This post is for: small business owners who want to learn how to access Google Analytics to gain insights into the popularity and effectiveness of their websites.
Most of Best Light’s customers aren’t interested in learning how to make and manage their own websites, which is why they hire us. For most small business owners, that makes sense – you’re far too busy running your business and staying on top of changes in your own industry to start trying to do the same for the world of web design. And some of it gets a bit geeky, so unless you particularly enjoy knowing what media queries and favicons and Sass mixins are, you’re better off entrusting the designing and maintaining of your website to someone who actually does enjoy it!
But there’s one aspect, related to monitoring your website, that every small business owner should try to become at least a bit familiar with, because it sheds so much light on how many people your website is reaching. I’m referring to Google Analytics (“GA”), which is a free tool, available to anyone with a website, that lets you see all kinds of detail about your site, such as how many people have visited it, how much time they spent on each page, how they got there, what device they used, what browser they used, and much, much more.
There are of course entire courses on how to interpret all of the data that GA gives you, so don’t expect to understand it all the very first time you access it. But even without extensive training, if you just visit GA and aren’t afraid to click around, you can see and understand lots of useful information about your site’s visitors. At the very least, that first visit will give you a good idea of the areas that you would like to monitor regularly, and possibly learn more about.
Getting started: how to access Google Analytics
But before you can gain insights from GA, you have to know how to access it, and that’s the purpose of this post. Assuming you’re a small business owner with a live website, here’s a summary of the steps you’ll need to follow to set up and access GA on your site:
- Get a Google ID. Since GA is service provided by Google, you will need a Google Account. which (like GA) is free. If you also want to get a GMail address at the same time, use this link. If you’d prefer to just use your own email address, use this link instead.
- Create a Google Analytics account. Armed with your new Google ID, head over to www.google.com/analytics and click on the “Sign in or create an account” link at the top of the page. (If you’re already signed in to Google, that link will say “Access Analytics”.) Once you’re signed in to Google, follow the links to sign up for Analytics.
- Add the GA tracking code to all of your web pages. Once you sign up for GA, you will be taken to a screen where you enter the information about the website that you wish to track. Enter that information, and then Google will give you a unique tracking code, which you must add to the HTML code of every page of your website. This step is usually done by your web designer. In fact, you should check with whoever built your website to find out if he or she already added a GA tracking code to all of your pages. If not, give them this new code to add.
- Wait a day and then start tracking! The code that you just added to all of your pages allows Google to start collecting information about the visitors to your website. Give it at least a day or two, and then go back to the GA website, log in, and navigate to the statistics about your website (listed under “Reporting”).
And that’s about it – not too complicated, and really worth doing because once GA is set up on your website, you can check in on it regularly to see how your website is doing. The information that it provides can be very helpful in deciding which web pages you should change, which ones are most popular, where people are coming from, and which of your products or services your visitors are most interested in.
Once you’re set up with GA and you want to learn more about how to interpret the data that it provides, try these helpful sites for starters:
I hope this helps you get started with GA. Please post any questions that you have in the comments below, or send me an email. Happy analyzing!