An Introduction To Google Analytics – Step by Step Guide
This is a newbie-friendly guide to Google Analytics (GA). Though I say it right now – I guarantee you will become a pro by the time you’re done reading this.
Without wasting any time;
let’s get started!
What is Google Analytics Exactly?
It’s a powerful software developed by Google that lets you and other webmasters track traffic and traffic patterns on their sites.
This is to improve their websites and consequently offer a better experience for the web plus earn more money for their efforts.
And it’s free.
GA is a must-have tool, and I don’t care who you are; if you want more traffic – you need to have it.
And this Google Analytics guide will show plenty of reasons why.
Note: Before we start with the guide properly…
Since this a beginner’s guide, there’s a tonne to cover.
But GA also offers a lot of advanced features. Features I won’t be showing you today.
Because if you never used Google Analytics before, you will feel daunting, and you might just decide to skip it.
So you will see me jump over entire sections.
How to Connect Your Site With Google Analytics: Tutorial
Let me guess.
You installed GA for your website, you opened eagerly, ready to plow through data only to faced with a massive realization:
“Hey, I have no clue what I’m doing here; and what I’m supposed to be doing.
It’s smarter to learn first, lest I make some grievous mistake”!
You probably didn’t use “lest,” but I’m pretty sure the rest of my prediction is spot on.
You have a whole slew of things to learn, and the first one on the list is learning to connect your WordPress website and your GA account.
The best and easiest way is to use a dedicated plugin.
Because it’s easy much easier than doing it manually.
But also because, and this is a more critical reason, Google Analytics will quickly become one of the most used tools in your arsenal. This means you need to have quick access to it at all times to avoid wasting your time.
The good news is that with a dedicated plugin, you can import GA’s precious data right into your WordPress dashboard.
And it’ll always be there telling what’s happening with your website.
I wanted to cover it here, but upon digging just a bit, I found that Aayush has already written an excellent guide and comparison of 3 dedicated plugins for GA and WP integrations
Check it out below:
Finally, before we begin, do know that GA needs several days, or preferably a week, to start showing you useful data. So the first time you log in, things will look slightly different from what you’ll see below.
But once GA populates your dashboard with data, then you’ll notice the similarities.
Google Analytics Home – a Treasure Trove of Useful Data
When you log in to your GA home page, you will get a full breakdown of what is going on with your site.
There’s a lot to cover, so I divided it into 2 quick parts.
Here’s what you can see:
- Users– how many people visited your site in the last 7 days
- Sessions– how many sessions did these users have
- Bounce rate– how many of them left after perusing one page only.
- Session Duration– what is the average time on site
- Live now– how many people are there right now
- Location– where do your visitors come from
- Times of the day when you get most visitors– when is your audience most active.
- Traffic channels/source medium/ referrals– I cover this in detail below.
- What pages do your users visit– most visited pages
- how are your active users trending overtime– Are you growing or plateauing
- What are your top devices– Devices folks use to visit your site
- How well do you retain users– Is your content engaging
Just like the name suggests, GA gives you an overview of visitors to your site.
- You can see how many of them are
- What countries they’re from
- What pages on your site are most trafficked
Note: and each report from the overview section can be examined in detail further. Just click on where you wish to go next.
However, real-time reporting is semi-useless, to be perfectly honest.
It is an excellent feature, but it only really works if you have an established site with at least a few hundred visitors per day. Then you can glean some valuable information from it.
If you have a new site, you will most likely find that there’s not much to look at here.
So let’s move on quickly to a place where there is much to look at…
This is the most valuable part of GA.
Because here, you will find aggregated all information Analytics have accrued on your site over time. And that’s much more valuable to you because you will be able to recognize traffic patterns.
The areas that are good and areas where you need to work on some more.
Here what it looks like when I click on the “Overview” tab:
Here’s the breakdown of one week’s worth of traffic for my site:
- Users– how many users found my site through any medium
- New users– how many of those were new users
- Sessions– total number of sessions
- Sessions per user– Do people click around my site.
- Pageviews– total number of pageviews
- Average session duration– how long do folks stay (some will stay longer, some shorter, so this is an average)
- Bounce rate– How many people leave after viewing just one page.
These are UX metrics, which are significant SEO signals too. In other words, these can boost or ruin your entire SEO campaign.
For example, Google likes to test new pages that otherwise should not rank (because they’re fresh), so they will temporarily boost a new page to rank for a few queries and get traffic. And then, they will watch to see how users that found that page through Google behave.
If they stayed and seemed to like your content, then that temporarily boosted page might just settle in that new spot Google basically rewarded to it.
However, if people leave your site in a hurry, you can expect that page to return to the bottomless pit of Google’s SERPs, and also, it’ll have trouble ranking from then forward.
Not impossible, though, because significantly changing the page resets that filter, and that Google has to test again.
One week is the default time frame, and it’s excellent for a quick overview.
But if you want to get more info, and especially to see your traffic trend over time (whether it’s going up, down, or is plateauing), you can simply change the date parameters.
Here, I changed the date to see my traffic numbers from January first till March twenty-first.
You can see I had 438 visitors to the site in January, but in February, which is a bit shorter month, I had 517 visitors.
Now in March, I already have 410 visitors, and there are still eleven days left.
Overall, these are small numbers, but it’s growth nonetheless, and I’m happy with it as my site is actually a portfolio site to me. I use it to showcase my writing work and not to try and get more traffic.
Here you have two tabs to explore
Why is this important?
This info is important because you need to know who visits your site.
And by who, I do not mean their names, but their age, interests, and whether they’re men or women.
Imagine if mostly men visit your site, and you change your site’s theme and background image to be a rosy pink, with lots of flowery arrangements.
I think that kind of experience would repel most men as it’ll strike them as too feminine.
Another advantage of knowing the predominant gender of your audience is the quality of referral traffic.
I mean, if you sell makeup, and you publish a guest post somewhere to get links and referral traffic, and then you see that traffic flowing through that link is mostly men, then you know you should not guest post there again.
Because, unless these men are clowns looking to buy makeup, they won’t be purchasing anything from you any time soon
Instead, they will quickly leave, and then you’ve wasted your time, your money, and you potentially hurt your SEO because these folks are pogo-sticking and bouncing way too fast and are thus sending the wrong kind of signals to Google.
The age and gender data of your audience is invaluable info to have.
Here you also have two tabs to explore:
In the language section, you can see the language people browsers are set on.
Really if you have a site in English, then people will find you using English phrases.
But this info tells you what market you reach the most because the language people set their browsers to indicate what country they’re from.
For example, there is Chrome for American English, for British English, Canadian. Australian… and so on.
Note: in the image above, you can see that 85% of my total audience comes from the US and Great Britain. Which suits me just fine as those are the audience markets I want to target.
And here’s a nice visual representation of it all.
Here you can see the general patterns of your traffic’s behavior.
For example, in the “New vs. Returning” section, you can see how new visitors who never before visited your site behaves, i.e.,
- how long they stay,
- what their bounce rate is
- average session duration
And you can compare these metrics with those of the returning visitors.
Usually, the latter group’s number will be much better because they came back to your site, which means they liked what they saw the first time.
Usually, returning visitors offer the most potential for your brand because they are the ones most likely to buy and become your brand’s evangelists.
Finally, there’s the engagement table where you can see the breakdown of all sessions your visitors had, divide by length of sessions.
For example, I can see that the 1460 session lasted less than 10 s. And I also know that my site’s overall bounce rate sits at around 80%.
That tells me that my site is slow and that these people do not engage. They simply get tired of waiting and leave.
I admit this is new info for me, and I will have to change hosting soon, as the basic Bluehost package is obviously pretty basic. Good enough to keep you online but not good enough for anything else.
The technology tab is something where you will rarely visit.
The reasons are that the data it provides is not so actionable.
For example, you can see what browsers people use, which can help you determine how your ads will perform. Because some browsers like Google Chrome, for example, are built to support ads (especially Adwords), while others like Mozilla actively try to block them.
So if your audience uses mostly Mozilla, then you might need to look into other monetization opportunities (for example, affiliate marketing is a superb choice as it can work with decent but not large traffic numbers)
The other thing that can see is the internet providers people use. I think this can help if you need to know whether your site is super slow to certain segments of your audience.
What I mean is, a slow website on a fast 5G network in the US feels much different than a slow website on a 3G network in India, Serbia, or some other countries.
Again something to keep in mind though it’s not really actionable because you will always want a faster website, regardless of the browser people use and irrespective of the network they use to hook to the net.
This info is essential.
First, you can see how many people visit your site on desktop vs. mobile.
Mighty important because you want to model your content based on how people experience it. If they primarily use desktop, then you can have longer-form content that is highly readable and scannable.
If it’s primarily mobile, you can aim for shorter content that thoroughly answers a specific query.
Remember, people on mobile are on the go and are looking for quick answers.
While those desktop visitors are doing careful research and potentially shopping;
You can also see which devices people use.
This is less actionable data, but if you see that a certain device has an insane bounce rate and low session time, then it could be possible that your site doesn’t render well on that phone.
Pro tip: You can use the PWA plugin to turn your website into an app for smartphone users. You can also use AMP to make your site lighter and load superfast on smartphones.
So, if the numbers are terrible and many people use that specific type of phone, it might be worthwhile to examine what’s going on.
Here you can see in a visual form how intuitively how well your site is interlinked.
That is, once your visitor lands on any page on your site, do they go deeper from there? And can they go more in-depth?
Because if you see a page that no one ventures from further into your site, it means that either the page is not engaging or there are not enough visible internal links.
For example, I recently published a power word copywriting monster guide. It is a humongous page with many links on them, some of them internal.
However, I could obviously do a better job at adding internal links because out of 26 visitors to that page, none went to any other page of my site.
Of course, I will need more traffic to get better insights, but this is a clue, nonetheless.
Acquisition- How You Acquire Your Traffic
This is another major area of Google Analytics.
Here you can see your traffic breakdown across all channels.
Because the big difference between GA and GSC is that Google Analytics shows you all traffic channels and gives you a more accurate overview of your marketing efforts, where you’re weak, and where you’re killing it.
By clicking on the overview, you will see a pie chart of how your traffic sources are distributed.
Here’s what it means
- Organic search– Google Traffic from keywords
- Direct– When someone enters your site’s (or your post’s) address in the browser
- Referral– traffic flowing through backlinks
- Social– traffic through social media links
- Other– Google has no idea where these people came from
Next, we go “All Traffic/Channels,” and there you can see this info again, but shown in a different format. And what’s neat is that you can see how each traffic channel differs in user behavior and UX metrics.
I can see that my average organic search session duration is 2.33s, which is decent, and an excellent sign my content is engaging.
However, surprising to me is that traffic from social and referral stays, for both channels longer than 3m. This is weird, especially social traffic, which is known to be ice cold.
I don’t know if this is a pattern or just a fluke, and I will need more data to get a clearer picture of what’s going on.
Next, I will dig deeper into the “Referral” section because it’s worth knowing which sites send me the most traffic. (note: and I will change the time frame to 30 days for better insight)
Ok, immediately I see that zest.is my best referrer by far, they have sent me exactly 100 visitors in the last 30 days. And these folks are engaged, too, as time on site is 3.12s, and bounce rate is 80%.
Note: in the bottom right corner, I can see all my referrers. I just need to increase the number of sources GA shows me. By default, it’s 10, and they’re showing in descending order, from the highest number of visitors sent to the lowest.
Did you know that you can link together with your GA and Search Console for a full overview of how your site performs in Google and beyond?
Yes, you can, and I show you how below in the FAQ section of this post.
But here I want to quickly break down the data you can find here:
a) Landing Pages
Any page on your site can be considered a landing page.
That is because each page has a goal built into it, even if that goal is as simple as clicking on an internal link and thus “converting.”
Here you see how visitors respond on a per-page basis on your site:
This report shows you which country’s audience visits the most and whose audience engages the most with your site.
For example, I can see that India’s traffic has a 61% bounce rate, which is significantly better than the behavior of traffic from Canada. They leave my site without clicking anywhere else 90% of the time.
Here you can see traffic breakdown by devices and how each segment of your audience behaves regarding the device they use to browse your site.
Queries report shows you phrases your website ranks for. And they’re given in descending order, meaning those with more impressions and click come first.
The info to look at is
- Search query
- ctr (click-through rate)
- average posting
As you can see, you can get valuable data from GSC (Google search console) directly to your GA dashboard.
But should you do it?
That’s for you to decide. I personally like to log into my GSC at least once per week.
It’s the same info, but it’s much more pleasant to the eye as here in GA, the info is all crammed into a small space, and you have to almost squint to see certain things.
But maybe that’s just me as I wear glasses.
It’s possible that people without them can see everything just fine.
(FAQ) Question Beginners Often Ask About Google Analytics- Answered!
a) What is Google Analytics, and How Does it Work?
GA is free, too, developed by Google that helps you track traffic patterns and measure your site’s performance over time. It’s an invaluable tool for marketers, and anyone serious about making money online needs to get it ASAP.
GA works by inserting its code snippet into the HTML of your site; code snippet, which then works together with cookies people browsers, save all the time to mine valuable data about your site’s visitors.
This can get complicated fast, so I’ll stop writing here.
The main thing to know is that it works!
b) Is it Legal to Track People with Google Analytics?
Yes, it is legal.
Don’t worry. Most of them do without knowing what they’re accepting, and to make things easy on yourself, you need a cookie plugin.
I recommend GDPR cookie consent as it makes your site automatically compliant with the EU law regulations.
c) Is Google Analytics Free? REALLY? So There Are no Hidden Fees?
GA is free for all and indefinitely.
Except if you’re very big, more than 10 million hits a month. Google Analytics counts any request made to the server as a hit.
Once you’re past 10 million visits, you’ll have to switch to Google Analytics Premium.
d) My Google Analytics Tracks Me Too. How Can I Disable That?
You need to filter your IP address.
Then you’ll be invisible. Or you can simply use any of the plugins like MonsterInsights that filter your visits automatically.
A serious business owner’s goal is to have so much traffic that even if their GA tracks them too, does it really matter?
e) Google Analytics is so Robust. I don’t Know Where to Start First. Where?
Focus on the UX metrics for your site.
Are people engaged with your content, and are they staying put and exploring your site?
Or are they leaving in a hurry like mice desert a sinking ship?
That’s the info you need to get ASAP because it will determine the outcome of all your SEO efforts.
Remember, Google will boost you if they see folks love your site.
f) Can I Connect My Google Analytics With Google Search Console?
Yes, you can. And it’s straightforward.
So go and on the left bottom corner click the “Admin” button:
Next, go “Property Settings.”
And then scroll down till you see Search Console/Adjust Search Console.
Click it and simply add a new property.
I can’t show you here because I already added it a long time ago, you just need to copy/paste your GSC verification code, hit save, and you’re done. Again if you’re using a plugin, it will automatically prompt you to do that as well.
g) How Much Traffic Do I Need to Make The Most Use Out of Goggle Analytics?
GA works as soon as you add the code to your HTML header. However, it will take some time for you to get useful data you can actually use to improve your online business.
You need to set up GA right away but then forget about it until you average 100 visitors per day.
Then come back to it and see what useful info you can glean from it.
I bet you there’ll be a tonne of it.
Use Google Analytics because it’s free and robust.
It gives you actionable data to work with. If you’re the kind of person that wants superb results for their site and online business, then you ought to study your analytics periodically.
All that’s left is for you to get to work, get stuff done, and get better results. If you’re confused between using Jetpack analytics or GA, here’s an article to help you:
If you have any questions about Google Analytics, you can drop me a comment below.
Great guide. All the details are perfect for beginners that start using Google Analytics. Thanks for sharing Nikola.