Website Analytics for Beginners

Congratulations! Your website is growing and you have recognized the need for analytics on your website. Knowing that you have a need, let’s take a look at the next steps…

Tracking Analytics: The First Step

Since you are new to the idea of web analytics, it is a good idea to start out simple.  Don’t spend a bunch of money on analytics software when you aren’t familiar with basic metrics.  I would recommend Google Analytics to anyone wanting to start tracking metrics on their website.  It is completely free and has a lot of room for you to grow.

Set Up Your Account

Go ahead, it’s easy!  Set up your Google Analytics account now!

Install the Tracking Code

Once your account is setup, your main analytics page will show your new profile for your website.  You can get back to this page at any time by clicking on the ‘Analytics Settings’ link in the top right corner.  On this page, look on the far right-hand side and you should see two links for your new profile: ‘Edit’ and ‘Delete’.  Click on ‘Edit’.  Below the orange bar in the top right corner, click on the ‘Check Status’ link.  The second section on this page is specific instructions for installing the tracking code.  Simply copy the code provided and paste it on the pages you want to track just before the </body> tag.

If you are using WordPress, install the Google Analytics plugin and insert the ‘Web Property ID’  (looks like UA-xxxxxxx-x) into the settings screen to have the code inserted automatically.

Once you have installed the tracking code, go back to the main analytics page and click the ‘Edit’ button next to your profile.  Click the ‘Check Status’ link to be sure everything is working correctly.

View Your Analytics Reports

Once you have installed the tracking code and waited a day or two, you should have some analytics data to look at.  From your main analytics page, click on the ‘View Report’ link next to your profile.  This will bring you to your ‘Dashboard’.  On the left-hand side of the screen, you will see a navigation menu that will allow you to explore a bunch of standard reports.  The main section will show you a graph of visitor activity on your site and a ‘Site Usage’ section with some basic metrics listed.  Below that are some additional sections that you can customize as you get to be more familiar with the information you want to keep a close eye on.

Track Your Site Metrics

The basic site metrics that Google Analytics displays are:

  • Visits – The number of visits to your website.  This includes people who visit your site multiple times per day.
  • Pageviews – The total number of times a page was viewed on your site.
  • Pages per Visit – The number of pages the average visitor viewed on your site.
  • Bounce Rate – The percentage of people who came to your site on one page and left without visiting another page.
  • Average Time on Site – The average amount of time a visitor spent while on your site.  This may include the time that someone left the browser window open with your site loaded while they went to lunch.
  • Percentage of New Visits – The percentage of visitors who have never visited your site before.  This is tracked via cookies, so users who clear out their cookies will be counted as a new visitor the next time they visit your site.

Here are some other things you may want to consider adding to your dashboard:

  • Traffic Sources Overview – This is something that is initially on your dashboard.  Find out more about website traffic sources.
  • Search Engines – Lists the search engines that are sending traffic to your site.  To add this information to your dashboard, click on the ‘Traffic Sources’ link in the navigation menu on the left and then select ‘Search Engines’ in the submenu that appears.  At the top of the report section, click the ‘Add to Dashboard’ button.
  • Keywords – Shows the keywords that people are typing in the search engines to find pages on your site.
  • Referring Sites – This is great information because it tells you what sites are sending the most traffic your way.
  • Top Content – The most popular content on your site based on page views.
  • Top Landing Pages – Lists the pages that people are coming to first and is prioritized by the number of entrances.
  • Top Exit Pages – List the pages that people are leaving your site from the most.

This is all pretty basic information and will get you familiar with using Google Analytics.  If you want to go a step farther, look into setting up goals. Let me know if you have any questions!  If you have any other metrics that you like to track, let me know by leaving me a comment.