Ready to see something cool, nerds?
I was in a blogging Facebook group and asked if people would be interested in a post on analytics…
HOLY COW. A few hours and more than a hundred likes, comments, and blog subscriptions later, it’s obvious that bloggers want data and information on their website, but have no idea how to do it.
So here it is. This will be a multiple-part series because there is WAY too much to cover to make it a single post.
This post is designed to:
- Explain WHY you should want Google Analytics (GA) and Google Tag Manger (GTM)
- Show you how to set up GA
- Show you how to set up GTM
- Explain a few metrics/reports you might want to look at
Future posts will show:
- How to easily block most bot traffic from diluting your traffic reports
- How to block your own IP address from diluting your traffic reports
- How to set up more complex tracking
- How to make custom dashboards to show you only the information you want
- How to tag campaigns and track link clicks
- How to interpret your data and make smart decisions
- How to do cool sh*t!
Want to follow along? Subscribe here and I will send these posts straight to your inbox (this will not subscribe you to every blog post I come out with, only ones that are a part of this series).
Why you need Google Analytics for your blog
I’m a professional blogger and web traffic analyst, of course I need and want Google Analytics. But if you’ve got a personal blog or small business website that gets a few hundred or a few thousand visits every month, GA can give you awesome insight that is fun to look at and will help you grow your blog.
- It’s free!
- It’s super easy to set up!
- It’s a fantastic skill to have!
- I will hold your hand through the entire process, for free!
Why you need Google Tag Manager for your blog
Google Analytics is “basically enough” for most bloggers, but over the last few months as I have been setting up GTM for an enterprise account, I have fallen head-over-heels in love.
GTM is BETTER than analytics alone because:
- It only takes two seconds longer to set up
- There is SO much cool stuff you can track
- Like I’m serious, you can be an online ninja stalker
- It integrates with a whole bunch of other web tools that you will probably never use (but might!)
How to set up Google Analytics with Tag Manager on your blog
Have I already lost you with all my intro mumbo-jumbo?
I PROMISE, it’s really easier than it sounds.
If you already have Google Analytics set up, skip to the next section, otherwise, buckle your seatbelt!
In order to set up GA, you will need a gmail account.
Here’s how to set up a Google Analytics account
- Put your favorite T.Swift on repeat.
- Go to http://www.google.com/analytics/ Hit “Sign In” in the top right corner. Hit “Google Analytics”.
- If you’re already logged in to Gmail, select the correct account. If not, it will ask for your Gmail account information (if you do not have a Gmail account already, you can create one by hitting “Ad Account” and then “Create Account”. Hit “Sign Up”.
- Fill in your info:
- Accounts can manage multiple websites, so use something broad for Account Name like “[My Name] Websites”.
- Your website name is just that – whatever you call your website! This should be specific enough that you won’t mistake it for any other website you own now or might start in the future.
- The website URL is how you find your website in the search bar – www.[websitename].com (or .net or .me or whatever your domain name is).
- Read through the check boxes and decide whether or not you want the recommended settings (I personally leave as is).
- Hit “Get Tracking ID”, read through the terms, and accept.
- This takes you to a scary page with lots of stuff. Turn your T.Swift up a little louder and take a deep breath.
- Scroll down just a little bit to where it says “Tracking ID UA -########-#” (there will be numbers instead of hashtags). Copy that code and paste it somewhere you can find it later.
- Normally you would have to copy the whole script, but that is NOT WHAT WE ARE DOING – we JUST need the UA code.
What if I already have Google Analytics set up?
If you already have a Google Analytics account set up and you are currently tracking your website with it, it’s easy to switch to Google Tag Manager without losing any data.
(However if you have other tags set up on your website or have advanced e-commerce tracking set up on your website – you would know if you do – you will want to talk to your web developer to make sure that everything is migrated correctly.)
Find your UA code by logging into Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics). Immediately when you log in you should see all of your web properties. Find the name of the property you want to set up through Tag Manager. The UA code will be to the right of the property name.
Copy the UA code, and continue with the instructions below, noting the difference in step 11.
Here’s how to set up Google Analytics THROUGH Google Tag Manager
- Go to www.google.com/analytics/ Hit “Sign In” in the top right corner. Hit “Google Tag Manager”.
- Name the account and hit “continue”.
- Accounts can manage multiple websites, so use something broad for Account Name like “[My Name] Websites”.
- Name your container, select “Web”, and hit “Create”. Accept the terms and conditions.
- Copy the code provided and paste it somewhere safe (we’ll need this in just a few minutes). Hit “OK”.
- Hit “Add a new tag”.
- Select “Google Analytics” and hit “Continue”. Universal Analytics should be pre-selected, which is what you want. Hit “Continue” again.
- Go find the UA code that you copied from Google Analytics. Paste it in under “Tracking ID”. Hit “Continue”.
- Select “All Pages” and hit “Create Tag”.
- Name your tag “GA Page View” and hit “Save” (you can give it any name you want, but GA Page View is a commonly used name for this tag).
- Hit the red “Publish” button in the top right corner.
- To implement Tag Manager on WordPress:
- Log into the admin panel of your website.
- Access the theme editor.
- Hit “proceed” when it asks if you’re really sure (you are really sure!)
- Access your theme header and hit “proceed” again.
- Find the <body> tag (I use control F and type in “body”).
- Paste your GTM code immediately after the opening body tag.
- Note: If you have already been using Google Analytics, find where your Google Analytics tracking code is by hitting Control F and pasting your UA code. Delete the snippet of code including your UA number, and simultaneously paste in the Google Tag Manager.
- Scroll down and hit “Update File”.
- To access your data go back to www.google.com/analytics. Hit “Sing In” and “Google Analytics”.
What if my website isn’t WordPress?
WordPress is the only platform that I am highly familiar with and use regularly, so it’s all I can provide specific instructions for.
Here is some help accessing the header file of your theme for a couple other platforms:
- Go to blogger dashboard
- Click on Template > Edit HTML
- Search for <body> tag and paste code below
If you use another platform and can’t figure out how to edit your header file, try Googling “how to access theme header in [blogging platform]” and see if you can find easy instructions. If that doesn’t work, comment below with the platform you use and I will try to find an answer for you.
A few numbers to look at in analytics (and what they mean!)
So you’ve set up Google Analytics and Tag Manager, now what?
GA provides TONS of information that can be helpful to bloggers or any website owner.
Once you have been tracking your data for a few days, it’s time to take a look and see what users are doing.
Audience Overview Report
When you log into Analytics and select the correct property, the firs thing you will see is your Audience overview.
This provides you with basic web traffic, AKA “Sessions”.
Notice in the top right corner is the date range. You can change this to see historic traffic, monthly traffic, traffic on a specific day, or any date range you choose.
If you scroll down, you’ll see this:
Here are a few things to look at:
- Sessions: discussed above, this is the number of time people visit your website. If someone leaves your website and comes back the next day, it is counted as a new session.
- Users: users are how many unique visitors have come to your website. If someone leaves your website and comes back the next day, it is not counted as a new user. However, if someone visits your website on their computer and comes back the next day on the browser on their smartphone, it is counted as a new user.
- Pageviews: when someone comes to your website, each page that they visit is counted as a pageview.
- Pages/Session: this shows the average pageviews per session. On average, visitors who come to my website look at 1.26 pages before they exit the window or go to a different website.
- Avg. Session Duration: this counts the average time of each session. This means that on average, users spend 3 minutes and 39 seconds on my website before they exit. Having a high Avg. Session Duration is a good thing, however this number is sometimes inaccurate because of the way it is measured.
- Bounce Rate: if a user visits your website and then leaves before clicking on a link, going to another page, watching a video, or somehow engaging with your content, it is considered a “bounce”. Bounce rate is the percentage of people who leave your site without interacting with it. You want your bounce rate to be as low as possible, but this number can also be inaccurate to what you really care about because of the way it is measured.
- % New Sessions: this counts the percentage of your visitors who have never been to your website. If you are trying to build a loyal readership you might want to watch this percentage to see if it decreases (more return visitors), or if you are trying to reach new audiences you might want to watch this percentage to see if it increases (more new visitors).
Traffic Acquisition Report
On the left hand side, scroll down to where it says “Acquisition” and hit “Overview” to see this report.
This report tells you where your traffic is coming from.
- Referral: users that reach your website by clicking links on other websites that point to your site. Unfortunately, most referral traffic is spam, not real users. You can click on “Referral” and it will tell you the websites that are linking to you. Often you will see things like “cheap-seo.com” or “semalt.semalt.com”, or something in a foreign language. This is fake bot traffic. DO NOT VISIT THOSE WEBSITES. If you were featured on another website or blog post you will see the URL of that website and the number of visitors who found your site through it.
- (Other): you may or may not see this in your results. This means that you have traffic from other sources, such as campaigns that you have tagged. We will talk about campaign tagging in a future post.
- Social: this traffic comes from links that you have posted on websites like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. If you click on “Social” it will take you to a new report which breaks your Social traffic down by platform.
- Direct: Google logs traffic as direct when it cannot recognize the source of the traffic. Traffic might be logged as direct for a few different reasons – like if a user types your URL directly into the search bar, or if a user visits your page through a bookmark they have saved to their browser.
- Organic Search: this means that the user went to Google, Bing, Yahoo, or another search engine that GA recognizes, performed a search and clicked through to your website from the search engine.
That’s all for today, folks! If you made it through these 2100+ boring words, two slideshows, and traffic data graphics, please pat yourself on the back.
Implementing, navigating, and understanding Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager has taken me years to learn – and I’m still learning.
Hopefully this information has been helpful for you. Please leave any questions and comments below and I will help with what I can or direct you to other resources.