If you want to grow your blog and business, you need to know your audience. The best way to find out who they are, where they come from, and what they like, besides speaking to them, is by using Google Analytics.
Because looking at your stats can be so overwhelming and confusing, the Google Analytics guide for beginners is here to help you get started.
What is Google Analytics
Google Analytics is the most popular and the most accurate tool used for checking site stats. You can install Google Analytics on any blog or website, it doesn’t matter if you’re on WordPress, Squarespace, or have a custom built website.
How to create a Google Analytics account
Go to the Google Analytics website and sign in using your Google account. If you don’t have one, you can go ahead and create a new account. Then you will be able to sign up for Analytics.
After you sign up, you will be asked to add an account name and enter your website’s information.
Click on ‘Get Tracking ID’ to get the tracking code.
How to install the tracking code on your website
Copy the tracking code in the head section of your website. If you are using a Genesis child theme, all you have to do is go to Genesis > Theme Settings and paste the code in the Header Scripts section at the bottom of the page.
Another easy way to add the tracking code is by using the Google Analytics by Monster Insights plugin. Install it from Plugins > Add New, then activate it.
To add the tracking code, go to Insights > Settings and click on ‘Authenticate with your Google account’ or manually enter your UA code.
Please make sure the tracking code is installed only once.
Understanding Google Analytics data
Now that you have your Analytics set up, it’s important to understand where to find your data.
The Real-Time tab will show you how many people are on your site at any given moment. You can see where they come from, what country they are from, and what they are reading.
We all want to know how many readers we have and that’s exactly what the Audience > Overview tab is showing. You can also view their demographics, location, their browser, device, and even network provider.
Pageviews are the number of pages viewed during the selected time frame. Everytime a page is loaded (blog posts are also pages), it counts as a pageview.
Users (unique visitors) are the total number of people that viewed your site during the selected date range.
Sessions (or visits) are the total number of visits that your website has received during the selected date range. This is different from users because it includes repeat visits.
Bounce Rate is the number of visitors that landed on a page of your site and left without interacting with your site. A low bounce rate means that people visit multiple pages on your site, while a high bounce rate means that they leave after visiting a single page. Bloggers usually have high bounce rates, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t read your posts.
Average Session Duration is the average length of a session.
% New Sessions is the percentage of people who are visiting your site for the first time.
If you want to change the date range, just click on the date in the upper right corner and select the dates of the stats you are viewing. You can also compare the data from a time frame with the data from another by checking the Compare box.
If you want to see where you readers are coming from, you should go to Acquisition > Overview. This report breaks you traffic into four categories: Organic Search, Social, Direct, and Referral.
Organic Search shows you the visitors that have discovered your website using search engines. If you click on the organic search report you can also see what keywords people use to find your blog posts.
Social traffic includes Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (sometimes it’s counted as direct links), YouTube, and other social media sites.
Direct traffic refers to people that type your URL into their browser, but it can also refer to the people that clicked internal links from your posts or pages, clicked a link from a PDF, or to traffic from a mobile app. Traffic from Instagram may appear under the Direct traffic report.
Referral traffic shows the websites that have linked to your blog. These can be other blogs and websites, links in newsletters, or people that visit your blog from RSS readers like Feedly or Bloglovin.
If you go to Behavior > Overview or Behavior > Site Content > All Pages you can see your most popular posts and pages.
This is probably the feature I use most because it shows me what my audience likes to read. It comes in handy when I create new content for my blog.
The Behavior report will show you the most popular posts and how people are interacting with them.
The Conversions tab will let you set goals or track your sales. E-commerce tracking is important if you have a shop because you can see how people are interacting with your products.
Creating a custom dashboard
If you want to have the most important information in one place, you can create a custom dashboard. Just go to the Customizations tab and click on Dashboards. Click the red Create button and add your favorite widgets.
You can use the Starter Dashboard that shows you new users, bounce rate, your readers’ location, and browser, or you can create a custom dashboard by adding widgets.
Want to see your blog’s basic stats?
Go to Audience > Overview to see the number of users, pageviews, your blog’s bounce rate, or what devices your readers are using to access your blog.
Want to see where your readers are coming from?
Go to Acquisition > Overview to see if your readers come from Pinterest or Google, or maybe you have loyal followers that type the name of your blog into their browser.
Do you want to see your most popular pages?
Go to Behavior > Overview or Behavior > Site Content > All Pages to see your most popular and least popular posts and pages.
I hope the Google Analytics guide for beginners will help you conquer your fear of using this complex tool. If you want to learn more about Google Analytics, you can find free courses on Google Analytics Academy.
Do you use Google Analytics? What reports do you find most useful?