Pain-Free Metrics: How To Use Google Analytics

The odds are you’ve heard of Google Analytics — especially if you’ve been hanging in my circles for more than 5 minutes! — and you probably know it’s something you can use to maximise the success of your business. You may even be using it already (high-5’s to you!).

It’s an incredibly powerful tool for anyone with an online element to their business, but like anything techy it often causes people to sigh, roll their eyes, or groan at the mention of it.

Google Analytics is one of those things that puts the fear in people’s hearts because of all of the numbers, graphs and the overwhelming amount of options.

It can feel complicated to set up and use, and even if you can get it working, you’re not quite sure what to do with the data you get out of it.

Google Analytics is actually a simple way of measuring the traffic to your website, and the behaviour of said traffic.

Yet tools are only as powerful as your ability to understand them, so while Google Analytics is the secret to pain-free metrics to boost your business performance, until you understand how to use it, you’re not going to be able to leverage that power for your benefit.

If you’d rather someone do that for you, I can help you. But if you’re looking to figure it out on your own this is an easy guide to using Google Analytics…

Why You Should Use Google Analytics

You probably already know Google Analytics can give you loads of useful insights. What you really need are specifics, so here are a few examples of what the tool can tell you:

And this is just scratching the surface on the information you can mine from Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is capable of giving you a ton of incredibly useful insights into the performance of your website, and how to improve that performance to meet your goals.

You can use it to track visitor actions on various platforms, including social media and mobile apps, which will reveal trends and behavioural insights that can be implemented elsewhere to improve your targeting, marketing, message, and even reveal what new products and services they might be interested in purchasing.

Google Analytics & Conversions

Until you know who is visiting your site, and what they are doing once they get there, you won’t be able to understand your conversions. And if you can’t understand how, when and where people are converting, you can’t improve your conversions.

How To Use Google Analytics

Before you can use Google Analytics you need to setup your account (it’s free by the way!). There are a few steps to this, but it’s very simple:

Use your Google Account to sign into Google Analytics (if you don’t already have one you will need to set one up).

Once you’re signed in you will see a dashboard. On the bottom left sidebar you’ll see an Admin button — click it.

Select ‘+ Account’ to create a new account.

Select ‘Website’ and type in your URL and the name of your website. Select your industry and time zone and then click on ‘Get Tracking ID’.

This is the only technical bit, but don’t let it frighten you — the Tracking ID will need installing on your website. To do this, you will need to add the code to your site’s header. There are plugins that can do this for you (I recommend Google Analytics Dashboard for WP), and some theme designs come with a built-in section to add your tracking code.

Once you’ve added all your information and your account is setup, data will start to appear and your dashboard will look more like mine does in the first image.

Creating A Personalised Dashboard

The dashboard in Google Analytics is very powerful and will provide you with a huge amount of data. If you’re unused to it, this can be very overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what everything means. Rather than trying to understand everything right away, focus on a few key areas that will be incredibly helpful to your business.

Before you do anything else, you’ll want to personalise your dashboard so that the metrics you are going to focus on can be viewed instantly, and you don’t get distracted or bogged down by a lot of information you don’t want to be looking at.

You can edit the information shown on your dashboard at any time by selecting ‘Customisation’ followed by ‘Dashboards’.

Choose a blank canvas, this will allow you to add only what you want to directly monitor. Give your new dashboard a name, and click ‘create dashboard’.

Add widgets tracking the most important metrics for your business. Exactly what you choose will vary but here are a few core things you may want to select:

You can also pick if you want your widgets to display your data in a timeline or numerically — you will probably find the timeline easier to read, at least initially.

There are a few other options you can choose from including:

To create a widget, simply give your new widget a name, decide if you want it to display results in real time or standard time, and then select the type of widget you want from the relevant row.

In this example I’ve selected standard time and a timeline display. Once you’ve chosen the type of widget you want, select the metric you want it to monitor from the dropdown.

The specific additional options vary from one metric to another, but you don’t have to fill anything else in beyond choosing your metric from the dropdown menu. If you want to use the other options available for your metric, fill in the additional information requested, and then click ‘save’.

Repeat this process as many times as you need until your dashboard shows only the custom widgets you want to track.

You can rearrange your widgets so they are in the best order, and the most important are at the top. You can also add or remove widgets at any time.

To view your custom dashboard at any time you need only to navigate back to ‘Customisation’ and ‘Dashboards’ and select the board you created.

Analysing Your Traffic Sources

One of the best advantages of Google Analytics is its ability to tell you where your traffic is coming from.

This is super-important because it tells you which marketing tactics are actively driving traffic.

If you have a lot of traffic coming from search engines, you know your SEO strategy is doing its job.

Likewise, if you have social media marketing strategies in place you can use analytics to analyse how effective it is a driving traffic.

Your traffic source data will indicate the specific platform traffic came from (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.) rather than simply telling you how much is coming from social media as a whole. This is also really useful.

Analytics will also tell you how much traffic comes from direct referrals — people who came to your site after following a direct link (known as backlinks) from other websites.

In addition to telling you how much traffic comes from search engines, Analytics will also tell you which search engine was used (i.e. Google, Bing, Yahoo, MSN, AOL, Baidu, etc.).

Navigating Your Social Settings

The social settings on Google Analytics are critical for anyone doing any form of social media marketing.

If you don’t have a way to track your results, you have no way of knowing if what you’re doing is effective, what kind of ROI you’re getting, or how to improve it further.

While you can’t directly add your Google Analytics Tracking Code to your social media accounts, you can see which social platforms are sending traffic to your website under you social settings in your Google Analytics account. In addition, most social media platforms have built-in analytics to allow you to track the effectiveness of your content, but can’t tell you what people do once they leave your profile and go to your website. Google Analytics is the way to track the point at which your social media and website collide.

To track your social media traffic, go to ‘Acquisition’ in the left sidebar of your dashboard, then click ‘Social’.

From here you can track your social campaigns, monitor your conversions, and track your landing pages.

The simplest way to see how effective your efforts on social media are is to view how much traffic is being driven to your site by each. To do this, navigate to ‘Network Referrals’.

You can view your traffic by day, week, or month. Beneath the graph you will also find a list of social sites sending traffic to your website, with the total traffic coming from each source.

If you click on each platform you will get a breakdown of traffic from just that source for even more info.

Data Management Tip:

Running ads from social? Or maybe you’re doing a big launch, or have hired a new social media manager? Add annotations to your Analytics so you can compare data, and have a way to check in 6, 12, or 18 months time what caused big spikes or drops.

Setting Up Goals In Google Analytics

One of the best things you can do in Google Analytics is to set some Goals. These are really handy ways of getting Analytics to track crucial things happening on your website. Things like:

Whenever a visitor on your site takes an action like this, ideally they should end up on a dedicated ‘Thank You’ page. You can then track the behaviour of your site visitors in terms of what brought them to that key page, how they behaved on that page, and if or where they drop off before conversion.

At a more complex level, Goals can tell you how many people convert on a specific offer or product, or how effective an advertising campaign is at generating actual conversions, rather than just traffic.

Go to the sidebar and select ‘Admin’, and from there choose ‘Goals’.

Select ‘New Goal’…

Next, select the ‘Custom’ option and then click ‘Continue…

Give your goal a name you will remember, like the name of the opt-in you are tracking for conversions.

Select ‘Destination’ and then click ‘Continue’.

Analytics will ask for the URL of the thank you page you want to track. Enter the section of page’s URL following your domain name. For example, if the URL was ‘’ I would only enter ‘/thank-you’.

You can then use the toggle feature to make it a value goal and enter a specific amount in dollars that you’re aiming for with this particular conversion (this is optional, you won’t need it for goals relating to free offers, and may not want to set it even if the offer is paid).

Once you’ve set your monetary goal (if it’s applicable, it won’t be for everything), click ‘Save’.

You can create up to twenty goals for your website, so if you are adding a bespoke ‘thank you’ page for any conversions you want to track, create a new goal for each in your Analytics panel. As useful as this function is, try not to clutter it — focus on your most important conversions.

Tracking Site Searches

Another great feature of Google Analytics that’s really easy to setup, and can provide you with loads of useful data are Site Searches. If your website has a search box on it (they’re usually in the sidebar or header), you can track the searches people make on your site.

This is really useful because it tells you exactly what visitors already on your site most want to find. You can then compare what they’re searching for to the content you have, and plug any gaps to make sure you are delivering what your visitors are looking for.

Go to your website, run a search (it can be for anything) and take a look at the URL that appears on the results page your website shows you. Immediately following your domain name you will see a forward slash followed by a question mark. After the question mark comes a letter, this is called a ‘query parameter’ and is usually s or q. Make a note of your query parameter, you will need it in a minute.

In your Analytics dashboard, go to ‘Admin’ and then select ‘View Settings’ from the view tab. Scroll down to ‘Site Settings’ and toggle it so that it’s ‘On’. Add your query parameter letter and click ‘Save’.

Analytics can now track any searches made on your site.

Download my FREE guide to Performance Metrics to Monitor in Google Analytics for the top 10 easy metrics that will give you the best indication of what your website is doing, and how people are interacting with it.

And if you need more help gathering and analysing data on the performance of your site, and leveraging it to improve your visibility and growth get in touch…

Originally published at on April 4, 2018.

Business Development & Optimisation Consultant with a serious soft spot for CX, Digital Marketing, SEO and Analytics.