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How to Use Google Analytics

How to Use Google Analytics
Google Analytics lets you track Web traffic, visitor behavior, social media and more. / Credit: Analytics image via Shutterstock

Google Analytics is one of the best website management tools a small business can have in its arsenal. It's a robust Web analytics and reporting tool that can provide key insights into how your website is performing and what you can do to meet your goals. You can track everything from how much traffic your website is getting to where that traffic is coming from and how visitors are behaving. You can even monitor social media activities, track mobile app traffic and integrate other data sources. Best of all, Google Analytics is free. Here's how to use Google Analytics for your website.

To use Google Analytics, you will need a Google account. Go to google.com/analytics. Click on Sign in or Create an Account on the upper left corner. If you're already signed in, click on Access Google Analytics.

Next, click on the Sign Up button. Choose whether you would like to use the Universal Analytics (beta) or Classic Analytics platform. Classic Analytics is the old version of Google Analytics and has basic features like visitor tracking, even tracking, AdWords integration and advertisement tools; Universal Analytics includes additional features like custom metrics, online/offline data sync, multiplatform tracking and more. Note that Classic Analytics users will eventually be automatically upgraded to Universal Analytics.

Finally, fill in the required information — account name, website name, URL, industry, time zone and data-sharing settings. Click on Get Tracking ID to finish setting up your account. [10 Google Tools Your Business Should be Using]

A <script> tracking code is required to track your website. You'll be taken directly to the Tracking Code section after setting up your account. The tracking code must be on every page you wish to track. There are several ways to do this:

  • Copy and paste the code directly into your website template.
  • Create a "analyticstracking.php" file with the code and add <?php include_once("analyticstracking.php") ?> after your template's <body> tag.
  • Check your Web host, website builder or blog platform for Google Analytics integration. For instance, there are several plug-ins on WordPress that will automatically add the tracking code to every page. Others — such as Blogger and Squarespace — require only your Google Analytics Web Property ID or Account Number, a string of numbers prefixed with the letters UA that identify your website.

One of the best things about Google Analytics is that it offers a wide range of metrics that users can customize to fit their needs. All of Google Analytics' features can be accessed and configured from the left sidebar. Here are three features that matter most to small businesses.

This is where you'll find which search terms visitors are using that led them to your website. Google Analytics automatically scans more than 20 major search engines, such as Bing, Yahoo, MSN, AOL and, of course, all of Google's properties. It also includes searches from international search engines like Baidu, as well as searches from websites like CNN and About.com.

Organic Search Sources is accessible under the Traffic Info section. Here, you can add other search engines not currently on Google Analytics' default list. You can also sort search engines, as data is based on how search engines appear in your settings.

This section consists of three parts: Custom Dimensions, Custom Metrics and Custom Data Sources. This is where you can configure metrics based on your own categories that are not included in the default settings. For instance, if you own an online store, this section allows you to track traffic based on things such as size, color and product SKUs. You can also integrate external data sources, such as your customer relationship management (CRM) software. Just click on the New Custom Dimensions, New Custom Metrics or New Custom Data Sources to get started.

It's not enough to simply run a social media marketing campaign. It's imperative that you track your results, too. Google Analytics can help by integrating social media into your tracking metrics. Although you can't add your Google Analytics tracking code to your social media accounts, what you can do is add them under Social Settings. For instance, if you own a YouTube channel, you can track activities by adding your account using your YouTube URL.  

Want other members of your team to be able to view your Google Analytics account? All you'll need are their email addresses. Go to the User Management section, add them, and set permissions. You can limit users to reading and analyzing traffic, or give them admin-level access to do things like edit your settings. Adding users also makes it easy to present reports and collaborate.

Originally published on Business News Daily.

Sara Angeles

Sara is a tech writer with a background in business and marketing. After graduating from UC Irvine, she worked as a copywriter and blogger for nonprofit organizations, tech labs and lifestyle companies. She started freelancing in 2009 and joined Business News Daily in 2013. Follow Sara Angeles on Twitter @sara_angeles.

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