Google Analytics Basics You Need To Know in 2020

The internet is a very interesting place where billions of people from all over the world are visiting it in their daily lives. 

There is an intricate web of people behind every content. And as you are reading this, you are part of this web. You may be website owners, entrepreneurs, or a visitor. 

In this blog, I will talk to you about the basics of Google Analytics.  I made this simple as it can be to help you grasp how this free tool can be a powerful asset to your business growth.

Most of the time, new content creators or online entrepreneurs are exerting their efforts on how to make their website beautiful. Hiring the best web designers possible. Of course, these are not bad. 

But digital marketing, online business, e-commerce has a lot of information that your naked eyes can see. And these are how the numbers and figures are doing behind your website. 

Analytics provides us what’s behind the scene in your online business. How is it doing and how can you possibly improve it? 

When you access Google Analytics as a complete beginner, everything may seem overwhelming at first. But this google analytics basics tutorial will walk you through. By the end of the tutorial, you will certainly get the hang of how to use this extremely useful tool to maximize your site’s performance.

This basic Google Analytics guide is helpful if you are:

  • An aspiring entrepreneur who wants to learn the basics first before jumping into the online market bandwagon; and
  • A website owner who wants to understand and harness the power of Google Analytics into your business.

What is Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free built by Google to help track the performance of your website, track site traffic, and process this information into useful data for website owners or entrepreneurs to use, 

If you don’t have Google Analytics yet, I encourage you to create an account. And take advantage of this very powerful tool. 

Why use Google Analytics

  1. It’s free 

We love everything that is free. So why not take advantage of this tool. It only takes a few seconds to create an account. 

Knowing how to use Google Analytics is absolutely a great investment for your business. 

  1. Your competitors are using Google Analytics.  

Whether you use or not use the valuable insights that Google Analytics is using, your competition will. Competition in the online world is very high. 

It is beyond imagination as to how many your competition will be. You can either choose to stay on top or lose your presence. It’s up to you. 

  1. Data-driven analysis. 

With the massive data at your disposal, you can plan your way ahead. Understanding where your traffic is coming from, how your traffic behaves, what are their interest, their demographics, and so many more. This will help you plan your customer profile, and how to do your marketing strategy. 

There are only two steps that you need to learn to have a good foundation in Google Analytics. These are to track and analyze. 

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Tracking

The first thing that you need to understand in order to use the best out of Google Analytics is tracking. 

As creepy as it may sound that companies try to track our behavior as we use the internet. There is nothing to really be worried about because they do not get or steal our personal information. 

What they are tracking here is how we act on what they have to offer. Like how many clicks we do before purchasing an item. Or do we visit their site often? It gives them a general idea of their customer’s behavior in general. 

One of the common tracking methods that we see as we browse the internet are the cookies. They are familiar because they pop out of nowhere and ask our permission or notify us that they are using cookies. 

Urchin Traffic Module or UTM 

Most marketers and advertisers use the UTM or the Urchin Traffic Module. 

When we go to a webpage, we use either Google or the web address, or what we commonly call as links. 

These URLs or links come out once you create a web page. 

UTM are descriptions or codes (words, phrases, symbols) that you add at the end of your URL in order to simplify your marketing activities, campaigns, or promotions. 

Once you have added your UTM codes, a new link will be created. The new link then becomes unique for a specific platform. 

This UTM code is what is behind the scene on how Google processes the traffic to give you accurate data on how your campaigns are doing. 

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Let’s take this example. 

You want to create a new landing or a web page for a new product or content on your website. Of course, you want people to go to your site. 

Then, you want to promote this product or content.  The platforms you plan to use are Facebook, YouTube, Google Ads, and email. 

What you will do is create a unique link for each of these platforms. So you add UTM codes to your page’s URL. One code for each platform. 

So there’s a new link for Facebook, one for YouTube, one for Google Ads, and one for your email marketing. Then you use these new links on their respective platforms. 

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And every time someone clicks that link, all that information is going to be sent over to Google analytics. You will have a next-level tracking. In real-time. 

Google Analytics will segregate all the information from each link into valuable data which is your traffic source. In such a way that is easy for you to understand. 

The UTM code is what breaks the URL code and is the way Google analytics processes the information that it generates.  

But fret not. Adding UTM codes and building new links is easy. 

UTM builder 

All you have to do is go to Google, just type in UTM builder. The first result is going to be a free tool from Google, where you literally just fill in the blanks for the URL you want to create.

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Google will automatically give you the tracking link. You copy and paste that into your blog, on Facebook, YouTube description, Google ads, email, or whatever platform you do your campaign. 

This is an example of what a UTM URL might look like. 

So what does this mean? How do I know that I have a unique link coming from each platform? 

At first glance, it is very confusing because it is very long with all the letters and symbols combined. 

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But if you look closer into it.  Like when we color code it, you can see that there are four distinct pieces of information inside this particular link — source, medium, name, and content. 

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There are five parameters that are inside a UTM. 

The first three are necessary fields: 

  • Source – The highest source of traffic where people find your website. These are typically a platform like YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media sites. 
  • Medium – The kind or type of traffic it is. It can be organic, referral, affiliate, paid traffic, email. 
  • Name – The name of the actual campaign this how you identify your campaign like an online class, YouTube class. If you plan to run Facebook or YouTube ads, then it could be the actual specific campaign name. 

The next two are optional if you want detailed information about the link that you want to build. 

  • Content – This provides greater detail about your ads or campaign.
  • Term – Used to differentiate ads within your campaign. 

So later on when we’re doing analysis, you’ll see that that’s actually how we organize our content campaigns. 

In general, a UTM tells Google Analytics more detailed information about your link. 

  • Where the traffic came from
  • What campaign it was 
  • What email was it
  • What specific video or ad was it
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Tip: Use lowercase letters or symbols all the time when you name your links. 

Everything in Google analytics should just be lowercase. Because Google will consider it as a completely different link or campaign even for slight changes in your link. The result is you will have split traffics even if it is for the same campaign. 

You will have a problem when you are analyzing the data that comes from your Google Analytics. It will be a mess and creates confusion on your end. 

Tip: You have to keep a naming convention when using UTM codes. This will avoid confusion during your analysis. If you have a team, you should have an agreement for everyone to understand your codes. 

Also, keep a record of your naming convention or the codes you use for each parameter. And for each campaign, you are making.  

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A key here is to keep your codes consistent in every campaign that you do. 

UTM is one of the most powerful things you can do with Google analytics. And is the foundation of how successful your analysis will be.  

I can’t stress enough how important this particular step is. And that’s why we skipped all that other configuration stuff. Because all else doesn’t matter if we’re not meticulously tracking all of the traffic that’s coming to our site. 

Analyze

So now that we have all of that, we’re ready to actually start analyzing.

Let’s take all of that data and turn it into actionable information. 

Here, we assume that your campaign is over. Or if you’re not doing a campaign, you can set a schedule to check your Google Analytics for a particular period of time like a week or a month. 

And to do that, we only need to answer three questions and use a couple of reports to start extracting some value out of Google Analytics right now. And the three questions are, 

  1. Who are your customers? 
  2. Where are they coming from? 
  3. And how do you get more? 
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The first step in analyzing is to sign in to your Google Analytics account. 

Once signed in, you go directly to your dashboard. 

Here, you will look at three important data in your dashboard – Audience, Acquisition, and Conversion. 

Audience – Who are your customers

For the Audience, you will look at the age, gender, location, and what is called Affinity and In-market audiences.

So in your main dashboard, you will click on Audience. Under Audience, there are demographics, interests, and geo. 

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Demographics 

Let’s start with demographics. 

So click on demographics. Next click on Overview. 

Here, Google Analytics will tell you the approximate age and gender of people who are visiting your site.

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These are all that you need to look at here. 

You can play with the date ranges, and do some comparisons to see how these data have changed over time. 

You will know what general age your customer or site visitors are and then what general genders they are. 

Interest

The next that you can do is look at Interest. 

Here they break down the audience into two groups: Affinity and In-market. 

They also have topic audiences. But we won’t get into that here.

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Now to put this simply,  

  • Affinity are the hobbyists. People who are actively interested in a particular topic. Or have shown any behavior over an extended period of time. 

This group is very helpful if you do YouTube advertising or Google advertising. 

  • In-market are those people who are actively looking to buy a product or service around a particular topic.

This group is helpful if you do Google search or display ads. 

If you’re not doing anything with Google ads, they will not be too helpful. Because the data you see is in percentages here on. 

Unless you’re in a niche place, or you have a website that is pretty much completely aligned with one of these audiences. Then this will be helpful. You can see that the percentage of people who fall into one of these categories is pretty low.

If only 3% or 6% of the total traffic falls into one of these categories it will not be helpful when you want to choose what audiences might really be good for advertising. But it is a good place to keep an eye on. 

Location 

Location is helpful if you’re a local-based business. 

If you do local advertising or marketing, this is really cool. 

And this also creepy once you realize how much information people have on us while we browse the internet. 

You have a map overview. And you can scroll down, and see the countries.

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Also on the map, you can click through to a specific country. Then you can click through territories and States. And you can go all the way down to the city level.

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Let’s take a look at screenshots of a live example here. 

For this particular site, most people have come from the U.S. And only four people from Mongolia. 

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Let’s click on the U.S. And take a look at which States get the most traffic for this particular site. 

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And no surprise. The usual suspects — California, Texas, Florida, and New York – gets the most traffic. 

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If you want to understand where these 1500 people were from California, you can click and zoom even more. And all of a sudden you will see the individual cities in California. 

Here, you zoom and see that there are 150 from San Francisco, six from Alameda. 

And this is as creepy as it looks. You will literally see exactly where people are located. And when they visit this particular site.

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This is really helpful if you do local-based advertising. You will be able to figure out where you should be targeting your ads. 

Acquisition – Where is traffic coming from 

The good news here is that Google does a decent job of giving simple acquisition data and where traffic comes from. Even if you haven’t set up UTM parameters yet. Google will provide you with all that extra juicy data. 

Click on all traffic. Here, you can see the breakdown of the different types of traffic that come to your site.

Under channels, you can see our organic traffic, social traffic, referral traffic, direct traffic. 

Note: Direct traffic is an analytical way of saying that GA doesn’t know where the traffic came from. So you don’t want a high direct traffic number. 

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This is where UTM parameters become very helpful. Because the goal is to get the lowest possible direct traffic number. 

The ultimate goal would be zero. But we won’t be able to literally track every single person who visits your site. So the goal should just be to get direct traffic as low as possible.

Next, we will look at Source and Medium. Here, I can illustrate to you how powerful UTM parameters can be once they start working in your favor. 

Now you can do on this page other than just generally seeing some statistics is add a Secondary dimension. 

You click on the little secondary dimension dropdown menu. Then click on Source and Medium. 

Now this will be a little redundant compared to what we’ll do next in the acquisition. But this will just be helpful, especially if you’re not doing UTM parameters.

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This part will tell you the type of traffic and source. 

  • If it’s organic, did it come from Google? Did it come from Bing? 
  • Is Google traffic organic? Is Google traffic paid? 
  • Is Bing traffic paid? Is Bing traffic organic?
  • Same for Facebook and other social media sites. 

It gives you a wider breakdown of what is inside the broad categories.

If you don’t have a lot of traffic like this particular account, then this is as far as you need to go.

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If you have a lot of traffic or you’ve already started with your UTM links, 

Then you can click on Source Medium on the left-hand side. So that Source Medium becomes the default. 

When the source medium comes to the default, you can click on secondary dimensions.

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Here, you can look at your campaigns and your ad creative. It gives you a little bit more flexibility. 

If it looks more work or redundant, just skip this, stick with the channels.

Campaigns 

For a little bonus under Acquisition, we will talk about campaigns. 

This only works if you already do your UTM links. So that you can appreciate how important it is to get UTM codes for your campaigns. 

When you set up UTM parameters there is a parameter that is called campaign name. And a parameter called term, where you give the ad creative a code.

Here, when we click on campaigns. All of these campaigns have been set up using a UTM parameter. 

Now, we are able to see all of the traffic for each one of our offers. 

On this particular YouTube channel, I offer a lead magnet or a freebie on our free membership website — the Aspire Notebook. I do this once in a while. 

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There’s a UTM parameter link in the description that says what the lead magnet is or what the free offer is. It also says what specific video these offers are placed. 

If we go to secondary dimension again, we click on Advertising and Ad creative, 

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All of a sudden, can actually see the specific video that drove those people to the website or the landing page. And I can’t stress enough how powerful this is. 

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If you look at this data, it tells me that whatever M15 is, is really good at driving new people to the website. Compared to something like B41, that’s only driven, 96 people. 

You can actually get some insight as to which blog posts or pieces of content that you’re putting that drive action to your website. 

Conversion – How do we get more

It means, how to get more traffic. Also means how you get more sales.  

This is the most complicated one. 

Now, you can start to optimize your ads or your content. 

Here, you can see what is actually driving people to take action on our site.

It is conversions. 

Let us look at conversion from a different angle.

In the campaign dashboard, there’s a dropdown menu in the conversion section where you can choose Goals. 

At Goals, can meticulously track how many people enter their name and email on a certain page. Or how many people buy a certain product, or fill out a certain form to get on the phone with you. It gets all your traffic organized and categorized.

But Goals is a configuration process that’s an advanced level.

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There are a lot of ways that you could set up Goals. But we will not go to that part here. 

To give you an idea, all you have to do is click on conversions on the left-hand side. And a pop up will come out asking you to set up your goals. 

Then you can click on Set up goals. And Google will guide you through setting up your first round of goals.

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I highly recommend using Google Tag Manager in conjunction with analytics. So that setting up your goals is a breeze. 

Conclusion 

Google Analytics is very powerful that you could use for your online business. I highly recommend that you take advantage of this free tool. 

Your first step in doing analytics is to get UTM parameters across everything that you do. For you to know where your traffic comes from. 

Though UTM is not the ultimate answer to tracking traffic. Things can happen like someone copies a link in her email and shares it their Facebook. Then someone reads the post with the link from the email. Google will count it as traffic from email though it is clicked from Facebook. But in general, you’re tracking and analysis is less chaotic than not using UTM at all. 

When you start to analyze your traffic, you only have three main questions to answer. 

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Even if your site is working, Google Analytics will tell you how to make it work better. 

So go and create your Google Analytics account right now. And take a huge step towards making your website as effective as possible. 

I hope you get a lot of value out of this blog. 

Until the next, keep building the business you love.

Jason Whaling
 

Jason Whaling is an online marketing expert, consultant, author, and a lifelong entrepreneur. Combining a mix of dynamic business strategy, consumer psychology, and social media marketing, Jason works with people like you to build their personal brands and business.