In this article, we’ll take a detailed look at how small businesses can set up Google Analytics to track and measure their customer or visitor’s activity. By using this powerful and free resource, business owners can make better strategic decisions rooted in data, not assumptions.
I got my first taste of Google Analytics about six years ago after starting a fantasy football blog. At the time, I was just getting started with content marketing and SEO, so I thought running a blog would give me an opportunity to experiment and learn. After a couple of months, I started receiving emails from companies looking to promote their business on my blog.
I was excited at the opportunity to earn passive income from my side-project. However, these companies were asking for information about my website that I had never thought about before. They wanted to know how many visitors I got every month, the location of that traffic, and what their activity level was like once they landed on my site.
I started looking for a tool that would help me answer these questions – I quickly stumbled onto Google Analytics.
What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a freemium service provided by Google that helps website administrators collect and comprehend important data about their site and its visitors. Simply add the Google Analytics tracking code to your website and the software starts collecting a wealth of data.
Administrators can access this data in a completely customizable dashboard that includes a suite of free analytics tools offering more visibility and insight. There is a premium version of Google Analytics called Analytics 360, but most small business owners can get more than enough value from the free version.
Who Needs Google Analytics?
Everyone who has a website should strongly consider using Google Analytics – after all, it’s free!
Small business owners who use a website to direct customers to their brick-and-mortar store can use Google Analytics’ geo-location features to determine from what city their website visitors are coming. This data can help determine what market to spend advertising budget and where to open additional locations, among other business decisions.
Solopreneurs looking to grow their online presence can track whether they are driving visitors from their social channels. Even eCommerce stores running on platforms like Shopify can use Google Analytics to track conversions from their pay-per-click initiatives.
If you have a website and are interested in seeing more data and analytics about your visitors (which you should be), then you need Google Analytics.
Setting Up Google Analytics
Setting up Google Analytics can seem overwhelming at first – trust me, I was there – but it’s surprisingly easy.
You will need two things to start:
- Access to your website’s backend (source code or administrative dashboard)
- An active Google Account (create one here)
With those ready, follow these four steps to set up your Google Analytics.
Step 1. Create Your Analytics Account
Navigate to the Analytics homepage.
Here, you’ll be able to sign in if you already have an Analytics account or sign up for free if it’s your first time.
If you are creating a new account, you will need to provide some important information such as:
What Subsidiary Google Products to Share Your Analytics With (such as Google Ads, AdSense, BigQuery, Display & Video 360, Campaign Manager)
Step 2. Find Your Tracking ID and Tracking Code
After you complete that information and approve the terms and conditions, you’ll be given a Tracking ID and Tracking Code to add to your website. Your ID will be a unique string of numbers similar to (UA-129902332-1). This ID is tied specifically to your Analytics account.
The Tracking Code, which you need to copy and paste on your website, will look similar to:
Your code will include your unique ID (which begins “UA”).
Step 3. Add Your Tracking Code to Your Website
Google Analytics needs the Tracking Code to be present on every page that you want to analyze. There are several ways to add your Tracking Code to your website, and many will depend on the platform you used to build your website.
For instance, if you are using Shopify, you can navigate to Online Store > Preferences to add your Google Analytics account directly.
Because more than 30 percent of the internet uses WordPress, we’ll look at how to add Google Analytics to your WordPress site.
You have two main options to install Google Analytics on your WordPress website. The first option is to install it to the header source code manually. The header source code is the best place to install the Tracking Code because it should be present on every page on your website. If you have a page that doesn’t use your universal header, you’ll need to install the Tracking Code to that individual page.
To add the Google Analytics code to your header, navigate to Appearance > Editor within your WordPress dashboard. Then, open the Theme Header (header.php) file and paste your code immediately after the <head> in the code.
Update the file once you have finished.
Alternatively, WordPress users can find and install plugins that integrate with Google Analytics. In most cases, you’ll only need to paste your Analytics ID into a field during the plugin setup to add the Tracking Code to your site.
Step 4. Test Your Tracking
After you add the Tracking Code to your website, you should test to make sure the code is installed properly. Navigate back to the Tracking Code page in your Analytics dashboard and send test traffic to your website.
If it’s working, you will see an active user labeled as test traffic.
Get Familiar with the Dashboard
After activating Google Analytics, you should spend time getting familiar with the Analytics’ dashboard. It comes equipped with several automatic reports, but users can customize the dashboards and reporting.
The Analytics’ side panel has several sections that you will want to explore:
Real-Time: This section will show you data on users that are currently on your website.
Audience: This section provides details about your visitors based on an adjustable timeframe. In addition to the number of users, average time on your website, and location, you can also see age, gender, interest, browser, device, and many other user-specific variables.
Acquisition: This section shows reports on the channels that are bringing you traffic. You can assess whether visitors are finding you through organic search, social media, Google Ads, or other mediums.
Behavior: This section dives into the visitor’s path once they are on your website. You can see what pages get the most traffic or which pages drive the most visitors to your conversion points among other insights.
Conversions: Advanced Google Analytics users can set up goals and eCommerce tracking to build reports for onsite conversions.
What Can You Do with Google Analytics?
As you can imagine, there is an endless number of reports and tracking that you can pull from Google Analytics. You can see whether that banner ad you are paying a monthly fee for is generating enough traffic and conversions to justify the expense. You can assess your organic traffic trends over the last year to see if your SEO initiatives are bringing you the results you want. You can even see the percent of visitors coming to your website from mobile devices to decide whether you need to build a more mobile-friendly experience.
Use Google Analytics to Make Data-Driven Decisions
Setting up Google Analytics and monitoring the reports is great – but, the data means nothing unless you are using it to make better strategic decisions.
For instance, it’s not enough to just know the blog articles on your website that generate the most traffic; you need to take that insight and redesign your content strategy to post more articles on those popular topics.
Additionally, by using Google Analytics, eCommerce businesses on platforms like Shopify can see what product pages are most frequented, track when customers visit the checkout, and assess their conversion rate using goals, funnels and other conversion tracking features.
Small business owners need to use every resource at their disposal to succeed in today’s competitive landscape. Google Analytics is one of the most powerful free tools available to small business owners. Not only can you track and analyze website and user data – but you can equip yourself with the insight needed to make data-driven decisions that have a direct impact on your bottom line.
Let us know how you use Google Analytics in the comments below.