If you haven’t installed Google Analytics (GA) on your website and aren’t using it to track who visits your web pages and where they came from — then this Google Analytics Starter Guide is for you! It covers everything a beginner needs to know to use GA to drive critical insights for SEO, content, conversions, and more.
How To Get Ahead With GA4
Set up the latest Google Analytics and unlock its potential with this free guide.
What is Google Analytics Used For?
Google Analytics is a free online application for analyzing your website traffic from all sources, mobile devices, and operating systems.
With Google Analytics, you can get a clear picture of:
- How visitors find your website;
- How long visitors stay on your website;
- What pages people visit;
- Which devices people use to visit your website;
- Audience insights, like geolocation and demographics;
- And much more.
You can use GA to analyze traffic data over any period of time you choose. Integrating Google Analytics into your reporting process helps you build a complete picture of your overall marketing and advertising efforts and allows you monitor whether your digital marketing efforts are helping you achieve your business goals.
Why Should You Bother With This Google Analytics Starter Guide?
Understanding how people find and interact with your website is the first step toward understanding the impact of your SEO strategy and continuously improving your website. Until you know who’s visiting your website and how they’re getting there, you can’t evaluate how well your marketing efforts are performing and you won’t know how to improve on them.
When it comes to SEO, Google Analytics is the ultimate tool for tracking website metrics because it’s free, relatively easy to learn, and loaded with powerful insights.
You can use Google Analytics to:
- Inform decisions about where to allocate your resources.
- Determine where traffic drops to optimize your website for a better user experience.
- Spot inefficiencies between visitor entry and conversion to streamline your marketing funnel.
- Learn who your audience is, where they’re from, and what kind of content they engage with.
- Track the impact of your SEO activities.
In a world where data drives decisions, learning Google Analytics and understanding how to use it are critical skills for every marketer.
Who Should Use Google Analytics?
Anyone who runs a website and cares about improving their traffic or sales should learn how to use Google Analytics. Whether you’re new to digital marketing or you’ve been doing online marketing for years, Google Analytics is a vital tool in every marketer’s toolkit.
Google Analytics is particularly helpful for:
- Business owners: Google Analytics can offer a high-level understanding of who visits your website and access to granular information that helps you allocate your marketing budget to the marketing strategies that yield the greatest results.
- Web admins: Use Google Analytics to map the overall user experience so you can improve weak points and play into your strengths.
- Content marketers: Monitor how visitors find your content, what topics garner engagement, research content opportunities, and keep on top of search visibility.
- Sales departments: Observe high-level patterns in the customer path to purchase — from the first point of contact through conversion (or exit) – and dive into granular data to understand who buys, who doesn’t, and why.
How to Set Up Google Analytics: Guide for Beginners
Setting up Google Analytics isn’t difficult, but there are a few steps involved, so set aside some time to work through the process without interruption.
If you have Universal Analytics, you can use the GA4 Setup Assistant to quickly transfer available settings and information to your new GA4 property.
If you don’t have an existing Google Analytics account,
First, you’ll want to create an account for Google Analytics. You can start a GA account with an existing Gmail address or create a new one specifically to attach to Google Analytics. Once your account is set up, you can generate a tracking code that you’ll place on your website, which allows GA to pull site data into your dashboard.
Inside the Google Analytics dashboard, click “Admin” on the bottom of the menu on the left-hand side of the page:
If you don’t already have an account, you’ll need to start there. Click ‘Create Account’ and name your account. Click next to continue through the property creation process.
If you already have an account, click ‘Create Property.’
Choose a relevant name for your property, like your brand name, and set your time zone and currency for accurate reporting.
Now, Google wants to know about you to make sure they’re providing you with valuable insights. Select your industry and the button next to your business size.
Up next: Goals. Choose the relevant objectives.
Next, you’ll need to accept Google’s TOS to continue.
Finally, it’s time to connect your data stream! You can connect one website, one Android app and one iOS app to a property. Click the data stream type you want to add.
Let’s set up the web stream. Add your URL and name the stream. Leave ‘Enhanced measurement’ turned on. Click ‘Create stream.’
This will generate a Google tag — a bit of code — that you’ll need to add to your website.
Adding Google Analytics to Your Website
The next steps for setting up Google Analytics will be different depending on which CMS you have and which method you prefer to use to enable GA on your website. I recommend using Google Tag Manager so you can create custom events in the future. Alternatively, you can have your web dev install the Google Analytics code (a tag) onto your website.
GA4 will start collecting data the moment you add the data stream code to your website or web. Then, you’ll see data appear in most reports.
To see conversions in the Engagement collection, you’ll want to mark particular events as conversion events.
To see data in the Monetization collection, you’ll want to establish ecommerce tracking.
How To Use the Google Analytics Dashboard
Even before you explore the menus, the Google Analytics main dashboard provides instant access to valuable data and insights in a single location. Each widget on the main dashboard offers a snapshot of data from an underlying analytics report that Google thinks you’ll find interesting. These are customized over time and may change depending on where you spend the most time in GA4.
You can adjust the dates in available widgets to see data over a specific period of time or, click the buttons in the bottom-right corner of each panel to dive deeper into the specific data.
In the above screenshot, GA4 is displaying a widget from the Reports snapshot that shows users, new users, average engagement time, and events. To get more information about the data, I can click on ‘View reports snapshot’ on the widget, or navigate the reports menu.
To start viewing more granular data, I recommend jumping over to the main menu on the left to get the best Google Analytics reports for SEO or explore insights in greater detail.
Your menu will look different depending on which data streams you enable. At Victorious, we’re only tracking a web stream. Here’s what our menu looks like:
Google Analytics 4 Reports Overview
There are two types of reports in Google Analytics 4: overview reports and detail reports.
An overview report provides a visual representation of your data. It serves as a summary and consists of customizable cards.
A detail report houses two different visualizations (like a line graph and bar graph) and allows you to sort and filter data.
Each of the GA4 report collections described below has at least one overview report and one detail report.
If you have a web data stream set up, you should see the following predefined reports when you click on the ‘Reports’ menu.
NOTE: Google is constantly improving GA4. That means some of our screenshots may look different than what you see on your screen.
First up is the ‘Reports snapshot.’
This high-level summary shows how many users you have, their level of engagement, where they arrive from, and ecommerce revenue. Customize your Reports snapshot to see your most important data at a glance.
(See how the menu is different in the above screenshot? That’s because Google’s demo account has a web stream and an app stream enabled. For this article, though, I’m going to just focus on reports visible for those with a web stream enabled.)
Get insight into what’s happening on your website at any given moment in the Realtime report.
How many people have used your site in the past 30 minutes? Where are they located? How did they find your site? What pages are they looking at?
After those two initial reports, remaining reports are shown in ‘collections’ that are separated into drop-down menus.
Life Cycle Collection
Acquisition: Learn how people are getting to your site and which of your campaigns is driving the most traffic. These reports break down site traffic by acquisition channel.
- Overview: Get a summary of traffic acquisition and user engagement by channel.
- User acquisition: Identify where new users are coming from and which channels generate the most engagement, triggered events, conversions, or revenue. Add a filter to see these metrics for a particular landing page or add a comparison to see them side by side. To do a comparison of organic traffic to all traffic, select ‘Session medium’ as the dimension and then ‘organic’ as the source.
- Traffic acquisition: See where new sessions originate, events per session, revenue per channel, and more. Add a filter to see these metrics for a particular landing page or add a comparison to see them side by side.
- Google ads campaigns: If you’ve connected your Google Ads account to your GA4, you can see which ads drive traffic to your site.
Engagement: Measure user behavior on your site to uncover your most effective pages.
- Overview: See the average engagement time for visitors, the pages they visit most often, and which events they trigger.
- Events: View the number of events users triggered on your website and the resulting revenue generated. Use filters to see events for a particular page or by traffic channel. Add a comparison to see them side by side.
- Conversions: Identify how many conversions have occurred by event. Use filters to see conversions by landing page or traffic channel or add a comparison to see them side by side.
- Pages and screens: See views, users, and engagement metrics for all of your pages. Use filters or search to find metrics for a particular page or add comparison to see them side by side.
Monetization: Track revenue across your site and pinpoint your most profitable pages and channels.
- Overview: See your most popular items and promotions and track total revenue by source.
- Ecommerce purchases: Track item views, add-to-carts, sales, and other product interactions. Use filters to see metrics by traffic source, landing page, and more, or add a comparison to see them side by side.
- In-app purchases: If you have an app, you can zero in on app revenue here. Filter data and add comparisons to learn more about app revenue.
- Publisher apps: Track revenue generated from ads in your app.
Retention: Provides information about returning users, including engagement and lifetime value. Add a comparison to see data for a specific page or traffic channel.
Demographics: Learn more about the new and returning users visiting your site.
- Demographic overview: See users by country, city, gender, language, and interests. Add a comparison to see data by channel or landing page.
- Demographic details: Dive further into the demographic analytics and see which subset of users are the most engaged or generating the most revenue. Filter or add comparisons to see data for traffic channels or landing pages.
Tech: See the technology visitors use to access your site.
- Tech overview: View common devices, operating systems, and platforms by user or revenue. Add a comparison to see differences by channel or landing page.
- Tech details: Dive further into tech analytics and customize the report with filters and comparisons to see users, events, revenue, and other metrics by traffic channel, landing page, and more.
Note: GA4 Property administrators can grant other users access to all reports or limit who can see particular reports or metrics.
If you have an app data stream, you will have access to the Firebase report.
If you’ve chosen games for your industry category or have a datastream for a game app, you will also have access to the Games report.
GA4 users with Admin privileges can create custom Overview and Detail reports.
To customize reports, go to Reports and then Library, which is located at the very bottom of the left-hand navigation.
Your library holds all of your reports and provides a place to edit existing reports, create new collections, and create new reports.
If you want to edit reports, I recommend making a copy of the original report rather than editing the report directly. This way you can make multiple variations or revert back to the original if needed.
To create a custom report, follow these steps.
How To Use Google Analytics: 3 Tips & Strategies
Even with everything we’ve covered in this guide, we’ve only brushed the surface of what Google Analytics has to offer. But get started with these five tips, and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to mastering advanced data analysis with GA.
1. Stay Focused on Your Goals
Google Analytics can get overwhelming. So always open the platform with a specific goal in mind to avoid getting distracted and wandering down a rabbit hole. (Although sometimes you learn interesting things in rabbit holes!)
2. Integrate With Other Analytics Tools
Google Analytics is incredible on its own, but you can double the benefit when you integrate it with other tools. For example, email marketing, social media, CRMs, Google Search Console, and other marketing tools can integrate seamlessly with Google Analytics to bring together data from other sources.
3. Use Explorations To Visualize How Users Engage With Your Website
Once you’ve gotten comfortable with the standard reports, increase your analytic power with Explorations. Create segments, sort your data into meaningful categories, and more. Google shares how to get started with this feature here.
The Rest Is Up to You
Google Analytics provides vital data about your website traffic sources, audience demographics, and user behavior. Every marketer should know how to use GA4 to draw actionable insights and put their data to work for them. I hope this Google Analytics starter guide encourages you to dig deeper and learn more about the numbers behind your digital marketing efforts.
Facing Lagging Numbers?
Not seeing growth in your GA4 reports? Are competing priorities pushing SEO to your back burner? We can help! Our SEO agency acts like an extension of your existing team — building award-winning campaigns and staying on top of search fluctuations. We obsess over your SEO success, so you don’t have to. Schedule a free SEO consultation to learn more.