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The Ultimate Guide to Getting Started with Google Analytics

Whether you’re running an SEO campaign, pay-per-click (PPC) campaign, or any other type of digital marketing campaign for clients, there’s no question that Google Analytics is one of the most powerful tools to help you measure and manage your results.

Regardless of the type of marketing you’re doing, measuring performance over time, and tracking the campaign’s ROI is crucial to demonstrating value for clients and retaining them over the long-run. Aside from being an incredibly valuable tool in the marketer’s toolkit, the platform is also completely free. 

In this guide, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know to get started with the platform, including:

Let’s get started.

Defining Digital Analytics

Before we install Google Analytics, let’s start with the basics: defining a purchase funnel. 

In marketing, a purchase funnel refers to different stages that a customer interacts with the business. At a high-level, a purchase funnel involves three steps:

  • Acquisition: This step refers to building user awareness and interest in the brand. Examples of acquisition metrics include sessions, % new sessions, and new users.
  • Behavior: Next we have the behavior step, which refers to how users engage with the business. Examples of behavior metrics include bounce rate, pages per session, and average session duration.
  • Conversion: Finally, a conversion occurs when someone has met your business goals. For example, a conversion can include everything from an email signup, a free trial, or a purchase.

Now that we’ve reviewed the basics of marketing analytics, let’s look at installing Google Analytics.

How to Install Google Analytics

Assuming you don’t already have a Google Analytics account, the first installation step is to create an account by clicking “Start For Free” at the Google Analytics homepage.

1. Account Setup: Next, you can type in any account name and you'll also have the option to link an organization and view your account data sharing settings.

2. What do you want to measure? Google Analytics will then ask whether you want to measure a website, a mobile app, or both.  If you want to measure a website, you don't need to do anything, because "Web" is selected by default. If you want to learn more about connecting apps and web analytics, simply click "Using App + Web properties" in the "Read further" section.

3. Property Setup: Next, you'll need to set up your property by simply adding a name and URL. You can also optionally select the industry category and adjust the time zone you want to report in.

4. Install Your Tracking Code: After you've created a property, you'll then be given a JavaScript tracking code, which includes your property's tracking ID. By adding this code to your website pages, this allows Google Analytics to measure user behavior and send the data back to your account.

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5. Review Your Realtime Overview: Finally, after you've added the tracking code to your side you can check the Realtime Overview report, which shows current user activity, to ensure everything is installed and working properly.

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Conversion Tracking with Google Analytics

Now that we’ve reviewed the installation process, let’s look at a key part of Google Analytics: conversion tracking. 

UTM Tracking with Google Analytics

As mentioned, regardless of the type of marketing campaign you’re running, you can track its performance in Google Analytics through “campaign tagging”. Campaign tags are extra information that you add to the end of your marketing URLs, and is also referred to as “UTM tracking”.

There are five different tags you can add to URLs that help you track key information about the campaign’s traffic, these include:

  • Medium: This identifies the mechanism through which you communicated with a user, for example, “cpc” for paid advertising, “email” for an email campaign, and so on.
  • Source: This tracks where the user originally came from, for example, “google” or “facebook”.
  • Campaign: This identifies the campaign associated with the user, for example, “spring_sale”.
  • Content: This lets you differentiate between multiple promotions of a campaign, for example, “shoe_ad” or “10_percent_off”.
  • Term: This is used to identify the keyword associated with a paid search campaign other than Google Ads, so you would typically only use this with Bing or Yahoo! ads.

A UTM code is created by adding “?” and then the tracking variable, followed by “&” if you’re using multiple tags in one URL. Here’s an example of a UTM code that includes all five tags:

yoursite.com/your-page/?utm_source=bing&utm_medium=cpc &utm_campaign=spring_sale&utm_content=shoe_ad&term=boots

Check out our guide to UTM Tracking if you want to learn more about this powerful feature.

Setting up Goals with Google Analytics

Aside from UTM tracking, we can also use the Google Analytics feature called “Goals” for conversion tracking. As Google describes:

Business goals are actions you want your user to take on your website. Each time a user completes one of your business goals, we call this a “conversion.” This could be signing up for a newsletter or buying a product. But in Google Analytics, you use a feature called “Goals” to track these conversions. Once you configure Goals, Analytics will create conversion-related metrics. like the total number of conversions, as well as the percentage of users that converted.

In addition to setting up Goals, you can also set up a “goal funnel”, which lets you visualize where users are dropping out of the conversion process.

In order to create a Goal in Google Analytics, you first need to go to the “Admin” section, click on “Views”, “Goals”, and then “New Goal”. As you can see below, you can choose to start with a template for common goals such as revenue, acquisition, inquiry, or engagement, or you can create a custom goal:

After that, we can choose the trigger associated with the Goal. There are four triggers we can use including:

  • Destination
  • Duration
  • Pages
  • Events

For example, below I’ve used the “Create an account” goal template and set the destination equal to “mywebsite.com/accounts/thank-you”:

We can also assign a monetary value to each goal by switching the “Value” toggle to “On” and setting the amount. After that, you can optionally toggle “Funnel” on to specify a path you expect traffic to take towards the destination. Finally, we can also verify the goal and see how often it would have converted in the past 7 days to make sure it’s set up properly.

6 Key Metrics to Track in Google Analytics

Now that we have Google Analytics installed and our conversion tracking setup, let’s look at 6 key metrics to track. As discussed in our blog post on the subject, these metrics allow you to cut through any confusion and give you an accurate picture of how you're doing overall.

1. New vs. Returning Visitors: This tells you how many visitors are brand new to your website and how many have visited at least once before. You can find this metric by going to Audience >  Behavior > New vs. Returning:

2. Traffic Sources: This metric provides a breakdown of where your traffic is coming from including, organic search, PPC, direct, and so on. This will give you an idea of which channels are performing well and which may have room to grow. You can find the breakdown under All Traffic > Channels:

3. Landing Pages: If you’re driving traffic to landing pages, studying their performance can reveal crucial information such as how long they’re staying on the site, if they’re bouncing or not, and so on. You can find this under Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages:

4. Bounce Rate: Bounce rate measures the percentage of visitors that leave your website after viewing only one page. To see the bounce rate for all pages simply go to Behavior > All Pages:

5. Exit Pages: An exit page is the page that a visitor was on right before they left your site. An exit indicates that the visitor viewed more than one page, and can help you identify potential issues with your site that are preventing people from converting. You can find your top exit pages by going to Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages:

6. Conversions: At the end of the day, the metric that matters most to businesses is almost always conversions. As mentioned, you can set up your conversions based on Goals and you can view this metric by going to Conversions > Goals > Overview:

3 Different Types of Google Analytics Reports

Now that we’ve reviewed several key metrics to track, let’s look at 3 different client reports to create, these include:

1. Customer Acquisition Report: 

A Customer Acquisition Report includes metrics that are key to understanding which channels you should double down and which need work, The data shared by a customer acquisition report includes:

  • Sessions
  • % New Sessions
  • Bounce Rate
  • Revenue
  • Average Order Value
  • Conversion Rate

2. Keyword Analysis Report

If you’re running an SEO campaign for clients, a Keyword Analysis Report includes metrics for:

  • Unique Visitors
  • Goal Completions
  • Goal Conversion Rate
  • Average Page Load Time (sec)

You can also include engagement metrics such as:

  • Unique Pageviews
  • Pages/Visit
  • Avg. Time on Page
  • Bounce Rate
  • ExitPercentage
  • Goal Conversion Rate

3. Social Media Report

Social media has the potential to send a lot of traffic and conversions to any business. A social media report allows you to communicate your performance to clients with the following metrics:

  • Visits
  • Social Actions
  • Goal Completions
  • Goal Conversion Rate
  • Goal Value

Automated Google Analytics Reporting with AgencyAnalytics

The one challenge that many marketers have with Google Analytics is that it can get confusing because of the overwhelming amount of data at your fingertips. To address this, we built a web analytics dashboard template that eliminates irrelevant data and only presents you and your clients with the metrics that matter most.

Aside from simplifying the analytics process, the dashboard automates the entire reporting process by giving clients their own login so they can view user events in real-time. Alternatively, you can use our web analytics report template and schedule automated reports on a periodic basis. In particular, this template includes the following 11 sections:

  1. Goal Conversions
  2. Goal Value
  3. Conversion Rate
  4. Page Views
  5. Bounce Rate
  6. Traffic Sources (Percentage Breakdown)
  7. Sessions
  8. Users (Unique Visitors)
  9. Pages per session (Pages/Session)
  10. Top Landing Pages (By Page Views)
  11.  Top Exit Pages

Summary: Google Analytics Reporting

As discussed, analyzing customer behavior throughout a conversion funnel is key to improving performance over time. Regardless of the type of campaign you’re managing, Google Analytics is a powerful tool that offers a tremendous amount of data and customization. That said, with this huge amount of data it's easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to client reporting. To simplify this, we’ve put together a prebuilt analytics dashboard template that delivers key insights to clients and automates your reporting process.

If you’re ready to get started with our web analytics template, you can start your 14-day free trial here. Also, be sure to check out our latest upgrade to our Google Analytics integration, which includes 79 new metrics that you can report on.

Written by Peter Foy

Peter Foy is a content marketer with a focus on SaaS companies. Based in Montreal, QC, when he’s not writing or managing ad campaigns he’s usually studying data science and machine learning.