How To Set Up Google Analytics For Your WordPress Blog

It's not news that Google is a mysterious, monolithic entity controlling all our search traffic and behavior.

Most people don't have any interest in knowing how Google operates or understanding which of their favorite websites perform better in rankings – frankly, we don't need to know how it works, just that it does.

As a blogger, though, you want Google on your side and need to be able to track how things are going with your traffic and search rankings.

Enter Google Analytics.

It's pretty much the only all-encompassing solution for online creators to get an inside scoop on their website's performance and Google-related metrics.

If you've been putting off setting this all up, I completely understand.

There's a bit of tech involved, but it's nothing you and I can't handle together.

Let's go through the steps one-by-one and get your website's Google Analytics all taken care of.

Google Analytics Is Not Search Console

Before we get into the nitty gritties, let's talk about the major differences between Google's two main search-related dashboard services because they're really easy to mix up.

Google Search Console (learn more here) is a service that allows you to track your site's performance, and monitor any potential bugs or errors that could lower your site's presence in Google search ranking.

On the other hand, Google Analytics is a platform more centered around tracking your website's visitors.

You're able to segment your audience by which country they're from, see detailed information about how long they stay on your site and where they were referred from (i.e. if they found your site in Google or maybe clicked on a link in Facebook or Pinterest).

Hopefully that clears up any confusion about the two services.

As we set things up and poke around Google Analytic's functions and features, things should become much more clear.

Let's get started.

Setting Up Google Analytics

To set up Google Analytics, there are really just two main tasks we need to accomplish:

  • Create a Google Analytics account and set up key configurations
  • Link your Google Analytics account to your WordPress website (this will allow for new data about visitors and traffic to flow from your site to your GA dashboard).

Not too bad, right?

First, go to Google Analytics, and type in your Gmail credentials. You'll be met with a welcome screen, like so:

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Once we click Set Up For Free, Google will walk us through the necessary set up instructions.

First, input a name for Analytics account (your Google account name will do just fine):

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Click Next, and you'll see a prompt to enter your Property's Name. We can think of a property as a website or blog, so for this field just enter your website's name:

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I click Next, then see a few questions to help Google understand my blog's situation better (how many people I employ, what I need Analytics for, et cetera):

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Once you fill those out, click Create and you should see a pop-up appear asking you to accept some terms and conditions:

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Check all of them, then hit I Accept.

If everything works ok, you'll see your dashboard now, with the option to set up a Stream. For the purposes of this tutorial, you can think of a Stream as your audience – all of your pageviews, sessions, clicks, and so forth.

To set up your blog, click where it says Web:

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Enter your site's credentials and give it a name, and then you'll get a page with your Analytics info:

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I've blurred out sensitive data, but here's what yours should look like.

Doing okay so far?

At this point, your blog is actually fully set up on the Google Analytics side of things.

All we need to do next is link up your website to your Analytics account, and the two sources will be able to talk to each other.

Scroll down to where it says Global Site Tag (gtag.js), and click on the drop-down:

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Your gtag.js is a little snippet of code that will tell Google to start looking at your website and track analytics. We need to copy the code and insert it into your WordPress site.

Inserting Your Gtag Code

Here are the only two steps we need to do to get the code up and running:

  • Install a plugin that allows us to insert code
  • Copy the Google Site Tag code (from above) and insert it using that plugin

Easy peasy.

Navigate to your WordPress site and go to Plugins > Add New. Once you're there, search for “header and footer scripts”:

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Click on Install, then Activate and you're done with step one.

Now that we have a way to insert code, we just need to paste the gtag.js stuff that Google gave us a few steps back.

Remember, it looks like this:

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Once you've copied that, go back to your WordPress site and navigate to your Settings menu. In there, you'll see a new option for Header and Footer Scripts:

Once you click on that, you'll see a text box labelled Scripts in header.

This is where we'll paste the code from Google:

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You can see mine is already active (with the IDs blurred out for security).

Once you've pasted the code, don't forget to scroll down to the bottom of the page and click Save Settings.

And that's it!

Hop on back to Google Analytics to see if they've recognized your site.

Pro Tip
If Google can't find your site after inserting the code, make sure your cache is cleared. If you're using a caching plugin, hit Clear Cache then try again.

By now, Google Analytics should start pulling data from your website and give you real-time results on traffic and views.

Quick Tour Of Your GA Dashboard

Google Analytics is a huge platform.

There are whole books, blogs, and YouTube channels dedicated to deciphering all of the stuff you can do with Analytics.

It's impossible to cover everything you need to know here, but I'll go over the basics that will get you up and running so you can be more insightful about your blog's traffic.

First, let's talk about realtime data.

In your dashboard, just navigate to Realtime > Overview to see an at-a-glance snapshot of your website's traffic.

Here you'll see a breakdown of your current pageviews, detailed information about your readers' locations, and which pages are currently active.

This is fantastic info to know, and if one of your posts goes viral or gets a sudden burst of attention, you'll see the live updates there.

P.S. If this sounds like you have access to a lot of data about your users (potentially without them knowing just how much you can see), you're totally right.

It's one of the reasons why all bloggers absolutely must have a Privacy Policy legal page set up correctly (among other things).

The article I linked above will walk you through all the legal stuff you need to sort out, so definitely give it a read! Ok, sidebar over. Let's get back to Google Analytics.

The next most important place in your GA dashboard besides Realtime is the Audience tab.

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Under the Overview tab, you'll see a breakdown of how your site is performing over weekly and monthly intervals.

More importantly, the Overview tab shows you on which mobile devices (desktop/mobile) your traffic is coming from, and which browsers or operating systems (Windows/Mac) they use.

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Apparently, most of my traffic comes from Safari. Nifty!

The last tab that's important for bloggers is Acquisition – this gives you information about which platform your traffic comes from.

This includes organic searches on Google, social media like Pinterest and Facebook, or direct traffic (when someone types in your domain name directly into their browser).

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Under the Overview tab in Acquisition, you get a detailed breakdown of how your audience arrives at your site, and how long they stay on your articles.

And there you have it!

You have all the tools you need to navigate Google Analytics and see the basic information surrounding your website's traffic.

I definitely encourage you to dig a little bit deeper and see what it can do for your blog, it's one of the most powerful tools out there for understanding your blog's traffic.

The Bottom Line

Google Analytics is a hugely important platform for bloggers.

Knowing where and how your audience finds your articles is a vital part of growing a successful blog, and luckily Google makes it pretty straightforward to set up.

Here are the two main steps you need to take to set up Google Analytics:

  • Create a Google Analytics account and supply key information about your blog
  • Link your Google Analytics account to your WordPress website (this will allow for new data about visitors and traffic to flow from your site to your GA dashboard).

Mind you, there's plenty more to Google Analytics than what I covered in this brief overview article.

There are whole websites dedicated to mastering the nuances of GA and all the features it has to offer, but for now, just remember this:

Keep track of your audience, where they're coming from (i.e. from social networks or direct Google search), and which pages they interact with the most on your site.

These bits of data will inform your decisions about what kind of content to create and how to tailor your blog to fit your audience's needs.

Did your Google Analytics set up go okay? If you had any trouble, feel free to leave a comment below and I'll be sure to reply within 24 hours!

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