Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can help you better understand how your website is performing from a variety of angles.

Data is an essential component of websites, yet many firms either don’t have analytics, or they don’t pay much attention to the data that they are collecting. When we start the redesign process for clients, one of the first questions we ask is “Do you have website analytics?” And to our surprise, many times the answer is no.

Any firm can and should utilize Google Analytics for their website since it is a free tool available to all users. Google Analytics tracking involves more than opening an account—setting up your Google Analytics tracking code correctly is paramount to getting the most out of the tool. However, once you’ve created an account and added the tracking snippet to your websites, you gain access to a world of data. Here’s a basic guide to Google Analytics so you can begin taking advantage of this information.

Create Views

Within your website property, you can create different “views” (a level in the account where you can access reports) to track your analytics. In each view, you can add custom filters to help show only a subset of the data available in your reports. For example, if you’d like to see your website traffic WITHOUT including the traffic of your employees, you could add an “internal IPs” filter to remove that data from your reports.

Before adding filters, it’s important to set up at least three separate views:

1. Unfiltered
As in most other cases where data is concerned, it’s vital to keep one “untouched” view. This view includes raw data that should never be filtered or altered in any way. This is your constant in testing and your backup to use in case any data in your other views appears skewed or improperly set up.

2. Test
It’s important to test your filters prior to implementing them in the Master view – once information is gathered in Google Analytics, it can’t be retroactively altered. This is another reason why it’s so important to keep your Unfiltered and your Test views separate.

3. Master
Once you are confident in your filters, you can apply them to your Master view. This is the view you will use most frequently, and it reflects the filtered subset of data that will be most helpful to you.

It’s vital that you set up these views FROM THE VERY BEGINNING. Why? Because, as we mentioned earlier, data can’t be changed retroactively and will be lost if you wait to create these views later. 

Set up Site Search

If your website has a site-wide search, be sure to set up your Site Search settings. By activating this setting, Google Analytics will track any searches made on your website so you can learn more about what your visitors are looking for.

Read the Data

While the amount of data you can access using Google Analytics seems endless, there are a few high-level data points that can help you easily gauge your site’s performance. Google Analytics is split into five sections: Real-Time, Audience, Acquisition, Behavior and Conversions. While each section houses important data, some quick insights can be found in the tabs listed below.

1. Audience

The audience tab includes a great Overview of your general traffic performance, including a great chart showcasing the peaks and valleys of your user interactions. Other quick snippets of data that could be helpful include users, sessions, pageviews, pages/session, average session duration and bounce rate. Have questions about what these terms mean? Check out this handy Google Analytics glossary.

2. Acquisition

The acquisition tab gives you insights into how visitors have reached your site. Different Channels that users may utilize to access your site include: organic search, direct, social, referral and email.

3. Behavior

In the behavior section, you can track the performance of certain content on your site in greater detail. If you’re interested in where your traffic is entering your site and where they are leaving your site, you can use the Behavior Flow. To access the performance of specific pages, use the Site Content section. If you’re interested in the performance of certain content downloads or video views, you can access that data in the Events section by adding event tags to these items.

Make Informed Website Decisions

Google Analytics data can be invaluable when making decisions on the structure and effectiveness of your website.  We hope this basic guide will help you launch into a long, informative adventure in Google Analytics. Happy hunting!