Google Analytics – Beginners Guide

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Google Analytics is one of the best web analytics tools on the market today. More than 50 million websites worldwide trust this powerful and robust application.

Any website can use Google Analytics to get a better understanding about what visitors are doing on the site. This free tool makes it easy to track and analyze crucial data.

There are dozens of different reports you can access using GA. Some of these are simple, while others are a bit more complex.

As a beginner, I’ll explain which reports you should be using to get started. This guide will also walk you through the process of installing Google Analytics on your website.

What is Google Analytics? Why Use it at All?

Google Analytics is a free website analytics application that helps webmasters analyze site traffic. It’s one of many tools provided by Google for website metrics.

In short, the platform gives you a complete picture related to your site performance. 

GA collects a wide range of data and generates insightful reports. You can use those reports to learn more about your website and its visitors. 

Some basic information collected by GA includes how many visitors your site gets, where those visitors come from, how they navigate through your site, how long they spend on each page, and much more. The list goes on and on. 

Why do you need Google Analytics?

Your website is the nucleus of your online presence. Whether you operate personal blog, small business website, or international ecommerce company, your website plays a crucial role in your success. 

By using Google Analytics, you’ll have a better understanding of how effective your website is as a marketing tool. You’ll learn valuable information, such as which digital campaigns are driving the most traffic to your website. 

Tracking traffic patterns and visitor behavior allows you to measure the effectiveness of your website, combined with your overall digital presence. 

Where are your website visitors located? Which marketing channels are driving the most traffic to your site? What are the most popular pages on your website?

All of these questions, and more, can be answered with Google Analytics.

The Most Value You’ll Get: Seeing Your Traffic Volume

Everyone who uses Google Analytics loves it. I fall into that category as well. Any time I create a new website, the first thing I do is install GA; it’s become second nature.

While Google Analytics has seemingly endless capabilities, the vast majority of GA users just use it to monitor their traffic volume.

As a beginner, this is the most valuable information that you’ll get from using this tool. Traffic is one of the most critical data points for running a website and business. 

Seeing your traffic go up or down by the day, week, or month is extremely beneficial.

Even at a basic level, you can learn a lot about your the performance of website by monitoring the traffic. If traffic is increasing, something is working. Is traffic decreasing? Something is wrong or needs improvement. 

For newer websites, seeing your traffic increase is a major validation metric. It helps keep you on track and motivated that you’re doing the right thing. 

2 Other Useful Reports

Most of you will install Google Analytics, use it to quickly check your traffic, and then log out. While that’s totally fine, there are a couple of other useful reports you review.

  • All Pages
  • All Traffic

Even as a beginner, you’ll want to check these out.

All Pages

The All Pages report is located in the “Site Content” section of the “Behavior” menu on the left side of your GA dashboard. 

The report displays all of the pages on your site that people have looked at over a certain time period. It’s helpful in determining what visitors are interested in when they land on your website. 

Viewing the All Pages report will tell you which pages need to be updated or improved. Pages with the highest level of interest should be optimized for conversions. If an important page isn’t getting much attention, you can make adjustments accordingly. 

All Traffic

The All Traffic reports can be found in the “Acquisition” menu of the GA control panel. 

Within the All Traffic section, you’ll find specific reports for:

  • Channels
  • Treemaps
  • Source/Medium
  • Referrals

All of these reports tell you where your traffic is coming from. In addition to the acquisition analytics (users, new users, sessions), you’ll also benefit from behavior analytics and conversions data in these reports. 

Exploring the Rest of Google Analytics

To say that Google Analytics analyzes tons of web analytics would be an understatement. I consider myself to be a GA expert, and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of its capabilities. 

There is so much data; it’s overwhelming. It gets complicated to navigate through these reports, especially as a beginner. 

With that said, I encourage you to explore it on your own time if you’re interested. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry—that’s completely normal. 

For the vast majority of you, sticking to two or three simple reports is all you need. Check your traffic, view the All Pages report, and check out the All Traffic reports. 

The basic reports still deliver 80% of the possible value offered by Google Analytics. So don’t feel pressured to go beyond them.

How to Install Google Analytics

To get started with Google Analytics, you need to sign up and create an account. But that alone won’t be enough. You’ll also need to install Google Analytics directly on your website. That’s how the tool is able to track your data. 

The Google Analytics installation process will vary depending on the platform you’re using to power your website. 

Regardless of your website platform, you’ll need to generate your Google Analytics tracking code before you can install it. I’ll show you how get to that code first, and then we’ll cover the specific installation instructions for the most popular website types below. 

How to Generate Your Google Analytics Tracking Code and Tracking ID

Step #1: Go to your admin menu

I’m assuming by now that you’ve already created a Google Analytics account. If you haven’t, it only takes a minute or two to sign up.

From your GA home screen, navigate to the “Admin” page, which is located on the bottom left corner of the dashboard. 

Step #2: Select “Tracking Code” from the “Tracking Info” section

Click “Tracking Info” in the property section of the screen, which will expand the options below it. Then click “Tracking Code” from the expanded list. 

Step #3: Copy the code or tracking ID

The tracking ID and tracking code are both located on this page. Depending on the platform you’re using to run your site, you’ll need at least one of these to install Google Analytics.

Now follow the instructions below for your specific website type.

How to Install Google Analytics on Wix

For Wix websites, you won’t need to worry about the Google Analytics code; all you need is the tracking ID.

Step #1: Click “Marketing & SEO”

On the left side of your dashboard, scroll until you see the “Marketing & SEO” menu.

Step #2: Navigate to “Marketing Integrations”

There are three different sections of the “Marketing Home” menu—SEO, Marketing, and Branding.

Scroll until you see the “Marketing” section and select “Marketing Integrations” at the bottom.

Step #3: Connect to Google Analytics 

Google Analytics is one of many integrations found on this page. 

It should be one of the first ones that appear on the screen. If not, just scroll until you find it. Once located, click the “Connect” button to continue.

Step #4: Add Your Google Analytics Tracking ID

Click the “Connect Google Analytics” button on the top right corner of the screen. A popup will appear that looks like this:

Simply paste the tracking ID that I showed you how to generate earlier. 

Make sure there aren’t any spaces before the code. If you select the “IP Anonymization” box, Google won’t save the IP addresses of your website visitors. 

You’ll need a premium Wix site with a connected domain in order to complete this final step. So if you’re currently on a free plan or haven’t connected your domain yet, you won’t be able to install Google Analytics until you upgrade. 

How to Install Google Analytics on WordPress

There are lots of different ways to install Google Analytics on WordPress. You can install it manually or use a plugin. MonsterInsights, Site Kit by Google, GA Google Analytics are three of the most popular plugins for this.

But for the purposes of this tutorial, I’ll show you how to install the code manually. That way, you won’t have to worry about any third-party plugins.

Step #1: Go to your theme editor

You can get to the theme editor by selecting it from the “Appearance” menu of your dashboard. 

It’s important that you install Google Analytics in a child theme. Otherwise, the code will be overwritten every time you update your WordPress theme; you don’t want this to happen.

If the child theme is inheriting template files from the parent theme, then you won’t be able to access the header from here. Click on the name of your parent theme to access the header. In the example screenshot above, the parent theme is “Twenty Twenty.”

Step #2: Navigate to the theme header

You can navigate to the header by scrolling through the files on the right side of the page. Alternatively, you can just scroll and search for the <head> section manually, as I’ve highlighted above.

Step #3: Paste the Google Analytics tracking code

Now just paste the Google Analytics tracking code directly before the theme header. 

Remember, this is the “global site tag” that we generated earlier. It’s several lines of code. Do NOT paste the tracking ID (single line starting with UA). Installing the tracking ID here won’t do anything. 

How to Install Google Analytics on Shopify

If you’re running an ecommerce store on Shopify, you can easily add Google Analytics to your website in just two quick steps. 

Step #1: Navigate to your Shopify preferences

Click the “Online Store” sales channel from the left side of your Shopify dashboard. Then select “Preferences” at the bottom.

Step #2: Paste your Google Analytics tracking code

Scroll down a bit on your preferences screen until you see the Google Analytics section.

Then it’s as simple as pasting your previously generated tracking code into the box and saving your changes. That’s it!

Remember—paste the tracking code, NOT the tracking ID number. You’re pasting several lines of code, NOT the single ID line starting with UA. 

How to Install Google Analytics on Squarespace

There are two ways to install Google Analytics on your Squarespace site. One uses the tracking ID, and the other uses the tracking code. 

Since the first option is easier, that’s what I’ll show you in this quick three-step tutorial.

Step #1: Go to your Squarespace settings

Click on the “Settings” menu on the left side of your Squarespace dashboard. 

Step #2: Click on the “Advanced” settings

The “Advanced” menu is located at the very bottom of your Squarespace settings. 

Step #3: Paste your Tracking ID

Locate the “External Services” section of your advanced settings menu. From here, just simply paste your Google Analytics tracking ID.

This is the easiest way to install Google Analytics in Squarespace. However, it’s not the only option. You could also navigate to “Code Injection” from the Advanced Settings menu (instead of External Services). Then you can just copy and paste the Google Analytics code to the header.

Do NOT use both methods to install Google Analytics on Squarespace. Just pick one or the other. The tracking ID method is the easiest, but pasting the code into your header isn’t that difficult. It’s just a matter of personal preference. 

Custom Installation for Google Analytics

For those of you using a different platform to run your website, you can still add Google Analytics with a custom installation.

All you need to do is copy and paste the tracking code into the header or footer of the site’s HTML editor. With that said, the header is the recommended option. 

Adding the code to your footer may cause accuracy issues, especially if your site is running lots of JavaScripts. That’s because JS snippets get triggered by the order that they’re embedded on your page. So the footer scripts won’t always run, whereas the header scripts will be one of the first things to load.

Once you install the code on your site, you can send test traffic to see if it’s working properly.

This is located in the “Status” section of your GA Tracking Code page. 

If you’ve installed the code properly, the active user number will be updated in real-time. It can take up to 30 seconds for this number to update. 

Final Thoughts

Every website should be taking advantage of Google Analytics. It’s a free tool, and there’s no better way to get valuable data about your site traffic. 

While Google Analytics has plenty of advanced functions, beginners can stick to just a handful of basic reports. Those basic reports are all you really need.

Installing Google Analytics is easy as well. The installation instructions vary slightly, depending on the type of platform you’re using to power your website. 

For an in-depth tutorial of installing Google Analytics, simply follow the process that I’ve explained in this guide for your specific website type.

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