Track Your Visitors with Google Analytics

One of the first things that bloggers do when they set up their blogs is set up some form of visitor tracking. A few of the more common trackers are Statcounter, Site Meter and Google Analytics.

Personally, I run all three counters on this blog, but mostly look at Statcounter’s stats. It is useful to give me an overview of what is happening *right now* on my blog, and lets me see each individual visitor as they come into the blog.

Google Analytics is most useful to get an overview of your blog’s trends, and it does not give you the information on individual visitors like most other counters do. There are a vast array of things that you can do with the data that Google Analytics picks up, but I’ll explain some of the more common things that you can do.

Setting up the code

When you first start with Analytics, you will be sent through a seemingly lengthy sign-up process.

To start, you need to go to Google Analytics and sign in with your Google Account (if you don’t already have one, you can sign up for one easily and for free).

You’ll then be taken to the first page in the sign-up process. To move on, click Sign Up »

Then, you will be asked for some basic information about the page you wish to track – its address, the name you want to assign to the site, your country and your timezone. Click Continue » to proceed. In this example, I’ll use the testing blog from a couple of weeks ago as the example.

Then, Google will ask you for your information. The only information that is required is the Country or territory. Again, click Continue » to move on.

The next step is reading through the Terms of Service. As always, be sure to read the whole thing, and if you’re OK with the information that is being collected, how it is used, etc. Click Yes to agree to the terms, and then click Create New Account » to set your account up.

Now, you have to set up the tracking code in your blog. This does require you to have the ability to edit your template, and for you to use Javascript in your site. They recommend that you put the code right at the very end of your site’s code, but you can place it anywhere on your page that you wish. Simply copy the code and place it in your blog’s code. I won’t show you how to do that here, but if you need assistance, let me know and I’ll post about it. 🙂

After installing the code, you will be taken to the Analytics Settings page – here you will have access to all the sites you’ve set up tracking for; you can view the reports, edit settings, delete the tracker and check the status of your site’s metering. When you first set up your site’s code, the screen will look like the one below, with the status saying that the code is not verify. After you’ve installed your code and saved the page, you can click on Check Status to tell Google to check that the code is there.

This is the page that you will see after clicking on Check Status. When your code has been just put into your page, you will see that it is Waiting for Data. After about 24 hours, the staus will change to Receiving Data, and unless there is an error with your page, it will stay that way for as long as you have the tracking setup.

Exploring Your Data

So, now you’ve been receiving data for a while and want to do something with the data you’re getting with your new tracker. This is really where the power of Google Analytics shows itself. This is also the point where I must depart from the testing blog and open the books of my own blog for you all to see, hehe 😉

When you go into the View Reports screen, you’re taken to the Dashboard, where you are given an overview of the last month’s activity on your site. An important thing to know about these reports is that in the default view, you will only see information through yesterday. However, you can change the date quite easily.

This is what the dashboard looks like –

The main graph is the number of visits. Below that, you will find six other types of data for your site. If you click on the links in that section, you will be taken to a page detailing that particular stat with daily breakdowns. The next four sections below that are movable. There, you see a pie chart detailing where traffic has come from for your site, a map of all of your visitors, a graph of the number of visitors to your site, and a list of the five most popular pages on your site.

To change the dates that you wish to look at for your stats, simply click on the date range in the upper right. This will bring down a calendar that allows you to click on the dates you wish to use for the stats. An additional feature that can come in handy is the Compare to Past checkbox. If you check that, you will be given a second set of dates. When you select a range of dates to look at with this option turned on, it will select the same amount of time previous to the period you selected to use. To confirm the date range, click Apply Range, and your stats will update to reflect the new timeframe.

Also, you can select dates by using the Timeline feature. You can drag the frame to move the dates you want to cover, and you can expand or contract to increase or decrease, respectively, the timeframe you want.

One of the most common things done by bloggers is to look at some of the unusual search terms that people used to get to their page. This is one of the best things about its ability to keep the data for thousands and thousands of visitors to your site – you can see all the keywords that have been used, and not just the ones from the number of visits or page views the counter is limited to.

To get to the list of keywords from the dashboard, click on Traffic Sources. That will bring you to the Traffic Sources Overview, which outlines where your traffic has come from. Here, you will see a list of the top five keywords that have been used to get to your site. To see all the keywords, just click on either “view full report” in the main section of the screen, or on Keywords in the left hand side.

On the Keywords report screen, you will see yet another line graph, showing you how many visitors came by via the use of keywords over your specified time frame. Along with that, you can see some statistics about the visitors which came in via keywords. Below that are the actual keywords; clicking on them will take you to a page charting that keyword’s use over time.

The stats, from left to right are: total number of visits and percent of site total; Pages per visit; Average time on the site (the time that they had the site open); percentage of visitors who are new; and the bounce rate (percentage of visitors who viewed only one page and then left). These four have comparisons to the site average, with the percent difference between the site average and the average for that particular category.

For all the keywords, you can see the statistics for each category as well.

This is just one example of the information you can find using Google Analytics. My best advice would be to take some time and just have a look around. Below are all the different categories that you can look into with your Analytics account. There is almost no end to the information you can get.

How it all works in a nutshell

Basically, how most trackers work is by your browser having Javascript activated. When a page loads, it will see the javascript code and send the server information about your browser and system. Most of the time this will include your browser’s information (as in the version you’re running), your screen resolution, your Operating System, IP address, and the referrer.

Some counters do have code designed for users who have turned Javascript off, but you can never be sure that it does work for them.

Snoskred has a lot more on this in her companion post to this, but the reason that most of us do decide to run multiple counters on our sites is that they are notoriously unreliable. The count can vary widely from one to another, depending on the user’s configuration, and how you’ve set up the code in your blog.

Further Reading
Google Analytics Official Blog
Unofficial Google Analytics Blog
27 Features that Make Google Analytics Best of the Breed
Google Analytics Tutorial on Squidoo

Previously in the Tuesday Think Tank
14 Reasons Readers Unsubscribe From Your Blog
Tuesday Think Tank: All About RSS
Blog Design – Open Your Eyes.
Demystifying Blogger Template Editing
Spam, Spiders And Do Follow, Oh My!
Say No! to Nofollow

Over to you

Have you used Google Analytics? What do you think about it? Do you prefer another counter such as Statcounter, or does GA do it for you? Let me know in the comments.

Also, if you like this post, feel free to Stumble It. 😉

5 thoughts on “Track Your Visitors with Google Analytics

  1. We use Performancing Metrics. (It’s the same thing as Clicky Web Analytics.) But I was very silly when I started the blog and didn’t do any tracking until several months later!

  2. Daisy – I hadn’t heard of either of those, but Clicky looks very powerful, and very useful; I might just have to install it 🙂

    Also, don’t worry about not having the stats right away. I started out with one of the weaker counters (Extreme Tracker) and didn’t switch to statcounter until October or so.

    Snos – Yep, that’s probably the best thing about it 😉

    BP – Server-side tracking is great if you are on your own server and have access to AWstats or similar, but for those of us using Blogger, etc. we have no choice but to use trackers like GA or Statcounter.

    Thanks y’all 😉

  3. I just added Google Analytics. I’d heard about it before but was too lazy/busy to go look it up. You always find the good stuff and prompt me into doing something with them 🙂

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