Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Setting Up Google Analytics For A Website

Google Analytics is just about everywhere, and it's a powerful tool for understanding your audience and the content they care about.  However, it may not be active for your site. When you create your own site, you need to do a few steps so insure its active on your pages.

The good news is that it's pretty easy.  Let's get started!

Why Set It Up?

This is a personal decision of course, because it's your site, so it's your choice. What inspired me to set it up was the ability to see the audience for a site and try to better understand them to improve engagement and thus give them a better experience through data-driven content.

I also generally trust Google, which helps.

There are many Google products built on top of this that you can use as well, but you don't have to use them or pay any money to get going. You can actually implement Analytics for "free". I use quotes because the default settings mean your analytics will be fed into a greater whole for others to benefit from. So, in a sense, you are paying for it by sharing data. You can turn that off if it troubles you, but I did not.

But maybe you are still a bit skittish or uncertain.  If you want to get a sample of what is possible first, you could fire up a Blogger account ( and create a blog. That is a Google product and has some built-in, limited analytics right in the dashboard.

Getting Set Up

It's surprisingly easy, dare I say crazy easy? Just hop on over to their site ( and you will be immediately put into a process to create an account. You will need a Google account and will be asked for the following:

  • Account name - a descriptive for you, e.g., "My Analytics Experiment"
  • Site name - "My Super Cool Site #1"
  • Site URL  - ""

Then you will be taken directly to an admin page that gives you a tracking ID and explains exactly how to set up your pages for tracking. They will provide you with a tracking script to insert in the body of your pages and some extra instructions if you are using PHP for your site's codebase.

It took me less time to set up than it has taken me to type up this blog post so far.

Note: that tracking ID is unique to you, if you share it with others, it can gum up your tracking.

Is It Working?

Lucky for us fallible humans, on that very same page is a nifty little button labeled "Send test traffic" which immediately fires up a page from your site, creating 1 active user, as shown in the image below.

If that does not generate an active user, you need to be back and check that the page modifications were done correctly. Once they are correct, this should create an active user when clicked.

Now What?

Okay, so you have set up analytics and it's time to let the data roll on in. The good news is that you have opened up a whole new world of capability for understanding your audience. The bad news is that there is a lot in this new world to digest.

For now, you can get a quick analytics fix by going to your Reporting tab and clicking on Real-Time and then Overview. The labels here are pretty clear, just click around and see what's there. Fair warning, this may be addictive to information junkies.

It would be unwieldy to dig any further, so at this point my suggestion is poke around and see what else it offers. Spoiler alert - it's a LOT. If you need professional help, I am certain Google would be happy to provide it. :-)

Note: There may be a delay before data first starts to show up outside of the Real-Time section.

If you want to make those analytics accessible to your collaborators, Just head over to the Admin tab and choose User Management; it's pretty simple from there.

Have fun analyzing!

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