Google Analytics: A Beginner’s Guide for Small Businesses

Google Analytics for BeginnersI’ve seen what happens when I say ‘Google Analytics’ to some customers. There’s a bit of fear (‘ugh that sounds technical and I’m really not technical…’), followed by defiance (‘I don’t see how it’s going to help anyway‘), followed by a quick change of subject.

But if your website visitors had halved over the past two months, wouldn’t you want to know?

What if you found out that lots of visitors were coming to your website from a link on a business directory? Would you make the effort to get listed on more directories?

If you knew that most people who visited your website left after just seeing the home page, wouldn’t you want to change something about that home page?

Google Analytics provides you with the answers to all of these questions, and this article’s going to help you get started.

1. Signing up for Google Analytics (or GA to its friends)

Skip to Step 2 if you’re already tracking your website.

Head over to and click on Sign Up For Free.

Sign Up for Google Accounts

You’ll need a Google Account

If you don’t currently have a Google account, you’ll be prompted to sign up for one. They’re free and you can’t proceed without one, so go ahead and sign up.

The next screen you’ll see is titled: Start analyzing your site’s traffic in 3 steps.

Click on Sign Up on this screen to continue.

Next you’ll see the New Account screen.

Setting Up Google AnalyticsMake sure that Website is the highlighted option (the alternative is Mobile app), and set up your Account Name (usually the name of your company), your Website Name (can be anything, but I generally put the website address in, e.g., and enter your Website URL (again,

Choose an industry category, and scroll down to the bottom of the page to click the blue ‘Get Tracking ID’ button to continue.

You’ll be asked to confirm your agreement to Google’s Terms & Conditions, and then you’ll see a screen like this:


Most website platforms have a nice field somewhere in the settings that allow you to just copy and paste the Tracking ID in. So go to the admin area of your website, and paste the Tracking ID in. For Customer Focus users, that’s under Settings > Third Party Settings > Google Analytics.

Now sit tight and leave it for a few days so it can start recording some data.

2. What does GA mean by ‘Sessions’, ‘Bounce Rate’ etc.?

Before we dig into the details, GA will show you an overview of how your site is performing. Here’s what the labels mean:

  • Sessions: the amount of times your website has been visited over a date range (it defaults to the last 30 days). The figure includes repeat visits from the same person, so the actual number of people visiting your website will most likely be quite a lot lower.
  • Avg. Session Duration: how long people spend on your website.
  • Bounce Rate: the % of people who leave after only visiting one page of your website (usually the home page). An average bounce rate is about 50%, and you want it to be as low as possible. We’ll talk more about this later on.
  • Goal Conversion Rate: GA lets you set up goals for your website, i.e. a goal for Customer Focus is for someone to request a demo of our websites / CRM solutions. It’ll then track the Conversion Rate from visitor to someone who completed your desired action.

Now click on All Web Site Data to get into the detailed reporting.

3. Audience Overview

Audience OverviewSessions we already know; Users is the number of unique visitors to your site over the time period.

Page Views is the number of pages that have been viewed, and Pages/Session is the average number of pages someone visitors.

% New Sessions is the volume of people who’ve visited the website who’ve never visited it before.

So… What?

Without context this information isn’t that exciting. What we really want to know is what the trends are.

Scroll up to the date range at the top right of the window, and click on the drop down arrow. Check the box to ‘Compare to:’ and generally, you can leave it at ‘Previous period’. This will compare your site activity in the last 30 days to the 30 days preceding them.

Compare Months on GA

Now you’re going to see something like this:

Comparative Google Reports

This is a bit more enlightening. Now we can see that the number of visitors to our website is trending upwards, but they’re spending less time on the site, and viewing fewer pages.

Now you know that there’s a problem, you can start thinking up ideas to rectify it. Maybe it’s time to change up the website navigation and main banner graphic?

4. Acquisition Overview

Scroll down the page to Acquisition > Overview (it’s in the grey tinted bar on the left of your screen).

Acquisition Overview

This is where you learn what’s driving traffic to your website.

  • Organic Search: when someone’s visited your website after seeing it the search results pages.
  • Direct: covers many things – from typing in your website address directly into their browser, from clicking a link within an email. This is GA’s ‘catch all’ when they’re not actually sure how someone got to your website.
  • Referral: visitors who came from another website which links to your website, for example if you’re listed on a directory site.
  • Email: ever clicked on a link within an email, and seen something like this?
    Where these ‘UTM’ tags are in place, the clicks from the email are being tracked by Google Analytics, so the sender can see how many visits to their website they’re getting from their email marketing campaigns. If you’re not using UTM tags, this figure will be pretty low!
  • Social: sessions triggered by a link from your social media pages (Facebook, Twitter etc.)

One thing you can see on my screenshot is that we’re also monitoring Goals; our chief goal is, as I’ve said, to get visitors to request a demo of our services. I’m not going to cover setting up goals in this article but it’s worth considering, as you can see that while referral traffic is relatively low, it’s comparatively high at converting visitors into inquiries.

If you click on any of the titles, e.g. Referral, you’ll be able to see which websites are referring traffic to your website. This gives you a good idea of where to invest your energy – if you get a lot of referrals from a particular website, is it worth spending some money with that site to further promote your profile? Or finding other similar websites, and getting them to list your website, too?

5. Behavior Overview

Behavior OverviewWhat this is telling you is which pages on your website are the most popular. Now in the case of Customer Focus, we have a North America facing version of the site, indicated by /usa, and a European version indicated by /en.

So just taking the North American audience as an example, our most popular pages were, at the time of this report:

  • Home page (/)
  • Pricing page
  • Meet the Team
  • Promo Marketing landing page (a key source of referral traffic for us)
  • Product Tour

Most of these were not a surprise, but the Meet the Team page being the third most popular page on our site really was. At the time, our Meet the Team page was kinda dull, and I thought, you know what, we’re missing an amazing opportunity here to be more human, more engaging, more… Well, attractive’s maybe not the right word, but you know what I mean!

So we invested a bit of time in getting profiles of all of the members of our team on the site, with what they do for us, and injected a bit of fun by asking some daft questions and publishing the answers.

Meet the Team

Meet the Team remains one of our most popular pages, and I know it’s more engaging because I can see (using GA, obvs.) that people spend more time on that page than they used to. Also people contact us and say things like ‘hey, ice cream and tacos are my favorite foods too!’, which provides an instant connection we’d otherwise not have.

There is a BUNCH more stuff you can do on Google Analytics but the most important thing is to get started tracking data. Hopefully we’ve illustrated the value of the service – and if you want to contribute to our goal conversion via referral websites, do feel free to request a demo of Customer Focus today 🙂

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