Google Analytics is a free tool that tells you all sorts of things about your website traffic. It is important that hoteliers and innkeepers learn how to use it because it tells you where your guests come from. Use it to learn if your marketing strategy is working, and to help diagnose problems with your business.
From time to time, we publish content with other thought leaders in the industry, to share our knowledge with as many people as possible. This article originally appeared in the December 01, 2015 issue of PAII’s “News You Can Use” newsletter.
This guide is basic. It is for small property owners who have heard a lot about Google Analytics, but who have never used it and don’t understand it. I will briefly explain how Google Analytics should be used, and then I’ll show you how to perform some basic, vital functions. Once you finish reading, you’ll know everything you need to get Google Analytics installed on your website, and to start producing reports (and, most importantly, understanding them).
Create an Account
If you have never created a Google Analytics account before, you need to. Go to analytics.google.com and create your free account. Google will ask you to create a “property”. A property is just another word for your website. Your account can have many properties, which means that you can manage the analytics for many websites using your one account.
Google Analytics works by tracking your website visitors. It does this using a special code that you install into your website. Without it, Google Analytics does not function.
Google Analytics gave you this code when you first created your property. To find this code again, log into Google Analytics. In the top right-hand corner of your screen, click “Admin”. Then, navigate to your property, and click “Tracking Code”.
Then, copy the script you find there.
You’ll need to give this code to your website manager to install for you. If you know how to do it yourself, then make sure that you install it before the closing </head> on every page of your website.
Sit Back & Relax
Once the tracking code is installed, then you’re all done! Google Analytics works tirelessly behind the scenes collecting data about your website visitors. All you have to do now is wait a few days or weeks until Google Analytics has collected enough data for you to work with. Then, you can start producing reports.
When you open up Google Analytics for the first time after having installed it, the tool automatically sends you to the Audience > Overview page. This is a great place to start, because it tells you a lot about your visitors in one quick snapshot. Your best bet is to look around and see what you find there. Don’t worry, it’s hard to break anything, so feel free to click around, exploring.
It’s impossible for me to explain everything you will find in this short space. Instead, learn about the tool by using it. Google Analytics comes with lots of hover-over tooltips which will explain the object you are examining when you hover your mouse over it. Use these frequently to learn how to use the tool.
I’ll just show you a few things you need to know to understand what you’re seeing.
The data you see depends on a date range. If you have the wrong range of dates selected, then you will be looking at the wrong data. This can get confusing. Before each session, make sure that you are examining data collected over the exact days, weeks or months you are interested in.
In the top right-hand corner, you will see a range of dates. Click on it to open up the interactive calendar. The first date you select will start the beginning of the range. The second date you select will set the end of the range, and you will see all dates that fall within that range highlighted blue on the calendar. Click apply, and everything in Google Analytics will change to reflect the data from only the dates within the range you selected.
I want to point out one section of Google Analytics that I think will be helpful for innkeepers to understand. In the left-hand navigation, click on Acquisition > Overview. Here you will see a breakdown of your website traffic by source. This tells you where your guests come from. Google Analytics divides your traffic up into channels:
- Direct: These are guests who went directly to your website by typing in your address manually, or visiting a bookmark. Google sometimes labels traffic they can’t source as “direct”.
- Referral: These are guests who visited your website from browsing other websites. If you click on the “Referral” link, you can see a nice list of all the different websites that sent you traffic.
- Organic Search: These are guests who found your website on search engines like Google.
- Paid Search: These are guests who clicked on one of your search engine ads to arrive on your website.
- Email: These are guests who clicked on a link in an email to arrive on your website.
- Display: These are guests who clicked on one of your image ads around the Internet and arrived on your website.
- Social: These are guests who found a link to your website on social media like Facebook, and then visited it.
This was a basic primer on Google Analytics, sharing just enough information to help you get started. Once you’re all set-up, I encourage you to learn more about Google Analytics, either by reading or exploring. You’ll be amazed at the kind of things you can learn about your guests using this free tool–things that will help you make your property more profitable.