Guide to Google Analytics

What is website validation and why is it important to have validating websites for accessibility, usability and Search Engine Optimisation?

1) Introduction – What is Analytics

Having an analytics package installed on your website is crucial for identifying how well your website is performing and pinpointing which areas of your site need work. We install Google Analytics on all of our clients' websites to give them an understanding of where their traffic is coming from and what keywords they are being found for. Once you know how your website is performing you will be able to take steps to improving the amount of quality traffic your site receives. By 'quality traffic' I mean traffic that results in enquiries or sales.

Google Analytics is a powerful tool for any business but you need to know where to look for the information that will make a difference to your site. This is intended to be a beginners to guide to setting up and using Analytics to improve your sites Return On Investment (ROI).

2) Installing Analytics – Getting set up

You will need a Google account to sign up to Analytics. To create a Google account go here http://www.google.com/accounts/

If your web design company / designer has set up Analytics for you just give them your email address and they will be able to grant you access from their Analytics account.

If you are setting up Analytics for your site by yourself then you will need FTP (File Transfer Protocol) access to your site's server unless you have a content managed system which allows you to add code to your site. FTP access allows you to upload and download HTML pages and images from your server.

To install Analytics on your site yourself go to www.google.com/analytics/ Sign in with your Google account Click the 'Sign Up' button, fill in your site's details and click 'continue' Agree to Google's T's and C's and click 'Create Account'

You will now be presented with some code that you will need to add to every page on your website. If you have a web developer updating your site for you just send this code to them and request that it be placed before the 'closing body tag' on every page in the site.

If you are familiar with HTML yourself then copy it into every one of your pages before the closing body tag. If you have no HTML or website experience then it's best to avoid doing this yourself as you can end up causing problems with your site. Send the code to your developer (or the person / company who manages your site) and have them add it.

3) Google Analytics Basics

Once you have either installed Analytics or have been granted access go to http://www.google.co.uk and log in to your Google account. Once logged in click on 'My Account' and you will see 'Analytics' as an option.

You will then see the name of the website(s) that you are monitoring. If you are an administrator on your account you will have the option to Edit or Delete on the right hand side of your site's name. By clicking 'Edit' you will be able to check whether your Analytics code has been installed correctly as well as being able to set up goals which you want to monitor (Goals will be covered later on).

Once you have clicked on 'View Report' beside your sites name you will be presented with the Google Analytic's dashboard. It's a user friendly interface but it does contain a lot of information. For the purpose of not getting bogged down with the amount of data available we are going to concentrate on three separate Metrics: Traffic Sources, Keywords and Goals.

4) Traffic Sources

Your 'Traffic Sources' will show you which sites have brought in traffic, so that you can see how many hits your website is getting. Traffic to your site will be separated into the following sources: Search Engines (such as Google and Bing), Referring Sites and Direct Hits. Direct hits occur when a user has typed in your site's domain name directly into a browser. It is often the case for sites that the majority of traffic will be coming from Google.

To view your traffic click on 'Traffic Sources' in the top left hand menu. Beside each traffic source metrics will be displayed which tell you the average number of pages visited, time on site, what percentage are new visits and the 'Bounce Rate' for the traffic source.

The 'Bounce Rate' is an important one to look at. If your site has a 100% bounce rate this means that all visitors are leaving (or bouncing off) your site straight away. The aim with your site is to bring in visitors that are interested in what your product or business has to offer so a low bounce rate is one the goals you should be aiming for.

If you are running a PPC /Adwords campaign you will be able to separate traffic which has come from the organic listings in Google and traffic which you have paid for. To do this you will need to link your Adwords account with your Analytics. See the Adwords section for help.

5) Keywords

Once you have clicked through to a search engine traffic source you will be presented with the keywords which visitors have typed in to end up on your site. This is valuable information. By looking at keywords which you have received hits from, you can then look at what position you rank for in a search engine for those keywords. You can then aim to improve your ranking for those terms. The keywords you are being found for can also give you an idea of what content you could add to your site to satisfy your users needs. i.e. If you have an Ecommerce site selling speakers and you notice a lot of people coming to your site after searching for “how to install speakers” you could then react to that and add some helpful content on the subject.

6) Goals

If you have a contact form on your site you can measure which hits have resulted in a user submitting an enquiry. If you have an E-commerce site you can measure which keywords result directly into sales.

You can set up to a maximum of 20 goals. To set up a goal you will need to know the URL of the page which you will want your user to end up on. This will normally be a 'contact response page' or a 'shopping cart receipt' page.

If you're not sure which URL you need to track send through a 'test order' or 'enquiry'. This will give you the URL that your users will end up at after submitting an enquiry or completing a purchase.

To set up goals you will need to click on 'Edit' beside your domain name when you are in your Overview Accounts page. Log in to your Google account, click on 'Analytics' and to the right of your domain account name you will see the Edit link. You will see the 'Goals' control panel underneath the Main website profile information panel. Click on 'Add Goal' which will be half way down the page. Give the Goal a name you will remember such as 'sales enquiry'. Select Active Goal and URL Destination for Goal Type. We're going to select an exact match of the URL. If the URL you are tracking is at www.polr.co.uk/enquiry.php enter ^/enquiry\.php Now when a user reaches that page, a goal will be recorded and you will be able to see how the user arrived at your site.

6)a) Advanced Segmentation

Once you have goals set up and you have had an enquiry through you will need to separate that enquiry from the rest of your traffic. Sign in to Analytics and click on your domain. Click on 'View Report' under Traffic Sources Overview. In the top right click on the drop-down menu where it says 'All Visits'. Scroll through 'Default Segments' until you reach 'Visits with conversions'. Select it and click apply. Now when you look at your traffic sources you will see 'Visits with conversions' underneath each traffic source. Click on that traffic source to learn more about the source of the conversion.

6)b) Date Comparison

Its useful to be able to instantly compare your current monthly traffic with the previous months. To do so, sign in to Analytics and click on your domain name. Then in the top right corner you will see the current months dates. Click on the drop-down arrow and you will see the time range which is currently being displayed. Click on 'compare to past' and hit apply. Analytics will then show you a graph of the two date ranges simultaneously as well as the data.

7) Filters

To make sure that visits to your site from either yourself or your staff are not being counted you need to filter out those visits. In the same section where you set up goals you can also add filters. To add a filter you will need to know your office networks IP address. Go to www.whatismyip.com to find out. Then you can create a filter to exclude all traffic from your IP address.

Log in to Analytics and click 'Edit' beside your domain name. Click on 'Add Filter' underneath the Goals Menu. Give the filter a name such as 'Office' and select 'Predefined Filter'. Then select 'Exclude traffic from the IP addresses that are equal to' and enter your IP address.