Friday, 28 May 2010

How-to: Setup Google Analytics

"If you build it, they will come"
  (Field of Dreams)
"How will I know?"
  (Robin Catling)

Build a website or blog: yes you can include 'follow' and 'friend connect' buttons, but that only tells you who came and bothered to click once. You need continual traffic tracking, hard stats on every visitor, otherwise you're flying blind.

Google Analytics is Google’s free service for tracking both performance and traffic of your websites and blogs. It's a service-based service with a simple web-interface...

This assumes you already have a Google account to sign in as, or an account associated with a Google-sites website or Blogger blog.

As its a Google service, the front-end page flow holds your hand so you don't need to be Einstein; a moderately intelligent chimp should be able to do this.

1. Login to Google Analytics (G-A) at http://google.com/analytics/. The main Settings page loads.


2. In Analytics sign-up, you need to create an Analystics 'account' or profile. Bear in mind this is your profile wrapper for however many sites or blogs you wish to track, so the site URL is only the first of up to 100 under your 'portfolio', pick an Account Name to cover everything. Timezone is important if you want to track traffic in your local time.

3. Add Contact info and locale. Anything you like.

4. Agree to the Terms of Service; or don't use it!

5. The on-line workflow then fell apart with an error for me (!), but I was still logged in so...
6. I went to the profile page and was relieved to find the engine still running and profile created. I haven't yet for the code for the website, but I'll show you the fancy-part of the profiler...


7. Where you can set additional parameters for the profile such as goals: goals are visitor actions on your website you want to track, for example, viewed a key page, create a profile, join the email list, make a purchase.  Goals are actually just a specific page view for GA to track. You get 4 goal sets each with up to five goals in each.
8. This is where we get our javascript code-block from Analytics to insert into our website. GA asks what kind of site (html, Wordpress, Blogger etc.) for which you need compliant-code, generates it for you to manually copy-paste into your page template. It also tells you where to paste it in the template.

9. When you go back to G-A, it queries the site and will update for data. Next to your blog’s URL it will say either 'Receiving Data' (success!) or 'Tracking Not Installed' (fail), in which case click on 'Check Status' to force G-A to check your site again for the Analytics Code Block. It has to be compliant for the site platform AND sit in the correct place in the template for running valid scripts. And your site has to be able to run scripts. Try re-pasting the Code Block in the event of an initial failure and SAVE the page.

10. Give it some time for the traffic data to build up, then you can go into your G-A dashboard to see the reports; all manner of charts, graphs and stats (top screen-shot).

You now have an opportunity to see where your visitors come from, what browsers they use, which pages they hit, when, how often.

It's not perfect, its a Google tool, slightly compromised by being simplified and as generic as possible; the data is only as good as your visitors security settings and software allows it to collect. It won't tell you why your site is getting no visitors ('because your content is pants or nobody knows about it') that's for you to work on.  Go play.  RC

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