Google Analytics Basics – A Quick Installation Guide

It is thought that less than 10% of websites use Google Analytics. That feels a little low to us. We present a basic installation guide, so you won't have an excuse to avoid using analytics.

The actual percentage that use Google Analytics is 8.1% according to BuiltWith. In terms of real numbers, it's 29.5 million out of 363.4 million sites. A counter to this could be to suggest that 97.9% of sites are using an alternative analytics platforms. While very unlikely, that may be the case. But if you consider that the Google Analytics tool is the most recommended analytics platform – and the fact that it's free to use – would indicate otherwise.

This article isn't about extolling the virtues of using this particular analytics platform, but if you are considering it and want a lowdown on the basics, then our mini guide will put you on the right path.

Why Google Analytics

We all want to get a clearer picture of our audience don't we? We want to know what they read, how long they read it for, their preferences and what they're inclined to share. There are three ways of gauging this:

  • To guess from our personal experience
  • To use surveys and questionnaires on our visitors
  • To track visitor behaviour online (with their permission)

Analytics is without a doubt the best way to get an idea of what our visitors are all about.

It's as close to being perched onto a site visitors shoulder and seeing what they're doing. And from that, being in a position to extrapolate why they're doing it. For that reason alone, you need to have some kind of analytics program installed.

If you're not using analytics, then you're running the risk of letting your customers down. Apart from using surveys, how else can understand what your customers want and how you can better improve their visits?

For example, you could identify that one of your most popular pages also has a high bounce rate. Your customers have asked a question but that page with the high bounce rate isn't offeriing a solution. With analytics, you can identify this page and amend it to offer content for the needs of your site visitors.

Is Analytics all about numbers and graphs

Some of us can be daunted by huge swathes of data on our computer screens. It need not be like that if you know what you need to look for.

A more pertinent point is that the data available through Google Analytics should be seen as a complementary element to the human side. That is to say, data without personality means we're reading robotic behaviour. We're not dealing with automatons; we're trying to get see what the numbers say through a human perspective. That is a fundamental aspect of Google Analytics, so don't get bogged down by over analysing.

Install Google Analytics

First thing you've got to do is to sign up to Google account and register with your details. If you’re already using Gmail, then you can simply log in to Analytics.

The first thing you'll be asked is whether you want track a website or a mobile app. Go ahead and select whichever one you'd like to track. For the purposes of this article, we'll track a website.

The tracking method is Universal Analytics which is a much improved tracking method. With legacy analytics accounts, it was a different tracking code, but with the onset of mobile browsers, Universal Analytics was created and is used on all new accounts.

Next, it’s time for setting up your account.

Create an account name. If you’re going to be tracking a number of sites and not just one, make sure you put something that identifies this. This is just for clarity from your end.

The rest of it is self explanatory. Select the Website Name and the Website URL. The drop down gives you an option of http and https. Choose the one that is applicable to your site.

The Industry Category, is generally for Google to do benchmarking i.e. allows Google to see how your site is doing in its respective industry against others in the same industry. You can also select your Industry Country and Reporting Time Zone.

Next on this page is Data Sharing Settings.

Most of this, in our opinion is for Google to be able to sell things to you that it thinks may be useful to you. You can leave this ticked or unticked once you’ve read their terms of service.

From here, click the blue ‘Get Tracking ID’ and you’re good to go.

Google Analytics
Google Analytics: Measure your advertising ROI

Tracking ID

Once you’ve clicked on the Get Tracking ID button, you will be redirected to the 'Admin' tab on the site dashboard.

You’ll now be presented with lots of options for the site you've registered. By clicking on the Tracking Info, you'll have 7 sidebar tabs will be as shown below.

The Tracking ID and snippet of JavaScript is available on this page. Before we talk about this, let’s hover to the left of the page and click on Data Collection. In this panel, you have some options on data collection and remarketing. By turning them on, Google analytics is able to collect further data form your visitors by making use of cookies. This is good for remarketing to site visitors based on their interests.

The next tab below called User-ID lets you track the same user across multi devices i.e. if the same person uses a mobile device, then a desktop later in the day, then better data is collected if you could treat this site visitor as the same individual. It does require you to set up some technical details and this goes beyond the scope of this article. So, we're not going to delve into it right now.

Session Settings enables you to define how long a session should be. Most site owners leave it within the default settings, but you could choose to extend the session timeout to a maximum of four hours.

With the Organic Search Sources, you have a default selection of search engines and it is comprehensive. If there is a specific search engine that isn’t listed, you can add it here.

The Referral Exclusion List gives you the option of telling Google analytics to disavow specific referrals. If for any reason you don’t want to count the traffic from a certain source, then you can manually enter the source here. Naturally, your own site will be in this list as you don’t want interlinked traffic or menu links to be counted as referred traffic.

The Search Term Exclusion List will disavow traffic for specific search terms that you can manually enter here. Remember, this doesn’t mean that your site won’t receive traffic for a specific term, it just means that it won’t show up in analytics as you’ve chosen to ignore it.

Now that you’ve gone through the tracking code settings, you’re ready to place the analytics code into your site.

Did you ever log on to Google Analytics to casually explore statistics, only to discover you’d missed out on important changes? As marketers we cannot afford to be too late.

What Google says...

Installing the Google Analytics code into a site

This part is straightforward. We can enter the analytics code into a either static site or using a CMS based dynamic site e.g. WordPress.

Installing Google Analytics on a Static Site

Copy the JavaScript code and go the ‘head’ section of your page that you want to track.

Paste this snippet of code just before the head close i.e. where it says </head>.

If you have many pages on the site where you want to track the code, it’s much easier to insert this once and then for the other pages to automatically have it inserted into the head section.

You can use Dreamweaver’s templates folder to do this. Simply go to the .dwt file and paste the analytics tracking code before the head close. Dreamweaver will then ask if you want to update all files based on this template. Simply click Update, and you’re done.

Installing Google Analytics tracking code in WordPress

There are two ways to do it in WordPress. Firstly, is by entering the code in the backend or you can do it by using a plugin.

Installing it in the WordPress code

Go to the theme header (header.php) link and paste the code just before the </head> as shown by the image below. We're using the Charitas Lite theme in this example. You get here by going to 'Editor' and then selecting the header.php file from the right hand side.

A word of warning here in that if you’re unsure about this or don’t have a steady hand (!), then make a backup of the page before pasting the code. At least you’ll have the original header.php page if you inadvertently break the page.

An alternative way of changing this page is by using an FTP client if you prefer.

Remember that if you change the theme or an update is made by the theme creator, you may write over the changes you made previously and would need the above all over again to get the analytics working.

Install analytics code with a plugin

There are a number of free plugins that you can find. Most people use Yoast’s SEO tool or the All-in-One SEO pack. Both ask for you to enter the tracking ID provided by Google Analytics, making it quite straightforward. If you don't have these installed, there are other standalone plugins which do the same job.

Analytics Resources
Google Blog: How to set up Analytics on your AMP page
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