Google Analytics: Getting Started

When you’re just getting started with Google Analytics, just setting it up can be a daunting and confusing process. Even my more techy clients have occasionally admitted that although they’ve run through the steps themselves, they’re never sure if they’re doing it right. So today, I’m going to take you through the steps I go through every time I’m setting up Google Analytics for a client. There’s a few tips and tricks for account optimization that even Google’s guide doesn’t explain, so you can feel confident your Analytics account is set up like a pro’s.

Step One: Sign up for a Google Analytics Account

First things first, we’re going to need to sign up for a Google Analytics account. (If you’ve already done this you can skip straight to the admin panel tips here). For the rest of us, we’re going to head on over to analytics.google.com and click that big old sign up button. If you don’t already have a Google account for other services like Gmail, you’ll be asked to create one and sign in before proceeding with the next step.

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Now, we’re going to be directed to a screen where we can add the details for the website we want to track (you’ll see you also have the option to set up mobile app tracking if that’s what you require). You’ll want to fill in the fields as follows:

  1. Account Name – this should be the name of your organization or business. In my case, I just put my own name, Emma Englishby, since that’s also the name of my business.
  2. Website Name – the name of your website, often the same name as your organization or business. Again in my case, since my website is emmaenglishby.com, I just put “Emma Englishby” here too.
  3. Website URL – the link to your website; e.g. www.emmaenglishby.com. You’ll also need to choose from the dropdown whether your website URL starts with http:// or htttps://.
  4. Industry Category – a lot of people tend to skip this step, but there’s actually a good reason to fill this in: Google Analytics uses the category you select for the benchmarking reports. These allow you to compare your data against the averages for your industry, which is obviously really useful when you’re trying to put your data into context. So take the time to choose a category that, matches your business as closely as possible.
  5. Reporting Time Zone – add your local time here.
  6. Data Sharing Settings – these are simply options for determining which products and services can read your Google Analytics data. You can check or uncheck these as you like, depending on your preferences. However if you want to see data for the benchmarking report in Google Analytics, you’ll need to leave the option for Benchmarking checked.

And that’s it! Hit “Save”, and you’ll be taken to your website property settings, where you’ll receive your unique tracking code for your website.

Step Two: Installing your Google Analytics Tracking Code

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To install your Google Analytics tracking code, you’ll need to copy the website tracking snippet and paste it within the HTML of every webpage you want to track, just before the closing head tag, which looks like this: </head>. Make sure you’ve copied the whole snippet – that’s the one that starts with <script> and ends in </script> – and not just your tracking ID, the UA-XXXXXXXX-X identifier. If you’re not comfortable going near the code of your website, you may want to ask a developer to do this for you.

Some website platforms make this easier for you by allowing to you install the tracking code from within your Settings pages, so you don’t have to touch a line of code yourself. If you’re using Shopify, for example, you can follow their instructions for setting up Google Analytics here, or if you use Squarespace, it’s even easier: you can find their instructions here.

It can take a few a days for data to start showing in your standard reports, but you probably shouldn’t wait that long to find out whether or not your setup is actually working. That’s because tracking is not backdated in Google Analytics, so if you made a mistake with set up three days ago, that’s three days of data you are not getting back. So pro tip: as soon as you add the tracking code to your website, hop on over to your Google Analytics reporting dashboard and select the Real Time > Overview report. Then in a new tab, navigate to any page of your website. Since the Real Time reports are designed to show you activity on your website as it happens, there isn’t the same processing lag as with the standard reports, so you should see your visit show up there instantly. Otherwise you may want to go back and double check your installation.

Step Three: Get to Know Your Admin Panel

The Google Analytics admin panel offers a lot of powerful options for fine-tuning your account and getting the most out of your data, but you need to understand the basic account structure first, otherwise it’s just a confusing mess of options. If you return to your admin panel, you should see something like the following layout:

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There are three columns: Accounts, Properties, and Views. An Account is the top-most level of organization; and if you’re a serial entrepreneur with multiple different businesses, I recommend setting up a separate Account for each one. Note that I’m not talking about a separate Google account (i.e. the email and password you use to access Google Analytics in the first place), but a separate Analytics account. One Google account can access up to 100 Analytics accounts all in the one dashboard, so it won’t cause you any fiddling about with multiple login details if you set up separate businesses in separate Analytics accounts.

The next level of organisation is a Property. You will need to set up properties for every website and mobile app you want to track; and you can have multiple properties in the one account. So if your mobile app and website relate to the same business, you would generally set these up as separate properties, but under the same account.

Finally we come to Views, which are your access point for reports and are simply refer to the set of data you want to view. So say you have a blog on your site, and you’d like to be able to see data for it separately from the other pages on your site. You could set up a new view called “Blog” and then use filters to exclude all the pages that don’t relate to your blog.

One very important point: you’ll always want to keep the default “All Website Data” view as it is: no filters or anything, so you always have an unedited set of data to refer back to if needed. And finally, tracking is not backdated in Google Analytics: when you create a new view, even if you copy a pre-existing view, you won’t see historical data there. So my second pro tip: when you first set up Google Analytics, go ahead and set up a couple of extra views, even if you’re not ready to add filters yet. I promise you these will come in handy later on.

One last major detail to be aware of are your User Management options. You’ll see you can share access with users at the View level, the Property level, and at the Account level. Within each User Management menu there are even more options for fine tuning their permissions, so I’m not even going to try and take you through every single combination of user permissions! Instead here’s a quick overview of common scenarios that I’ve come across:

  1. When you need to share access with a Google Analytics professional (like say you’ve hired me to set up some filters for you), you’ll want to give them permission at the Account level, otherwise they will be unable to do things like creating new filters for you.
  2. When you need to share access with a web developer so they can install the code for you or add extra tracking options, you’ll need to give access at the Property level, so they can access the tracking code for that property (although you have a bunch of Properties you want them to work on, it may be easier to set this at the Account level rather than for each Property individually)
  3. When you need to share access with a marketing professional, like say you’ve hired someone to manage your social media, you’ll want to share access at the View level. This will allow them to see your data so they can see what is working for you and what isn’t, but they can’t make any changes to your account structure or tracking.

And there you have it: my basic set-up process. Now you’re ready to dive into your data and start learning how to optimise your business. If you’re not sure where to begin, check out my guide to the Audience Overview so you can start getting to grips with Google Analytics’ reporting dashboard. Thoughts or ideas for other Analytics topics I should cover? Feel free to shout out on Facebook or Twitter, I love getting feedback on how I can help.