To know whether any website improvements are actually working you need to be able to measure your results with some analytics tools. I’m going to cover some tools that are really easy to get started with and some that are fairly popular in the marketing technology world; Google Analytics and Google Search Console.
Google Analytics is a free web analytics service that provides statistics on web visitors and basic analytical tools for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and marketing. Google Analytics is a very powerful tool but I recommend starting small and focusing on core visitor insights relative to your goal whether it be boosting website traffic, decreasing bounce rate (people leaving your site) or increasing time on site.
Google Search Console is a powerful and free SEO tool provided by Google. It allows site owners to check on page indexing status and provides resources to optimize website visibility on its search engine. Through Google Search Console you can measure your websites search traffic and performance, see keywords are driving users to your website and address optimization issues. One important note is that Google Search Console only supplies data on unpaid Organic Google Search Results, which simply means how many users are finding your site via natural google searches without the help of any paid for ads to drive them there.
The key difference between Google Analytics and Google Search Console is Google Analytics focuses on the traffic of people that visit your website while Google Search Console focuses on how the Search Engine sees and ranks your website.
Getting Started with Google Analytics
Google Analytics** is a breeze to setup on any website and is compatible with any WordPress site. You can easily install and setup Google Analytics with Site Kit by Google, the official Google WordPress Plugin. There is no fee for the Google Site Kit Plugin WordPress Plugin or for Google Analytics. You can also skip the Plugin and install Google Analytics manually though that may be a bit more challenging and I’d only recommend that to users familiar with WordPress themes or WordPress development. I have some options for manual installation laid out below.
Step 1: Create a Google Analytics 4 Account
Whether you’re using the Site Kit WordPress Plugin or manually installing Google Analytics on your site, you will need to configure you analytics account. Head over to analytics.google.com, login to your google account and create your analytics account!
If you are just getting started with Google Analytics, I’d recommend going with Google Analytics 4 since Universal Analytics is going to stop working in 2023. You will get the latest and greatest with Google Analytics 4 anyway so there’s no reason to not switch.
2. Setting Up Google Analytics 4 on your website
After you’ve finished exploring your dashboard click the “Setup Assistant” Tab on the top lefthand side of your sidebar. You’ll see some options to get started. Click on the Tag Installation Step and then press the button for the “Web” Platform.
Set up your website URL and Stream Name. Make note whether your website is https or http and set that with the dropdown. It’s also important to note if it’s www.[somedomain].com or [somedomain].com. Once you fill out that information click “Create Stream”
You will then be taken to a Web Stream Details Page for the final step in adding this to your website. I’d recommend selecting the first option “Global Site Tag” unless you are familiar with Google Tag Manager and already have it configured.
If you click the Global Site Tag Option and open it, it will show a code snippet that you have to copy and put into the head of every page on your website. Thanks to the power of WordPress we should only need to add this in one place.
In the next step will decide on how we want to add the Google Analytics Tag to our website.
3. Adding Google Analytics 4 Global Tracking Script to your website
The following instructions are for adding a Google Tracking Script to a WordPress Website, if you are using another CMS such as Joomla, Shopify, or Squarespace look at their documentation on how to add analytics tags or reach out to your website provider’s customer service. This is a fairly common ask so they should have instructions readily available.
On to our WordPress options, if you aren’t using the plugin it can get a little tricky.
Option 1 – Use Site Kit by Google to add the Google Analytics code Snippet to your WordPress website
This is the easiest solution, install the Site Kit by Google Plugin and follow the steps to connect your account and it will install the required scripts for you.
Option 2 – Add Google Analytics Code Snippet through WordPress theme settings
This would depend on the theme you are using and if it’s configured to support custom Head content. In WordPress Admin – Go to Appearance in the sidebar -> Themes -> Select the Customize button on your active theme.
If your theme does support custom header code, you might have to do some digging to find it. Look for a field called “Header Code” or “Head Code”. If you do find it, just paste the entire code snippet into that field of the theme and hit save.
If you can’t find, you might be out of luck and you’ll have to look at Option 3.
Option 3 – Edit WordPress theme header.php file to add Google Analytics Snippet
If you have access to your WordPress theme files you just need to find the header.php file in the theme folder and the Google Analytics code snippet to the top of the <head>. Paste it as close to the top of the head as possible.
Once you follow those steps you will be ready to start tracking website visitors through Google Analytics!
It may take a bit for the bulk of website data to populate but in 10-15 minutes you can visit a page on your website and check your Real Time Report to make sure your snippet is working properly.
Getting Started with Google Search Console
To get started with Google Search Console you need to verify ownership of your domain. Head over to search.google.com and click “Start Now”. Enter the information for your domain. You’ll get a popup that asks you to verify domain ownership via a DNS record.
This may sound intimidating but this is easy to configure through your whomever you bought your domain from and another bonus is if you bought your domain from any of the following providers listed in the dropdown under “Any DNS Provider” You can just select that option and verify through your account without having to add a TXT Record.
If you didn’t purchase your website from the listed domain providers you’ll have to do it manually. The best way is to look up how to add a TXT Record in the documentation of your DNS provided. Each provider is different so it doesn’t provide much benefit to show my provider’s details. It is really straight-forward once you do find the documentation, it took me longer to find where I should add the TXT Record then to actually add it.
After you add the record go back to your Google Search Console setup and click “Verify”.
One you’ve verified your Domain on Google Search Console you can Use Google Search! Similar to Google Analytics it may take some time for all of the data in Google Search Console to popular.
So go take a break and come back to your GA and GSC accounts and take a look at your data tomorrow! Happy Tracking!