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Congrats on launching your website — now you’re ready to start spreading the word about your online presence! (If you’re still building your site, check out our Build tutorials.) The following guides will walk you through the process of curating an audience for your site.

How to Navigate Google Analytics

It’s no surprise that Google Analytics is number one when it comes to web analytics applications. It’s hard to beat the array of free tools offered in its marketing suite. However, if you’re new to the Analytics dashboard, knowing where to look for the information you need can be frustrating. 

Fortunately, we can help you get comfortable with navigating Google Analytics quickly. This means you won’t have to wade through the wrong data looking for the reports that matter most. For example, knowing how to create custom reports will enable you to target exactly the metrics that are most relevant to your business. 

In this article, we’ll take you on an in-depth tour of Google Analytics. You’ll learn how to find critical data in your dashboard, build segments, view real-time information, and more. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s jump right in!  

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Why You Need Google Analytics

There’s only so much you can tell by looking at your sales numbers. That’s why you need a Google Analytics account. This platform enables you to tap into a deep wealth of data generated by your site’s users and customers, which can guide your business strategies and boost your conversions. 

Analytics is the tool of choice when it comes to website data. In fact, over 29 million live websites use it to track key metrics.

A Google Analytics dashboard.

Just a few of the benefits you gain from putting Google Analytics to work for you include: 

  • Getting to know your customers through demographics, so you can better serve their needs. 
  • Understanding what channels are the biggest sources of traffic, so you can tailor content and campaigns for the best Return on Investment (ROI). 
  • Tracking bounce rates and engagement, so you can boost conversions with improvements to areas that are underperforming. 
  • Creating trackable Goals so you have tangible measures of success. 

Seeing as many of Google’s data tools are free to use, it makes sense to connect your website. Next, we’ll go over how to set everything up, so you can start analyzing your traffic flow and bounce rates in no time!

How to Install Google Analytics on Your Website

When it comes to installing Google Analytics on your website, there are a few options. Our full Google Analytics tutorial shows you how to install the platform using the Tag Manager method.

The Tag Manager dashboard.

Tags are packages of code that help feed very specific data points back to your Google Analytics dashboard. To get yours set up, you need to establish both a Google Analytics account and a Tag Manager account.

Once you’ve set up your Tag Manager account, you’ll need to add two snippets of code to your website. You only need to do this once. After that, you can set up as many tags as you need, and the data will be collected automatically.

These snippets need to be placed in the <head> and <body> sections of your website. If you don’t do this during the account setup process, you can also go back and locate your installation code by navigating to Admin > Install Google Tag Manager.

An example of the Tag Manager code snippets.

To fully connect Tag Manager to Analytics, you’ll also need to locate your Analytics Tracking ID. You can find this in your Analytics dashboard under Admin > Property Settings > Tracking ID.

Locating the Google Analytics Tracking ID

You’ll need to copy and paste this code into Tag Manager when you create your first tag. It’s best to start with the Universal Analytics tag. With it, you can begin tailoring your data flow into the Analytics dashboard, by setting triggers for what data will be collected and when.

As we mentioned, however, there are several ways to install Google Analytics on your website. If the manual method seems too technical or time-consuming, there are alternative options.

Installing Google Analytics With a Plugin

If you’re not comfortable adding code to your website’s files, you can also explore using a plugin to connect your website to Google Analytics. MonsterInsights is a popular option that you can download for free from the WordPress Plugin Directory.

The MonsterInsights plugin for WordPress.

This way, you can let the plugin do the work of connecting your site to Analytics. Just keep in mind there are limited free options, and you may not be able to use some features without upgrading to the plugin’s premium version.

Another option is the Google Site Kit plugin for WordPress.

Google Site Kit plugin for WordPress.

This is a plugin created by Google, which helps you seamlessly integrate six different Google Marketing tools right into your WordPress dashboard. Any necessary tracking codes will be placed on your website during the setup process

An Introduction to Google Analytics Reports

Of course, setting up Google Analytics is just the beginning. If you’re new to the platform, it can be tough to know where to start.

Your dashboard is broken down into five major categories of reports. Many of these include detailed sub-reports as well. We’ll go over them in detail, so you know where to find the data you need.

Realtime 

First up is the Realtime section of reports. True to its name, this will give you in-the-moment information about the traffic that’s currently on your website.

The Realtime Overview report in Google Analytics.

When you click on Realtime > Overview, you’ll get a snapshot of some of this data. There are also five subreports available in Realtime, including: 

  • Locations
  • Traffic Sources
  • Content 
  • Events
  • Conversions

There are several ways you can use the Realtime report. For example, you can monitor in real time if a social media or blog post is having an immediate impact on your site’s traffic or engagement rates. Additionally, you can use it to see whether or not your tracking code is working correctly. 

Now let’s dive into each of the subreports available in this section. 

Locations

The Realtime > Locations report shows you where your current site traffic is located. You can view this in a breakdown of active users by country, and visually on a map.

The Realtime Locations report in Google Analytics.

This can be helpful if you’re working on marketing globally and want to test the reach of your efforts. Alternatively, you can use the Locations report to make strategic decisions about expanding your content or focusing more resources on making your website translation-ready and more globally-minded. 

Traffic Sources 

When you view the Realtime > Traffic Sources report, you’ll be able to see exactly how much of your traffic is coming from Direct, Organic, and Referral sources.

The Realtime Traffic Sources report in Google Analytics.

The Traffic Sources report is an easy way to monitor specific campaigns or see how guest posts and referral programs are performing. Additionally, you’ll be able to see how many keywords are being used to find your website, and what percentage of traffic is coming organically through search results. 

Content 

All of the reports under the Realtime option will give you a very precise snapshot of data. The Content report is no exception. Here you can see exactly how many pages the active users on your website are visiting, and which pages they are currently on.

The Realtime Content report in Google Analytics.

This can be particularly useful if you want to monitor whether or not timely content is being viewed right after posting. If users are not seeing your up-to-date content, you might need to rethink how you’re promoting it, and whether those channels are working to your advantage. 

Events 

Your Realtime Events report displays the top 20 events from the past 30 minutes. Each event is presented on its own linen order too and will indicate the percentage of users who interacted with it. You can click on each one to receive a more detailed report for that individual event.

The Realtime Events report in Google Analytics.

It’s necessary to understand exactly what an “event” is in Google Analytics’ terms. Essentially, it is any measurable interaction by a user on your website, not counting when they first enter the site. This includes downloads, form submissions, video plays, and more. 

Conversions

The Conversions report will only display real-time data if you’ve created Goals. This is a feature that enables you to establish parameters for tracking certain interactions on your website. That way, you can decide exactly what you consider to be a conversion, whether that’s email list sign-ups, account creations, purchases, or something else entirely.

Conversions are often one of the most critical metrics you can track. In fact, Google highlights conversion tracking as a necessary metric for evaluating the effectiveness of your business or marketing campaigns. 

Audience 

Next up, the Audience report contains 14 subreports that offer comprehensive and detailed information about your site’s visitors from many different perspectives. Many of the subreports also provide extra reports that have even more granular data available. 

Some of these metrics are outside the scope of this article, but we’ll provide you with a look at the main Audience reports. 

The Audience Overview report.

Visually, you’ll get an at-a-glance breakdown of both your new and returning visitor counts. While there’s a treasure trove of data in this particular report, the Overview quickly helps you see Pageviews, Sessions per user, Bounce rate, average session lengths, and more. 

The Audience subreports cover many different data points, including: 

  • Active Users. Available in increments of 1, 7, 14, and 28 days, this report gives you a read on how interested and engaged your site’s users are. 
  • Lifetime Value. This report is in a beta version but can show you how valuable a given user is to your business over time, based on the method of acquisition. 
  • Cohort Analysis. Analytics creates cohorts based on certain user characteristics such as acquisition date and groups users together so you can track their behaviors over time. 
  • Audiences. This report is dependent on the specifically-tailored audience groups you can create in Analytics (either from templates, existing segments, or from scratch), and then apply to reports so you can isolate their data for a given variable. 
  • Demographics. This will break down the age and gender of your users in several more subreports and can be used to create custom segments. 
  • Interests. Understanding your customers’ likes and dislikes can help create campaigns, and the Interests category features four different reports you can use. 
  • Geo. There are two reports you can access in the Geo category, and they focus on the Languages and Locations represented in your data. 
  • Behavior. Not to be confused with the higher-level section of Behavior reports, this category provides a look at your new and returning users, their engagement, and the economic impact they have on your site. 

The remaining reports under Audiences include information about the technologies your customers are using. You can discover the prevalence of different mobile devices and operating systems, along with data on the users from specific device types. These reports can help you develop design strategies that are more likely to improve customer satisfaction. 

Acquisition 

You might wonder at first how Acquisition differs from the Traffic Sources report we discussed earlier. In this report overview, you’ll find a more detailed breakdown of the places your site visitors come to your website from.

Moreover, this section of reports provides data that offers a full picture of a user’s lifecycle on your site. You’ll find reporting from acquisitions, through behavior and on to conversions. 

This is also where you’ll want to look to determine which of your marketing efforts are providing the most significant ROI for your website in terms of traffic.

The Acquisition Overview report in Google Analytics.

Not only can you see a visual charting of your top channels, but you can also quickly view Users and Conversions with the rest of the acquisition data. Conveniently, you can adjust the sources of data by using the drop-down menus at the top of the page as well. 

There are five main subreports available under Acquisitions. Each of these has its own fairly long list of report options as well. These metrics can be very helpful in getting highly-accurate and detailed data, which can determine whether you’ve met your goals or not. 

The top-level reports cover All Traffic, Google Ads, Search Console, Social, and Campaigns. As you may have guessed, some of these reports will only contain data if you’ve set up the corresponding accounts. More precisely, the Google Ads and Search Console reports need further configuration to return data. 

In the meantime, you can see what social media channels are working the best for you. To view this information, navigate to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.

The social media Channel breakdown in Google Analytics.

Clicking on an individual channel will give you a detailed report for that particular social media option. If a conversion is tied to that channel, you will also see how much revenue was generated. This gives you a way to make data-driven decisions about which channels are worth the most to your business. 

Behavior 

You might recall that we’ve already discussed an Audience Behavior sub-report. That one is not to be confused with this higher-level section, containing lots of behavior-based data.

There is a lot of information related to user behavior. So let’s break this section down, starting with the Overview.

The Behavior Overview report in Google Analytics.

Here, you’ll find detailed information about how users move through your site. Some of the data will look familiar, as you will get a synopsis of Pageviews and Bounce Rate. However, this data is longitudinal rather than in real time. So you can see patterns over longer periods of time, or the impact of different seasonal events.

One of the most interesting reports in this section might be the Behavior Flow report.

The Behavior Flow report in Google Analytics.

This report gives you a visual representation of how users travel through your website. It starts with the landing page where a user entered your site. The chart then ends on the page they exited, and tracks all their interactions with your site in between those two points. 

To get complete data in these reports, you’ll need to create and track explicit Events. This will give you customization options that tell the analytics crawler what interactions to categorize and collect for later use in the flow chart. 

The Behavior reports also offer many options for viewing data about your Site Speed, Site Content, and Site Search. These reports are a great way to keep tabs on the health of your website.

The Site Speed report in Google Analytics.

For example, if your bounce rate is up, you might want to check your Site Speed reports to see if you could benefit from implementing some speed optimization techniques

There are two other reports under Behavior to take note of. The Publisher reports are only available if you connect to a Google Ads account, but are recommended if you use ads on your website. 

Additionally, the Experiments report is no longer supported. Still, Google recommends that users try the Optimize tool for testing site changes and user experiences.

Conversions

Conversions are just about anything measurable on your website that represents a completed action. If you’re selling products or services, a conversion would likely be a purchase. However, for other websites, it might be a new email subscription or form completion. 

Your conversion data can be viewed in reports found under the top-level Conversions section in your dashboard. Much like the Behavior reports, Conversions show up in several places in your Analytics dash. For that reason, it’s vital to understand the context of each report. 

These reports cover many aspects of conversion data, including goal tracking, e-commerce reports, and channel data.

The Conversions Ecommerce Overview report in Google Analytics.

First, Conversions > Goals is where you’ll find data related to the Goals you’ve set up. Again, these are explicit actions that you can designate for Google to track and feed to your dashboard.

The Goal creation interface in Google Analytics.

Through the Conversion reports, you can also view valuable data about your e-commerce efforts. For example, under Conversions > Ecommerce > Checkout Behavior, you’ll find detailed information regarding your checkout process — a crucial factor in boosting conversion rates.

The Checkout Behavior Analysis report in Google Analytics.

That’s just one of five reports you can leverage regarding conversions and your e-commerce efforts. There’s also data about Shopping Behavior, Products, and Sales Performance, as well as reports that put your marketing efforts directly in context with your conversions. 

Finally, under Conversions > Ecommerce you’ll also find six Multi-Channel Funnels reports. Data pertaining to automatically-detected channels will show up here. You can also set up more multi-channel funnels in relation to your Google Ads account, in order to collect data about your marketing efforts. 

This option will lay out your Top Conversion Paths, Time Lag, Path Length, and more. You’ll be able to use Google’s Model Comparison Tool as well. This is where many different elements of data collected by Google Analytics come together in one place, to highlight the impact of various efforts on your conversion rate.

How to Increase the Quality of Data Your Website Produces

Obviously, there are a lot of possibilities when it comes to data tracking and analysis in Google Analytics. That’s why it’s vital to understand what the recommended metrics are to track and determine which ones are most valuable to your business. 

Leveraging tools in Google Analytics, such as setting Events and Goals, can help you tailor the data that feeds into the different reports. Additionally, it will enable you to filter and customize reports based on the different variables you’ve created. 

As a result, the data that gets reported to your dashboard will be of a higher quality than if you leave your analytics account set to gather default data. For example, collecting actionable data means you can check your progress more specifically against measurable goals you’ve set. 

We’ve mentioned creating Goals in Google Analytics several times at this point. However, it’s worth repeating, because it’s one of the easiest ways to gather actionable data and increase the value of the reports you can access in your dashboard. 

4 Advanced Google Analytics Features You Should Know

While the basic reports you can access right away are quite comprehensive, there are some advanced features available worth investigating. These all focus on the customizations that are possible in Google Analytics. 

1. Create Advanced Segments for Targeted Campaigns

Segments are subsets of user data that can help you create audiences or more segments. Existing data might indicate that you have segments determined by location, for example. Segments are a great way to hone in on user trends and leverage that information for particular campaigns. 

Once you create segments of your own, you can use them to filter your other data against each segment. This enables you to perhaps see that one segment has an unusually high cart abandonment rate. You can then target that individual segment with remarketing campaigns, just to give one example. 

To create a segment, you will use the Segment Builder interface. You’ll find this in your dashboard by going to any report you want to view. For instance, if you go to Audiences > Overview > Add Segment > + New Segment, you can leverage a wide variety of variables for creating your segment.

Adding a segment in Google Analytics.

Once you’ve created a segment, you’ll be able to apply it to the report you want to view. Your data will then be presented for just that segment. 

2. Customize Your Dashboard for Instant Access to Your Most Important Data

Having so much data available to you can be overwhelming. Fortunately, you can customize dashboards in Google Analytics to display only the data you want to see. To access this feature in your dash, click on Customizations > Dashboards > Create.

Creating a custom dashboard in Google Analytics.

You can start with a blank canvas at this point, or choose from a dashboard template. You’ll be able to name your dash and begin adding Widgets that will pull in the reports and data you need. Then you can arrange them on the dash however you want them to appear.

When the tools you need are easy to access, you’re more likely to use them. This is one way you can make sure your Google Analytics data is where you need it when you need it. 

3. Configure Custom Reports to Meet Your Unique Needs

Similar to building a custom dashboard, you can also create custom reports to meet your needs. You’ll find this feature in Customizations > Reports > + New Custom Report.

Creating Custom Reports in Google Analytics.

From here, you’ll be able to set a report name and choose the content. Then you can select from different filters and views.

Every business is unique, so it’s not surprising if you have a data need that isn’t precisely answered by the native reports. This is an easy way to make sure you’re able to measure your specific business goals. 

4. Set Up Custom Alerts and Never Miss an Important Milestone

Tracking your goals and knowing when your team hits a milestone is crucial. With Google Analytics, you can set custom alerts, so you and your team never miss a thing.

Back in your Customizations menu, you’ll need to click on Custom Alerts > Manage Custom Alerts > + New Alert.

Managing Custom Alerts in Google Analytics.

Here, you can choose the conditions you want to apply to your alerts. For example, you might want to be alerted when a particular traffic segment completes more than 20 conversions.

Rather than being locked onto your Google Analytics dashboard around the clock, you can take the “set it and forget it” approach. This means you can spend more of your time developing campaigns and marketing strategies for your products based on the data you receive. 

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Using Your Google Analytics Account

Now that you’re more familiar with where to find all of the different reports and options in Google Analytics, you’ll be better able to leverage your data. With a little practice, all of that information can be turned into actionable strategies for growing your site or business. 

Finding your way around Google Analytics is easy, once you know your way around the basic report categories. Of course, once you’ve mastered the basics, there are lots of advanced features you can check out as well.

When you put your Google Analytics skills to work for your website, you’ll also want to make sure you have the hosting services you need. Check out our shared hosting plans today! 

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