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A Beginner's Guide to Google Analytics

Google Analytics, formerly called Urchin, is a free service offered by Google that allows website owners to track information on virtually every aspect of their website. To sign up, go to Google Analytics and get a free account. You will be provided a small JavaScript code that you place on the pages you would like to track. Once this code is live on your site, Google will begin gathering information on the visitors to your website.

Types of Information Tracked by Google Analytics

The Dashboard in Google Analytics provides a concise overview of your website statistics. Using a configurable date range, you can view graphs showing the number of site visitors, pages per visit, bounce rate, number of pages viewed, the average time they spent on your site and the percentage that are new visitors.

Also included on the Dashboard is a convenient map overlay showing the countries where your site visitors originate from. A pie chart shows the breakdown percentage of how many visitors came from search engines, how many were from referring sites and how many entered your site by directly typing your website address into their browser. The final Dashboard component is the content overview which shows the website pages with the highest number of pageviews.

The Money is in the Details

The Dashboard gives a brief overview of your website statistics, but where the real gold nuggets lie is in the information accessed from the left navigation. It is broken down by Visitors, Traffic Sources, Content and Goals.

Visitors Tab

The Visitors Overview tab includes information similar to the Dashboard, but with more detail. It gives the adjustable date range line chart of your website traffic, and also information on unique visitors, total pageviews, average pageviews, time spent on your website, bounce rate and new visits.

The Visitor Segmentation options delve into the details associated with each visitor, allowing you to see visitor languages, network locations and user defined options. Also available is browser information such as browser type, operating system used, screen color depth, screen resolution, and whether or not the visitors have Java or Flash support enabled on their browsers. This information is critical in determining how your site is designed and what technologies are used in the site.

The remainder of the Overview page is dedicated to a technical profile of the visitor's browser type and connection speed. You can see if your visitors are still using slow dialup connections and adjust your site design accordingly.

The other left navigation tabs, titled Map Overlay, New vs. Returning, Languages, Visitor Trending, Visitor Loyalty, Browser Capabilities, Network Properties and User Defined delve into the information presented in the Visitors Overview more thoroughly, giving visual and graphical depictions of website traffic. The amount of information presented is somewhat overwhelming, but it allows you to fine tune your site to maximize the user experience.

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