Using Google Analytics

Since the incarnation of Web 2.0, the Web has become not only a vast collection of resources for information on just about any topic you can imagine – it is now a wide-spread social phenomenon with great potential for designers, small business owners and content creators alike! A good idea on the web can *and does* –spread like wild fire!

How can you, as a designer, ensure that your site not only stands out among the myriad of websites on the Web, but also know how your site is being used? To understand how your site is fairing on the Web, you can track and measure your website’s performance with Google Analytics! The trick is to be smart about how you design your site from the get-go, and to market it effectively through social media networks. Once you have done those two things, you can monitor your site’s performance with Google Analytics. Here’s how:

According to ‘The Missing Google Analytics Manual‘, there are four components to effectively market your website:

  1. Attraction: How do you attract users to your web site?
  2. Retention: How do you hold your users’ attention and keep their interest within the site?
  3. Conversion: How do you convert a users’ actions into transactions?
  4. Measurement: How do you measure your website’s performance, including traffic, referrals, most popular content, and so on  … ?

First, create an account with Google Analytics. Once you have done this, it will generate a unique code identifier that looks like this bogus account: XY-1234567-8. Now you can add a tiny <snippit of js code> called Google Analytics Tracking Code (GATC) to your site to begin tracking, so you can record and monitor your site’s performance.

To include basic Google Analytics code within the pages of your website, paste the following javascript into your website. This code consists of two parts: ‘a script tag that references the ga.js tracking code, and another script that executes the tracking code.’ (For more advanced Google Analytics functionality, visit GATC’s code manual, to learn how to tweek the code for your site. But note that you should know how to code, in order to use this site.)

For the first part of code to reference the tracking code, copy and paste the code below into the web pages of your site that you wish to track:

<script src='http://www.google-analytics.com/ga.js' type='text/javascript'> OR

<script src='https://ssl.google-analytics.com/ga.js' type='text/javascript'> (for a secure page connection)

And now for the second part, to execute the tracking code, copy and paste the snippit of code below:

<script type="text/javascript">
var gaJsHost = (("https:" == document.location.protocol) ? "https://ssl." : "http://www.");
document.write(unescape("%3Cscript src='" + gaJsHost + "google-analytics.com/ga.js' type='text/javascript'%3E%3C/script%3E"));
</script>
<script type="text/javascript">
try{
var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker("UA-xxxxxx-x");
pageTracker._trackPageview();
} catch(err) {}</script>

Once you have plugged the necessary code for Google Analytics to track your site's performance, it should begin tracking.

To see how your site is doing, login to Google Analytics and click, 'View report' for your website's profile. Once you have done this, Google Analytics will show you a dashboard with your site's informatics.

Understanding the Google Analytics Interface:

Google Analytics screenshot of a bogus website

The Google Analytics Dashboard is made up of the following widgets:

  • a Calendar with a line graph representing the time line specified
  • Site Usage , including how many visitors and pages were viewed on the site
  • a Visitors Overview, including technical information about what browser and connection speed visitors used to view the website
  • a Map Overlay, representing where visitors accessed the website from. (You can drill down from country to city, for more specific information about your visitors' location.)
  • Traffic Sources Overview, with a pie graph representing the per centage of visitors who found your website via a Search Engine, or a Referring Site or through Direct Traffic.
  • Content Overview (what content visitors access within the site)
  • Direct Traffic

more to come soon ...

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