Getting Started With Google Analytics

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There are many, MANY packages out there to help you analyze your web traffic.  Google Analytics is one of the most popular and easy to use. It’s also priced right (free!) and integrates really well with Google Adwords to help you measure how well your marketing strategy is working.

Why use web analytics?

Without getting into formal definitions, web analytics tools allow you to see where your visitors came from by source (search engines, referals from other sites, ads, etc), what search terms they used to find you, where they came from by location (country, state, city), what they looked at while they were on your site, how long they stayed, how many pages, they viewed, whether or not they are a return visitor, and many other factors. The most powerful aspect of analytics is that you can combine any of these factors to find out what you are doing right and what you need to improve on.

What are the most important things I can learn through analytics?

I think that differs from site to site based on your goals. For example, if I built a site that sold chimeneas, the most important factor to me would probably be how much traffic I’m getting from Google and how many of those users converted to a sell. Lots of bloggers are interested in “bounce rate”, which tells them the percentage of people who reach their site and only read one page before they leave.

For journalists, I think a very telling statistic would be the percentage of visitors who are new to the site–visiting for the first time. Even though most visitors may only read one article then leave (high bounce rate), a low number of first time visitors would mean that you have loyal readers who are continually returning to your site. Another factor important to local journalists may be location related–what percentage of my visitors are local, and how many people from outside my local area are reading me?

Numbers make me dizzy. I don’t like looking at statistics.

No worries. Although you can look at all the numbers you’d like, most of what you see in Google Analytics is broken down in graphs. Even the most common search terms can be viewed as top ten lists (or top 25, top 50, top 100) so you can get a quick overview.

I’m sold, how do I get started?

It’s very simple. Go sign up at Google Analytics. They will give you a very small chunk of javascript you can place in your footer, and they’ll start collecting information from there. Here’s an example, just so you know you are getting the right code:

<script type=”text/javascript”>
var gaJsHost = ((“https:” == document.location.protocol) ? “https://ssl.” : “http://www.”);
document.write(unescape(“%3Cscript src='” + gaJsHost + “’ type=’text/javascript’%3E%3C/script%3E”));
<script type=”text/javascript”>
try {
var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“YOURTRACKINGCODE”);
} catch(err) {}</script>

Just make sure you put it right before your </body> tag, and you’re done…Google does the rest.

If you want or need more information, they’ve documented everything. I won’t try to reinvent the wheel here.

Google Analytics is by no means the only thing out there, and it is quite possible it lacks some functionality you may be looking for. If there’s something you like better, please let us know and share that with everyone. But if you are just getting started with web analytics, Google is a great place to start, and you can’t beat the price for entry!

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  1. newscoma said January 25, 2009 | Permalink


  2. Ron said January 26, 2009 | Permalink

    You don’t realize how valuable this information is until you go to an older site of yours and realize you don’t have two years of Google Analytics information at your disposal.


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