As promised, we’re going to talk about Analytics this week. There are lots of different platforms that people will use for gather data about user traffic volume and flow through a site, but the most common is definitely Google Analytics, and for good reasons. While I wouldn’t tell you that Google Analytics is perfect is has two very good features: it’s free and it’s got a huge number of features right out of the box.
Another great thing about using Google Analytics for your business’s WordPress site is that there are already tons of awesome plugins that integrate with it so that you can just plug one in and start collecting data immediately.
Using Google Analytics in WordPress
Your first step will be to create a Google Analytics account. You just need to go to the Google Analytics page and hit the “Access Analytics” button. If you’ve already made an account, you can skip this step. If not, you’ll need to Sign Up and answer all the obvious questions. The page is pretty good about making clear all the details, though you can always get in touch if you need specific help.
Inexperienced people may be temped to follow Google’s advice and just copy their tracking code straight onto your webpage, which in WordPress would mean your theme. But, for a number of different reasons — you can get a summary of the reasons in this post about the things a theme shouldn’t do — you probably don’t want to. The short summary is that someday — in a week, month, year, or decade — you will decide you need a new theme. And if you forget to re-add your Analytics code to that theme, you’ll stop collecting all that valuable data.
We’ll not spend the whole email talking about the variety of plugins that do the job in detail, but personally we typically use one called Google Analyticator unless we find a good reason not to. It’s recently started running some ads inside your dashboard, so if you’re offended by those you can look elsewhere, but it works well enough that we personally don’t sweat it.
Installing Google Analyticator is simple, like every plugin. Just go to your dashboard, navigate to Plugins > Add New in the left side menu. Type the name “Google Analyticator” in the search box. In the results, hit install. After that runs, be sure to hit activate.
Then you’ll have to set it up with your Google Account. Navigate to Settings > Google Analytics in your dashboard and authorize in the popup you get when you click the “Click Here” text. Once you’ve completed that flow — where you paste a code from the pop-up back into the page — you’re all set, and you’ll have a nice widget on your WordPress Dashboard which summarizes your Analytics data.
Once the code’s in place, you’re automatically going to start collecting data. You can get a bit obsessive about the data when you start seeing it (we speak from experience), but daily fluctuations are natural and shouldn’t be your primary concern. Instead, plan to keep executing your content strategy for a while, and look for trends. You can use Analytics to clearly see if most of your visitors are coming from Google search or Facebook, and that information can really help you decide where to devote your marketing energy and how to shape your content strategy in the future.
Numbers are the basis of good decision making, so collecting them is essential to being smart about your WordPress-leveraging business. You do want to make sure you don’t spend all your time obsessing about them, but without them you’re basically driving blind. Best of luck.