If you are new to owning a website, Google Analytics can seem overwhelming, but setting it up and getting the basic statistics you want from it is actually very easy. And you don't have to worry about making a mistake or damaging your website, as nothing you can do in the Google Analytics interface can affect your website.

What is Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free service from Google that lets you find out everything it is possible to know about your website's visitors and their behavior. Here are some examples of what you can find out:

  • Speed: Whether your website is loading quickly for most visitors.
  • Traffic: How many people are visiting your website at any given time, and how many times they come back.
  • Demographics: What age and gender your website visitors are.
  • Geography: Where your visitors are when they access your website.
  • Technology: Whether your visitors use a PC or laptop, tablet or smartphone; and what operating system and browser they use.
  • Marketing: What "channels" (such as email, other websites, search engines etc) send visitors to your website.
  • Referrals: What websites send visitors to your website.
  • Content: What pages of your website are most popular.
  • Navigation: How visitors navigate through your website.

There is, of course, much more information that Google Analytics can provide, but these are the statistics that most website owners are interested in to begin with.

How To Set Up Google Analytics

All the websites we build come with Google Analytics already set-up and installed, but you can find more information about these topics at Google's Help Center. When setting up Google Analytics for your site, we will have asked you for an existing Google account that use to access other services (such as Gmail), and provided access to the relevant website data for that account.

How To Access Google Analytics

Since Google Analytics is already set up and installed for your website, all you have to do is visit Google Analytics and login using the account you normally use to access Google's services. Once you login, you will either see a list of websites that you have access to or, if you only have access to data for one website, you may be taken straight to reports for that website:

Access website data in Google Analytics

How To Use Google Analytics

When you login to Google Analytics, you are first presented with your "Audience Overview" report, which is one of dozens of possible reports you can view. All of these follow a similar layout and all of them can be modified to include any specific date range you wish by selecting the start and end dates at the top right of the page. And, if you check the "Compare" box, you can select two different date ranges to compare:

Selecting a date range in Google Analytics

What overwhelms a lot of people about Google Analytics is the sheer number of options and reports available, often with titles that are less than obvious. Here is a summary of which of the main headings on the left menu might be of interest, with area that are of use to advanced users only omitted:

  • Audience
    • Demographics: This section shows you the age and gender of your website's visitors - which may be of use to check that your website is reaching your target audience.
    • Interests: This section gives you information about the interests of your website visitors using their general browsing behavior.
    • Geo: The "Location" section show you where your visitors are located. Clicking on a part of the map will allow you to repeatedly drill-down to the city/town location level.
    • Behavior: The "New vs. Returning" section will tell you how many of your visitors have returned to your website after their first visit.
    • Mobile: The "Overview" section provides a summary of what proportion of your visitors are using mobile or tablet devices.
  • Acquisition
    • Overview: This section gives you a good summary of how visitors found your website (for example, via a search engine or social media) or whether they came straight to your website by typing in the address.
    • All Traffic: The "Referrals" section will list all of the other websites that your website visitors came from, along with their behavior once at your website. For example, you can see how many pages a typical visitor from each referring website looked at on your website ("Pages/Session" column), and how many of them left after looking at just one page ("Bounce Rate" column).
    • Search Engine Optimization: The title of this section should not alarm you if you are not interested in optimizing your website at this point in time. What you will find interesting is the "Queries" section which shows you how many times you appear in search results for specific terms and how often a user clicks on your website in those search results.
  • Behavior
    • Site Content: The "All Pages" section lists each page of your website and how many visitors it has had in the selected time period. It is also tells you the average length of time each user spent on each page ("Avg. Time on Page" column) and how many people either went to another page of your website or left your website after visiting each page ("% Exit" column).

Is Google Analytics Data Useful?

While there is no doubt that the statistics available in Google Analytics are of interest to website owners, when additional features are enabled it can also be a very powerful tool with which to analyze how well your website is meeting your business goals, where it is failing, and which of your marketing efforts and website pages are resulting in sales or inquiries.