Getting Started on Google Analytics: A beginner's guide
Written by Sarah Rowland
Last updated: 19/09/2016
As a marine business owner who is trying to get to grips with the advanced aspects of your digital marketing strategy, you may be wondering what Google Analytics is and how it benefits you in tracking and ultimately reaching your digital business goals.
Google Analytics (GA) is a free web analytics service that tracks and reports website traffic of blogs and websites around the world. Now the most widely used reporting service on the internet - easily integrated with other Google programmes and offering custom reporting dashboards - you should hopefully realise that there is great value in using Google Analytics to make intelligent business decisions, helping your online marine marketing efforts along.
Whether you choose to review the performance of your business website yourself, or you place the responsibility into the hands of a marketing team or outsourced company, it is a good idea to understand the basic data that GA can provide, and the ways in which it can be used within your business.
Why you absolutely should be using Google Analytics
GA gives insightful data that can help you to push your business forward, telling you how many people visit your website, where they are from, and which devices they use to view your pages. You can tell which of your online marketing efforts are driving traffic to you, and which of those leads convert; which content people are finding, and which seems to be the most useful or enjoyable to them.
Hopefully you will already have a Google account and are familiar with the services and functionality that it can provide – Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Drive, Google+, YouTube and Google Hangouts, to name but a few. Otherwise you will need to start by setting one up.
Top tip - Regardless of who you have elected to manage and report on your online performance, your GA should be set up under your own Google account ID, as should anyone leave or raise a dispute with your business, you may find yourself without access having to start your account from scratch.
Setting up Google Analytics
Signing up and adding property
First things first, login to your Google account, sign up to Analytics and add your online ‘property’ to your account. You have the option to have many different ‘hierarchies’ to organise your Analytics account, but we will presume that you are starting out by adding just one business website – you can always add more accounts and properties at a later date.
Installing your GA tracking code
Once you’re finished adding all your business and website data, you’ll be given a unique Tracking ID, which you must install on every page on your website to give it a cue to report back to your Analytics account.
The how-to process will vary depending on your website’s CMS (content management system), software or platform; your suppliers/providers should be able to help you with this step, or you should be able to find plenty of online guides and tutorials to help you in getting started if you are using a popular platform like WordPress or Shopify.
Setting up ‘Goals’ in Google Analytics
‘Goals’ tell GA when something important has happened on your website; perhaps someone has filled out an online form to receive your newsletter, or made an online purchase. Once users have completed these goals, you can ensure that a thank-you form is generated, which can then be tracked.
GA Goals can be found and managed from the ‘Admin’ tab at the top of the page, under ‘Goals’, beneath the ‘View’ column. Remember to name each goal something that is relevant, so you remember exactly what it is you are tracking! You can create up to 20 goals on your website, just follow the steps in Google’s help guide on creating and managing goals.
Setting up ‘Site Search’
Any website that has a search box will be interested in setting up GA ‘Site Search’, which will record interesting data about user’s search queries.
To do so, you will need to run a search on your website, or know the common query parameter that your web searches generate - you may have more than one. These can then be tracked via the ‘Admin’ > ‘Site Settings’ menu; simply toggle ‘Site Search Settings’ to on and enter the relevant parameter. You can find out more in Google’s help guide, here.
Google Analytics reporting: What can be tracked?
Once your Google Analytics is set up and has gathered data for some time, you will begin to see useful data and reports which will give you insight to your website’s users and their goals.
What you will notice almost immediately is that there are four main reports displayed down the left-hand pane of Google Analytics: Audience, Acquisition, Behaviour and Conversions, plus sets of sub-reports beneath these:
The ‘Audience’ reports tell you everything you need to know about your users: Their age and gender (Demographics), their interests (Interests), their location and primary language (Geo), the browser (Technology) and device (Mobile) they may be using to view your website, plus whether it is their first or return visit to your domain (Behaviour).
'Acquisition’ reports tell you everything you need to know about where your users are coming from: Where your traffic is generally finding you (All Traffic > Channels), and where they found and followed that link more specifically (Source/Medium). You can also track your social media stats (Social Media) and paid advertising efforts (Campaigns).
Eventually you will also be able to connect your Analytics to a Google AdWords or Search Console/WebMaster Tools accounts to learn even more about your campaigns and search traffic.
Google's ‘Behaviour’ reports tell you about your website’s content, including: The top performing pages on your website (Site Content > All Pages), the top entry (Landing Pages) and exit pages (Exit Pages) on your website.
Here, you can also find out more about the speed of your website (Site Speed) and find your Site Search data - which terms are being searched for (Site Search > Search Terms) and the pages that the search is used on (Pages).
‘Conversions’ reports do just as they say, telling you how many conversions your website has received in line with your ‘Goals’. You can see how many goals have been completed (Goals > Overview), which URL they found (Goal URLs) and the path they took to complete the goal (Reverse Goal Path).
Four mesmerising metrics for marine businesses to watch
There are so many different things to see and track in Google Analytics, and your first login can definitely be daunting.
Ultimately, only you can decide which metrics are important for your business to track, as this will depend completely on your businesses model. Here are the four mesmerising metrics we recommend that marine businesses start watching:
- Visitors – Allowing you to monitor traffic
- Sources – Giving clues to where visitors are coming from
- Landing Pages – Telling you the post popular landing pages on your site
- Conversions – Helps to measure the ROI of marketing efforts
Once you have got to grips with these, you may want to read Google’s guides on setting up shortcuts for frequently visited reports to save time in your future reporting.