How to set up Google Analytics on a new website
Anytime a new website is created, it should include Analytics tracking. And since Google Analytics is the most popular analytics package today, most websites want to include Google Analytics.
But there are a few best practices for setting up Google Analytics that I recommend to new users. These are all steps that have two purposes.
First, following these steps guarantee you maintain ownership of your data. Unfortunately, there are many website development companies out there that will set up your Google account in their name, often because it is convenient. Don’t let this happen – you will likely lose your data at some point in the future.
Second, these steps give you the most flexibility and set you up for the future. If you’re starting a business, you have growth in mind. If your Google Analytics is not set up properly, at some point in the future you will feel backed into a corner, and have to make changes. You might as well make sure everything is set up properly at the start.
The steps below are meant as an overview, so I didn’t include full details on how to do each step. But there are lots of guides on the internet (and elsewhere on this blog) that describe each step in detail.
- Get a Google account.
Most people these days have a Google account, but especially for new business people, it is often a personal account. If you have a new website, you probably have also set up a business email (if not, why not? It’s not hard and it doesn’t cost much if anything at all). While you could set everything up under one account, it will be challenging to transfer responsibility to someone else in the future if your business grows or is sold. Set up a Google account at the start that is for your business or organization. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
To set up your account, simply go to https://accounts.google.com/SignUp and enter your information. Note that Google tries to get you to sign up with a Gmail account. Click where it says “I prefer to use my current email address”, and enter your business email.
- Create your Google Analytics account.
Now that you’ve created a Google account for your business, it’s time to create your Google Analytics account. Make sure you’re logged into your Google account, and go to http://www.google.com/analytics. Click on “Sign In To Google Analytics”, and follow the steps to create your Google Analytics account. You want to set up a property, and Google provides more information at https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1042508.
Once your property is set up, you’re ready to collect data on your new website. There are a couple of ways to do this. The easiest way is to get your tracking code directly from Analytics and put it on your site. We’re going to depart from this, and add one more step that will add more flexibility to your setup. But before leaving Google Analytics, get your Tracking ID. This looks like UA-XXXXXXXX-1 (where all the ‘X’s are replaced by numbers). Copy this number. You’ll need it in the next section.
- Create a Google Tag Manager account
When you first start a website, using Google Tag Manager to collect your analytics data seems like an extra step for nothing. But trust me, this is an investment and you’ll appreciate it later. Go to http://www.google.com/tagmanager and sign up for Tag Manger. Tag Manager essentially outsources some of the work from your website. But it allows you more flexibility than Google Analytics alone. Once you’ve signed up, get the tracking code and put it on every page on your site.
With your Tag Manger set up and the tracking code is on every page, you need to create the tags to collect your Google Analytics data, and this is where you need your Google Analytics ID from above. The first thing you want to do is create macro with that ID number. Select New, then Macro. Give it a name (I like to call it UAID, which stands for Universal Analytics ID), choose “Constant String” under Macro Type, and enter your UA-XXXXXX-X number in the Value box, and click on the Save button. Now you’re ready to create the tags you need to start collecting data, the steps for which are outlined in an earlier blog post.
- Create a Google Search Console account
Until recently, this was called Google Webmaster Tools, and as of right now, the URL still reflects this (although I’m sure it will change soon). Go to https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/ and sign up. Enter your website here – register it both with the “www” at the start and without the “www”, and choose the one you actually use (you only use one of them, right?) Google will want you to verify ownership, and the easiest way is to use Google Analytics.
Now that your websites are registered, you need to link them to your Google Analytics account. On the Search Console page, click manage next to your site, then choose your Google Analytics profile. This allows Google to transfer information between the two properties. Trust me, you will really want this.
- Create a Google My Business account
Especially if you are a business with a storefront or with a defined service area, this step is very important. It’s the best way to ensure that Google knows your geographic and street location. With the explosive growth of mobile platforms and location-based searches, you really want Google to have your location correct. Go to https://www.google.com/business and set up this account.
You’ll have to verify that you own the business here, and that can take a week or two if you decide to use the mail option. But once it’s verified, this links your business to a number of other Google properties, including maps. Make sure your profile is filled out as completely as possible.
Depending on your business and your plans, you will probably want to set up some other Google properties like YouTube and Google +. But following the steps above as a minimum will secure your spot on Google, capture your Analytics, and leave you well positioned for future growth.