I recently received an email from a former custom Essential Marketing class that included the following question:

I am doing volunteer work for Small Business Developement Center, as a business advisor. I have a client who has a web page but very limited computer skills, and she needs a very easy, FREE, guide for tracking 2 things:

How man people came to her site and from where

How long they stayed and where they spent time.

Google Analytics is free, but assumes a greater level of expertise than she can understand, as with a lot of SBDC clients.

Is there a simpler analytic guide, or simpler steps you could outline, given the low level of computer understanding?

Any help you could give us, would be greatly appreciated.

  • First,let me applaud you for volunteering at the Small Business Development Center and your client for realizing she needs to measure the effectiveness of her marketing by reviewing her website analytics.
  • Second, let me point out I am doing an all-day Intro to Web Analytics class through the Peninsula College Business and Community Department Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013. I’ll post a link for details as soon as they are available. FYI, this may be your LAST CHANCE to take this class with me.
  • Third, while there are a number of options for getting website data (which I’ll briefly cover below), I highly recommend using Google’s free Analytics service (for reasons I’ll make clearer in a few moments).
  • Fourth, you do, however, have to put as small amount of time and effort into learn at least the basics of this extremely powerful tool.If the hold up is that you don’t have the time or knowledge to set up your website tracking, then this is where you should spend a little (and I do mean a little) money on getting help. Ideally, if you didn’t develop your own website, whoever set up your website should be offering to help you add analytics tracking to your site as part of his or her service. If nothing is said, ask them to include this service. It takes *very* little additional time (less than 5 minutes, if you know what you are doing).

Now let’s talk about options and what you need to do to start measuring your website effectiveness.

Web Statistics Without Using Google Analytics

Your web hosting service should be providing you with some kind of free web statistics. Alas, these are usually both limited in the actual information given and in the format in which it is given. However, you can contact your web hosting service provider (or log into your control panel — see below) to find out what is available to you if you don’t want to use Google Analytics. The most common options are Awstats and Webalizer. Some services still offer Web Trends which is a commercial option. (There are some other commercial options but most are quite expensive and well beyond the needs — or the pocket book — of small businesses.) If you are using a free WordPress.com blog, you can only use the site statistics they provide. You are not allowed to add Google Analytics tracking to your pages.

Given that you will probably spend more time trying to sift your Awstats or Webalizer data into something useable and useful than the time it takes to set-up Google Analytics, I highly recommend using Google Analytics and then spending the time to learn how to get some genuinely valuable information automatically.

Setting Up a Google Analytics Account and Installing the Tracking Code on Your Website Pages

To use Google Analytics, you need:

  1. A Google Analytics account;
  2. The tracking code that Google will provide you when you set-up a new account;
  3. access to the the web code for each and every one of your website pages.

The video below shows you the basics. There’s text below the video to walk you through the steps.

  1. To start, go to Google.com/Analytics.
  2. If you don’t have a Google Account already, such as a Gmail or Google+ page account, choose the Create Account button and follow the instructions.If you do have a Google Account already, Sign-in with your Google Account information.
  3. You will then need to create a new website account in your new Google Analytics account. If you don’t see the option automatically, click on the Admin button in the right-hand side of the top navigation menu.

You’ll see one version in the video. If your screen does not look like the one in the video, it should look like the photo below (without the list of my accounts, of course). Click on the New Account option or button and fill-out the form with the necessary information.

  • Once you have completed the information form for a new website account, you will be given a chunk of tracking code that looks something like this:
     <script type="text/javascript">
     var _gaq = _gaq || [];
      _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-00000-2']);
      _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);
    
      (function() {
        var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async = true;
        ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') + '.google-analytics.com/ga.js';
        var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(ga, s);
      })();
    
    </script>

You must copy this entire chunk of code and paste it into the web code of every page on your site. (Yep, all of them. Google can’t track the page and associate it with your account without this tracking code.) If you don’t know how, or can’t, to get to the web code for each page of your website, I HIGHLY recommend you get some assistance. If you are using a self-hosted WordPress installation for your website (something else I highly recommend), then you have the alternative of installing the Google Analytics for WordPress plugin by Yoast and simply giving it your UA code (also shown in the video).

After 24 hours, you can log into your Google Analytics account and should begin seeing some data. The most popular data if the default Demographics Overview. If you’d rather see a visual representation of how people are using your site, check out the Visitor Flow screen. You will probably develop OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) for a bit, but you need to accumulate some data over time to get any meaningful information about how your effective your marketing and your website is.

Obviously, I can’t possibly teach you everything you should know about using your web analytics data correctly and effectively (well, yes, I could, but no I’m not going to because I have to earn a living and have a life). There are many websites (like this one by Google’s top analytics guru), online videos (Google has it’s own series on YouTube), books, online classes, and physical classes where you can get learn more.

And again, for those who might be in the Pacific Northwest area, I will be teaching a one-day clas, Intro to Web Analytics, through Peninsula College Business and Community Department (former Peninsula College Entrepreneur Institute), on Saturday, October 26, 2013. If you are not in the immediate area, note that you and your family can combine business with a wonderful weekend get-away on the Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park.