Google Analytics - Getting Started

September 03, 2015 Chris Wigley

This article is one part in a multi-part series covering Google Analytics.

Note: The Google Analytics interface changes frequently. Consequently, screen captures and features mentioned in these articles may not correspond to what you see when you view the Google Analytics interface.

Signing Up for Google Analytics

REQUIREMENTS
In order to sign up for Google Analytics, you must first have a Google account. If you do not have a Google account, create a Google account before you attempt to sign up for Google Analytics.

Head over to the Google Analytics landing page, then press the 'SIGN IN TO GOOGLE ANALYTICS' button.

Signing in to Google Analytics

CREATING A GOOGLE ANALYTICS ACCOUNT
Once you are signed in to Google Analytics, you will be presented with one of two screens: the sign up for Google Analytics screen or a screen displaying a list of your existing Google Analytics accounts. This article assumes that this is the first time you are signing up for Google Analytics.

start analyzing site traffic

Press the 'Sign Up' button, then you will be presented with the new account creation screen.

Creating Your First Google Analytics Account

The first screen you will see after signing up for Google Analytics is the New Account creation screen. On this screen, you will choose:

  • The type of Google Analytics account to create, Website or Mobile app
  • The name of the account
  • The website URL for the account
  • The Industry Category (for benchmarking purposes)
  • The Reporting Time Zone
  • Data Sharing settings

Creating a google analytics account

ACCOUNT TYPE
This article assumes you wish to add analytics tracking to a website. Therefore, you should select 'Website' from the 'What would you like to track?' options. If you wish to add analytics to a mobile application, you should select the 'Mobile app' option.

ACCOUNT NAME
The account name is used to identify the account among all your other Google Analytics accounts. It is recommended that you use the name of your organization for the account name.

You should only create one Google Analytics account for your organization.

WEBSITE NAME
You can track multiple websites with a single Google Analytics account. Each website (or Mobile app) is called a 'Property' in Google Analytics. When you create a Google Analytics account, you will also create your first Property from the same screen. For 'Website Name' you should enter the name of your website, e.g., Main Organization Website, where 'Organization' is the name of your company or organization.

WEBSITE URL
Each property that you create is tied to a website. Each website has a URL. When you create the Property for your website, you also need to enter the URL of the website. Make sure you enter the URL of the website exactly as you would type the website URL in a browser.

INDUSTRY CATEGORY
Industry Category is used for benchmarking purposes. By choosing the correct Industry Category from the options, you will be able to see benchmarking information within Google Analytics. You should select the Industry Category option that most closely represents the Industry Category for your organization.

REPORTING TIME ZONE
The Reporting Time Zone is used to properly calculate the time at which tracked actions and events occur on your website. You should select the Reporting Time Zone value that best represents the time zone from which most of your website activity originates.

DATA SHARING SETTINGS
There are several Data Sharing Settings, each enabling certain options when interacting with Google Analytics. Each Data Sharing option features an explanation of the option, which you should read. It is recommended that you at least enable both the Benchmarking and Technical support options within the Data Sharing Settings section.

data sharing settings

Once you've completed the account creation form, press the 'Get Tracking ID' button to complete the account creation step.

tracking id

Property

Each Google Analytics account has 1 or more properties. A Property represents a single website or mobile application. Each Property is identified by a unique Tracking ID. When you first created your Google Analytics account, you simultaneously created your first Property.

TRACKING ID
Each Property (e.g., website or mobile app) is identified by a unique ID. The Tracking ID is the unique ID that is assigned to each website property that you create. You do not choose the unique Tracking ID; the unique Tracking ID is created for you when you create the Property. When you create a new website Property, you now have a new Tracking ID that uniquely identifies this Property (e.g., website or mobile app) from all of your other properties.

Tracking Code Snippet
In order to track analytics for your website or mobile app, your website or mobile app code must contain the Tracking ID code snippet. After you press the 'Get Tracking ID' button, you will see the tracking code snippet that you should add to your website code. The Tracking Code snippet contains a bit of JavaScript code, and the unique Tracking ID which represents your website or mobile app.

Take a look at the following Tracking Code snippet. You will see that the tracking code snippet contains the unique Tracking ID that was generated for you when you created your website Property.

google analytics tracking snippet

If you do not add the Tracking ID code snippet to your website code, you will not be able to track analytics for your website.

You should add the Google Analytics tracking code snippet to every web page that you wish to track. If your website pages use a common template for all website pages, it is recommended that you add the tracking code snippet to the template that is used by all pages on your site.

You should add the Google Analytics tracking code snippet to every web page that you wish to track.

If you ever need to obtain the Tracking ID or tracking code snippet in the Google Analytics interface, you can access the Tracking ID and tracking code snippet from the Property - Tracking Code setting in the Admin view of the organization.

tracking code option for property

REFERRAL EXCLUSION LIST
The Referral Exclusion List allows you to enter one or more URLs that will be exlcuded from your referral traffic. If your website URL is www.mywebsite.com, then you should have an entry in the Referral Exclusion List, mywebsite.com. This means that if a person visits your site using the URL mywebsite.com, and then presses a link that points to www.mywebsite.com, the URL mywebsite.com (notice the lack of www.) will not be considered a referring URL.

referral exclusion list for a property

Example
You have two websites, www.mywebsite.com and blog.mywebsite.com. Content on blog.mywebsite.com refers to content on www.mywebsite.com. A person browses content on blog.mywebsite.com, then presses a link on blog.mywebsite.com that refers to a page on www.mywebsite.com at www.mywebsite.com/some-page. When you view the referrer information for /some-page in Google Analytics, you will see blog.mywebsite.com is a referrer for www.mywebsite.com/some-page. Since blog.mywebsite.com is a URL that represents a different website than www.mywebsite.com, this is OK. However, virtually always the www and non-www versions of a website URL refer to the same website, and we do not want to see referral traffic from the non-www URL which represents the same website as the www URL.

It is recommended that you exclude alternate URLs from referral traffic if those alternate URLs point to the same website as your primary URL. Not doing so will result in inflated or incorrect referral traffic data.

View

In Google Analytics, each Property (e.g., website or mobile app) has one or more Views. A View is a way of looking at the data for the associated Property. When you are looking at data (e.g., graphs, tabular data, etc) in Google Analytics, you are looking at a View.

When you create a Property, a View is automatically created for you. At the time I was writing this, the automatically created View was titled "All Web Site Data". You can change the name of the View at any time after it is created.

Account, Property and View screen

Views are a complex feature of Google Analytics. In-depth coverage of the various aspects of Views is beyond the scope of this article, and will be covered in more detail in a future article in this series.

VIEW SETTINGS
To view the settings for the Property -> View, select the 'View Settings' option listed underneath the selected View.

view settings

On the 'View Settings' screen, you will see a number of options and values that you can edit:

  • View Name
  • Website's URL
  • Time zone country or territory
  • Default Page
  • Exclude URL Query Parameters
  • Currency displayed as
  • Bot Filtering
  • Site Search Settings
    • Site search Tracking
    • Query parameters
    • Site search Categories

edit view settings

View Name
This is the name of the View. You can choose any name that you like. However, because you are going to have more than one view, make sure you choose a succinct View Name that clearly indicates the purpose of the view, and differentiates the view from all of your other views. You can change the View Name at any time. When using View Filters, it is recommended that the View Name reflect the purpose of the filters applied to the View. In the screenshot above, the View Name is 'All Web Site Data', which indicates that the view represents all of the website data, and that no filters have been applied to the view.

View Filters are beyond the scope of this article. View Filters will be covered in a future article in this article series.

Website's URL
The Website's URL field allows you to specify the URL of the website to which this View applies. By default, the Website's URL value will be the Website URL entered for the Property corresponding to the View. In most cases, you want the Website's URL value to match the URL entered for the corresponding Property. There are some scenarios for which the Website's URL value will not match the corresponding Property Website URL. These scenarios are beyond the scope of this article, and will be discussed in a future article in this series.

Time Zone Country or Territory
You can set the country or territory time zone for each view, and View can use a different country or territory time zone. By default, the 'Time zone country or territory' value defaults to the time zone value set at the Property level.

Example
You create a View for the Property, and the purpose of the View is to limit the reporting data to user activity that originates in the United Kingdom, through the use of View Filters. You name the View 'UK Website Data'. The corresponding Property, which 'owns' the View, has a country and time zone settings of 'United States' '(GMT-08:00) Pacific Time'. Upon first creating your 'UK Website Data' View, the 'Time zone country or territory' value will be 'United States' '(GMT-08:00) Pacific Time'. Using the default values for a View that is intended to limit data based on website traffic in the United Kingdom will cause the time and data for the View to be calculated incorrectly. Therefore, when creating the 'UK Website Data' View, you should select 'United Kingdom' from the dropdown, then select '(GMT+00:00) London'.

Bot Filtering
The Bot Filtering option allows you to exclude traffic from known bots from your reporting. The most common bots are search engines, which crawl websites, indexing and cataloging all of the information on a website. Bots run frequently, and generate a lot of traffic for a site. Therefore, it is recommended to enable Bot filtering for your Views.

For more information about bots, please reference the following Wikipedia articles:

SITE SEARCH SETTINGS
Site Search Tracking
Enabling this feature allows Google Analytics to track your site visitors' site search activity. This setting is not related to searches performed in search tools such as Google or Bing search tools. This setting applies to searches that are conducted within your site. If your website posseses site search capabilities, it is recommended that you enable the 'Site search Tracking' feature for your Views.

If your site does not have site search capabilities, you do not need to enable the 'Site search Tracking' feature.

Query Parameter
Query parameters identify search requests from all other requests on your site. You can enter up to 5 Query parameters in the 'Query parameters' field, each separated by a comma. If you enable the 'Site search tracking' feature, you should enter at least one value in the 'Query parameters' field.

Example
Your site features a 'Search this site' textbox at the top of every page. Site visitors use this feature to search for content on your site. When a site visitor performs a search, and is then presented with the results of their search, the URL in the browser address bar looks like this: www.mywebsite.com?qu=Tyrion%20Lannister In this URL, the search term is identified by the prefix qu=, and the search term is Tyrion Lannister. Therefore, the Query parameter for this search is qu. Given this information, you would enter qu in the 'Query parameter' field in the 'Site Search Settings' section.

Site Search Categories
Site search categories allow you to further dissect your site visitors' site search queries based upon the search categories you implement in the site search feature of your site. If you utilize search categories on your site, it is recommended that you enable the 'Site search categories' feature for your Views.

If you do not use search categories on your site, you do not need to enable the Site search categories feature.

Category Parameter
Category parameters allow you to further segregate your site search information. If you enable the 'Site search categories' feature, it is recommended that you enter at least one value in the 'Category parameter' field. Like the 'Query parameter' field, you are allowed up to 5 Category parameter values, each separated by a comma.

Example
Your site features a 'Search this site' textbox at the top of every page. Additionally, site visitors' are afforded the ability to limit the site search results to a certain type, 'Person', 'News', 'Publication', or 'Blog'. A site visitor performs a search on your website, entering 'business and political maneuvering' in the search textbox, and selecting 'Person' from a list of search options, to limit the search results to people. When the site search results are presented to the site visitor, the URL of the search results page is: www.mywebsite.com?qu=business%20and%20political%20maneuvering&type=person In this URL, the Query parameter is qu and the Category parameter is type. Given this information, you would enter qu in the 'Query parameter' field and type in the Category parameter field.

Viewing Your Data

Now that your Account, one Property and one View are created, you are ready to view your data. To view your data, press the "Reporting" tab at the top of the Google Analytics screen.

google analytics audience overview

Wrapping Up

Congratulations! You're now set up and ready to go with Google Analytics. Be sure to check back frequently for more in-depth articles about Google Analytics.

Stay tuned for most posts to come on Google Analytics!

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Chris Wigley Solutions Architect

At the time of publishing, Chris was a Solutions Architect at One North.

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