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Not getting enough traffic to your website? Don’t know where your visitors are coming from? Learning how to use Google Analytics will give you the answers you need to increase website traffic.
Getting a handle on some Google Analytics basics will go a long way to helping your improve the performance of your website.
If you understand where your website visitors are coming from, what pages they’re visiting, how long they’re spending on a page, and more important details that Google Analytics can tell you, you can tweak your website to make it more effective for your business.
This guide is designed to help you overcome the challenges of getting started with Google Analytics so you’re confident in using this amazing tool to get insights into your website’s performance — and ultimately, increase website traffic.
Guide to using Google Analytics
Here’s what we’re going to cover:
- Why use Google Analytics?
- What exactly is Google Analytics?
- Google Analytics vs. Google Analytics 360.
- Getting started with Google Analytics in 7 steps.
- How to set up Google Analytics with WordPress.
- How to use Google Analytics to increase website traffic.
- How to improve your site’s SEO to show up higher in Google search results.
- Next steps.
Ready to get started? Let’s go!
Why use Google Analytics?
You’ve probably heard people tell you that you need to track your website’s traffic at some point. There are many different traffic analyzing tools available online — but Google Analytics is free and it’s one of the very best.
We’ll get into the nitty-gritty details later in this article, but trust me when I tell you that this tool is robust. You can see how many visitors are on your site at any given time, whether they’re using a desktop computer or mobile device, their demographic details, which website pages get the most visits, and so much more.
Plus, there are lots of support articles and videos to help you with getting started with Google Analytics.
What exactly is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a free web analytics service offered by Google. It enables website owners to gain insights into how users find and use their website.
It offers the in-depth ability to track a visitor’s behavior, their demographics, how much you’re selling, what other sites are sending traffic to you, etc.
All of the data you need is gathered in real-time, broken down into different areas — think traffic sources, user behavior and more — and displayed in a dashboard filled with charts and pie graphs to help you visualize your website’s progress.
Here’s an example of what a Google Analytics dashboard looks like:
Google Analytics tracks a lot of different areas. For the basic user, here’s a breakdown of those areas, and what they mean.
Real-time: Google Analytics can track your traffic in real-time. Yes, that means you’re able to see, at this very moment, how many people are visiting your website and where they’re spending their time. Pretty cool, right?
Audience: Audience is all about telling you what type of visitor you have. You can find out whether more males or females visit, their age range, where they are from, what device and browser they are using, and the primary language they use.
Acquisition: Acquisition is exactly what it seems. It’s all about where your traffic came from. You can learn whether a visitor came through Google or another search engine, from another website (referral), or even from social network sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Behavior: This capability tracks how your visitors use your website. This is where you find out how long people stay on your site, if they leave right away, whether they go to specific pages, and when they leave your site.
Conversions: Conversions is all about analyzing whether your visitor did something on your website. This could be filling out a form, purchasing a product, or even clicking on an ad campaign link.
You can even find out at what step in your shopping cart process your visitors are leaving, which is known as cart abandonment.
Data from the Conversions section of Google Analytics can help you tweak your shopping cart and forms so more visitors complete the process.
Google Analytics vs. Google Analytics 360
Google has a lot of products, especially in its analytics platform. Google Analytics and Google Analytics 360, which used to be called Google Analytics Premium, are similar. But Google Analytics 360 is more for an enterprise-level business and, as a result, has a monthly fee.
In comparing Google Analytics vs. Google Analytics 360 services, some of the differences are that 360 includes:
- Integration with third-party marketing solutions like Salesforce and Google BigQuery
- Advanced analysis
- Advanced and customizable funnel reporting
- Advanced and customizable attribution modeling
- Maximum of 400 views per property (vs. 200 in the free version)
- 200 custom dimensions and metrics per property (vs. 20 in the free version)
- Data freshness is guaranteed every four hours
- Unlimited data
- Unsampled reporting
- Access to raw data
- Support services provided by Google and their global partner network
If you’re just starting out with your business and don’t have a lot of website traffic, you likely only need the free version of Google Analytics.
Getting started with Google Analytics in 7 steps
For website owners who don’t use a content management system like WordPress, Drupal or Joomla!, or if you’re comfortable with copying and pasting a little code, there are just a few easy steps to getting started with Google Analytics:
- Sign up for Google Analytics.
- Set up account properties and reporting views.
- Add the Google Analytics tracking code to your website.
- Grant permissions and take care of user management.
- Link your Google Ads account to your Google Analytics account.
- Set up goals to identify the actions you want users to take on your site.
- Download the app so you can get insights on the go.
Let’s take a look at each step.
1. Sign up for Google Analytics
To sign up, go to the Google Analytics site and choose the Start for free button.
This will prompt you to either sign in to your Google account or to create a Google account. If you’re creating a Google account, you can choose that you’re creating an account for yourself or to manage your business, depending on your needs for Google Analytics.
Note: It’s not required to have a Gmail account to use Google Analytics, but you will be required to verify your email address when you sign up for Google Analytics.
2. Set up account properties and reporting views
This might seem a bit confusing, so to explain, account properties are for the users on your account. This means that if you have a team of people, you would add several accounts to manage your Google Analytics property.
As for reporting views, this is better explained by what you want to analyze, whether it is a Google ad property for your site, your actual website, or even a subdomain of the site.
To set up account properties, go to the Admin section, which you’ll find on the bottom left side of your Google Analytics dashboard. Find the first section on Accounts and click Create Account.
Add your account name, site name and site URL.
There are also fields to select what industry your site falls under, what time zone you want to use, and a few other steps that you should read through, but keep selected, as they are recommended data sharing services that you will want to keep available for your Google Analytics property.
Once you’re done filling out the form, click Get tracking ID.
You’ll be prompted with a window to accept the Google Terms of Service and their additional terms that apply to sharing data with Google products and services. Once you’ve accepted the terms, you will be sent to a screen that will contain your Google Analytics tracking ID.
Once you have your tracking code, copy it and paste it to a text file, as you will need it.
If you need to add views, return to the third column on the Admin screen and click Create View.
Fill out the short form with your view’s name, whether it’s for a subdomain or subdirectory.
Then go back to View Settings section and fill out the URL for that view, if it is different from your main account property’s settings.
3. Add the Google Analytics tracking code to your website
If you’ve copied your tracking ID code to place it on your website, you will need to add it to your site’s code, usually before the ending HTML head tag. The ending HTML head tag looks like this: </head>.
Paste your Google Analytics tracking ID code. This is the easiest tag to look for, so you don’t have to get confused about all the other code.
4. Grant permissions and take care of user management
If you plan to have a team of people helping you manage your Google Analytics property, go back to your Admin screen, and under the Accounts section, add a person by going to the User Management section and entering their email address. You will be able to grant them full access or limited access to your Google Analytics account.
Note: Your Google Analytics teammate(s) will need to have a Google account, too.
5. Link your Google Ads account to your Google Analytics account
If you have a Google Ads account for your site, you can link it to your Google Analytics account. Why would you want to have a Google Ads account to help increase website traffic?
An ad will pop your site up in a more prominent place, with the search terms (or keywords) that people may be searching for. If you’re not ready to have an ad, that’s fine. However, at some point, you’re going to want to start paying to play when it comes to getting more traffic.
Other benefits of linking your Google Ads to Google Analytics are that you can:
- View your ad campaigns in the Google Analytics dashboard, instead of going to Google Ads.
- Import your ad goals and any recorded shop transactions over to Google Ads.
- Dive into remarketing, where you can try to bring back a customer who didn’t buy the first time they visited your website.
- Utilize the multi-channel funnels report, so you can understand how your traffic sources are working hand-in-hand to create sales.
- Measure cross-device conversions, which means you can track when a person clicks a link on their mobile device, and then completes the sale with their desktop browser.
In your Google Analytics Admin dashboard, you can link your Google Ads in the second column.
If you already have a Google Ads account, you can continue on.
If you have any Google Ads set up, you’ll want to select the campaigns you want to link in Google Analytics, and make sure to turn the linking to ON for the properties you want to collect Google Ads data.
6. Set up goals to identify the actions you want users to take on your site
Your site has a plan. You want your visitors to buy something, share your content, fill out your lead forms, download an ebook, sign up for an account, or sign up for your newsletter. Each of these also can be called a goal. In Google Analytics, you can track goals.
If you think checking in on just your pageviews and visitors is enough, you’re wrong. You have to dig deeper by seeing if people are taking the actions you want them to take on your website.
Often, people put together websites with an idea that they want people to buy their stuff, but they never clearly indicate on their site what it is that they want people to purchase.
Goals can help keep you on target by telling you if people are actually clicking on and buying the items or services you’re trying to sell.
With goals in Google Analytics, there are several things you can track:
- URLs or destination
- Time or duration
Some specific examples of goals you can track are completing a sale for an eCommerce site, filling out a form, completing a game level on an app, or even interacting with a survey.
Some of these goals can tell you if a form was completely filled out, or even where the user stopped in their eCommerce transaction.
How to use Google Analytics to set up a goal
1. Sign into Google Analytics and navigate to the Admin dashboard.
2. Go to the third column under Views, and click Goals. If you have multiple properties, you will need to select the view for which you want to set up the goal.
There are different ways to set up a goal based on what type of goal — URL, time, pages/screens or events — you’re tracking. You also can select a template.
However, the following instructions are based only on the type of goal. In this case, before selecting which type, instead of using a template, you’ll use Custom. If you select a template, Google Analytics gives you different ones like setting up a goal for placing an order, creating an account, live chat, callbacks, tracking downloads, media play, social sharing, and signing up for things like newsletters or groups.
3. To set up a URL or destination goal:
- Fill out Goal name under Goal description.
- Select Destination.
- Enter the URL. This URL is used to start tracking the goal. There’s no need to put the full URL destination, so if you’re tracking yourdomain.com/shop, you only need to add /shop to the URL field.
If your form allows people to purchase an item or service, you can set a monetary value. You also can set up a funnel, which is great if you’ve got a form process or even eCommerce process where there are several steps involved.
The funnel process will allow you to track if a user has abandoned the form at one point.
- Verify the goal to see how it works, based on previous data gathered by Google Analytics on your site.
4. To set up a time or duration goal:
- Fill out Goal name under Goal description.
- Select Duration.
- Because you’re tracking traffic in a specific amount of time, you’ll fill out the form with the duration.
- Verify the goal to see if it works. It will usually pull from past collected data.
5. To set up a Pages/screens goal:
- Fill out Goal name under Goal description.
- Select Pages/screens per session.
- Fill in the form with how many pages you want the visitor to surf in order to trigger this goal.
- Verify the goal. This is optional, but you may want to try this against your past traffic to make sure it works.
6. To set up an Events goal:
- Fill out Goal name under Goal description.
- Select Event under goal type.
- Fill out Category, Action, Label and Value.
Event goals can track things like links to external sites, downloads, buttons on your site (for example: social media) and time spent viewing videos. In this case, if you want to track downloading a zip file, you’d fill out Category with Download Action with something like “zip file,” and Label with the path of the download, like “/download/your-zip-file.zip.” As for Value, this area depends on the average time it takes to download the file, view a video or listen to music. You will assign it a number (but not a negative number, as negative integers will not work). You can learn more about how to better assign a value for your event goal here.
- Verify the goal if you wish to test it.
7. Download the app so you can get insights on the go
If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner on the go, having the Google Analytics app installed on your phone can allow you to monitor your website from anywhere. You can find the Google Analytics App in the Google Play store. Simply install, open and give Google permission to display the app on your mobile device.
The default dashboard in the Google Analytics app might not seem like it shows a lot, but it actually includes most of what you see in the desktop version. Plus, you can select what you want to see. Here are some screenshots of the mobile version.
Now that you’ve learned a lot of Google Analytics basics, such as setting up Google Analytics on your website and even creating goals, you are ready to dig a little deeper and learn how to increase traffic with Google Analytics.
How to set up Google Analytics with WordPress
Got WordPress? Prefer to use a plugin instead of fooling around with code? Then here are a few steps on how to set up Google Analytics with WordPress.
1. Go to your WordPress admin and under Plugins, click Add New.
2. Install and activate Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights.
3. Connect Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights with Google Analytics.
You will need to go through their setup wizard. On the first screen, select what type of site you have.
On the second screen, connect with Google Analytics.
Next, authenticate your Google Account with MonsterInsights and give the plugin permission to access Google Analytics.
Tell Google Analytics what you’d like or not like to track, using the settings given in the MonsterInsights plugin. You can come back later to set this up in more detail.
Click Save and continue, then you can skip the step on installing other plugins.
Once you’ve done this, your WordPress site is connected with Google Analytics.
The free version of Google Analytics for WordPress plugin by MonsterInsights doesn’t deliver in-depth dashboard analytics, so if you want that ability, you have to purchase the pro version.
How to use Google Analytics to increase website traffic
First, before delving into how to increase your traffic, you have to understand why people come to your website.
Of course, in some cases, they are coming from Google or another search engine, a social network or sometimes from another site. This means that somewhere along the line, someone was interested in what your website had to offer.
In order to keep Google’s attention, and keep your site indexed or even ranked well, it’s important to continually update your site.
This doesn’t mean you have to update every single day, but you should try to update your website’s content as frequently as you can.
For example, if you run an eCommerce site and have been blogging for a while, you’ve probably seen that your pages are getting indexed and people are visiting. Those visits could be directly from Google, your email newsletter list, social media or even other search engines. However, if you stop introducing new content, in Google Analytics, you’ll probably notice a decline in traffic.
A better and more accurate way to know why people are visiting your site is to learn how to understand a basic page report in Google Analytics.
Understanding Page reports in Google Analytics to increase website traffic
At the basic level, Page reports can give you very good insights into why people are visiting your website. In the Page report, look at the following:
- Page Views
- Average time on site
- Bounce rate
Here’s a little more information about what you’ll find in each of those sections.
Page Views are when the visitor clicks and lands on a page that is being tracked by Google Analytics. In the case of counting page views, an example of Google Analytics tracking a page view would be going to a second page on the same website and then returning to the originating webpage. This would end up counting as two page views.
Average time on site
The average time on a site is how long, on average, that visitors stay on your website. This is only counted with legitimate page views, not when someone is exiting the site or if they’ve left the site right away. This might seem confusing, but Google can’t track when a person leaves the site, only the last page they visited. So, if they initially came to the site and never visited a second page, then basically no page view was counted, and for average time on site, Google Analytics gave 00:00 for the time.
So, how can you get people to stay on your site longer? Here are a few suggestions:
- Create video content to appear alongside any images or text content on a page.
- Create interactive content such as quizzes.
- Encourage visitors to leave comments on blog posts.
The page will have to load again after they submit the comment.
Bounce rate is an average of how many times people only visit one page on the site and then leave. With bounce rate, you don’t want the percentage to be high. In fact, you want it to be as low as possible.
To decrease bounce rate, give visitors clear options for what to do next on your site. For example:
- Include links to related content in your blog posts.
- Use strong calls-to-action to encourage visitors to click through to other pages on your website, such as product pages.
The Acquisition section is where you find out where your traffic came from. You can find this under Traffic Source. This could be from Google search, another search engine, social networks or other websites.
The Acquisition report is not necessarily a basic report, but you can easily check out the Overview tab for an idea of where to put more effort into promoting your work. For example, this report can provide insight into which social sites are driving the most traffic to your website.
You can use this information to focus more on those social networks and less on platforms with lower traffic referral numbers. Or, if you feel that your business can really benefit from a strong presence on a social network that isn’t currently referring much traffic to your website, increase your efforts on that network.
One of the really cool areas to look at within the Acquisition area of Google Analytics is Location — especially if you’re a local business owner trying to target your city, state, country or region. For example, if you’re a business in Phoenix, like a restaurant, and you’re trying to gain more customers, you obviously don’t want your website to target an audience located in Japan.
Behavior allows you to look into what people are seeing on your site and how you can improve it. In fact, this area can let you know what pages people are finding most interesting, and if they are going to another page.
The Behavior flow area in Google Analytics can help you build more content around the areas that people are enjoying, as well as correct any content that needs to be linked to other related content on your website.
How can you improve your site’s SEO to show up higher in Google search results?
Again pulling from your Google Analytics toolbox, there are a few simple steps you can take to improve your website’s ranking in Google search results for whatever term or keywords you’re aiming for.
Look at your Google Analytics page report data and use it to plan website content and tweak what you already have on your website.
Build solid content around the areas of your site that you want people to pay attention to. This is usually called creating “cornerstone” content related to the products or services you’re selling, the newsletters or accounts you want people to sign up for, or the downloads you want people to take away. Pick a couple major areas, and plan content around them. Start with an in-depth article for those main subjects, and then create smaller related articles.
Link to other sites on occasion. Once you have included external links that relate to your website content and that you consider valuable for your website visitors, let those other website owners know you’ve linked to their sites. You could possibly build a partnership with them, which would be great if you have products or services that complement each other.
Share your website on social media sites. You can’t expect people to do it for you, so you have to start the fire first. Sure, you do want your website content to show up in organic search results, but there’s nothing wrong with getting traffic from social network sites.
Reshare evergreen content. If you have content that is still as relevant today as it was a few months or years ago, don’t let it sit there collecting dust. Re-share. Even better, tweak and improve that content by adding more, linking to newer related articles, and even creating related video content.
There’s a lot of information in this article, from how to use Google Analytics and why you need it, to getting started with Google Analytics, setting up goals, and even some tips on how to increase website traffic. Hopefully, you now have a basic understanding of how to use Google Analytics to improve your website’s performance.
It’s time to install Google Analytics, poke around this amazing tool to learn everything it has to offer, and begin measuring your website’s performance. Then, use this data to create a better experience for your site’s visitors and increase website traffic.
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