A look at Google Analytics

This is the first in a series about analytics tools. In following weeks I’ll also examine Woopra and Post Rank Analytics. We’ll start off this look into the hows and whys of analytics with a look at Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a free tracking tool that will help you understand how many people visit your site and what they are doing on your site. You find out what entry pages are most used, what page users were on when they left your site, where visitors came from both in a geographical sense and a referring link sense.

Elise Bauer wrote How to Build Blog Traffic – Search Engines and SEO, and it’s a definitive explanation of what Google or any other analytic tool does to help you build your blog and understand your audience. If you’ve never read Elise’s post, go take a look.

To get started with Google Analytics, set up a profile with Google for the website you’re going to track. You get a unique ID, which is inserted into a code snippet Google provides. Paste this code snippet into your web page code and you’re ready to go. SkinnyMinnyMedia has an excellent tutorial about how to insert the HTML snippet into a WordPress or Blogspot blog in Tracking Your Blog Statistics with Google Analytics. A helpful video tutorial on Using Google Analytics is available from Thirty Day Challenge.

There is a lot of documentation and help available to get you going with Google Analytics, and there’s Google customer support.

With Google Analytics, you’ll get site usage information, bounce rate (how many people left immediately), average time spent on your site, average number of pages viewed, the number of new visitors and other helpful metrics. This is more than just a count of page views. This type of information helps you understand what works on your site and what your visitors are interested in reading.

It’s the nature of a blog to read the most recent post and then leave. A blogger might not want a bounce rate report each day or week. With Google Analytics, you can customize your reports to track only the information you care most about.

Google has prepared a checklist called Get the most out of your report that will help you through each step from installing the tracking code to learning about features like keyword optimization.

With Google, you can add Google ads. The selling point for Google Analytics, from Google’s point of view, is that the knowledge you glean from the metrics you collect helps you target your advertising more effectively. As you can see in this video on Google Analytics from Google, the emphasis is definitely on monetization of a web site.

Even if you aren’t displaying Google ads, or any ads, the knowledge you gain about what captures the interest of your readers is helpful to you in planning new content and keeping your blog growing.

Google Analytics scales. It works on a mega-site but it can also work for a small site. If you have a mega-site, it would be a no-brainer decision to use it. If you have a smaller site, you might want to compare it with the two other analytic tools we’ll be looking at in future posts: Woopra and Post Rank.