A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free analytical tool, available to anyone who runs a website or blog. It not only measures your site’s traffic but can also provide statistics and in-depth data on:

  • The speed of your site
  • Whether the site is mobile-friendly
  • How many visitors end up as a customer
  • What part of the world your visitors are in
  • Which websites drive traffic to yours
  • How long visitors spend on each page
  • Which marketing tactics are the most successful

These are important questions that any website owner should be asking, and using Google Analytics can easily provide answers. It is a vital tool for anyone who wants to understand where their traffic comes from, as well as improve visitors and sales. To begin using Google Analytics, you’ll need some basic HTML knowledge, an internet connection and access to your site’s HTML code. If you aren’t confident with HTML or don’t have access to the site’s code, you’ll need to liaise with your company’s webmaster.

How to Install Google Analytics

To install Analytics, you’ll need a Google account; if you use services such as Gmail or Dropbox, you will already have one. If you don’t, you’ll need to set one up on the Google website, a simple process that takes about five minutes to complete. You’ll also be able to grant access to others if you wish – however, you should always keep primary control over the account.

Set up your website

Once you have created your Google account, sign in to Analytics by clicking the button. The steps for setting up Analytics will then be displayed.

Sign up

This step requires you to input all information for your website:

  • Your account name
  • Your website name and URL
  • Industry category
  • Time zone for reports

If you are managing more than one account, you have the option to organize them into ‘hierarchies’ – you are able to manage up to 100 Analytics accounts using a single Google account. If you are managing both personal and business websites think carefully about how you wish to set them up. There is no right or wrong way; it depends on which method is most convenient for you. Your properties (websites) and accounts can be renamed if required, but an important point to note is that you can’t move one of your properties to another Google Analytics account without losing all of the data you’ve collected. Once you’ve entered all the information about your site, you can then choose whether you want your data to be shared, for example with Google’s technical team or account specialists.

Installing Tracking Code

Once you have entered all the details of your site, click the button labeled Get Tracking ID and agree to all Google’s Terms and Conditions (in the pop-up box.) Your personal Google Analytics code will then be displayed. The method of installation will depend on your platform – here are three of the most common:

HTML Website

If your website is HTML based, the code needs to be placed before the </head> tag on each page. Use a program for text editing, (such as Notepad for Windows or TextEdit for Mac) and then upload the file to your web host using the FTP program Filezilla.


If you are using WordPress on your own domain, the Google Analytics by Yoast plugin quickly and easily installs the required code.


If your blog is hosted on Tumblr, you will see a button marked Edit Theme on the top right. Click on this and enter the Analytics ID in your settings.

Every host has its own instructions for setting up Google Analytics and you should be able to find these in the Help or FAQ section. If you’re still unsure, you’ll find instructions with a Google search for “installation of Analytics + your host.”

Granting and Modifying Access to Other Users

The level at which you add a user initially determines their access. You can add a new user at view, account or property levels, and you can change their access at any time. The person will need to create a Google account if they don’t already have one.

Add User: To add a new user, go to the Admin tab and click on the account, property or view that you’re granting access to. In the relevant column, depending on the access you wish to grant, click User Management. Enter the person’s Google email address under Add Permissions For. Select the permissions you wish to grant, then click Add.

Modify User Permissions: To modify a user’s permissions, follow the first three steps above, then locate the user with the search bar (you can use a partial or full email address.) You can now add or remove permissions for this user by using the selector in the Permissions column.

Deleting a User: Users cannot be deleted at any level apart from the account level. To delete a user, follow steps one and two, locate the Account column and click User Management (note that you must use the Account column – the delete option will not be displayed if you click on any other column.) Locate the desired user with the search bar and click on the Delete button which will appear on the far right of the row.

Setting up goals

Goals notifies you when a significant event happens on your site, for example when a visitor lands on a confirmation page after making a purchase or signing up to your email marketing list. Ensure the goals are relevant to you and give you useful, actionable information. Your goals will depend on the purpose of your site; some useful goals include:

  • A donation
  • Completion of a purchase
  • Sign-up to email marketing list
  • Download of a free voucher/e-book etc.
  • Completion of a contact form

The Goals setting can be found by clicking Admin, then selecting the Goals button (under the View column.) Click the New Goal button and select either the standard option or the custom option, depending which suits your needs. After this, select Next Step. You’re now required to name your goal – choose something relevant and memorable. Click on Destination and then select Next Step. In the Destination field enter the URL of your confirmation or thank you page (following the .com of your site name.) Select “Begins With” from the drop-down box. At this point, if applicable to your site, you can enter a value in dollars for the conversion and then click Create Goal. To create more goals, simply follow the steps again.

Adding additional properties or accounts

To add a new property, go to your Admin menu and click on the drop-down menu under Property, then select Create New Property. If you want to add a new account, select Create New Account from the drop-down menu under Accounts. To create more new properties or accounts, you’ll be taken through the process again.

Viewing your Data

Once you start receiving information, you’ll see an Audience Overview Report every time you log in to your Analytics account. Alternatively, if you have more than one property on your account, you will see a list of your sites; select one and you will be taken to the relevant Audience Overview Report. There are over 50 reports you can obtain through Analytics. You can also gain access by clicking on the Reporting link at the top of the screen.

Standard Reports

On the Reporting page, you’ll notice various types of reports on the left-hand side. To change the date ranges of the reports, use the box in the upper right-hand corner. You can also compare different periods of time by entering the dates and clicking Compare. The standard report categories include:

Audience Reports: You can see your users locations clearly displayed on a map, who’s new to your site and which devices visitors are using.

Acquisition Reports: This section shows you the search engines being used to find your site and which other websites direct to yours. You can also find the keywords your visitors typed into search engines to find you. This is valuable information – you can optimize your website with those keywords to increase your visibility and traffic.

Behavior Reports: Here, you’ll find in-page analytics and extensive information regarding how your site is working and how visitors are using it.

Report Shortcuts

You can add your favorite and frequently used reports to the Shortcuts section for easier access, found in the left-hand menu. When viewing any report you’ll see a Shortcut button at the top of the screen; click on it to add a shortcut for the report. You can also email reports to yourself and other members of your team by clicking the email icon.

Google Analytics can look daunting for a beginner, and even the set-up process can appear complicated. However, Google walks you through the process step-by-step, and once Analytics is set up and you’re viewing reports on a daily basis, you’ll quickly become more familiar with how it works. You’ll soon realize how valuable the information is and how you can use it to target your campaigns more effectively. Analytics provides you with all the information you need to take control of your site. When used correctly it can identify what tactics leads to increased visitors or sales, and the ones that may need improving. It’s worth taking the time to learn and understand how to use it to your benefit. Once you’ve mastered the basics, there are even more advanced features that you can employ; there’s also lots of additional useful information and tutorials on the Google Analytics site.