Google Analytics & Google Search Console
Small business owners often ask us how to use Google Analytics. They understand that they can track their website traffic with Google Analytics, but they’re not sure if it’s worth the effort of setting it up. They are also not sure how to monitor the results on an ongoing basis. In my experience, most small business owners have never even heard of Google Search Console. So this post will cover both Google Analytics and Google Search Console. What are they, why are they so important for your WordPress website?
Google Analytics is a web-based service from Google that tracks and reports website traffic and visitor statistics. It’s the most widely used web analytics service on the Internet.
Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) is a web-based service provided by Google which allows people to check the indexing status of their websites and optimise the visibility of their websites to search engines.
What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics shows both high-level data and more in-depth data on specific areas. For example, you can use Google Analytics to identify poorly performing pages with techniques such as funnel visualization, where visitors came from (including referrals from other websites), how long they stayed on your website and their geographical location. It also provides more advanced features, including custom visitor segmentation.
The e-commerce reporting within Google Analytics can track your online sales activity and performance. The e-commerce reports analyse a site’s transactions, revenue, and many other commerce-related metrics.
Setting up Google Analytics
The most difficult part of setting up Google Analytics is proving that you own the site that you are tracking. Obviously, you don’t want competitors to be able to view your statistics. So Google gives you a secret code (the Tracking Code) which gives you access to the statistics. But only if you prove that you are an authorised person.
- Go to google.com/analytics
- If you already have a Google Analytics account, click on SIGN IN, then Analytics and enter your email address and password. If you don’t have an account, click More options > Create account
- Set up a property in your Analytics account. A property represents your website or app, and is the collection point in Analytics for the data from your website.
- Add the entire tracking code snippet to each web page you want to track. Add the tracking code snippet just before the closing
</head>tag on each page.
If you are using a Google Analytics plugin or a Search Engine Optimisation plugin, you can usually just enter the tracking ID in the plugin settings. Some WordPress themes also allow you to add a tracking code in the theme settings.
How to find your Google Analytics tracking ID and tracking code snippet
To find the tracking ID and code snippet:
- Sign in to your Analytics account.
- Click Admin.
- Select an account from the menu in the ACCOUNT column.
- Select a property from the menu in the PROPERTY column.
- Under PROPERTY, click Tracking Info > Tracking Code.
What to do with all the information in Google Analytics
The volume of information available in Google Analytics can be quite overwhelming. So it’s sometimes difficult for small business owners to know which Analytics reports to look at and what action they should take as a result of the information they find. However, using Google Analytics (and Search Console) can really help you to get ahead of your competitors. Only around 50% of small businesses bother to use Google Analytics and Search Console, and those that don’t are really missing out. The information that they give can be like gold dust.
For example, we were able to tell one of our new customers recently that they were not doing well in search results because they had two websites with the same content and Google was confused by this. Another customer realised that one of their product descriptions was very often visited despite low sales. A rewrite of the description led to increased sales.
What is Google Search Console?
Google Search Console has reports and tools to help you get your content featured in Google Search results.
How to manage your website with Google Search Console
One big benefit of using Search Console is that Google will email you if any unusual events occur with your website. This includes indications that your website has been hacked or any problems that Google had when crawling or indexing your site. Every month or so, it’s worth taking a look at your Search Console dashboard, which is the simplest way to get a quick overview of your site’s performance:
- Review any errors recorded on the dashboard and correct them if possible
- Click through the menu items on the left hand side of the dashboard and you will get a good idea of how Google views your site
What can you use Google Search Console For?
The dashboard is really useful because it highlights things which might be causing a problem with your Search Engine Optimisation. It also allows you to control certain aspects of how Google treats your website. For example, you can use it to:
- Submit and check a sitemap for your website
- Check and set the crawl rate (i.e. how often Google should look at your website)
- View statistics about when and how often a Googlebot accesses a particular site
- Check your robots.txt file and discover pages that are blocked from search engines
- List internal and external pages that link to the site
- Get a list of links which the Googlebot had difficulty crawling, including the error that Googlebot received when attempting to access the pages in question
- See what keyword searches on Google led to the site being listed in the search engine results pages. View the clickthrough rates of such listings (i.e. how often people click through to your website from the list of search results).
- Set a preferred domain (e.g. prefer example.co.uk over www.example.co.uk or vice versa), which determines how the site URL is displayed in the Google search engine results
Setting up Google Search Console
- Sign up for Search Console if you haven’t already
- In the Search Console home page, click the Add a property button and type the URL of your website. Specify the URL exactly as it appears in the browser bar, including the final / mark.
- Click Continue to open the Site verification page.
- Select a verification method to prove that you own the site and follow the verification instructions on the page. The easiest way is to use your Google Analytics account to confirm ownership.
- Important: If your site supports multiple protocols (http:// and https://), you must add each as a separate site. Similarly, if you support multiple domains (for example www.example.co.uk and example.co.uk) you must add each one as a separate site. So if you have a security certificate and support www and non-www, then you should have 4 entries set up in Google Search Console.
- If you support both www and non-www, be sure to specify which one is your preferred domain (www or non-www).
An easy way to get to grips with Google Analytics and Search Console
Whilst there is no doubt about the benefit of using these tools, they can be confusing and time-consuming to set up and interpret. That’s why our Gold & Platinum monthly support packages include Google Analytics and Google Search Console set-up and configuration for your website. We provide monthly summary reports on visitor statistics. We also issue each customer with a more in-depth quarterly report which highlights the most important data from Google Analytics. Some of our customers prefer to see their visitor statistics within the WordPress dashboard; we can set this up for them too. Others prefer to use Google Analytics to explore the detailed reports themselves, and so we often give training on how to use Google Analytics and how to get the most out of it.
Get help on how to use Google Analytics and Google Search Console
If you are still not sure how to use Google Analytics and Google Search Console, why not contact us for more information about our website support packages or to book a one-to-one training session?