Using Google Analytics: Basic Overview and Campaigns

by Ron Vitale

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a free website analytics tool that Google offers to anyone who has a Google account. When the Google Analytics script is running on your website, you’ll be able to find out how many unique users are coming to your site and which pages are the most visited. Over time, the data that you accumulate will help see which pages are more popular than others and what search terms people are using in Google’s search engine to find your site. There are many other detailed uses of Google Analytics, but this simple tutorial will get you started.


Why is Google Analytics free?

Google’s model is an interesting one: Give people the tools that they want and they’ll keep coming back to your site. For free, Google offers:

From Google’s perspective, they sell lots of online ads via AdWords and a big component of that is their Google Analytics tool. In a nutshell, businesses purchase ads on Google and these companies can track how effective their ads are. Advanced users (which I’m not) can really mine the data and find out how many people are converting (see an ad and actually purchase something--if the analytics script is on all the webpages on a company's site).

With Google Analytics, it’s in their best interest to make their tools easy to use, high performing and free. And with Google Analytics, it’s essentially the web standard. I’ve used Adobe’s HBX Analytics (which is now Site Catalyst) and Google Analytics is an extremely easy way to implement website analytics on your website.

If you’re new Google Analytics, a good way to learn more is to watch Google’s product videos about their Analytics tool.

Getting Started

Once you decide to use Google Analytics on your website, you have to first learn if it’s possible. If you have a free WordPress.com site (and don’t see a Plugin features in your admin tool bar in the back end of WordPress), you’ll be unable to implement Google Analytics on your site.

For me, I’m running my websites off of Typepad and have a plugin allowing me to add Google Analytics easily. If you’re running a WordPress site that you’re paying for, here is a video that teaches you how to add the Google Analytics plugin to your WordPress account. If you're using some other website building tool that doesn't allow you to have Google Analytics, you might wish to compare what analytics you are able to obtain from your site and think about the other limitations on the current website platform you are on. There are many, many ways to build websites, but I would recommend using a tool that would best fit your budget, gives you flexibility and allows for the implementation of plugins (such as Google Analytics).

If you do not have a website or wish to have a better one, two options are:

  • Squarespace site (Easily create your own website that will be able to handle as much traffic as you can throw at it since your website will be scalable--the servers running the site can ramp up when a lot of traffic does come to visit.)
  • Purchase hosting space on Godaddy.com (or another domain registrar) and then implement Wordpress on your site. When you purchase a Godaddy.com domain and webhosting (that's around $110 or so a year), you'll not only have the domain name (website name such as www.yournamehere.com), but space to put photos online, files and you can tell Godaddy.com to install WordPress on your hosting space. This means that you'll have the full version of WordPress and will have access to all plugins that you might need.

A quick word about websites before getting back into Google Analytics: There are more companies than I have time to review and discuss. I mention Godaddy.com because I've had all my domains there for more than a decade and have never had a problem. I've used Typepad for seven years now and I can easily build a blog in moments. But I have heard many friends and people in the tech world say great things about Squarespace.com, raving about how it's very easy to build a website. But again, these are just a few tools that are out there. Whatever you decide to use, be sure that you search for a coupon code for the service. Many companies offer a 10% coupon and that will enable you to save some money when signing up.

Back to using Google Analytics

Implementing Google Analytics is simple and pretty straightforward. First, you’ll need to have a Google account and be signed into Google Analytics so you can add your website and then obtain the UA number (tracking number) that needs to be tied to your website. In layman’s terms, once Google Analytics is tied to your website, all visits to your site are funneled back to Google. You simply log into your Google Analytics account and then can learn which pages are the most visited.

Still confused? Fear not. Google has put together many videos to help teach you how to use Google Analytics. They’re a great way of learning more and they’re also free. This tutorial is to give you a general overview of what you'll need to know, but the videos that Google offers will teach you the rest.

Campaigns

Ever wonder how many people are seeing your tweets, Facebook post, click on a link to your site in your email newsletter or even scan a QR code to visit your site? All of that is possible by using campaigns in Google Analytics. Campaigns are an example of the power of Google Analytics and how you can use the tool to mine for some great data.

Let's say I wish to track how many people visit a “How to Use Hootsuite” article on my website, wondering whether people access the article mostly from my Facebook page, Twitter or on a Yahoo Group.

Step 1:

Make certain that Google Analytics is running on my site. I covered that all in the parts above.

Step 2:

Create an individualized link per platform that I'll be advertising my "Hootsuite" article, using the Google Analytics URL Builder.

On the builder page, paste in the webpage to your website that you want people to visit. This page must have Google Analytics running on it. Let me take a minute to explain: You can only run campaigns on webpages that you have Google Analytics code on. You'll not be able to use a campaign on an Amazon page for your ebook because you don't have access to seeing the Google Analytics data for that page. Once you pick the webpage on your site you wish to track, then you'll need to create a Campaign Source, Campaign Medium and Campaign Name.

For our example, we’ll use the following “How to Use Hootsuite to Manage Your Social Media Accounts”

Here's my link:

http://www.ronvitale.com/2010/10/how-use-hootsuite-to-manager-your-social-media-accounts.html

Campaign source: yahoogroup
Campaign medium: emailpost
Campaign name: hootsuite

Put all of this information into the Google Analytics link builder and click on the generate URL button and you’ll get this URL:

http://www.ronvitale.com/2010/10/how-use-hootsuite-to-manager-your-social-media-accounts.html?utm_source=yahoogroup&utm_medium=emailpost&utm_campaign=hootsuite

If you look at the URL closely, you’ll see all the pieces of the information in the link:

utm_source=yahoogroup
utm_medium=emailpost
utm_campaign=hootsuite

See all of that? Now we have one link that will track how many people click on a link in an email post that I sent to a Yahoo group with the campaign info about Hootsuite.

Next I can simply use the Google Analytics link builder and build an additional individualized link. In this second link, I want to generate a link to use for Twitter:

Campaignsource: twitter
Campaign medium: tweet
Campaign name: hootsuite

When you put this all together and add to the Google Link builder, click on the generate URL button and you’ll receive this link:

http://www.ronvitale.com/2010/10/how-use-hootsuite-to-manager-your-social-media-accounts.html?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=tweet&utm_campaign=hootsuite

Again, if you look closely at the URL, you’ll see where I put the source, medium and campaign all in bold. If I wanted individualized links for Facebook, a QR code (make sure you use a URL tool to shorten the link before associating the link to the QR code in order for the tracking to work) or even your online newsletter, I would repeat the process on the builder page to create a separate link for each one.

If you want to get creative, you can also use tracking code on printed materials. Purchase a domain or create a redirect on your website to drive traffic to whatever page you want on your site but make certain that you add the Google Analytics code to the link on the printed piece. Using a campaign link on a printed piece is an excellent way of learning how many people actually visit the URL.

After you have created all your links, you can now use them: Send your Yahoo group message out, a tweet, Facebook post, hand out your printed postcard, etc., using the individualized link that you created for each one.

Once you let the campaign run for a day (or as long as you’d like), log into Google Analytics, set your date range, click on the Traffic Sources link in the left-hand navigation, then Sources and then Campaigns. You’ll see your campaigns listed and then after clicking on the campaign, you'll see a breakdown of how many visits took place from which source and medium.

Utilizing Better Links

If you've read up to this point, you might be thinking, "How can I use this long and unwieldly links?" If you simply copy and past them an email, they're going to look long and very strange. In fact, many people will see that long  URL and not want to click on it. Depending on how the URL is being  used, you could create a link in a newsletter like tool and simply  hyperlink text such as “Read an article about Hootsuite” and the link  will take people to your page, using the campaign tracking data. You  could also use a URL tool to shorten the URL such as TinyURL or Ow.ly.

(Ow.ly   is what Hootsuite uses. Hootsuite is a web-based tool that is used to help monitor and manage your social media accounts.)

If I use a URL tool to shorten the link, the original link:

 http://www.ronvitale.com/2010/10/how-use-hootsuite-to-manager-your-social-media-accounts.html?utm_source=yahoogroup&utm_medium=emailpost&utm_campaign=hootsuite

becomes:

http://ow.ly/c60Up

That’s   much better. But the URL still looks a bit odd. Maybe it goes to a site that has a virus--how is your reader to know? Another possibility is to use a subdomain that’s forwarding to the page you want. Let’s say that you  want to start a campaign that tracks URL traffic from those who visit  your site from reading your Kindle book (a URL is at the end of your  ebook). Simply create the campaign link and on your web domain (www.janedoeromance.com or whatever) create a subdomain that forwards to the tracked  link. Granted owning your own domain will cost around $10 a year to purchase a domain, but  it’ll look professional and give you great data. If you know how many  people purchased your book through Amazon’s figures, you’d then be able  to see what percentage actually click on a link to your website at the  end of your book.

Let me walk this through again step by step:

At the end of your Kindle book, put a link such as:

kindle.janedoe.com

When the reader clicks on the link, you can have kindle.janedoe.com forward to a page that lists all your Kindle books:

http://www.janedoe.com/newbooks.html?utm_source=kindle&utm_medium=ebook&utm_campaign=mybooks

Then create a second subdomain for your Barnes & Noble book (bn.janedoe.com) and do the  same thing for each offering you have. Yes, you'll have to have multiple versions of your ebook out  there and a small fee is involved, but if  you're sales are good it might be worth investing in having some good  tracking data available.

I cannot speak for other domain registrars, but GoDaddy.com allows for 50 subdomains to be created per domain that you own. If that's gibberish to you, then let's put it this way:

My domain RonVitale.com is on GoDaddy.com. As part of my service there, I can have 50 subdomains and forward to 50 pages if I'd like:

kindle.ronvitale.com
books.ronvitale.com
bn.ronvitale.com
whatever.ronvitale.com and even...
coolstuff.books.ronvitale.com

If you have your domain at another registrar company, simply look in their knowledge base or help sections to find out how you can create subdomain forwards as they are a great marketing or PR tool.

Summing It Up

A little up front work and investment in understanding Google Analytics will help you in the long run. The data you obtain are valuable as it helps you see what promotion efforts are working and which aren’t helping you that much. Although this is just a very simple example of how to use Google Analytics, it’s a good start. As my grandmother used to tell me when I was a kid, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” And neither can you learn Google Analytics all in one day. It’s a complex tool, but there are plenty of videos to learn all that you need to know—and it’s all free.