google analytics

Analyse this!

In today’s world your digital presence is a key part of your ability to be seen and grow, but how do you get the most from your website? Google Analytics may just provide the answers, and HOUSING breaks down how to go about using the service.


Anne-Maree Brown

Go digital or die has been the rallying call for businesses in the face of rapidly changing customer interactions, behaviours and expectations. You may have heeded the cry, and have a website and social media presence – or are thinking about building one. But besides putting yourself out there in the online stratosphere, your approach is fairly passive. More like ‘build it and they will come’.

Today, the name Google is synonymous with everything search, research and find in the online world. You’re right if you think that much of how your customers find you hinges on the search giant, but it isn’t a mysterious mix of algorithms and luck that most people believe. 

Google offers a simple web analytics service, Google Analytics, which tracks and reports website traffic for users. It gives you a chance to gain insights into the why, who and how behind your online visits, and most importantly, provides guidance on how you can do better in the digital space to appear in searches and convert browsers to your site. All you need is a Google account (or in actuality a Gmail address) and some simple steps to get started.


Where did Google Analytics begin?

Let’s take a (Nike Air, baggy pant wearing) step back in time to 1995. Paul Keating was our Prime Minister, Coolio rapped about a Gangsta’s Paradise, Pierce Brosnan was James Bond, and we couldn’t wait to see what Kramer would do next on Seinfeld.

A little company called Web Depot was founded to provide web consulting and hosting services in San Diego, California. While most of us were using our Nokia 880’s to actually make phone calls (and occasionally play “Snake”), it developed software that could track a website’s data in minutes that would previously have taken days.

Fast forward a decade later and Google, which by that time was a big player in the burgeoning search engine space, decided to purchase Web Depot’s software. Within a week Google Analytics had 100,000 new accounts which today is now closer to 50 million.


What exactly is Google Analytics?

We used to be able to tell who was interested in our business based on who phoned us and what questions they asked. Now potential customers silently use internet search browsers, phantom-like, making decisions about who we are and drawing conclusions about whether we are right for them while we are obliviously working away.

So, how does any small-to-medium business make sure that they don’t miss the next opportunity to convert a customer? You have a website, but how can you tell if it is working? Well, that is what Google Analytics does. It provides you with information on what happens on your website, who visits, how often, where they come from, what they look at, and how they interact with your site (such as how long they stay on a page and where they go). It collects information every time your website is visited and measures data, but more importantly, it shows trends over time that you can use to make adjustments to your site.


Why should I use Google Analytics?

1. It’s free

Yes, this is not a typo. It is free. Google does not charge you for using the product because it wants to sell advertising space and ensure that the right advertisements go to the right audience.

Every time someone visits any website, Google builds a profile of who they are based on what they are searching for, along with basic profiling information, such as their age and where they live. This is all done via tracking mechanisms. 

It might sound a bit scary in a George Orwell kind of way, but it does have its benefits – and not just for your website’s insights. Have you ever spent time online searching for new tools or for your next fishing trip, only to start seeing ads relating to your searches popping up in your social media feed or browser? Well, that’s Google at work for its advertisers.

2. It’s relatively simple to install and use

All you need to get started is a Google Analytics account. Do you have a Gmail account? YouTube? Google Calendar? Well, with one of these you have the starting block to begin your new and improved analytics journey.

Then you simply search for Google Analytics (or in other words you type ‘Google Analytics’ into the search engine) which will lead you to Google’s Marketing Platform. Follow the Sign Up step and fill out information about your website.

Plus, if you feel you need more help there are plenty of online resources to go to if you get stuck or need a step-by-step guide.

3. It shows you who your customers are

The very same profiles Google develops to help its advertisers direct their messages is the very same information you have access to with Google Analytics. You can have an overview of who they are, or you can deep dive into their location, what devices they are using to visit your site, how they found you and what they are interested in based on their search history.

4. It shows you how your customers engage with your website

Not only do you have access to who your online viewers (and potential customers) are, but also what they do when they are online. Reports can show you what pages they view or how long they stay – which might provide you with insights into what is working and perhaps more importantly, what isn’t.


For more information on HIA’s free small business Digital Champions program visit

google analytics

Google Analytics in real life

Here’s a tip

If you are using an outside party (web designer, web developer, SEO consultant) to create your website’s Google Analytics account, then make sure they don’t do so under their own account. If you want to make a change from using their services in the future they will take your Google Analytics data with them, and you will have to start all over.


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