Get your web analytics right from the start!
Set it up properly and get it up and running before visitors come pouring in.
With web analytics in place, you can measure, collect and analyze your web data. For example, you can analyze the behavior of visitors and thus, optimize your website to make it more user-friendly.
Today, I’ll walk you through my usual way of setting up Google Analytics (one of the best and FREE web analytics tools).
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1. Sign Up For A Google Account
To start using Google Analytics, you’ll need to have a Google account. And trust me, you’ll want to have a Google account. It’s not just Google Analytics that is useful. Google also has other valuable tools such as Google Tag Manager and Google Data Studio.
And if you intend to run a business, Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) is the best business tool! I use it for my domain email and all my business documents.
Bear in mind that Google Analytics is crucial if you intend to run an online business. With Google Analytics, you can make data-driven decisions to grow your business.
However, running an online business requires more than website analytics. I encourage you to attend online business classes and marketing and sales classes. Or watch streaming broadcasts of free online classes at CreativeLive! You can also join online courses at Udemy~
2. Sign In To Google Analytics & Create New Account
When you sign in to Google Analytics, you’ll either be greeted with the create new account (if it’s your first time signing in) or one of your Google Analytics accounts (if you’ve created a Google Analytics account before).
For the latter, click on the Admin gear icon on the left menu then open the list of accounts and finally, click on the Create new account.
Now, fill up your
- Account Name
- Website Name: I usually just use the naked/bare domain (without the www)
- Website URL: Choose between http or https
- Industry Category
- Reporting Time Zone: I chose this based on my business location and time zone, rather than my customers’ location and time zone
- Data Sharing Settings
Then, click on the Get Tracking ID button.
You’ll have to accept the Terms of Service Agreement of your country and you’ll land on the Tracking Code page.
3. Edit Your Property Settings
Now click on the Property Settings under the Property column.
Check that the settings are correct.
- What you’ve chosen earlier
- Again double-check the URL
- ‘All Web Site Data’ which Google Analytics creates for all new accounts will be set as the default view.
- I recommend that you keep this. I’ll explain later in step 6 when you set up your views.
- What you’ve chosen earlier
- You can choose whether to allow manual tagging (UTM) to override auto-tagging (GCLID used by Adwords)
- I highly recommend that you don’t because auto-tagging is more robust than manual tagging
Enable Demographics and Interest Reports
- Ensure that you have this enabled so that age, gender and interest data appear
Enhanced Link Attribution
- This is for In-Page Analytics which was removed from Google Analytics web UI. You can still see In-Page Analytics using the Chrome extension to find out how many times a link was clicked.
- If you do use In-Page Analytics, you can improve its accuracy by 1) enabling this enhanced link attribution and 2) updating your Google Analytics tracking code on each page to include link element IDs.
- I don’t really use this because I would just set up event tracking for those important link or button clicks. Plus, there are quite a few heatmap tools out there.
Start In-Page Analytics in
- This actually refers to what mode you want to view In-Page Analytics. But since it’s removed, it doesn’t really matter which mode you choose.
- So I just used the recommended Embedded mode.
Adjust Search Console
- If you’ve associated Search Console with Google Analytics, you’ll be able to select which views you want to see Search Console data.
- I highly recommend that you enable all views.
Enable Users Metric in Reporting
- On uses the new calculation while Off uses the previous calculation. You can read Google’s explanation of the difference in calculation.
- I just used the default Off setting.
When you’re done, click on Save.
4. Edit Data Collection
Under the Property column, click on Tracking Info then click on Data Collection.
Then, enable both Remarketing and Advertising Reporting Features.
This will help collect data for AdWords (especially useful if you intend to run Google Search and Display remarketing campaigns or just to see the demographics and interests of your visitors).
5. Edit Your Session Settings
After you’ve saved your changes, return to the Admin Home.
Under the Property column, click on Tracking Info then click on Session Settings.
You can adjust the timeout for 1) session and 2) campaign. We’ll be focusing on the former.
By default, a session expires after 30 minutes of inactivity. But you can change this to be longer or shorter here.
Note that session timeout cannot be less than 1 minute or greater than 4 hours.
I recommend that you adjust the Session Timeout from the default 30 minutes to 3 hours.
Why? Because of 2 reasons:
a. Mitigate Inflated Number Of Goal Completions
Visitors that purchased your product or service would land on the thank you page. Sometimes, they might reload the thank you page after the default 30 minutes session timeout. This will count as a new goal and thus, inflate the number of goal completions.
This is because Google Analytics will count a maximum of one goal completion per user per session.
In this case, the first session will count as one goal and the second session (after reloading the thank you page) will count as another goal. Hence, 2 goal completions in total.
By changing the Session Timeout to 3 hours, any reload of the thank you page within the 3 hours will not be counted as a new goal.
Also, note that even if a user triggers different goals in a session, each goal will only be captured once.
b. Match The Context Of Your Visitors & Website
If your website has a membership area where users are automatically signed out after being inactive for a certain amount of time, you can set the session timeout to match that length of time.
Or if your website has a lot of content and visitors tend to spend a long time reading it, you can lengthen the session time.
Google Analytics will consider a user as inactive if it doesn’t receive any hits during a session (hits include pageviews, events, transactions etc.).
In other words, if your visitors stay on a page for more than 30 minutes without clicking to another page, Google Analytics will consider them as inactive.
Campaign Timeout cannot be greater than 2 years.
But you can retain the default 6 months setting.
Unless your advertising campaigns are usually longer than that. If so, you can adjust the campaign timeout to match your usual campaign duration.
When you’re done, click on Apply to save your changes.
6. Set Up Your Views
Go back to the Admin Home again and click on View Settings under the View column.
Again, adjust the following
- View Name
- Website’s URL
- Time zone country or territory: Do ensure that this is correct!
- Default page: If you have multiple URLs that point to the same home page, you can include them here. I usually just ignore it and leave it blank.
- Exclude URL Query Parameters: You can exclude any URL query parameters that you do not want to see in your reports. Same as above, I just ignore it and leave it blank.
- Currency: Do ensure that this is correct! If your Google Analytics uses a different currency than your AdWords, Google Analytics will automatically convert the AdWords cost data to the Google Analytics currency. This will affect metrics like cost-per-click (CPC).
- Bot Filtering: choose whether you want to exclude all hits from known bots and spiders
- Site search Tracking: You can set this up if you want to track your visitors’ search queries
The most important settings are time zone and currency. You want these two to be correct right from the start. Because changes in time zone or currency only affect data going forward and are not applied retroactively.
Always double check time zone and currency for all new views that you’re creating!
Let’s move on to some views you can set up (but bear in mind the above view settings that you’ll have to configure individually for each new view you’re creating).
All Web Site Data
This is the default view that Google Analytics automatically creates for you. I highly recommend that you retain this view and just check the time zone and currency.
This view should also have no filters. It should retain ALL data just like its name.
Subdomains: www, blog, shop, store
When you purchase a domain, it’ll be a naked or bare domain. For example, my domain is nicolecw.com
But I prefer my default URL to be www.nicolecw.com which I’ve already set up in the backend. So even if you type nicolecw.com in the URL address bar, you’ll be redirected to www.nicolecw.com
WWW is a subdomain. And I understand that you might prefer a non-www domain instead since it’s easier to remember. Even so, you might have other subdomains like blog, shop or store.
For these subdomains, it’s best to create a new Google Analytics view for each subdomain.
To avoid aggregating data from multiple subdomains (especially if you have a page with the same URL on different subdomains).
If you have a page with the same URL on two subdomains like www.example.com/index.html and blog.example.com/index.html, their data will be merged together under /index.html.
And you’ll have to either use a secondary dimension or segment with hostname to determine which subdomain the data belongs to.
To avoid having a view that includes data from multiple subdomains and running the risk of aggregating their data and considering them as the same page, you should set up separate Google Analytics view for each subdomain right from the beginning.
Also, note that you can only have a maximum of 25 views per property.
Use View Filters To Include Subdomain Traffic Only
After creating a view for your subdomain, return to the Admin Home again and click on Filters under the View column.
Click on + Add Filter.
Choose Create new Filter and fill up the Filter Name. You can simply name it as ‘www.nicolecw.com’ so it’s clear that this filter only includes traffic to www.nicolecw.com.
Under Filter Type, choose Predefined. Then, select include only traffic to the hostname that are equal to [insert your subdomain]. In this case, the filter for my website will look like this:
Use View Filters To Exclude Internal Traffic
First, check whether your IP is static or dynamic.
If your IP is static, you can set up a Predefined filter that excludes traffic from the IP addresses that are equal to [your IP address].
If your IP is dynamic, you can check out this article for the different ways to exclude internal traffic (also includes pros and cons of each method). Or check out this article instead for a step-by-step guide on how to exclude dynamic IP using Google Tag Manager and cookies.
7. Edit Referral Exclusion
Let’s go back to the Admin Home and click on Tracking Info under the Property column. Then, click on Referral Exclusion List.
Google states that “By default, a referral automatically triggers a new session. When you exclude a referral source, traffic that arrives to your site from the excluded domain doesn’t trigger a new session.”
What this means is that “For example, a user on my-site.com goes to your-site.com, and then returns to my-site.com. If you do not exclude your-site.com as a referring domain, two sessions are counted, one for each arrival at my-site.com. If, however, you exclude referrals from your-site.com, the second arrival to my-site.com does not trigger a new session, and only one session is counted.”
Hence, to ensure that moving between your subdomains is considered as one session, you have to check that your root domain is added here.
For instance, nicolecw.com is added to the list of referral exclusions. So even if visitors move from blog.nicolecw.com to checkout.nicolecw.com, Google Analytics will count them as one session and still attribute them to the original source / medium, rather than blog.nicolecw.com / referral.
8. Create Goals
I won’t go into detail on how to create a Google Analytics goal because there is a multitude of goals you can create.
But bear in mind that after you create a goal, you should test whether it works. Whether Google Analytics captured that goal completion successfully.
9. Add Your Team Members
At the Admin Home page, do you see that there is a User Management under the Account, Property and View columns?
Well, this is where you add your team members.
Google gives a detailed explanation about Account, Property and View here.
- The top-most level. I use Nicole C. W. for this.
- Can be a website or mobile app. In this case, I’ve created a property for my website, nicolecw.com.
- If your company has various apps for this specific business, you could set it up as different properties like Nicole C. W. Android and Nicole C. W. iOS.
- A defined way of viewing the data.
- It can be manipulated with View Filters such as excluding internal traffic or only including traffic to a certain subdomain.
- Therefore, you should always keep one raw unfiltered view (your All Web Site Data view).
Remember, each property has a different tracking code. Thus, I told you earlier to create different views for subdomains, rather than properties. This way, you don’t have to always double-check that you’re using the correct tracking code.
Now that you understand the differences between them, you have to determine at which level do you want to give your team members or employees access.
After clicking on the User Management under Account, Property or View column, you will see yourself already added to the list.
Next, click on the + to add a new user. Add his or her email address and decide whether to notify them by email.
There are 4 permissions that you can assign them
- Read & Analyze (the most basic level)
- Manage Users (highest level where they can add/delete users or edit other users’ permission)
Finally, click Add and the user will be added.
10. Install Google Analytics Code On Your Website
If your website uses WordPress, you can easily use a Google Analytics plugin to add the Google Analytics code.
However, I highly recommend that you add the Google Analytics code in Google Tag Manager. Then, add this Google Tag Manager code in your WordPress site.
Because not only can you add Google Analytics code in Google Tag Manager, you can also add AdWords code, Facebook Pixel code and more.
Now It’s Your Turn
What other settings did you tweak when setting up Google Analytics for your website?
Let me know by leaving a quick comment below right now.