Google Analytics is a must-have for bloggers. It helps you understand your best content and readers so you can improve your blog. Because it is such an essential tool, this article will show you how to get started with Google Analytics (GA) for your WordPress blog.
Why Every Blog Needs Google Analytics
But Google Analytics is so confusing!
I hear ya, but nothing worth doing is easy. And trust me, Google Analytics is worth it because…
- It helps measure your blog progress. Just like the number of followers or likes you get on social media, pageviews and users help you know when your blog is growing.
- You can find out which articles are popular, so you can write follow-ups and related articles. Yes, GA can give you ideas for your next blog post!
- You’ll know how visitors find your blog. Google Analytics tells you if they came from searching the web, social media, or from your marketing activities.
- Google Analytics helps your blog make money. It’s the industry standard for website and blog analytics, so brands who want to partner with you will prefer GA stats over Jetpack or other analytics.
Amazingly, this is a free service. And it’s easy to install Google Analytics on your blog with free plugins.
Now that you know why GA is so important, let’s learn how to set it up.
GA4 vs Universal Analytics
Quick note before we proceed: there are 2 versions of Google Analytics. Google Analytics 4 is the new and default version of GA. It is a big change from the previous version of GA (Universal Analytics), designed to track all websites, apps and experiences of the future.
Because of the big change, the old Universal Analytics will continue to work for the foreseeable future. It is the more user-friendly version of Google Analytics for bloggers, so I recommend that you start with Universal Analytics. You can also install GA4 together with Universal Analytics, or skip GA4 for now.
Sign up for Google Analytics
It’s time to sign up for your free Google Analytics account. Click here to visit the Google Analytics website: https://marketingplatform.google.com/about/analytics/
Click the Start for free button to create your GA account. You’ll be asked to sign in to your Google Account, or create a new one. You already have a Google Account if you have Gmail, so login with your Gmail account details.
Once signed in, you’ll arrive at the Google Analytics account setup wizard.
Give your account a name. This can be the name of your business, or name of your blog.
Then you create a property to represent your blog. It can be any name, but I like using the blog URL. IMPORTANT: Click on Show advanced options.
The advanced options allow you to create a Universal Analytics property alongside this new GA4 property you are creating. Type in your blog URL and choose the option to create both Google Analytics 4 and a Universal Analytics property.
Proceed to the next step, “About your business”. Choose your answers and click Create. You’ll be asked to accept the Terms of Service. Once you accept, your Web stream details will be displayed.
Congratulations! You have successfully created your Google Analytics (GA) account. The next step is to install Google Analytics on your blog.
Install Google Analytics on WordPress
Now we will install both Google Analytics 4 and the older Universal Analytics on the blog.
Install Google Analytics (Universal Analytics) on WordPress
MonsterInsights is a free plugin to add the Google Analytics tracking code to your blog. It will eagerly ask you to upgrade to the Pro version, but the free version is more than good enough for now.
Navigate to your WordPress dashboard → Plugins → Add New. Search for MonsterInsights.
Click Install on the plugin, and then when it finishes installing, click Activate.
This should bring you to the welcome screen. If you weren’t sent to the setup screen, click on the Insights menu item that was added to the WordPress dashboard menu. You’re prompted to launch the setup wizard; click that and you’ll see the welcome screen.
Follow the steps in the wizard to connect MonsterInsights to Google Analytics, and then select a GA profile for your blog (it was automatically created when you signed up for Google Analytics).
Install Google Analytics 4 on WordPress
This is an optional step if you don’t want or need Google Analytics 4.
Not many plugins support Google Analytics 4 right now. The notable exception is the PixelYourSite plugin. We’re going to use it to ensure that we are also collecting data in GA4 format and future-proof our analytics.
Navigate to your WordPress dashboard → Plugins → Add New. Search for PixelYourSite.
Click Install on the plugin, and then when it finishes installing, click Activate.
Next, click on the new PixelYourSite item in the WordPress dashboard menu on the left.
Open up the Google Analytics settings pane. Toggle the option to enable Google Analytics 4, and paste in your measurement ID. Here’s where you can find it:
Once you’ve pasted in your measurement ID, scroll down to save the settings. That’s it, you’ve installed Google Analytics 4 on your blog.
Should I exclude my own IP address?
Many Google Analytics tutorials tell you to exclude your IP address from your website. I feel that isn’t necessary. Here’s why:
Your IP addresses changes regularly. Your internet service provider (ISP) may assign you a different IP address periodically. They don’t notify you when this happens, so you won’t know when you need to update the filter to exclude your IP address. Also, you may manage your blog from multiple locations all of which present the same challenges.
The technique I explained above uses WordPress plugins that automatically exclude logged-in admins from being tracked. That is good enough for most cases, so just remember to always be logged in as you manage your blog.
You did it!
If you’ve made it this far, congratulations! You have successfully installed Google Analytics on your blog. And big, big bonus points for installing both versions on your site. Look at you—what a pro!
It will take a while for Google Analytics to track and compile your blog stats, so the next step is to take a break and come back to your analytics later.
Crash Course to Understanding GA Reports
Welcome back! To conclude this guide, we’re going to quickly learn the basics of understanding the reports in Google Analytics. Learning how to understand your blog traffic in Google Analytics is key to helping you measure your blog’s progress and increasing your blog earnings. We’re going to focus just on Universal Analytics for now.
Where to find your reports?
Your blog stats are compiled and displayed in the Google Analytics website. Bookmark this address since you will likely want to visit it regularly: analytics.google.com.
Remember that we created both GA4 and Universal Analytics properties for your blog earlier. You can switch between your properties by clicking the property switcher and choosing the one you want. We’re going to be focusing on Universal Analytics, so switch to the non-GA4 property.
The Google Analytics interface displays the list of reports available on the left. Click through to explore the reports.
On each report, you can adjust the date range and how you want to group the data.
Google Analytics basics every blogger needs to know
GA tracks A LOT of data. These data points are called metrics. Here are the important metrics to know:
Pageviews. This is how many views or hits a page received. In general, the more pageviews your blog has, the more successful it will be. One of the most valuable reports about pageviews is the All Pages report (Behavior → Site Content → All Pages). This report will tell you which are the most popular content on your blog.
Users represent individual visitors to your blog. Navigate to Acquisition → Overview to see a report of how users found your blog. Search and Social are pretty self-explanatory. Referrals are users who clicked to your blog from another site – find the site that referred you and try to grow more referrals. Direct traffic are users who typed in the URL of your blog into their browser, or GA couldn’t determine accurately how they arrived on your blog.
Pages / Session. A session is a visit to your blog. If I visit in the morning and again in the afternoon, that’s 2 sessions. Pages / Session is how many pages the reader viewed on average during the session. The higher your Pages / Session, the more engaged your blog readers are. Look through your Acquisition reports to see which channels sent you the most engaged visitors and focus your efforts there to grow an engaged audience.
Bounce Rate. This metric measures visits that only lasted for a single pageview. In other words, they arrived and immediately left without clicking to another page. You want to encourage readers to stick around to view other posts, signup for your newsletter, etc. The more pages a user views, the lower your bounce rate. It’s normal for bounce rates to be >75% so don’t get alarmed.
I think that’s all we’ll cover in this introduction to Google Analytics. If you want more, have a look at Neil Patel’s article linked in the resources below.
Wow, you’ve reached the conclusion! The conclusion is:
You are a bad ass for figuring out Google Analytics.
This is just the beginning though. Just like a weighing scale, speedometer and stopwatch, Google Analytics give you the information you need to track, measure and improve your progress. It’s all a bunch of numbers in the beginning, but understanding them will help you build a better blog.
Did you enjoy this article? I’d love to know what you thought in the comments below.