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How to Set Up Google Analytics 101

March 22, 2021
7 Min Read

How to Set Up Google Analytics 101

If you need to track your website or app performance, Google Analytics (GA) is the perfect tool. Google Analytics is powerful, flexible, and free to use — ideal for fast-growing startups and scale-ups. In this article, we’ll look at how you can set up Google Analytics to start tracking your website and/or app performance, and how to use the data to find key areas to improve. 

Once Google Analytics is ready, you can start tracking every metric that matters, from traffic sources, to best-performing acquisition channels, to the specific actions your users take.

Universal Analytics vs. GA4

You may have noticed there’s a choice when setting up Google Analytics. You can choose between Universal Analytics, or Google’s newer GA4.

It’s something only you should decide, but GA4 is still in its early days of public usage (at the time of writing). And there are a variety of limitations when compared to Universal Analytics.

Universal Analytics is still the preferable option for most companies for everyday use. It’s likely to be several years before GA4 becomes the default option. Due to that, this guide will focus on the more common Universal Analytics.

But remember, there’s no harm in setting up a GA4 account at the same time. It’ll enable you to start getting used to the UI while Google is improving it, and when it’s time to eventually make the switch, it’ll be a smoother transition.

Installing Google Analytics On Your Site

First, installing Google Analytics. This won't take you long. All you need is access to your website’s code to install the Analytics site tag.

There are two ways to do this:

Option #1: Install the Analytics Global Site Tag

Installing the Global Site Tag (gtag.js) is the most straightforward option. When you create your GA account, you’ll be given a unique code snippet.

It’ll be a few lines long and will look like this:

All you need to do is paste that tracking code snippet after the <head> tag on every page of your site that you want to track activity.

If you have a lightweight website or use a platform like WordPress or Webflow to host your website, then this will be easy to implement, even for non-technical team members.

However, if your website is hosted in an environment that’s not accessible unless you’re a developer, Google Tag Manager might be a better choice for you.

Option #2: Install using Google Tag Manager

If you expect to be managing lots of scripts on your website, you can opt to use Google Tag Manager. 

Google Tag Manager allows you to deploy scripts to your website. Once it’s in place, you can quickly add and activate your analytics code, as well as use it to manage other 3rd party scripts on your website. Google has a detailed guide on setting up GTM here.

Tracking App Activity

To track activity in your app, you’ll need to add the Firebase SDK to your app. 

That will allow you to start tracking events automatically and can be customized to your liking. It’s compatible for both web and mobile apps, and there’s enough flexibility and options for most growing companies.

Measuring What Matters

Once GA is installed, you can start tracking everything that matters to your business.

Basic Metrics

Immediately, GA will start collecting data and tracking basic metrics. Just one example of the data you can collect is behavioural data, such as:

  • Pageviews
  • Time spent on your website
  • Bounce rate

You’ll also have access to information on your audience demographics, for example:

  • Where they live
  • Gender
  • Interests

As you can see, even out-of-the-box, GA is super powerful. But, these metrics don’t really give you details on what matters: conversion rates and the return on investment (ROI) of your activity. 

Tracking Goals in Google Analytics

To make the most of Google Analytics, you’ll need to add your goals.

Goals are a way to measure on-site events that you consider valuable, such as:

  • Someone starting a free trial
  • Visitors scheduling a demo
  • Visitors purchasing a product

These can be event-based, or based on triggers such as someone viewing a particular page.

To set them up, first, head to Goals, found in your Admin panel.

Then, you can start creating your goals.

For example, in the image below, we have a goal that’s triggered on new user registrations.

When a user visits the post-registration page (in this case, defined by a Regular Expression), GA will consider that as conversion.

You can set up goals for any action you deem valuable.

Using Goals to Spot Actionable Insights

Knowing how many people took a specific action is one thing. But to make it actionable, you’ll want more context.

Goals are particularly useful to see how your marketing is performing. For example, if you head to GA’s Acquisition tab, you can see Goal completions by traffic source.

The example above shows that direct traffic has the highest conversion rate, followed by unknown sources, followed by Affiliates, and then Paid Search.

From there, you’ll be able to better plan your next marketing campaigns, or make updates to existing marketing efforts to improve your tracking. You may want to understand where the (Other) traffic is coming from, or find ways to improve the conversion rate of your Google Ads by changing the messaging or creatives.

Identifying Your Most Engaging Content

If you’re investing in content marketing and SEO, it’s important to know if your efforts are working. And a decent first port of call is to use GA to identify your top landing pages.

In the Landing Pages report, you can see which pages bring the highest % of New Sessions.

It’s an effective way to track what pages bring most new users to your site, and you then then dig into it more, analysing deeper data like Time Spent on Page, Bounce Rate, and more.

When you study your data, you’ll spot insights such as high traffic pages with low engagement, and you’ll find low-hanging fruit that you can optimize.

Tracking App Usage

If your business is based around an app, you’ll also have access to useful insights using Google Analytics. The default implementation of GA provides you with basic details on your users, like:

  • Number of users/sessions
  • Session duration
  • Device models and OS
  • Location

But, if you want more detail into your app’s performance, you’ll need to spend time implementing GA to work in cohesion with your product. This will require a more focused effort from your team, and won’t be possible without a base of technical knowledge. 

Google has a detailed guide to mobile app implementation here, but if you need the help of an experienced Google Analytics and/or app metrics professional, launch a brief on Traktion and get matched with the very best freelance talent in the world. 

Pitfalls to Avoid in Your Google Analytics Setup

Focusing on metrics that don’t matter:

It’s easy to get caught up in vanity metrics like pageviews or total sessions.

Unfortunately, unless you’re in an entirely ad-driven business, pageviews won’t generate any revenue for you.

Don’t use Google Analytics to measure metrics that don’t matter. Just because you can, it doesn’t mean you should. Set up Goals that are important to your business, and focus on those.

Measure your marketing campaigns and use your data to find ways to improve them.

If something looks wrong, it probably is:

If you see something that doesn’t look right in your analytics reports, it’s often due to a setup issue. 

For example, while everyone wants a low Bounce Rate (it means people are staying on and engaging with your site as opposed to leaving without engaging), if your bounce rate seems too low, it could be due to a tracking issue. If your bounce rate is anything under 10%, for example, in most cases that’s because you have two Analytics site tags installed.

If you ever encounter errors, you can usually find support on StackOverflow or by copy-pasting the error message into Google Search. Alternatively, you can get on-demand access to top growth marketing talent with expertise in Google Analytics on Traktion’s talent network.

Wrapping Up Our Google Analytics 101 Guide

Google Analytics is a powerful free tool, and it has more than enough features to support most startups’ reporting needs. 

But to ensure it guides your growth strategy, works for your business, and isn’t just a way to make you feel good with vanity metrics, you’ll need to set up Goals for the actions that matter.

Effective goal-setting will help you accurately understand how your content performs, where people are dropping off, and allow you to calculate return on investment for marketing efforts.

And as you gather more data over time, you can start to make better decisions, and take smarter action — so you can continue to grow your business in a data-driven way.

If you need help setting up or understanding Google Analytics, Traktion’s on-demand talent network of proven marketers is the perfect way to find the help you need. You’ll get access to pre-vetted experts able to tackle all your growth challenges. And we won’t charge you anything.

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