If you aren’t already using Google Analytics to keep track of the traffic on your blog, you really should start. I know that it may seem a little bit intimidating, but I promise you that it will be a good investment of your time because you will have specific data to provide to potential advertisers or ad networks about the quantity and quality of traffic your site receives. Not only will it provide you with critical statistics, but you will also be able to spot potential areas of growth or problems (I’ll explain more in a minute). In this post I’m going to take you through:
- setting up your Analytics account
- adding your tracking ID code to your blog
- how to check your stats after installation
- modifying your tracking code to allow advanced data collection
- ways to use your data to improve your site
Each section is clearly labeled so feel free to skip around to the parts that are most useful to you!Ready? Let’s get started.
Analytics Account Setup
First of all you will need to create an account with Analytics – go ahead and click the link… i’ll wait….. – which you should be able to do fairly easily with a google/gmail account. Next you will need to go to the admin section of your account where you will see a dropdown labeled “Account” and possibly a second dropdown labeled “Property”. If you do not have any accounts listed – that is your first step. Regardless of which option you choose, the next steps are practically identical. You can have multiple accounts on your profile, say for example if you are keeping track of several unrelated sites – or multiple sites on one account … but don’t worry about that too much for now.
You will be taken to a new page which will ask you to provide some basic information about your site and also your account (if in “create new account”). You are tracking a website so select it – and for purposes that will become clear in a minute choose “Classic Analytics”
Scroll down a bit more and here are where things might look different depending on if you went to “new account” or “new property”. I boxed everything that shows up when you select “new account” in the image below. Fill in all the information it asks for, and select whichever data settings make you most comfortable. Also, when it asks industry category – I just choose the one closest to what I blog about.
Click “Get Tracking ID” and you’ll be taken to another page which if you scroll down should have a tracking code that looks like this:Keep this page open while we get your site ready to accept the code okay?! Onward!
Adding the code to your site
Ok those of you who use a genesis framework based theme raise your hands. You guys have it easy – just head over to “Genesis” –> “Theme Settings” –> scroll all the way to the bottom where there are the “header” and “footer” code boxes –> Paste your tracking code into the “header” section –> hit save. You’re done!
If you didn’t raise your hand I have two equally good solutions for you
- get yourself the genesis framework (it’s awesome to use, great for SEO, and very easy to customize, not to mention a developer favorite)
- use the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin by Yoast.
I strongly recommend that you think about investing in Genesis, because if you go the plugin route you will lose some of the tracking options due to not being able to make the code updates that are necessary for some of the features.
If you do decide to use the plugin (which I did for many months until I figured out the “header” trick) you will need to copy the “Tracking ID” which can be found at the top of the page that the script came from. It will be in large bold letters and in my case it starts with an UA followed by a string of numbers. In the plugin settings there is an box for you to add your tracking code – paste it there and hit save. There are a lot of other options which unless you are more comfortable with Analytics, I would leave them on the default settings.
Note: I do earn a small commission if you sign up for Genesis using my links – but I only recommend them because I use and love it and the rest is just a perk
Checking your Stats
Give Google about 24 hours to collect data before you start checking your stats – but once your results show up you’re going to be so happy! Home will show you a list of all the sites you are tracking, while Reporting will give you your actual statistics. There are lots of options but the most critical (at first anyways) are going to be the ones under “Audience”, “Behavior”, and “Acquisition” – click around and explore what information you can learn about your visitors! Audience will give you information about how many visitors you get, how long they stay, what OS or device they are visiting from, and – once you update your code – demographic and interest information. Acquisition will tell you how your visitors are finding you – searches, social media, etc, and Behavior will tell you what they are doing when they get there – are they clicking around, what is the general flow of traffic through your site, page speeds, etc.
Wait, how do I get demographics?!
Demographic information is a HUGE advantage when communicating with potential advertisers – they want to know that their target market is actually using your site when they invest. This is why I said you should enable Classic instead of Universal analytics at the beginning – unfortunately Universal doesn’t allow for the necessary code mods at this time to enable demographic tracking – AND why you need Genesis instead of the plugin! If you click on “demographics – overview” on the sidebar of the reports section you will get a message saying that you need to update your code.
Pop back over to your Theme Settings and scroll down to where you put your script code originally. Cmd+F (or Ctrl+F if you’re on a PC) to bring up the search and search for:
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://ssl’ : ‘http://www’) + ‘.google-analytics.com/ga.js’;
and replace with:
ga.src = (‘https:’ == document.location.protocol ? ‘https://’ : ‘http://’) + ‘stats.g.doubleclick.net/dc.js’;
Then pop back over to your Analytics page and hit “Validate tracking code” – you’re done! Again it’s probably going to take at least 24 hours before you start seeing data from this. You may also see a message saying that some data isn’t showing because thresholds were applied – this means that so few people in a particular demographic visited that you would be able to infer the characteristics of a particular individual so Google doesn’t let you see that information. I actually think this is a good thing in terms of privacy protection, so I’m okay with it.
How to use this data to improve your site
Well, there you have it! We’ve set up your Analytics account, linked it to your blog, showed you how to modify your code to get demographic data, and all without losing our minds (hopefully). Now you might be wondering just what exactly you can do with this new-found information? I’m glad you asked.
- Provide it to advertisers or ad networks through your media kit (if you haven’t made one yet check out this article by the Blog Maven)
Including demographics data will help your potential sponsors to see that your readers fit their target market! Help them help you!
- Make sure your site is compatible across the most popular operating systems, browsers, and devices that are used to view your blog!
I had a situation about a year ago where my site was not working on safari but I didn’t realize it because I was using Chrome but I checked when I saw how many people where getting to my page through Safari. Needless to say I worked quickly to rectify the situation (I was using a free wordpress.org theme at the time, my site is mobile reponsive now thanks to my Genesis theme)
- Determining your target market for yourself to help make your blog better (future post on specifics coming up – subscribe to my newsletter so you don’t miss it!!)
You can see quite a bit of information about what age groups and genders are frequenting your site, and from there drill down on what content they spend the most time with, where they are coming from, etc. This can be useful in planning what topics you want to focus on in the future.
There are lots of things you can learn from your Google Analytics data – how could you use this to make your blogging more effective? Also, what kind of blogging posts would you find most helpful or interesting in the future? Let me know!