This is especially important if you run a business on your website. You'll need to be able to understand your customers and what they're looking for so that you can optimize your website to your unique customer base. Google Analytics offers a full suite of tools that will analyze your website data and report it in a way that is easy to understand and use.
Over fifty million websites utilize Google Analytics to track user traffic and get insights into the behavior of their customers. If you don't have much experience with website management, you may not have heard of Google Analytics. Even if you have heard of it, you might be wondering how it works and how to implement it on your WordPress site. The good news is you don't need to have much coding or SEO expertise in order to take advantage of Google Analytics. This is especially true if you run a WordPress site because WordPress makes it quite simple to install and use virtually instantaneously.
This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about implementing Google Analytics for your WordPress site.
What is Google Analytics?
In a nutshell, Google Analytics tracks what people do when they visit your website. It provides detailed traffic and behavior tracking that it can then report to you with easy-to-understand visuals so you can understand who is visiting your site and what they're doing on the site. Analytics will tell you where your visitors are located, what kind of device they use to visit the site, which pages they look at, how they access your site, and what links they're clicking on. Analytics tracks all of this using micro-moments, which are all the things that your WordPress visitors clicks on or engages with on your site. All of this data is then reported visually in charts and graphs that you can access through the Google Analytics web platform or mobile app.
Google can also send you email alerts with pre-set criteria. Analytics also provides real-time data tracking so you can instantly determine how visitors are interacting with new or updated content or if a temporary sales promotion is effective. You'll also be able to determine if a recent social media post is driving traffic to your site. You can then track that data over time: Analytics will compare all data metrics to the previous thirty days so you can determine if your efforts are effective in driving traffic or getting your visitors to do what you want them to do on your site.
You can also use custom Dashboards on the Google Analytics website to tailor the data you wish to see. For some sites, certain data will be more important than others. If you run a number of promotional or social media marketing campaigns, for example, you'll want to focus more on real-time monitoring so you can get a sense of how effective they are. If you are more focused on tailoring products to a unique audience base, you can focus on the demographic data of your visitors.
Why Do You Need Google Analytics?
In short, the more you understand your website's audience, the more you can tailor your site to them. By knowing critical pieces of data like where your visitors are coming from, how they're finding your site, and what they're doing when they get there, you can optimize your site content to suit your audience and their needs. By incorporating Google Analytics into your WordPress site you can determine which pages your visitors are interacting with and which ones they're not, so you can improve the ones that aren't working.
You'll also be able to understand whether your social media advertising campaigns are effectively bringing traffic to your site. Ultimately, tracking micro-moments gives you a detailed impression of what your customers engage with on your WordPress site and what they don't. You can use this to paint a picture of what on your website is attracting visitors or customers and what isn't. And Google Analytics is completely free to use, so you won't have to spend any money to get the data.
What Can You Do With the Data?
You already know that you can tailor your website based on what you learn about your audience from Google Analytics. But you can also share your data through email or PDF reports. Through your Google Analytics Dashboard, you can determine what specific pieces of data you want to share and then generate an email or a PDF report that you can share with others.
If you have a team of people helping to manage your WordPress site, you can assign permissions in your Analytics dashboard so that other people can log in to their own Google account and access the reports as well. Just use the permissions feature to set up who can see what data. This will save you from having to generate email or PDF reports constantly.
Things You Need to Know
Before you get started using Google Analytics, you need to know a few things about something called GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation. GDPR became law in the European Union in 2018, so if your WordPress site reaches an international audience you'll need to make sure that you're GDPR-compliant. WordPress has a useful guide to help make sure that you're not sending personal data to Google in violation of GDPR. The good news is Google Analytics has features that make it easy to prevent this from happening, including IP address anonymization.
Setting Up An Analytics Account
If you're ready to get started, the first thing you'll need to do is sign up for a Google Analytics account, which you can do on the Google Analytics home page. If you already have a Google account, just sign in with your Google credentials. If you don't, you can create one for free. Once you've logged in with your Google account, you'll be on the Google Analytics main page, which will show you the steps you'll go through to get Analytics up and running. First, click on Sign Up and choose ‘website' on the screen that follows. Here, you'll input your website information. The page will ask you for a number of pieces of information:
- Account Name: this can be anything. If you plan to track multiple websites, you can use your account name to describe the group of sites you'll be tracking (“medical websites”, for example).
- Website Name: the name of your website. Note that this is not the URL, simply the name of your site.
- Website URL: this is the web address of your WordPress site.
- Industry Category: choose the category that best describes the content of your site.
- Reporting time zone: choose your time zone so that you can get accurate time-based data like what time users arrived to your site.
Once you've filled in all the information, click on “Get Tracking ID” and you'll be taken to a page with your unique data tracking ID and code. You will most likely need either your tracking ID or code, or both, so it may be a good idea to keep the tab open as you continue. You might also document your tracking ID and code somewhere so you can easily access them later on if you need to.
There are two Google Analytics suites that you can choose from: Analytics or Analytics 360. Analytics is the free basic package designed for individual WordPress site owners. You'll get twenty custom data metrics and multiple data collection options as well as access to your data via email or the Analytics mobile app. Analytics 360 is designed for larger operations and offers advanced reporting and metrics and guaranteed data freshness.
Most WordPress users will find that the basic package offers everything they need.
Adding Google Analytics To Your Site
To start using Google Analytics, you'll need to add the tracking code to each page of your site that you want to be tracked. You can either do this manually or by using a WordPress plugin. If you have slightly more advanced coding abilities, you may choose to opt for a manual installation. If you aren't as comfortable with coding, you should opt to use a WordPress plugin, which will essentially do all the work for you.
Adding Google Analytics Manually
There are actually three ways to add Google Analytics to your WordPress site manually. One of the easiest ways to do this is to add the code into your header. Doing this will automatically insert the code into every page, so you won't need to worry about going through each individual page on your site to start tracking data. Many WordPress themes have a file titled header.php. To insert the code into the header, you'll want to edit this file. Let's pause here for a moment to talk about child themes. Any time you change a theme file, you should do so in a child theme, which is a theme that takes on the look of the main theme, or parent theme, of your site but can be slightly edited. This will allow you to make slight modifications without altering any customization you've made to your site.
WordPress has a helpful guide on creating child themes. Keep in mind you will need a little bit of coding knowledge in order to do this. Once your child theme is created and saved, copy header.php from your main theme, then copy and paste your Google Analytics code into it before the “head” bracket. When you copy your code, make sure it is enclosed in “script” brackets or WordPress won't recognize it as code and it won't function correctly. Once this is done, all you need to do is save the file and upload it to your WordPress server.
Alternatively, you can use functions.php. To do this, you'll do the same thing you did in the previous step using a function and the tracking ID you received when you signed up for your Analytics account. Just like in the previous step, you'll want to be sure to use a child theme. Keep in mind that this will require coding that's a little more in-depth than what you did in the previous step. Once you've inserted the code, just save and upload.
Finally, if you have some advanced coding ability, you can create your own plugin to incorporate your Google Analytics code. The advantage to this is that you can instantly turn tracking off and on and ensure that it will stay on your site even if you change themes or make major changes to your code. A quick note: in order for this to work, you need to have a wp_head hook inside your header.php file. Don't worry, this is usually present by default but you should double-check before you continue. This will also require some coding knowledge, so if you don't feel comfortable doing your own coding you should opt for another option.
Using A WordPress Plugin
There are many available WordPress plugins that will incorporate Google Analytics. With more than two million users, Google Analytics for WordPress by MonsterInsights is by far the most popular and easiest to use. Of course, you can choose to use whichever plugin best suits your needs. MonsterInsights is free and makes it easy to access all of your data reports directly from your WordPress Dashboard.
To get started with a plugin, click Plugins from your WordPress Dashboard, then choose Add New. Use the search bar to find the plugin and click Install Now. Once the plugin has been installed, just activate it and you'll be ready to start utilizing it. Once you've got your plugin installed and activated, you need to connect it to your Google Analytics account. If you're using MonsterInsights, you'll see a link on your WordPress Dashboard that says “Insights”. Click on that and you'll be taken to a settings menu. Here, just click on the button that says “Authenticate with your Google account”, which will take you to a sign-in page for your Google Analytics account. Here, simply sign in or choose which of your Google accounts you want to use to for Analytics. You'll then need to give your WordPress plugin permission to use your Google account. Otherwise, the plugin won't work correctly.
You can also authenticate your account manually with your tracking ID. To do this, click the link that says “Click here to authenticate manually”, which you'll find underneath the authentication button from the previous step. Enter the tracking ID you received when you first created your Google Analytics account and save.
Setting Up Your Data
At this point, your WordPress site should now be ready to start tracking visitor data. But this doesn't mean you're done with the setup process. You'll want to set up the way in which Analytics tracks your visitors so you can get the most out of the data. If you're using MonsterInsights, you can do this by clicking on the Tracking link at the top of your settings screen. There are three main types of data that will be tracked:
- Engagement: this will track events like link clicking. You can tell Analytics to ignore certain people who visit your site, such as site owners or administrators. This will avoid skewing the data. This feature will tell you which pages are more popular than others so you can start determining which pages need to be fixed or modified.
- Demographics: this will gather information about your visitors, including location. You can also anonymize IP addresses here, to prevent visits from your own IP address or those of other website administrators from being tracked and skewing the data. You can also enable this feature to ensure GDPR compliance as described earlier.
- Permissions: here is where you will set who is allowed to view tracking data if you have multiple people that you'd like to have access to the reports.
These are the major functions available in the basic version of Google Analytics. If you use the premium Analytics 360 version, you'll have access to other functions like affiliate links.
Viewing Your Reports
Once your Google Analytics is up and running, you can start viewing the data. If you've installed the MonsterInsights plugin, you can access your reports by clicking Insights on your WordPress Dashboard and then going to Reports. Here, you'll see all of the available charts and graphs with the data that Analytics has collected. If you don't see any data, don't worry. It typically takes twelve to twenty-four hours before you'll start seeing data, so you may need to return later. If you still don't have any reports available, there may be an error with the way in which the plugin is installed or the code you've incorporated. There are support options available through Google or WordPress, described below.
You can also access your reports directly from your Google Analytics dashboard. You'll find a number of different types of reports: audience, advertising, behavior, conversions, and mobile apps. By clicking on the category you'd like data on, you'll be taken to a list of reports that track the specific data category you clicked on. Data is plotted visually so you can quickly get a sense of trends over time.
If you've never used web analytics before, you may find yourself getting overwhelmed by the amount of information and data available. Fortunately, both WordPress and Google have support resources available. The Google Analytics site has multiple support centers for your specific needs, from Analytics help to help with using and optimizing the data. You can also get support with using surveys for quick market research to partner with your Analytics data. For more one-on-one or in-depth support, you can use the site to find a Google Marketing Platform Partner.
Partners specialize in particular areas for in-depth help with marketing or data collection. Finally, consider enrolling in Analytics Academy, a free training course offered by Google with expert-led lessons on all facets of Analytics. Analytics Academy isn't just designed for beginners, although there is a beginner's course available; there are course options no matter what your experience or expertise is. There are also mini-courses available on YouTube for quick help. You can also use Google's Analytics demo account as a kind of sandbox to explore its features.
WordPress also has a library of resources available with information about using Google Analytics with the WordPress platform. You also have access to an online message board through the WordPress site that will connect you to other WordPress users to ask questions or get advice on how best to use Analytics. These options will be particularly helpful if you choose to manually install Analytics on your site, as you can find resources walking you through the coding you'll need to do.
As you've seen, Google Analytics makes it easy to track detailed data about your WordPress visitors, so you don't have to wonder how to tailor your site to your audience. While it may take a little bit of technical knowledge to get set up, you don't need to be a coding or an SEO expert in order to use Analytics. After a quick and easy installation process, you'll get access to valuable data that you can use to attract and retain customers through your WordPress site. Ultimately, if you're looking for a boost to your online presence no matter the size of your WordPress site, you'll find Analytics to be a valuable tool.