Do you have a Hit Counter on your website?
If you know what that is, then you are dating yourself. And if you actually do have one, then your website is from a different era.
Briefly, Hit Counters were used to show you (and your visitors) how many ‘hits’ your website got.
They did not really provide much useful information, but they could look impressive if they had a high number (or equally unimpressive if they had a low number).
Fortunately these days you can get a wealth of information about what people are actually doing when they visit your website. And you can get this information with Google Analytics.
And best of all its free and you can incorporate it into just about any website.
What Is Google Analytics?
Simply put, Google Analytics (GA) is a web based tool that gathers, then slices and dices information from your website to tell you who is visiting, where they are coming from, and what they do when they get there, as well as a whole lot more.
GA was launched in 2005 and since then it has become the most used web analytics tool on the Internet, with some reports suggesting that almost 50% off all website are now using it to
And because it is provided by Google, it is integrated with other major Google tools such as Google Adwords and Google Webmaster Tools.
Some information Google Analytics provides you about your website:
- The number of unique visitors to your site
- Where visitors go when they visit your website
- How long they stay on your website
- Where your visitors are coming from
This information can help you answer a lot of questions, such as:
- Are you getting more or fewer visitors over time?
- Are visitors doing what you expect?
- Are there problems with your website you can fix or improve upon?
If you sell stuff from your website you can integrate ecommerce tracking into GA.
You can also use Real-time tracking so you can see who is on your website right now.
You can run Content Experiments to run A/B tests of your web pages to see which variants perform better.
All of this information and more you can use immediately to take meaningful action on.
Creating a Google Analytics Account
Setting up a Google Analytics Account is pretty straight forward. If you already have a Google account of any kind, such as Gmail, YouTube, Google+ etc., you are already half-way there.
Head over to www.google.com/analytics/standard and follow the steps to create a Google Analytics Account.
Creating your GA account will lead you through the process of linking your first website to your account.
GA refers to your website as a Property. You can have different Accounts, and different Properties associated with different Accounts. For the sake of simplicity here, create a single account and add a single Property (your website).
Follow the online instructions. When you go to the Admin page, you should see your Account, your Property, and your View.
Incorporating Google Analytics into your Website
Once you have set up your account, you need to link your website to it. To do that GA gives you a small piece of code to place into your web pages.
During the Property set-up process, GA should prompt you to copy the code and place it into your web pages. GA will then check your website and immediately report back to you if it is working correctly.
Take this code and place it into the Head section of every page you want to track (remember, this is only for the Property you told GA you want to track, so if you want to track www.mywonderfulbigwebsite.com, then the code will only work for pages on that website.
To place the code into SiteSpinner, go to the Page Editor. Under the Header tab, paste the code into the Custom Header Field, click All Pages, and click OK.
Then you need to publish those pages to your webhost, and you are done.
If you need to find the code again, go to your GA Admin page. Under the Property tab, click the Tracking Info, and then click the Tracking Code. This will give you code for you to place into all the web pages you want to track.
Once you have added the code to your website, and you have confirmed that it is working correctly, you will need to give it a day to report back with any useful information.
Basic Google Analytics Actionable Information
So now that you have Google Analytics up and running on your website, what have you got? Well, what you have is a lot of useful information – if you know how to make sense of it. It is easy to look at all the numbers and feel overwhelmed.
At the end of the day, information that is Actionable is all you should care about.
- How many people are visiting my website – that is not ‘hits’, but Unique Visitors? And is the trend going up, or down?
- Where is my traffic coming from? If Bob’s Deli is sending you tons of traffic, then he should be your new best friend. Find out why, and see if you can replicate this at Frank’s Deli.
- Where are people going – are they going to where you want them to go? If not, why?
- Test – Content Experiments are so much fun, and they are incredibly actionable. If you find that people are leaving a certain page, create an experiment and see if you can change that. Change the position of a button and do and A/B test. You might increase your results.
There is so much information you can get from GA that Google has courses on it, careers are made from it, and whole industries are built around it.
In another post I will discuss some of the basic, actionable items to look for.
It is important to know who is visiting your website, and what they are doing. Without this information you are guessing. Google Analytics provides a wealth of information, it is relatively easy to set up on any website, and it is free.
Having said that, don’t get obsessed with all the data. It is easy to check in too often and get overwhelmed by the numbers, or to follow information that really does not help you in any way.
Remember, the data that Google Analytics gives you is not for ‘entertainment purposes only’; the information is for you to take Action on.
What about you?