your business marketing strategies.
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