Google Analytics is the industry standard for website analytics for tracking website traffic, user behavior and other aggregated data. Creating a Google Analytics account and properly installing the tracking code is an essential step of website development and search engine optimization.
Even if no one does anything with all that data right away, the fact that the code is installed, tracking in the background is really important for future marketing.
There are plenty of other fancy tools that do even better SEO and user behavior tracking like heat mapping. But most of these tools are pretty spendy, while Google Analytics is truly free!
Note: A lot of website hosts have their own analytics, but almost always, they include spam bots and robot traffic that inflate the website traffic numbers. We never use the web host’s internal analytics.
In 2019, Google completely revamped the Google Analytics platform and unveiled the beta GA4 platform. Among other major updates, GA4 allows folks to measure their app and website together in Google Analytics with more consistent data. This is huge for SaSS and gaming companies that have marketing websites as well as apps that live on a different domain.
The problem (besides the fact that all our tutorials need to be redone!!) is that not all platforms are GA4 ready, including many WordPress themes and website platforms like Square or Shopify.
The tracking code for a Universal property looks something like this: UA-179281220-1. It always starts with a “UA-”. The Measurement ID for GA4 looks something like this: G-41H0WX86X5. It will start with a “G-”. Some platforms are still looking for that “UA-” tracking code format and won’t properly install the script.
Luckily, when you are creating a new account, they still offer an option to create only a Universal Analytics property (the old GA) or both a Universal Property and a new GA4 property.
Even if your client doesn’t have a mobile app, Google recommends creating a GA4 property in addition to the Universal one because they will likely discontinue support for the old version.
Does a GA Account Already Exist?
Before you get started, check with your client to see if they have GA installed on their own website. It’s important to continue tracking on their existing GA account so all that juicy historical data is in the same account.
This is how you can show them that their website redesign helped improve their traffic and user behavior a year from now!
If they have access to the account, have them add you as a User. If they don’t know if they have an account (or even if they tell you they don’t) check anyway just to be sure.
On the client’s website, check the source code for the tracking code / property ID.
- On the front end of the site in a website browser, Right Click or Control-click and View Page Source.
- Then on your keyboard, hit [CTL+F] and search for “ua-“. If you see it, then you can just copy that code directly into the new site. If you don’t see that, also do a Find for “G-” or “tagmanager”) to see if the client already has a Google Analytics account.
Watch a Video: (5 min)
This video shows you how to create a Universal Analytics property with Google Analytics instead of a GA4 property.
Google has instructions to create a new GA4 Analytics account: (5 Min)
Installing the Tracking Code
Once you have the account set up and you have the tracking code, you need to install it on the website. There are no simple instructions for this because it totally depends on the website theme you are using. Some themes offer a field for inserting the Property ID. If they don’t you can use a plugin like Headers and Footers. Give it a Google!
Checking to Make Sure the Code Works
nce you have the code installed on the website, check to see if it’s working:
- Log into the Google Analytics account
- Go to the Realtime tab.
- In another website browser tab, visit the website and click around to a couple of pages.
If the code is installed properly, you should see at least 1 User on the site (you!) in your location. Note: give it a couple of seconds and keep clicking. Sometimes there is a lag on the Realtime.
If you don’t see it after a couple of minutes, double check your installation and tracking code.