Google Analytics is a free and easy (yet powerful) way to measure and understand your website traffic.
The beauty of Google Analytics is that it is great for almost any level of knowledge. If you simply want to know the basics about how your site is performing, you can find helpful stats on the homepage when you log in. If you want a deep dive into your stats to understand and optimise basically anything about your site – you can do that too.
I’ll put it this way – with Google Analytics you can find out how many people bought something online from you last month in just a few clicks. With a few more clicks you could work out how many people in Thailand visited your “About Us” page last year via social media on an Apple device, and how long that page took for them to load on average.
[Please note: I’m not being paid to endorse this product, I just like it]
What I’m saying is that anyone with any level of digital skill can use it – and not just for website stats either. Another great thing about Google Analytics is that because it’s been around since 2005 (and is made by Google), it easily connects with a huge variety of other online platforms.
So, due to how incredibly useful it is, its versatility for any level of users, and how well it plays with others (and the fact it is free) – I strongly recommend adding Google Analytics to your website.
Why You Need Analytics
Let’s take a quick step back. For almost any website, analytics is a must-have. Analytics lets you know how many people are visiting your site, where they are coming from (geographically or online), what they are doing on your site, and more. This data can be *incredibly* useful.
Perhaps you’ll learn that most of your users are coming from France – so you should think about offering content/products in French. Maybe you’ll see people leave your site immediately when they visit via their phone – meaning redesigning your mobile site is a must. You could find out that your “Contact Us” page loads really slowly which in turn is driving away sales (and driving down trust in your brand) – which tells you that it’s time to remake that page!
Almost anything you learn from Google Analytics can be useful if you respond to it in the right way. These include surface-level questions that almost everyone wants to know about their site, such as:
- how many people visit your site each day
- how long people stay on your site
- what pages people visit the most
- which websites and search terms drive most people to your site
All of these questions can inform when and where you focus your attention on both building a better website and advertising your site. If you’re a new site getting up to speed, if you do a lot of business online, or if you simply want to improve your digital offering – you need analytics. You don’t have to do anything incredibly complicated to generate value from Google Analytics either – just think of questions and try and answer them.
Check in on your stats regularly, and try to spot trends. If something looks strange, investigate it – you’ll usually find out something worth knowing.
The more time you spend understanding your analytics, the more value it will add to your website/business. By understanding where the majority of your website visitors come from you can improve your marketing efforts. By looking at your most visited pages, you can understand what it is people like about your site (and do it more). By tracking trends you can plan for the future.
Easy To Set Up
To add Google Analytics to your site, you simply set up a free account with Google (here) and add a bit of code to the header of every page. If you are using WordPress (or pretty much any website builder for that matter) you can likely find a plugin/addon/extension that will take care of the setup for you.
This is one of the big advantages of Google Analytics – because it’s been around for so long the integration process has generally been smoothed out by most platforms. This makes it incredibly convenient to get started. If you have any technical skills at all, however, I would recommend just adding the code directly to your site. This is because with increasing amounts of regulations around data sharing if you can cut out any intermediate parties with your analytics then that’s probably a good idea. It’s honestly very easy, and a one-off process anyway.
[Guide from Google Analytics: “Get Started with Analytics”]
[Guide from Google Analytics: “Data Sharing Settings”]
Note: Due to regulations such as GDPR, you need to make sure your cookie and privacy policies cover Google Analytics (or any other analytics platform you use). I personally recommend using a service like Iubenda to make your life much easier in this regard.
If you mess anything up during the setup, don’t worry! As long as the code is in the right place, you can reset all your options at Google anytime by simply starting a new Property and deleting the old one.
Honestly, as you get more used to using it, you’ll probably add in more advanced stuff anyway, so your initial set-up is just to get you started.
Easy to Use
Once you’ve set up Google Analytics, the world (of stats about your website) is your oyster! Well… after a couple of weeks, that is. You need to leave it on to collect stats, and you want to compare those stats to previous stats.
Let me explain – one of the easiest and most powerful things to do is simply to compare your performance this week to your performance last week. Did you get more users? Did people stay on your site for longer? In general, are your stats moving in a positive direction?
You can start answering these questions for yourself after two weeks. You can compare “this period” to “the previous period” in any report in Google Analytics, and what this means is that you select a date range, and you can see if it was better than the same period of time directly before it. Even better than that, you can choose to compare to the previous year (once you have had GA installed for over a year of course), as then you are taking into account any seasonal fluctuations.
These options are in the top corner of every page, making it take seconds to pull a report. You can use any of the 100+ pre-built reports too, which are categorised and labelled to make finding what you want as easy as possible. There is also a great Google Analytics app so you can get all this on the go.
More advanced users can download reports, cross-reference data, build dashboards, and filter and segment results too. You decide how much effort you want to put into getting the right results. Even if you put in the bare minimum of effort, and just click on the menus you will find a cornucopia of information.
And yes, it can be overwhelming. Don’t let that stop you though. Take what you need from it, and deal with the rest later! If you do find it overwhelming – Google is trying to deal with that too. Instead of having to search through their reports to find data, you can literally just type questions into the search bar and it will try and answer you. It is honestly quite freaky how well this works.
It Integrates With Everything!
There are literally thousands of things that Google Analytics can integrate with, from email clients to eCommerce platforms, to other stats providers. Google Analytics is universal in a way that most things on the internet are not. This means that you can almost always combine your data from any services you are using with Google Analytics data, to make your life a bit easier and your reports more consistent.
The top three integrations in my book are all with other Google products. They are:
- Google Search Console – so you can see how your site is performing on Google Search.
- Google Ads – so you can set up goals in Google Analytics and import them into Google Ads (and then report on them!)
- Google Data Studio – so you create beautiful and customisable dashboards (or reports) from your Google Analytics data incredibly easily.
All three of these are incredibly useful for all but the smallest of websites. You can link your Google Analytics account to so many more things too though if you like, and even if you don’t it will automatically sort data for you so it can tell you how many people came to your site via Facebook etc.
There is so much to Google Analytics, and yet it’s so simple that anyone can use it. It’s not an exaggeration to say that it can improve your online efforts dramatically without too much effort.
If you’re not using Google Analytics, then install it and try it out. Ask it questions, poke around, and work out trends. It can tell you so much if you make it part of your working routine.