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How to get started with Google Analytics

James A. Martin | March 3, 2016
Google Analytics can provide valuable online insights for marketers and website managers. Unfortunately, GA has a bit of a learning curve. Here's a beginner's guide to the basics.

To create a new shortcut, start on the Reporting tab, go to the view you want to save as a shortcut, (such as Real-Time > Traffic Sources) and then tap the "Create Shortcut" link on the top right. Next, you can enter a name for the shortcut and click OK to save it.

Google Analytics Intelligence Events

Intelligence Events provide at-a-glance views of a variety of website metric "events," including increases and decreases in bounce rate, sessions, page views, and average session durations. You can use automatic, or default, alerts or create custom notifications.

Custom alerts automatically notify you, via email or text message, when pre-specified metrics increase or decrease. For example, you can set a GA alert to ping you when page views increase by more than 100 compared to the previous day.

Alerts are a great way to quickly monitor traffic spikes, especially after you issue a press release or publish something that goes viral, according to Natalie Zfat, a social media professional.

To create custom alerts from the Reporting tab, go to Intelligence Events and navigate to Overview, Daily, Weekly, or Monthly Events. Beneath the bar graph, in the Custom Alerts field, click Create a Custom Alert. Next, you name the alert and select the desired alert conditions, then click Save Alert. 

Google Analytics Real-Time metrics

The Real-Time feature displays the number of users active on your site at a given time, along with the site's page views per minute or per second, traffic sources (or how users found your site), and more. 

Real-Time is "a fun tool" because it lets you "watch what's happening in real-time on your site," says Chris Hood, CTO of Jewel Toned. "This tool, probably more than anything in GA, will give people the warm-fuzzies that their site is being looked at."

To access Real-Time metrics, go to Reporting > Real-Time, and then select Overview, Locations, Traffic Sources, or Other Report. 

Google Analytics Audience tool

Audience provides a wealth of demographic information on your site visitors.The demographics includeage, gender, location, language, technology (browser and OS, as well as the network and ISP, such as Time Warner), and more. This demographic data can "help you tailor your content to your audience's interests," according to Caitlin Boroden, a digital marketing strategist with DragonSearch

You can get started by visiting the Reporting > Audience > Overview view for at-a-glance perspectives by the hour, day, week, or month. The tool provides an easy snapshot of your visitors and what they do on your site, says Nenad Cuk, an SEO specialist with Davinci Virtual

Google Analytics Acquisition

GA's Acquisition feature gives you insights into where your site "acquires" traffic. It is "essential because it allows you to look at all your channels at once and properly adjust advertising spend and efforts according to which channels are driving the most conversions, such as leads, sales, and calls," says Directive Consulting's Mehrguth. "I recommend looking at this and adjusting efforts on an ongoing basis."


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