Google Analytics 101: Learn the Basics in 5 Easy Steps

learn Google Analytics

If you sell online, you need to learn Google Analytics — it’s that simple. 

Yeah, we know… Google Analytics seems like a complicated and time-consuming tool to understand and use, but that’s why you start with the basics, silly. 

And since Google Analytics will provide you with data on how your marketing efforts are working (so you know what to do more and less of), you really can’t continue to hide from it any longer. (Plus, it’s free!)

So if you’re ready to learn Google Analytics, here’s a five-step guide that’ll help you get started.

Step 1: Installation

Installation is not complicated, but if you’re not tech-savvy, you may need assistance from your webmaster to add the tracking code to your website.

If your eyes glazed over at the words “tracking code,” share this link to Google’s support file with the person who manages your website.

Step 2: Make Sure It’s Collecting Data

Wait 24 hours after the tracking code is installed and then make sure it’s collecting data.

To do that, follow these steps:

  • Go to the ‘Admin’ section of Analytics
  • Select ‘Property’
  • Select ‘Tracking Info’
  • Select ‘Tracking Code’

You want to see a screen like the one above where the status says that it’s receiving traffic.

If Google Analytics is already on your site but it hasn’t been monitored, I urge you to check this in your account. I’ve been asked to audit an account that’s been collecting data “for at least a year,” but it’s a flatline when I go into it to audit.

That happens when it’s not installed correctly or a website update broke something on the site.

Step 3: Look at Trends in Traffic

Are 1,000 visitors a day a good number? It’s hard to say when you don’t have anything to compare it to.

If you want to learn Google Analytics, start with a view of your traffic over a few months

Here’s how you get to it:

  • Select ‘Acquisition’
  • Select ‘All Traffic’
  • Select ‘Channels’
But Wait… What Exactly Is ‘Acquisition’ Anyway?

Acquisition will show you how you acquire traffic, such as through email marketing or social media. If you select a sub-category, like Channels, you will be able to dig deeper into that acquisition data to find more details like why you had a traffic spike or traffic dip. 

For example:

When I look at data for the above site over several months by week, I see that traffic has declined. At the end of March, they had 500+ users each day, but the beginning of March, they were as high as 1,300.

So what does that mean? The numbers alone don’t tell me, but lead me to ask “why?”

Perhaps this business cut down on their paid ads at the end of March which impacted their traffic.

Or, maybe the end of March is a slow season for their industry so it’s not cause for concern. As you get into Analytics more, remember to focus on trends and not raw data.

Step 4: Look at Sources of Traffic

Sources of traffic to your site should be of interest to your entire business since it’s the different ways people discovered you online.

  • Under ‘Acquisition,’ go to ‘Channels’ to view this information.

In the example above, we see most of the traffic is direct, which indicates the brand is well known. People go directly to the website by typing the URL or going to a saved bookmark for this site.

Traffic from email isn’t great — only 70 users compared to 2,800 for direct traffic.

Although email newsletters shouldn’t be 100% sales because that’s not enough to keep people subscribed, it could be that this one does not have enticing information inviting people to visit the business site.

Again, the numbers don’t explain — they lead you to ask questions.

(But if you’ve mastered this step and you’re ready to learn Google Analytics even more — check out the other channels available on Google’s support site.)

Step 5: Check Your Landing Pages

Your homepage is not always the entrance to your website. Visitors may come in through a different page because they saw it on social media or it was a result from a Google search.

Here’s how to view your landing pages:

  • Select ‘Behavior’
  • Select ‘Site Content’
  • Select ‘Landing Pages’

When you view this in Google Analytics, your #1 result may also be “/” as seen above which indicates the homepage, an expected landing page.

For this account, the traffic sources for lines 2 and 3 each account for almost 10% of the traffic so those seem to be key pages.

What I would do is look at the sources for lines 2 and 3 critically and ask if they are a good introduction to the site. Since those pages get a decent amount of traffic compared to other pages, they need a clear CTA (call-to-action) and copy that invites people to further engage with the site.

Bonus Step!

There is much more to Google Analytics than the few steps mentioned above, but it is enough to get you started without becoming overwhelmed by the mass of data.

Before I end though, I want to leave you with a bonus step.

The Search Console is a great tool for webmasters to monitor the health of a website and it’s equally helpful for marketers to monitor SEO factors, such as organic keywords used to get to your website.

The reason I consider it a “bonus” is because it’s not automatically connected to Google Analytics and many small business owners I’ve worked with didn’t know it existed. (Because they’re busy running a business!)

If you view Search Console in Acquisition and data is there, the two products are linked.

If you have a prompt to link Search Console to Google Analytics, you may be able to do so if you have Administrative rights on your account. Try to follow any prompts you see to link the two products.

If you cannot get very far, go back to your webmaster. This is easy for him or her to set up and you will be glad to get that extra data.

Give yourself time to learn Google Analytics because it’s not an easy product. However — you can take free online classes with Google Analytics Academy. And I offer some free tutorials on my business site with no login needed. So what are you waiting for?

We hope this helped you learn Google Analytics. Have more questions? Ask in comments!

About the Author

Tina Arnoldi

Tina Arnoldi is Analytics and AdWords Qualified, and one of the few people in the United States recognized as a Google Developer Expert (GDE) for marketing. Her agency, 360 Internet Strategy, is also a Google Partner. You can learn more about her on LinkedIn.

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