Google Analytics (GA) is a must to streamline the development and implementation of SEO best practices. We'll take a closer look at what it is, the benefits of using it, how to check for it, and how to install it, so you can start reaping those benefits for yourself.
What Is Google Analytics?
Here's how Google describes their marketing data analysis tool: "With Google Analytics, you can uncover the insights that drive real results. Stay on top of key business activities and determine how successful your site is at turning users into customers. Use Google’s machine learning to make your digital analytics data work even harder for you. Analytics gives you comprehensive digital tools to help you better understand your customers and evaluate your site, content, and products."
Because Google is the gold standard for search engines, its analytics and search tools are the gold standard for optimizing for search. It integrates well with many Google products (like Google Search Console), as well as many other SEO and marketing tools you may already be using. And to top it off, it's free. Not a bad price to pay for having the insights of Google's tools and machinery working for you and your business.
Why Is GA Useful?
Google Analytics is valuable because it tracks site performance and user behavior over time. GA’s numerous features provide analytics intelligence, reporting, data analysis and visualization, data collection and management, data activation, and product integration. Here's a list of Google Analytics features that could be powering your website optimization plan.
- Analytics Intelligence
User and Conversion Modeling
User Flow Reporting
Data Freshness (Analytics 360 Only)
Unsampled Reports (Analytics 360 Only)
Roll-Up Reporting (Analytics 360 Only)
- Data Analysis and Visualization
Filtering and Manipulation
Visualization and Monitoring
Custom Funnels (Analytics 360 Only)
Advanced Analysis (Analytics 360 Only)
- Data Collection and Management
Tag Management Support
User Access Controls
Custom Tables (Analytics 360 Only)
Google BigQuery Export (Analytics 360 Only)
- Data Activation
Intelligence and Anomaly Detection
App Notifications and Remote Configs
Display & Video 360 (Analytics 360 Only)
Search Ads 360 (Analytics 360 Only)
Google Cloud (Analytics 360 Only)
Salesforce Marketing Cloud Integration
Google Ad Manager (Analytics 360 Only)
Google Search Console
The vast majority of features are available for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), unless otherwise indicated. To access features marked "Analytics 360 Only", your business would need Analytics 360, designed for enterprises. In most cases, business owners and marketing managers can get the insights they need to improve website performance using the free tool.
Do You Have the Latest Version of Google Analytics Installed?
The simplest way to check whether you have Google Analytics set up is to navigate to their page (analytics.google.com). If it redirects you to a general welcome page rather than your dashboard, you likely don't have it set up yet.
Google Support also offers this advice for checking a web page for Google Analytics: "Load a web page in the Chrome browser. Right-click the page, then click 'View page source'. You should see a lot of code. Search the page for gtag. js or analytics. js (for the newer version: Universal Analytics) or ga. js (for the original version: Classic Analytics)."
How to Install Google Analytics
You can take the following steps to set up Google Analytics:
If you don't already have one, sign up for an Analytics account on the Google Analytics website.
Add the Analytics Property ID to your site.
Open a new Google site.
Click Settings, then go to Analytics.
Enter a valid Analytics Property ID. It should look like either “UA-XXXXXX-X” or "G-XXXXXXX."
It can take up to 24 hours for data to show up in Google Analytics accounts. If you're not seeing anything after a few days, check Google Support for answers, or touch base with your marketing agency.
How to Link Google Analytics to Your Subdomains
If you have a subdomain, like a job board or discussion forum, you can still get Google Analytics insights for those pages, though it's a bit of a roundabout path. We like these clear, concise instructions from Haley Marketing:
Login to your Analytics account and go to the Admin screen
Click on "Filters" under the third column (VIEW)
Click "+ New Filter"
Add name for Filter (anything is fine - example - "Show Full Subdomain")
Select "Custom" for Filter Type
For Field A -> Extract A, select "Hostname" from the drop down and type the following into the field: (.*)
For Field B -> Extract B, select Request URl and type the following into the field: (.*)
For Output To -> Constructor, select Request URl and type the following into the field: $A1$B1
Leave the rest of the settings as is and click "Save"
After Setup: GA Integration
Since GA has varied integration capabilities, we recommend focusing integration efforts according to your marketing priorities. For example, integrating Google Search Console with GA is a good move if you're ramping up SEO efforts and search advertising. And we recommend asking your marketing team about Unbounce integration if you're rolling out multiple landing pages for those campaigns.
After all, the beauty of a tool like Google Analytics is tracking all your website analytics data using one tool. Why not make the most of it?