Google Analytics is a powerful tool, and when you understand how to use it you’ll not only use it to help grow your website traffic but more importantly, it will provide you with crucial data that every business needs if you want to grow your online sales.
If you approach Google Analytics as most SEOs and business owners do, you’ll only develop a shallow high-level state of mind towards the data it provides – this shallow approach inevitably leads to lost money and limited opportunities for your business.
Instead, with such a huge deposit of insightful data, you’ll want to be someone that masters Google Analytics so that in return it can help you eliminate assumptions and guesswork for your digital marketing strategy. Don’t rely on your instinct, but rather, be strategic when using Google Analytics—this will help you to put real data behind your campaigns that generate real results.
The truth, growing your online business requires much more than simply setting up your website and creating good content as many people do. You need to understand the behaviours and actions taking place across your site and whether users are engaging in your content. Studying essential onsite metrics means you can make better decisions.
But you see, Google Analytics can seem overwhelming and technical at first glance but in reality, the basics can be very simple. You need to invest some of your time to learn its features, metrics, and advanced functionality—because that’s the only way to use the data provided to attract new customers and retain existing ones.
In the rest of this article, I’ll show you the 7 actionable steps you can take right now to become a Google Analytics expert or pro.
Let’s begin with the basics…
1. Master the basics
Here’s the mistake that most people make when learning a new skill:
They jump right into the middle of the process without having a firm grasp of the basics. How sad?
Before you plunge into the advanced elements, get a Google Analytics account—if you have a Gmail account you can automatically log into the Analytics dashboard to get started.
Next, install the Google Analytics tracking code on your website pages. It must appear in the header section, </h> right before the opening body tag </body>.
You’ll usually get this code with instructions on how to install it on your website after signing up with Google Analytics.
However, if you’ve registered already and don’t know where to find it, here’s how:
- Locate the link “ADMIN” in the left column
- Click on the Tracking Info, and click on the “Tracking Code” tab, there you have your tracking code.
The installation process is quick and simple. All you have to do is copy and paste the code into every page of the website you want to track. You might want to tell your developer to do this for you if you want or by adding it in WordPress to your header.php file which will automatically add it to every page.
Learn more about setting up Google Analytics here.
You can also use Google Tag Manager (more on this later) to achieve the same purpose.
Learn the Basics
Now that it’s installed you’ll want to get familiar with the basics of Google Analytics and some of the data it can show you. Don’t be afraid to play with it, you really can’t mess anything up. Look at each of the tabs in the left-hand side menu and click through to see what initial data you can find.
Google Analytics Training
If you feel overwhelmed, with all the options, it’s OK and Google knows that Google Analytics can be difficult to understand, especially for beginners.
So, they have created a comprehensive guide that can help beginners to get started. I dare say that this is one of the best resources out there. Why? Because it was made by the creator of the software themselves.
While this training can help you learn just enough to get you familiar with the basics of Google Analytics, you might still struggle to feel like you’ve mastered it. Taking other advanced courses may be necessary to help you to forge ahead faster as well as hands-on experience (more on that later).
Once businesses understand the data that Google Analytics can provide, any staff member with advanced skill sets can become a much more valuable asset in an organisation. Having such a skill set can in turn drive better career opportunities and high salaries.
2. Take free or paid online courses
There are plenty of free and paid online courses on Google Analytics. Take advantage of them.
From YouTube videos to Udemy courses—studying these free online courses and blogs can give you the edge you need to become better. Things you should learn about include
- Google analytic events
- Google analytic goals
- Data reports
Here are some free YouTube video channels you should subscribe to that can help you advance quickly.
1. The Google Analytics Official Channel: Here’s the channel that all the videos at the Analytics Academy are served from—there are about 22 videos in this series.
While watching the videos, ensure you pause the video at some point and take notes. And also, videos like this one by Stasia in Google Small Business are a no-brainer and can put you on the right track.
2. Nik Warner’s course is a great course on Google Analytics you don’t want to miss. In this 1.5 Hour crash course which is well-detailed, Nik covered a lot of concepts you need to move forward in your journey to become a Google Analytics expert.
Additionally, if you can invest some amount of money you can take the “Google Analytics Beginner Guide” course on Udemy. It’s a 3-hour course and covers extensively essential Google Analytics features and best practices.
But that’s not all, here are some of the niche-focused blogs you can read to help you improve your analytics skill:
- Refreshing “The Customer Journey to Online Purchase” – New Insights into Marketing Channels.
Get the highlights and intro to Google’s report: Customer Journey to Online Purchase, and then go through the report to look at the most important moments along a customer’s journey.
You’ll discover the power of Google Analytics and how to tap into it.
- How to Build the Right Traffic Metrics Dashboard. In this article, Moz founder, and CEO, Rand Fishkin explains what you need to include when building your own traffic metrics dashboard.
- 5 Most Under-Utilized Google Analytics Features. This post explains some hidden features of Google Analytics that most webmasters ignore or under-utilize.
Here’s another great training by LunaMetrics on Google Analytics. This training will take you from a Google Analytics newbie to an expert. However, the training is usually offline but they also have an option for live in-person training.
3. Master Google Tag Manager
As online marketers, we dread the to-do list. We want to get the task completed as quickly as possible.
When you begin to learn more advanced uses of Google Analytics it’s no secret that inserting, updating and consistently managing several tags, events and goals across your site can become a tedious task.
Google Tag Manager simplifies this process—it allows you to add the Tag Manager code once on your website and then you can add more tracking codes using the Tag Manager Workspace without needing to touch the code at all.
For example, if I want to install Google Analytics, Crazy Egg, and Google Ads Remarketing on a website, I can simply log into Google Tag Manager Account and install and then publish it live. We already have our Google Tag Manage code install which is basically a ‘bucket’ for importing all of the additional tags we add through GTM.
Automating with Google Tag Manager
That’s not all though, In Google Tag Manager, you can use a data layer to capture key data points while sending them to Google Analytics for conversion tracking.
For example, you may want to know if your website visitors are clicking on Telephone links, you can create a data layer event that monitors all clicks to “tel:” links across the entire site and have it trigger an event in Google Analytics. Find out more about tracking telephone links in Google Tag Manager.
Google Tag Manager has a direct relationship with Google Analytics and they go hand in hand in supporting each other. While you might start with Google Analytics you might find that over time you want a faster process, ease the burden of management or more advanced data capture and that’s where GTM becomes a requirement.
The best resource for learning Google Tag Manager is Measure School.
4. Take the Google Analytics IQ exam
So far you’ve learned so much about Google Analytics. You’re probably feeling like a champion after taking all the courses I mentioned earlier. That’s good.
To further add a notch to your analytics professional belt, you may consider taking the free Google Analytics Individual Qualification test. It will add a boost and credibility to your portfolio.
How To Prepare
If you want to pass the exam, you need to go through some preparations. And since you’ve gone this far, it’ll be a lot easier for you. Here’s how to prepare for the exam.
- Revisit your Notes: Now the notes you took while going through the GA Academy training will be important at this point. Bring the notes out, dissect them and ensure everything sinks into your brain.
- Read this blog by Jens Sorensen: It’s the most detailed note you’ll need to pass this exam. I know some people will just leave that post open during the test and just search for what they need with “CTRL + F”. However, I’ll recommend that you go through it and internalize the information there—it’s actually a very long and detailed post.
- Now you’ve got a lot of information at your disposal. It’s time to take some practice tests that are a bit harder than the main exam. Use this Digital Relevance test guide to practice very well. If you fail, try again to reactivate the knowledge which you got from it.
- Finally, use this site to take more tests until you feel comfortable. Perhaps, when you start scoring up to 70%. And again note that these tests are pretty harder than the main test—so, if you can pass them, you’re guaranteed success in the main test.
- Use this site to practice your questions and answers.
Next. Go take the main exam like a boss and devour it. You may want to open some of these resources in a different tab for reference purposes.
If you follow this article you’ll likely get certified in less than one week. Don’t panic when you start the exam, but rather, be confident in yourself.
5. Get Real Experience
Now that you’re being certified and you’ve gone through a lot of training, it’s high time you put what you’ve learned to practice. The way I learnt was by being a sponge to information and using all the resources we’ve provided above plus many more to practice on my own websites.
We’ve got some great tutorials on this site that you can use to get started
- Call Tracking – How To Track Phone Calls in Google Analytics
- Setting up Google Analytics Goals
- Phone Call Tracking With GTM
- Configuring Hotel Booking Transactions in Google Analytics
Google also has a demo analytics account. So whether you’ve got a website now or not, you can actually practice what you’ve learned.
If you get stuck at any point, you can return to the resources you used while learning.
6. Follow Experts & Join Support Groups
Following experts is a great way to get insights and hacks on how best to play around and to get better results from Google Analytics.
There are many Analytics experts you can follow on social media and via their blogs to stay updated on the latest trends and new features in Google Analytics.
You can quickly find them by searching for the Hashtag #googleanalytics on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram or you might also want to try the /analytics group on Reddit.
You can also join Google Analytics Groups on Facebook and on LinkedIn and find people who can quickly and easily help you and point you in the right direction to solving your issues.
Need Help Setting Up Analytics?
This sounds overwhelming right? It’s not very difficult to become a Google Analytics expert, however, it takes a lot of effort and consistency. If you keep at it, in about a month or two, you’ll be on your way to mastering Google or at least have a solid understanding.
More importantly, when you consider that data is always at the heart of every online business, your knowledge will be relevant to your business and to your client’s business for a long time.
For some business owners, you simply don’t have the time to learn and master Google Analytics and that’s OK. Hopefully, this article has taught you the importance of using real data to make the best decisions about your digital marketing spending. If it’s all too much, and you’ve thrown your arms into the air, then get in touch with us today and find out how we can help you to set up your analytics and reporting for your business.