Once you have made a website, how do you know whether or not people are visiting it?
This is where analytics comes in.
Analytics is defined as “the systematic computational analysis of data or statistics”. Specifically here we’re talking about analytics of the data and statistics related to visitors coming to your website. It is possible to just look at the raw data, but analytics tools such as Google Analytics allow you to view charts and filter data and hopefully help you to understand what is going on.
You can use analytics to track how many visits your pages are getting, where people are coming from and what devices they are using. If you really know what you are doing you can do things like measure ‘goal conversions’ to see if you are achieving goals such as selling your product.
Knowing What You Are Looking For
If you work for a medium/large company you might get asked to provided stats on a site by managers who may not be clear on what they actually want to know. When digging around in analytics it’s really useful to have a definite question in mind so that you can be looking for the answer, rather than browsing around the data aimlessly. So either request a question or come up with your own based on what you think they are looking for.
The best questions will have answers that can be acted upon.
Some example questions might be:
How many times are our pages viewed each month?
Seeing how many page views each month can tell us if there are any fluctuations due to the time of year or due to actions taken. We could see if a major marketing push is reflected in the numbers. This can lead to a decision to do more of these marketing pushes during the quieter periods.
How does that compare with this time last year?
Comparing with the same time last year allows us to see if things are better or worse than they were in the same period. If there are seasonal fluctuations, this is taken into account as we’re comparing with the same point in the season last year. If page views are down we can take action to improve this by bringing in more visitors using marketing techniques, or making changes to the pages to make them more useful or attractive.
How does it compare with last month?
Comparing with the previous month can allow us to see if things are better or worse than last month. If we have made changes to the site recently we can see if they have had an effect. If page views are down we could conclude that the changes weren’t helpful and revert back.
Where are our visitors coming from?
Finding out where visitors are coming from can allow us to target information at particular markets, or show us what markets we are missing out on. If, for example, you have many visitors from India, you may wish to make information available on your site which is specific to an Indian audience. Or you could find that you have few visitors from Norway and decide to increase your marketing to that area in order to improve this.
Are there more visitors on handheld devices than last year?
Finding out what devices users are visiting your site on will allow you to decide how much time and effort needs to be spent on making sure your site works well on those devices. The number of users on handheld devices is most likely to be up on last year, so you might want to take action to ensure that your site is responsive and automatically displays appropriately on different devices.
How Do You Set Up Analytics?
To use Google Analytics you need to have some code in each of your web pages so that Google can track them.
There are two steps:
- sign up at Google to get an analytics account
- insert the code given into your website
Go to the Google Analytics site: http://www.google.com/analytics/ and sign in with your Google account. If you don’t have one you’ll see a ‘Create account’ link under the ‘Enter your email’ box so you can set up an account here. Now you’re signed in you need to ‘Sign up’ for Google Analytics by clicking the Sign up button.
You’ll be taken to the page to set up a New Account to track your website. Make sure Website is selected at the top. Give your account a name. Now enter the details of your website in the ‘Setting up your property’ section. When you’re finished, scroll down and click the ‘Get Tracking ID’ button. You’ll need to accept the terms and conditions to continue.
You’ll now get your Tracking ID which will look something like:
Insert the Code into a WordPress Site
For WordPress.com sites you’ll need to have the Business plan upgrade which includes Google Analytics support. Just go to Settings → Analytics and type (or paste) your Tracking ID into the box and click the ‘Save Settings’ button. See the WordPress.com support pages for more information. Sadly if you don’t have the Business plan you can’t use Google Analytics on your site. There are built in stats in WordPress.com though so you may be able to find answers to your questions there.
Insert the Code into a Self-Hosted WordPress Site
There are a number of plugins available that will help you insert the necessary code into your site. I’m using ‘Google Analytics‘ by Kevin Sylvestr. This is a simple one that just inserts the code into your pages when you give it your tracking id. Some plugins also allow you to view some of the stats within your WordPress dashboard which is quite handy. Have search through the plugins directory to see what you can find. More advanced plugins might require you to connect them with your Google account rather than just giving your Tracking ID. Other plugins may require API details.
You’re going to need to be patient at first as data won’t appear immediately. After about 24 hours you should start to see some data in your Google Analytics report. You might want to learn a bit more about Google Analytics while you wait – perhaps starting with their ‘Getting Started‘ page.