Understanding what’s happening on your website is so important. The good news is that the essential tools are free, and are more than powerful enough for most websites.
If you haven’t yet set up Google Analytics, drop what you’re doing and install them now. I’ve had a request to show how to do this.
I should stress this is Installing Google Analytics 101. I’ve written it to get beginners through the confusing maze of screens and terminology. It doesn’t cover everything – I’m assuming you have a simple static HTML site (no blogging or CMS application) or are using WordPress. You’ll need to look elsewhere if you’re after an answer to something obscure.
So here goes!
Do you have a Google account?
This means do you use Gmail or any other Google service? If you do, then you should be able to set up Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools right away. If you don’t have a Google Account, you can set one up here or the Google Analytics page itself.
Setting up Google Analytics
If you’re not already there, go to Google Analytics and log in.
You should see this page:
- Stay with the default button – Website
- Enter your website’s name – in my case, this is Writing for SEO
- Enter the site’s URL – in my case, www.writingforseo.org. The default is http://, but if your site has an https:// address, then you should use the pull down to select that. It’s important to get this right, because the code generated in a later step won’t work properly if you choose the wrong one
- Now select the relevant industry category and the Time Zone that applies best to your site
- Type in an account name – I’d say Writing For SEO, as well, because it will give me flexibility in the future
- Under Data Sharing Settings, leave With other Google products only checked. Most people I know don’t seem to like leaving the second box checked. It’s up to you. I’m not going to enter into a debate about how anonymous your data is if you check it
- Click the Get Tracking ID button
At first sight, the next screen is a little more complex, but stay on the tab you’re taken to and just look at the middle section:
- If you have set up parts of your site on a subdomain, such as shop.writingforseo.org or blog.writingforseo.org, then you should make the first slider ‘on’. If you have a choice, do not set your site up using subdomains. It will be stronger for SEO if everything is on the main domain, as Google treats subdomains as separate sites
- If I wanted to track sites at www.writingforseo.org, www.writingforseo.co.uk, www.writingforseo.org and www.writingforseo.de, then I’d make the second slider ‘on’.
- Save any changes you’ve made.
The next section is your tracking code that will need to be added to your site. I like to be careful at this stage and cut and paste the code into a text editor and save it as a text file or onto an Evernote note. Just so I have it to hand if I need it.
Ignore the stuff at the bottom of the screen about PHP Implementation, Dynamic Content Implementation and WAP sites. It’s for the geeks
Installing the code on your site
If you you’re using WordPress, the best way to install the code is to use a plug-in. Popular ones include GA-Google Analytics which is very simple, as it only needs you to paste in your Google Analytics ID (the bit that starts UA in the code you saved above) and that’s it.
I’ve been using Google Analyticator for some time and like it. In fact, it’s what I’m using on this site. It’s quite easy to set up and has some more advanced features which you may find useful later.
If you have a static HTML site, you will need to put the code you saved above into every page. You’ll need an FTP program to log on to your server and download each of your pages, and do the following for every one, perhaps in your FTP program or if it doesn’t allow you to edit pages, in a text editor:
- Search for the tag </head> (the closing tag </head>, not the one that says <head>)
- Paste in the code you saved above
- Save the page
- Upload it to your server
Once you’ve installed the Google Analytics code, you need to test if it’s working.
Is the code working?
It will take up to 24 hours for data to appear in your Google Analytics account, but you can check whether your code is installed correctly and Google Analytics is collecting data.
- Log into your Google Analytics account
- Click the Admin tag, then the Tracking code tag
- You’ll see a status message towards the top right of the screen:
- Waiting for Data means that your code has been detected on the home page of your website, but Google Analytics is still waiting for data. You’re probably OK. Come back after an hour or two and check that data is being collected
- Tracking Installed means the code has been detected and GA is collecting data. Great! All is well with Google Analytics on your site
- Tracking Not installed or Tracking Not Verified means there a problem and you should go through the installation instructions again to find out where you went wrong
Come back in 24 hours and check My Site and Reports for data.
I hope this gets you going with Google Analytics. I’ll be showing you how to set up Google Webmaster Tools and Bing Webmaster Tools in a later post.