Google Analytics Setup & Best Practices | Back to the Basics

By Joli Skow | August 2015

googleanalyticstips

Google Analytics is your most essential web marketing tool. Without it, you can’t understand your website’s traffic, and you can’t make educated decisions to improve it. If you have limited experience with the tool, it can be a little intimidating. Luckily, setting up an account and installing it is actually quite easy! Here’s a basic guide to setting up Google Analytics with best practices in mind.

Account Setup

How: Head over to google.com/analytics/standard. If you’ve already created an account, choose "Sign In." If you haven’t, choose "Sign Up." You’ll be walked through the steps of setting up your account and your website’s analytics properties.

Best Practice: Google Analytics requires you to sign in with a Google account. If you don’t have a one (hint: YouTube also requires a Google account), create a general one for marketing your business. Example: yourbusiness.marketing@gmail.com. Use this address for setting up all your Google services, such as Google My Business, Google+, and YouTube Installation. Using a separate business email will prevent anyone getting locked out of an account due to in being tied to a personal account.

Installation

How: After filling in your account details, you’ll click "Get Tracking ID." If you’ve previously set up your account, open "Analytics" and click on the "Admin tab" at the top. In the middle column, click "Tracking Info > Tracking Code." Copy your code and paste it into the header file of your website.

Best practice: Place the code just before the closing </head> tag. If you’re not sure how to do this, make sure to ask your web developer.

Installation Check

How: After your tracking code is installed, check to see that it’s working by clicking on the Reporting tab, then "Real Time" on the left, then "Overview." Open another tab in your browser and navigate to your website. You should then see yourself in your real-time tracking in Analytics.

Filter & View Setup

Best Practice: Filtering some traffic out of your analytics can help you gain better insight into your “real” traffic. You’ll want to filter out your own visits to your website, as well as Google Analytics spam. However, you’ll want to have a second view created with no filters applied, so you can always see all your data.

How: Click on the Admin tab. In the right-hand column, click the drop down and choose "Create new view." Call it something like “Filtered master view” and click on "Create." Now, in the right-hand column, choose "Filters." Click the red button to create a new filter. Create the following two filters.

Filter 1: In a new browser tab, perform a Google search for "what is my IP." Copy the IP address it shows you. Title your filter where you are, such as “The Office." Set the filter type to "Exclude," source or destination is “traffic from the IP address," expression is "that are equal to." Paste your IP address into the box and click "Save." If you visit your own website a lot from other locations, such as your home, make sure to make another of these filters with that IP address.

Filter 2: Call this one "Hostname Only." Set the filter type to "Include only," source or destination to "traffic to the hostname," expression is "that contain." Enter your domain name into the box. So if your site is www.mycompany.com, enter "mycompany" into the box.

Goal Setup

Best Practice: Goals are an integral part of getting the most out of this tool. Once you set up goals, you’ll be able to see at a glance how well your website is working to convert visitors into leads and beyond. Set up at least one to begin. Every website is different - some websites have many natural goals, whereas some have only a couple. The best place to start is usually with "Contact Us," a goal that nearly every website should have.

How: In the right-hand column within the Admin tab, you’ll see "Goals." Click that and hit the red button to add a goal. The list you see will give you an idea of just how many things you can set up as goals. We can’t possibly go through all of them in this guide, but let’s go over a "Destination" goal, which is probably the most common one you’ll use. A destination goal means that you set up a page, or "destination," on your site as a conversion. Then any time someone visits that page, it counts as a goal conversion.

The best example of this is when a person fills out your contact form and is directed to a "thank you" page. To set this up, you can just click on "Custom" on the list of goals. Name your goal "Contact Us" or "Contact Form," choose "Destination," and click "Next." Now in the box, put the page URL of your "thank you" page, without your domain. So for www.mycompany.com/contact-us/thank-you, you’ll enter "/contact-us/thank-you" into the box. Hit the blue "Create Goal" button, and that’s it!

For more about the other kinds of goals, visit Google's support center. Gain more insight into analytics by reading Essentail Analytics: Event Tracking and Virtual Page Views.

Now that you’ve got the basics of your Google Analytics account set up, you’re ready to get analyzing! For more best practices and guidance, take a look at "Google Analytics 101: Standard Metrics to Watch."

Topics: Marketing Strategy, Google Analytics

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