Updated March 12, 2016
Once your site is set up, it’s helpful to track your visitors to see who’s visiting, from where they are visiting, how many are visiting, how long they are staying, which pages they are visiting, etc. This information, commonly known as your stats, is highly valuable and will help you maximize your marketing efforts.
Knowing your stats will provide you the opportunity to better connect with your visitors. Also, if you venture into monetization, this is information advertisers and potential advertisers will definitely want to know.
There are several stat tracking options but the most common is Google Analytics. I personally use it, as do most bloggers. It’s the one I recommend you start with.
To use Google Analytics, you must have a Google Account
First things first. A Google Account gives you access to all of Google’s products like Gmail, Google Calendar, Drive, etc. So, if you don’t already have a Google Account, get one here. The process is pretty straightforward.
How to Get Started with Google Analytics
Go to Google Analytics. They change this page from time to time, so what you see in these images may not be identical to what you see on your screen. In any case, click the link to sign up or sign in. If you’re not logged into your Google Account, you will be prompted to do so.
Once you’re signed up and signed in, set up your web property. Click the “Admin” link at the top of the screen:
Under “Account” (left column) click the dropdown menu and choose “Create new account.” After choosing, it’ll look something like this:
Make sure the Website tab at the top of the screen is selected (unless of course you are adding an app but if you’re reading this, that’s highly unlikely).
Next, under “Setting up your account” enter the appropriate information. Pretty straightforward. The “Account Name” is basically a way of organizing all the sites you will track within Analytics. For some people with a ton of sites to track, this is helpful, but for us, it would be sufficient to use your name, your blog name or whatever you like. Then you’ll enter your new site name and URL. Choose a category and time zone.
I leave the Data Sharing Settings checked typically, but it does give Google access to your info so you might want to click the little question mark next to “Data Sharing Settings” for more info:
Click the blue “Get Tracking ID” button.
You’ll need to accept the Google Analytics Terms of Service and get your tracking info.
Where to find your tracking info
You can access your tracking info at any time by logging into your Analytics account > Admin > Account List > selecting the Account name you chose in the last step in the menu > selecting the name of the Web Property from the list > clicking “Tracking Info” like so:
At this point, you may see a note on your screen indicating your tracking is not installed or not tracking. That’s because we now have to install the tracking code on your site. Once it is installed correctly, it should be tracking.
How to install the tracking code in your site
Open a second tab in your browser with your WordPress Dashboard open.
Next, grab the tracking code from Google Analytics if you haven’t already. Once you click the “Tracking Info” link as shown above, you’ll need to select “Tracking Code”:
Highlight the entire snippet of tracking code.
We want to paste this code just before the closing < /head > tag into WordPress.
This is where using a Genesis theme is super nice because they make it easy.
How to install Google Analytics tracking code in Genesis
From your Dashboard, go to Genesis (in left column) > Theme Settings:
Scroll down until you see the “Header and Footer Scripts” box and paste your tracking code into the top box. (If you already have code in here, paste the Analytics code at the bottom.)
Don’t forget to save your settings!
Other ways to install tracking code
If you don’t use Genesis for your theme, or if the steps above feel too overwhelming, there are plugins that easily install your tracking code for you.
I much prefer the above steps as I’m not a fan of unnecessary plugins. But if you’re desperate, you might consider a plugin. Use my instructions in How to Install Plugins for more. You would simply search for “Google Analytics” and choose a highly-rated, up-t0-date plugin.
How to make sure your Google Analytics tracking code is installed properly
Log back into your Analytics account, click the “Admin” tab, select the appropriate account and web property and click the “Tracking Info” link:
Next, click the “Tracking Code” link:
If you see “Status: Receiving traffic…” at the top, you’re good:
If you’re not receiving traffic, here are a few things you can do:
- Check back in 30 minutes or so. It shouldn’t take longer than a few minutes to start tracking, so if you still don’t see that it’s tracking after that much time, move on to the next step.
- Go backwards through the steps above and undo what you did. Complete the process again making sure you are copying and pasting the entire snippet of code. Make sure you save after pasting!
- If those don’t work, log out of Analytics and log back in. You never know if that’ll do the trick…
- If that still doesn’t work, check the Google Analytics Help.
How to view your stats in Google Analytics
Once you’re set up, you’ll want to periodically check your stats. Here’s how:
- Login to Google Analytics.
- From your Account Home, find the account under which your your web property (website) is contained.
- Click on your website name.
- Your Audience Overview will appear. Navigate the menu on the left to pull out more specific bits of information. For example, your Overview will give you an idea of your basic traffic levels. Your Traffic Sources will tell you where traffic is coming from, etc.
What to look for in Google Analytics
I’ll tell you right off the bat that Google Analytics has A LOT of information. Even after a 12 years of website creation and blogging, I probably only delve into about 5% of what’s available.
If you’re a numbers person, you may love all the metrics. If that’s you, go for it! If you’re like me, figure out what you need as you go.
When you login to GA, the default date range is set to the last 30 days. You can change that in the calendar section up top if you want to get information for a longer period of time.
Some common stats you might be interested in are (drill down in the left column):
- Monthly pageviews – These are shown on the Audience Overview page as soon as you login so no drilling down needed.
- Your most popular posts / pages – Behavior > Site Content > All Pages
- Your top exit pages – Behavior > Site Content > Exit Pages (read my post about exit pages here)
- Which sites send the most traffic – Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals
- Which social media sites you get the most traffic from – Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals
The possibilities are endless, but hopefully you get the picture. Like I said, as you go, you’ll become more and more familiar with Google Analytics and learn how to find what you need to find.
The main thing at this point is to have the tracking code installed and working, which you’ve just done. That way, GA will be collecting data for you in the background so when you need it, you can access it.