Google Analytics has been offered as a free service by Google since 2005 and it is currently, and by far, the most popular web analytics tool in the World. You can use Google Analytics on a WordPress site to get detailed information on visitors to your site and measure your progress in increasing traffic and generating revenue.
Once the Google Analytics code is installed on a web page, this code can send record data on any event on that page and send it to the Google Analytics server. It also collects data on the visitor’s geographic location and their device. Using “cookies”, the Google Analytics code can track visitors from one page to another and it can recognize users when they return to the site. Verified web site owners can then access this data through the online service https://analytics.google.com.
Reports in Google Analytics give information such as the number of visits to your site over time, where the users were located geographically, where their traffic came from (Organic Search, Paid Search, Social, etc.), what technology they used when they visited the site, and which were the most popular pages. KPI (Key Performance Indicators) provided by Google also allow site owners to evaluate the quality of traffic by engagement and conversions (which can include online purchases and revenue for ecommerce sites).
If you are serious about increasing traffic for your WordPress site, you should install Google Analytics or an equivalent service to analyze traffic and conversions over time. The more accurate your web analytics are, the more you will be able understand your audience, improve your content and rank better in Google.
Google Analytics 4 or Universal Analytics?
If you are getting started with Google Analytics now, then you will be using Google Analytics 4 (or GA4 as it is also known). This is the fourth version of Google Analytics and is an entirely new service.
Sites using the previous version, Universal Analytics – or GA3, will not be able to migrate data to Google Analytics 4 and the service will stop working at the end of June 2023. It is recommended that Universal Analytics users migrate to GA4 as soon as possible. You can install both versions of Google Analytics on WordPress using SEOPress. See our guide here.
Google provides a migration guide if you need help migrating from Universal Analytics to GA4.
How does Google Analytics help improve SEO?
Many years ago, data in Google Analytics included the detail search queries from Google Search and this made it an essential SEO tool. This data is no longer available in Google Analytics, but there are still reports that can help you analyze your SEO.
The Acquisition reports in Google Analytics shows the number of visits per day to the site and they include a breakdown by source of traffic. The default view shows traffic by channel grouping. The main channels are:
- Organic Search
- Paid Search
- Paid Social
- Organic Social
Organic search is the traffic that you get from search engines, excluding any paid advertising such as Google Ads. Following the Organic Search figure over time can be a good indicator of your progress – or your troubles – with SEO. In the screen shot below, we see data from Google’s Merchandise Store for August 2022.
Note that this report shows a table of data by channel. We can see that Organic Search generated 45,422 Sessions (i.e., visits to the site) and 33,168 Engaged Sessions. Engaged Sessions are visits that didn’t simply arrive on a page and then leave. An engaged visitor either scrolled down the page, clicked on an element of the page or clicked on a link to visit another page.
Further along the line (see the image below), we can see that Organic Search provided 648 online Purchases, generating a revenue of $92,586.01.
These reports give you real insights into the sources of traffic that generate “good” visits to your web site and can give you a real idea of value generated by SEO.
Pages and screens report in Google Analytics 4
Another report that you may find useful for SEO is the Pages and Screens report that shows the number of page-views for every page that was visited on your site over the selected time-period.
Ordered by page views, this report shows the most popular pages first. If you have a blog with many pages, you will find it interesting to see which posts are the most read. You can see how much time users spend on each page too. You should also be attentive to posts that are receiving very few page views from search engines or with very short visits.
For any report in Google Analytics, you can change the audience analyzed from “All users” to one that you define. In the screen-shot below we have created an audience that only contains sessions that originated from the channel Organic Search.
The updated Pages and screens report now only shows page views and sessions that originated from search engines. The pages with the most page-views from search engines can be considered as the ones with the best SEO. Inversely the pages that receive very little traffic or no traffic at all may need attention. In some cases, it may be interesting to consider deleting pages that receive no traffic from search engines.
If you are only targeting a specific audience, say San Francisco, you will find if very useful to see the geographic location of your visitors. You may also want to filter your audience on this city only.
In this chapter we have shown you a few examples of why you should install Google Analytics 4. We will explore Google Analytics data and reports in more detail in the chapter “Getting started with Google Analytics 4“. If you don’t have Google Analytics yet or if you haven’t installed it on your WordPress site, read on with our next chapter “How to setup and install Google Analytics 4 on WordPress“.