If you want to make good money online, you have to be able to track your progress and know if your strategies are working. Numbers are important. And since traffic data can't be collected after-the-fact, you need to setup analytics before people start coming to your site (or immediately, if you're already getting traffic).
In 12 Website Metrics Smart Business Owners Track Religiously, I covered why tracking metrics for your business is so important and listed 12 different metrics that you need to calculate and monitor if you want to grow a healthy online business.
Most of the metrics I talk about in that article directly translate to online businesses that have established products and email lists.
In the beginning, there are fewer things to track. Here's what you should focus on if you're just getting started...
Track These 5 Metrics on a New Website...
- Total site traffic. Duh, right? Well, I have to put it on the list. You need to know how many visitors are coming to your site each month. If I didn’t list it, someone might not track it.
- Home page traffic. People who make it to the Home page either came direct to the site (a good sign) or clicked through to your home page after being somewhere else on your site (also a good sign).
- Percent of Traffic to Home Page. This metric will help you determine which growth is relevant and which isn’t. If site traffic increases by 20% but Home page traffic doesn’t increase, that’s not something to get excited about. That traffic is probably bouncing which means they're not your target market.
- Most popular articles & pages. You'll want to know which articles and pages are getting traction and which aren't. This will be especially important for capitalizing on an email opt-in strategy I'll share with you later in the guide.
- Conversion rate to email opt-in. How much of your traffic is getting on your email list? That's important to know.
- Traffic sources. You'll want to know which sources of traffic are sending you the most traffic and which are most influential for contributing to your opt-in conversion rate.
All of these things can be tracked free with Google Analytics. Let's get started...
Create a free Google Analytics account and connect it to your website.
Here's an article I wrote on why every website needs Google Analytics for more detail on why Google Analytics is the best choice for your site. If you're already convinced, though, let's get it installed and setup.
Action Step: Go to Google Analytics and sign up.
Start by adding a new property...
Grab your tracking code...
If you're using the Divi Theme I recommend, add your tracking code to the "head" box in the Divi integrations tab (click Divi in the WordPress Admin and then "Theme Options" and then "Integration")...
Click "save" and you're done!
Basically, that setting adds whatever code is in that box to the header of every single page on your website automatically. Since Google Analytics needs to track every page, it needs to show up on every page. The Divi integration box handles that for you.
If you're not using Divi, then I recommend downloading and installing the free Header, Footer, & Post Injections Plugin for WordPress. It'll give you the same options for injecting code into the head section.
How to Track the Five Metrics That I Told You Were Important...
You obviously won't have any data in your analytics reports since you just installed Google Analytics, but I'll show you how you'll be tracking the metrics we talked about earlier once data starts flowing in.
We'll use the dashboard of a sample apparel brand I drummed up. It has a blank analytics profile just like you'll have...
How to track total site traffic with Google Analytics...
Google analytics displays visitors as both "users" and "sessions." You can find this data by clicking on "Aquisition" and then "Overview" under "All Traffic."
At the top right, you can choose the date range you want to look at. Once you get further along and you're viewing your data on a monthly basis, you can choose "last month" from the drop-down. For now, any range will work.
In the Acquisition section, you'll see a "Sessions" column and a "New Users" column. Here's the difference...
A User in Google Analytics is a unique visitor.
A Session in Google Analytics is a visitor that may or may not be unique during the period in question.
For example, if 25 people came to your site only one time each during the period you're seeing data for, your "Users" and "Sessions" data would both be 25.
If 10 of those people came to your site three separate times within that period, your "Users" would still be 25 but your "Sessions" would be 55 or so.
In other words, a User can have more than one Session. Consider a person who goes to Starbucks twice in one day. It's one User, but two Sessions.
Sessions are an important metric, but Users is even more important. You want to consistently drive new, unique visitors to your website. For this reason, you want to see a steady growth in Users.
How to track Home page traffic with Google Analytics...
Now that you're able to see all your site traffic for a specific period, it's time to figure out how to drill down and get data on individual pages.
Click "Behavior" and then click "All Pages" under "Site Content."
Your home page is always represented by a single "/" in Google Analytics.
It won't always be at the top of the list. In fact, if you're doing really well with your blogging strategies, it'll never be at the top of the list. Your popular articles will almost always collect a lot more traffic.
To the right of your Home page you'll see a "Unique Pageviews" column. Again, you want to track this unique number rather than the total number of pageviews (If the same person goes to your Home page 50 times, all of those hits will show up in the Pageviews column. The Unique Pageviews column rules out extra hits to the same page.
How to track most popular traffic-generating articles and pages with Google Analytics...
Now let's find out which pages and articles are driving the most traffic to your site. This is done by hopping over to the "Landing Pages" section with the "Site Content" section you were already in.
While the "All Pages" tab will show you total traffic to each page, "Landing Pages" is a different metric.
A "Landing Page" in Google Analytics is the entry-point page for a unique visitor. In other words, it's the page they saw first – the page they entered your site through.
This difference is subtle but critical. You want to know which pages are bringing in the most visitors from elsewhere. Those are Landing Pages.
As we did before, pay attention to the "New Users" section of this data and not the Sessions data.
How to track your email opt-in conversion rate with Google Analytics...
We haven't set up your email list yet, but that's okay. We can still set up your Analytics to track opt-in conversions.
We'll do this by tracking visits to a "Welcome" page. To keep the data accurate, we'll only send people to this page after they've gotten on our email list.
Log in to your WordPress dashboard and create a new page. Call it "Welcome."
Put whatever you want on it. Just a simple, "Thanks for joining our community!" will do for now. You can make this page more relevant and useful later.
Make sure the URL of this page is "/welcome/" – I showed you how to set the page slug in an earlier tutorial.
Here's the one for my contact page. You'd click the "edit" button if WordPress doesn't default the URL to "/welcome/"
Once you've created and published your Welcome page, visit it in your browser and make sure it works.
Since Google Analytics is already installed in your Divi integrations section, it'll automatically start tracking all visits to that page. However, we need to tell Google Analytics that this page is a "Goal" page.
A "Goal" in Google Analytics is an end result you want to track. When you set up a goal, Google Analytics will attach goal outcomes to all your other data.
For example, once you set this Welcome page as a goal, Google Analytics can tell you which pages on your site contribute most to that goal. And It can tell you which channels contribute most to that goal. In the future, when we get more advanced, it can even tell you which link in which specific email of your sales sequence is responsible for creating the most revenue for a specific product.
Crazy, right? Nah, what's crazy is all the people who never track this stuff!
How to create a goal in Google Analytics...
This is going to be easier than you think. Start by clicking the admin wheel and then click "Goals" in the far right column.
Next, click the big red "New Goal" button.
It's easiest to create a custom goal, so click the "Custom" option and then click "Continue."
Give the goal a name and then choose "Destination" as the goal type.
Lastly, we need to tell Google Analytics what the destination path is. Choose "Begins With" from the drop-down and then type the path to your welcome page in the input box.
Do not type the entire URL. Just type the page slug. In your case, if you followed the earlier step in creating the Welcome page, the path is "/welcome" ...
When you're done, click "Save."
You can track the data for individual goals by clicking "Conversions" and then "Goal URLs."
Additionally, goal conversion data will show up in other reports, including the reports that I walked you through earlier.
How to track traffic sources with Google Analytics...
Want to know which sites are sending you the most traffic? Is Google sending you more traffic than Facebook? What about Pinterest or Twitter? What about other blogs? All those questions are answered here.
Click on "Acquisition" and then "Channels."
Once you start to collect site traffic from all over the web, this list will grow.
In the beginning, you'll see "Direct" for sure. Direct traffic is traffic that typed your URL into the browser bar. These are people who already know about your site. Since you already know about your own site and have typed in the URL, at least one User will be attributed to you.
"Referral" traffic is traffic from other sites that don't fit into other obvious categories. Let's say that SomeOtherBlogger.com linked to your site and people are using that link to visit your site. That site will show up under "Referral." If you click on the word "Referral" in Google Analytics, it'll give you a more detailed list of all the sites referring traffic to you.
You might also see other top-level categories like "Organic Search," "Email," and "Social." Again, clicking on any of these will produce a more detailed list. So, you can see general channel performance as well as the performance of specific channels at a more granular level.
This data can be very useful. Let's say Pinterest.com is sending you 3x the traffic as other channels. And let's say that that traffic has a pretty low bounce rate, multiple pageviews on average, and a good percentage of the traffic ends up on your Home page or converts to the opt-in goal you've created.
That lets you know that Pinterest traffic is really valuable to you. Instead of spreading your efforts across other channels that are not performing as well, you can double down on your Pinterest efforts to maximize your effectiveness.
Other bloggers who never track their analytics will spend lots of time banging their head against brick walls and missing opportunities like this. As someone who knows how to check and analyze their analytics, you'll be able to pass up these "spray and pray" bloggers fairly quickly.
There are so many more advanced strategies and concepts we can dive into with Google Analytics, but this is a great start.
I'd recommend keeping an eye on your analytics data at least once a month. For larger sites, checking every week or two is usually good enough.
What you want to avoid is daily tracking. Analytics can be fun to look at, but it can also be a big waste of time and an unnecessary distraction if you do it too often.