How can you know how well your blog is doing if you never check whether anyone reads it or not? Sure, you can see the comments, but only a tiny fraction of your readers will actually stop to write a comment for you. To actually see if people are getting to your site, you need analytics. Plus, then you get to see all sorts of other information: how long they spent on your page, how they got there, and which pages they clicked on most.
The most comprehensive free analytics package is Google Analytics, and it’s easy to set up, too! Follow along to set up analytics on your site and start learning more about your visitors.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need a gmail address to create a Google Account. Just click Create a Google Account and you can use your existing email address along with a password. Of course, if you have an existing Google Account (including with a gmail address), just sign in with that account.
You will also need to add your country, time zone, and phone number during the process – just keep following the prompts.
You also need to add information about the first website you would like to track analytics for. When your account is set up, you can add more sites. You don’t need to add much more information than just the URL, but make sure it’s a URL that you own: in later steps, you will need to add a piece of code to your site for Google to track.
Read and accept Google’s terms and conditions, and consider sharing your data. Data sharing is not required, but all the shared data goes to make Google’s new benchmarking service better. You can change whether your data is shared or not through your account settings.
If you do not have access to your website’s files, email the code and instructions to your webmaster and ignore the next paragraph.
If you do have access to your files, you need to make sure the code is pasted in the source code near the end of each page, just before the </body> tag. This tag should not appear as text to anyone who is visiting your site. The best way to do this, especially if you use WordPress or another CMS, is to add the code to the footer file (usually named footer.php or something similar). Make sure your file is saved and uploaded successfully to the server.
Once your file is live on the server, it’s only a matter of time before your Google Analytics homepage detects the files. When it does, the website status in the Status column will change from “Tracking Unknown” to “Waiting for Data” or “Receiving Data.”
If you want to make sure all of your pages have the Google Analytics code installed correctly, you can use the third-party service created by EpikOne at http://www.SiteScanGA.com. After signing up with your email address, you will receive a report showing how many pages your site has and how many of them have the correct Google Analytics code.
After you have installed Google Analytics, it might take a little while for your first data points to appear. It will probably take a week or a month before you start seeing data trends. It is easier to do in-depth analysis after you have already established a baseline behavior of your users, so don’t change too much right after you install analytics. It is important to check on your analytics periodically, and more often if you are actively trying to change your site’s search engine ranking, starting a new advertising campaign, or otherwise trying to solicit more traffic. As you make changes, seasons change, and other outside influences vary, you can watch how each change impacts your traffic and change your website accordingly.
Though this only scratches the surface of what you can do with analytics, now that you have them set up, you can experiment for yourself!