I am by no means a Google Analytics expert. Let’s just get that out of the way! I am merely a blogger who loves it and has used it almost every day for the past 18 months. You guys always love my “blogger tips” posts, and this one was actually requested by someone on Twitter. So today, here is a “Google Analytics for beginners”. Think of it as a really basic run through of why you need GA, what it does and how you can get the most out of it. If you want some more in depth/advanced GA tutorials, hit up Cat because she is a flipping Google Analytics genius.
Why do you need Google Analytics?
Trust me on this one – you just do. “But Blogger/Wordpress tells me my stats!” No. Stop. Google Analytics is probably the most accurate way you can analyse your website data without paying any money. (There are companies that offer the same service as GA but not for free. GA is 100% free just FYI.)
With GA you can find out pretty much anything you need to know about your site. How many pageviews/unique users/sessions you get per day/week/month/ever, which countries your readers are from, what language they speak, where your traffic is coming from, what your most popular pages/posts are, everything. It’s just fab.
Note: If your website is currently through WordPress.com (aka non-self hosted) you cannot use Google Analytics on your site.
Another note: I know sweet FA about Blogger as I’ve never used it. So this tutorial is for self-hosted WordPress users and I’m going to assume it’s the same/a very similar process for Blogger users.
How to install Google Analytics
To start things off right at the beginning, you’re going to need a Google Analytics account. If you already have a Google account (for Gmail, Google Drive, Google+, YouTube etc.) then you can sign up to Analytics using that. Otherwise, you will need to create a new one.
Once you’ve created your account, you can go on the Google Analytics website and click ‘Sign In’ (top right corner) then ‘Google Analytics’. You will then be greeted with three steps you must take to set up GA. After you click the ‘Sign Up’ button, you’ll need to fill out all the information for your site.
The tricky part for most people is actually installing GA on your site. Once you’ve finished entering all your site details, you’ll be directed to your tracking code. This is a section of HTML that you’ll need to install on your site. For self-hosted wordpress users, you can either go into your website code and paste the tracking code directly after the <body> tag in your header.php.
OR you can download and import the Google Analytics by Yoast plugin to install your code will less risk of messing up your theme. (But, I have found this buggy in the past, just a warning.)
Here is a more in-detail tutorial on how to install GA on WordPress. (Because why try and explain it myself if there’s something perfectly good sat there on the internet for you?)
How to use Google Analytics
Now you’ve got the horrible boring part out of the way, it’s time to log on to your account and start having a nosey! Just a note for any GA newbies out there, once you’ve installed Analytics on your site, it starts tracking your data from that point. It can’t backtrack and find out your old statistics. For example, even if you’d had 10,000 pageviews before you install GA, it will only start tracking from the point of installation. So you’ll be back at zero. Sorry.
When you log on, you’ll be directed to this screen…
(There won’t be a ‘FILTERED VIEW’ for you, there will only be an ‘All Web Site Data’ option. That’s something I’ll go into later.)
Click on ‘All Web Site Data’ and you’ll then see something like this!
Obviously everyone’s dashboard will be slightly different in terms of numbers, and if you’ve only just created an account then it will show 0 on everything. But it shouldn’t look dissimilar.
Underneath the ‘overview’ tab there is a dropdown menu that, on my screenshot, says ‘Sessions’. You can change this to a variety of different options (pageviews, users, bounce rate etc.) and that will affect the way your graph looks. (It will basically turn into a bigger version of one of the smaller graphs underneath depending on which one you choose).
What is the difference between Sessions, Users and Pageviews?
For anyone who doesn’t know, here’s a breakdown.
Users: This is what people will refer to as “unique users”. This number is the amount of individual people who have been on your site in the time frame you have selected.
Sessions: This is the amount of times each user has been on your site as a whole.
Pageviews: This is how many pages have been opened on your site.
As an example, I could have had 2 users on my site today. If they each opened my website twice, that would be 2 users and 4 sessions. If they each then opened 3 pages that would be 2 users, 4 sessions and 6 pageviews. If one of them left then came back a few hours later, that would still be 2 users, but it would then be 3 sessions. Hope that makes sense!
How to change the time frame of your data
Maybe you want to see what your statistics have been for the day, maybe you want to see the week, the month or even a custom time frame.
Simply click on the date drop down menu in the top right corner and change the date as you wish.
You can use one of GA’s set time frames (today, yesterday, last week etc.) or you can click on the date boxes and change them to whatever date you wish.
How to see where your traffic is coming from
On the menu on the left hand side, there are several options to choose from. The dashboard (above) is on Audience > Overview.
To see where your traffic is coming from, you need to go to Acquisition > Overview. Then clicking through to ‘Channels’ will bring you to this page:
Clicking on ‘Social’ will show you which social media channels your traffic is coming from.
Clicking on ‘Direct’ will show you which pages people are coming in on (AKA ‘landing pages’). This does not mean these are your most popular posts, this means these are the most popular posts that people are coming onto your website through. For example, another post could have more overall views, but have been found after already being on a page on your site, but the posts in this list will have been accessed directly.
Clicking on ‘Referral’ will show you which other websites/blogs your traffic has come from.
Clicking on ‘Organic Search’ will show you what Google searches people have made to end up on your site. (Note: A lot of your organic searches will be ‘not specified’).
How to find out which are your most popular posts/pages
On the left side menu again, click on Behaviour > Site Content > All Pages.
Then, from there, you can change the time frame (as I showed you before) to see which are the most popular pages and when.
How to see who is reading your blog
Click on Audience > Demographics > Overview to see the ages and genders of your readers. (Click on Audience > Demographics > Age or Audience > Demographics > Gender for more in-detail reports on this).
Click on Audience > Geo > Location to find out what countries your readers are from.
Click on Audience > Behaviour > New vs. Returning to see how many people are returning to your blog and how many are new readers.
Click on Audience > Behaviour > Engagement to see how long people are staying on your site for.
Click on Real-Time > Overview to see how many people are on our blog right now this second. (And also where they’re reading from, what page they’re reading and where they came from!)
What to do if you don’t recognise any of the links in your referrals tab/what are spam referrals?
Earlier, we talked about how to see where your traffic is coming from. When you go through to ‘referrals’ (which shows you which other websites/blogs your traffic has come from) you may see some dodgy looking links like ‘best-seo-solution’, ‘get-free-traffic-now’, ‘free-social-buttons’ or something to that effect. This is, unfortunately, spam and doesn’t ‘count’ as real views. It’s a very complicated subject (or, at least, I think it is). Just remember don’t click on the websites.
You may remember earlier, right at the beginning of the post I said “There won’t be a ‘FILTERED VIEW’ for you, there will only be an ‘All Web Site Data’ option. That’s something I’ll go into later.” when referring to the login page. My ‘filtered view’ option is a separate dashboard that has been adapted to filter out spam links, only showing real traffic. (Although one or two page views (literally only one or two) from spam referrals sometimes sneak through). It would take forever to explain how to do this, so if you’re a little more well versed in the ways of Google Analytics, check out this tutorial from Cat for how to remove spam referral traffic.
Can you check Google Analytics on the go?
YES! GA has an app and it’s totally free! You can find it on iOS and Android (and maybe others, not 100% sure) and it’s flipping fab! I have it on my phone and on my iPad and it’s so easy. All the tips I’ve given you in this post will transfer over to the app, for those of you that prefer it to the desktop website!
And that’s it! That’s all I can think of, anyway. If there are any other things you want me to cover, let me know and I might do another post, or add things to this one! Hope it’s helped at least someone out there!
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