January 8, 2010

How to Get Started and Use Google Analytics for your Personal Web Site

Snapshot of the Google Analytics web site included in the article How to Get Started and Use Google Analytics for your Personal Web Site

Gone are the days when you just create your personal web site and leave everything to chance that someone out there in the Internet will be interested enough about what you write about. The Internet has become a very competitive field and you don't want your web site to pass into oblivion due to lack of readership. You absolutely need baseline information with which to plan how you would go on improving the performance of your web site.

I have tried Google Analytics on my personal web sites and I believe that there's a lot of useful information that can be gained by looking at the results of the analyses that you can find on the Google Analytics site. The insights that can be gained by looking at the reports can guide you to where your performance improvement efforts should focus on.

You would need a Google email account to sign up with Google Analytics. The first thing to do is to create an account. If you have web sites on both Blogger and Google Sites, then you might want to create two accounts one for each place where your web site is located. The next thing to do is to add the web sites that you want to include in each account. For example if you have two web sites on Blogger, then you have to add both sites to the Blogger account you have created.

When adding a new web site to an account, you will be given a specific tracking code that you will need to add to all the pages that you want to track in your web site. The code should be added before the closing body HTML tag of the web page.

If your site is hosted on Blogger, you will need to add the tracking code to the HTML template of your blog. From your Blogger dashboard select the blog and click on Layout then click on Edit HTML. If your web site is on Google Sites, then you need to sign in to your web site, click on More actions then click on Manage site and then click on General. Paste your Google Analytics web property ID then click on Save changes.

When all the tracking codes have been included on your site's web pages, you can go back to the Google Analytics site and verify that the codes have been correctly included on the web page. A green check mark beside web site name on the Google Analytics Dashboard indicates that the web site had been successfully verified. You will see the initial reports within 24 hours after your site had been verified.

If your site is hosted on Blogger, you will need to reinstall the tracking code if you change the template of your blog. Otherwise, you will stop receiving any report on that particular blog. Your site may appear to have a verified status but no information is sent back to Google Analytics because the tracking code is missing from the template of your blog.

Click on View Reports beside the name of your blog or web site and you will be taken to the dashboard of that particular site where you can get a summary of the performance of your web site for the default period which is one month. You can dig deeper and look at the details by clicking on the view report link on the different reports that are available.

The Content Overview report shows you what pages in your web site get read the most. This can give you an insight on what subjects or topics you should be focusing on. Results of this analysis would give you the topics of interest people in the web are looking for.

Click on view report under the Visitors Overview to find out how many unique visitors you had together with average page views, time on site, bounce rate and percentage of new visits. Bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that did not go beyond the page on which the user landed. You could also see here what Internet browser your visitors are using and the connection speed that they are using.

Click on view report under the Traffic Sources Overview to see what percentage of your visitors came through direct traffic, referrals or search engines. If you click on a search engine, you will be presented with the keywords your visitors used to arrive at your site together with the other information related to those keywords. Click on view report under keywords to get a report on the keywords used by all search engines to arrive at your site.

Click the view report on Map Overlay on the dashboard to find out from which places in the world your visitors are coming from. This information can help you tailor the articles you are writing on your web site to cater more to the needs of the majority of your visitors.

Google Analytics has other sophisticated tools and reports that may not be applicable for personal web sites. Much insight can already be gained by looking at the basic information that is provided about the performance of your personal web site. You as the web site author are given the vital feedback from your readers so that you can better tailor the information you provide on your web site or blog.

You should try using Google Analytics and see for yourself how useful the reports would be for your web site planning purposes. You don't have to spend anything for those valuable information since Google Analytics is free to use by everyone. Get started and use the Google Analytics now!

You can also read my article on how to get started and use Google Webmaster Tools for your personal web site at: http://laptopwriting.blogspot.com/2010/01/get-started-and-use-google-webmaster.html.