How to Install Google Analytics Tracking Code on Your Website [Quick Tip]

How to Install Google Analytics Tracking Code on Your Website (2024 Guide)
Want to understand how people find and use your website? Installing web analytics tracking, like Google Analytics, is a crucial first step. In this comprehensive guide, we‘ll walk through why analytics matter, how to choose the right platform, and the exact steps to install Google Analytics on your website.

Why Web Analytics Matter
If you have a website, you should be using web analytics. Why? Because analytics tell you how many people visit your site, how they found you, what pages they viewed, and so much more. This data is incredibly valuable for marketers, designers, and business owners alike.

With analytics, you can:

  • See which marketing efforts drive the most traffic and conversions
  • Identify your most popular content and improve underperforming pages
  • Understand your audience demographics, interests and behavior
  • Find and fix website usability issues and reduce bounce rates
  • Set goals and KPIs, then consistently measure progress over time

While it takes effort to analyze and act on, analytics data is essential to inform your digital strategy and optimize your website experience. Don‘t just rely on guesses or anecdotal evidence – make data-driven decisions.

What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is the most popular web analytics platform – and it‘s free. Launched in 2005, it‘s now used by over 50 million websites.

With Google Analytics, you can collect a wealth of data on your website traffic and performance, including:

  • How many people visit your site and from where
  • Demographic details like visitor age, gender, and interests
  • Which pages and content get the most views and engagement
  • How long visitors stay on your site and bounce rates
  • Traffic source breakdown – organic search, paid ads, social, referral, email, etc.
  • Which devices and browsers your visitors use
  • Ecommerce transactions and revenue data
  • On-site events like button clicks, video views, or form submissions

Google Analytics provides pre-built reports and dashboards to visualize this data, as well as advanced features like custom dimensions, segments, and attribution modeling. And you can connect it with other Google tools, like Ads and Search Console, for even more insights.

While it‘s not perfect, Google Analytics is a robust and widely-used analytics platform, especially for its price point of free. Let‘s walk through how to get it set up on your site.

How to Set Up Google Analytics
The first step is setting up a Google Analytics account. If you already have one, skip ahead to the next section.

  1. Go to analytics.google.com and click "Start measuring."
  2. You‘ll be prompted to create an account name. Choose something clear and memorable.
  3. Next, enter a property name, like your website name, then enter the URL of your site.
  4. Choose your industry category and reporting time zone.
  5. Review the data sharing options and leave them enabled if you‘re ok sharing anonymized data with Google.
  6. Accept the terms of service agreement and click "Create" to finish.

Finding Your Tracking ID
Now that you‘ve created your account, you‘ll be taken to the Google Analytics admin screen. The next step is finding the tracking code for your specific website. Confusingly, this code is tied to a "Property" within Google Analytics, which can contain one or more websites.

To find your tracking code:

  1. In the admin screen, use the dropdown in the Property column to select the website you just added.
  2. In the Property column, click Tracking Info > Tracking Code.
  3. You should see a screen with your unique Tracking ID at the top, and the full tracking code below.
  4. Your Tracking ID will be in the format UA-123456789-1. Keep this handy, as this is what you‘ll use to integrate Google Analytics with many third-party tools and platforms.
  5. The full tracking code is a piece of JavaScript (gtag.js) that will need to be added to every page of your website to enable tracking.

How to Install Google Analytics on Your Website
Now that you have your tracking code, it‘s time to install it on your website. There are a few different ways to do this depending on how your site is built.

Method 1 – Add to HTML Directly
The most direct and reliable way is to copy and paste the tracking code directly into the HTML section of each page you want to track.

  1. Copy the full tracking code from the Google Analytics admin page
  2. Open your website‘s source code or HTML editor
  3. Paste the code snippet just before the closing tag on each page
  4. Save your code changes and re-publish the site

That‘s it! The tracking code will now execute whenever a user visits one of your pages. It works by loading an external JavaScript file from Google‘s servers (gtag.js) which then collects page view data and sends it to Google Analytics to be processed.

Adding the code manually is straightforward, but it can be tedious if you have a lot of pages. It‘s also prone to user error, and you‘ll have to remember to add it to any new pages you create. For these reasons, most people use a tag manager or CMS integration instead.

Method 2 – Google Tag Manager
For most users, the easiest way to install Google Analytics is via Google Tag Manager. This is a free tool that acts as a "middleman" between your website and all your tracking/marketing tags. Rather than adding each tag directly to your site‘s HTML, you simply add them via the Tag Manager interface, then add a single Tag Manager script to your site. This makes it easy to organize and update all your tags in one place.

Steps to install Google Analytics via Tag Manager:

  1. Create a new Tag Manager Account and Container for your site at tagmanager.google.com
  2. In your new container, click Add New Tag
  3. Name your tag something clear like "GA Pageview" and choose the Universal Analytics tag type
  4. Under Google Analytics Settings, add your Google Analytics Tracking ID (not the full tracking code)
  5. Under Triggering, choose All Pages to fire this tag on every page load
  6. Click Save, then Submit your container changes
  7. Copy the Tag Manager container code, which will look something like:
    (function(w,d,s,l,i){w[l]=w[l]||[];w[l].push({‘gtm.start‘:
    new Date().getTime(),event:‘gtm.js‘});var f=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],
    j=d.createElement(s),dl=l!=‘dataLayer‘?‘&l=‘+l:‘‘;j.async=true;j.src=
    ‘https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtm.js?id=‘+i+dl;f.parentNode.insertBefore(j,f);
    })(window,document,‘script‘,‘dataLayer‘,‘GTM-ABCD123‘);
  8. Add this Tag Manager code to every page of your site in the section, replacing any existing Google Analytics code
  9. Save, publish, and you‘re done! Google Analytics will now collect data via Tag Manager.

Using Tag Manager has many benefits – you can add/edit/remove tracking tags without code changes, it‘s faster and more reliable, and it helps keep your site code lean. Even if you only use it for Google Analytics, it‘s a worthwhile approach.

Method 3 – CMS Integration
Another easy way to install Google Analytics is via a Content Management System (CMS) plugin or integration. Most popular CMS like WordPress, Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace have built-in tools or extensions to add your tracking code without editing HTML.

The exact steps vary by platform:

  • WordPress: Install a plugin like MonsterInsights or Insert Headers and Footers, then add your Tracking ID in the plugin settings.
  • Shopify: Go to Online Store > Preferences and paste your Tracking ID in the Google Analytics section.
  • Wix: Go to Marketing & SEO > Marketing Tools > Google Analytics and enter your Tracking ID.
  • Squarespace: Go to Settings > Advanced > External Services and copy your Tracking ID into the Google Analytics Account Number field.

No matter which CMS you use, there‘s likely an easy way to add Google Analytics without code. Just be aware that these built-in integrations often don‘t include more advanced tracking features, so you may still want to use a Tag Manager in addition.

Verifying Your Tracking Code Installation
Once you‘ve added your tracking code via one of the above methods, it‘s important to check that it‘s working correctly. To verify your installation:

  1. Open your website in a browser and right-click > View Page Source
  2. Search for "gtag" or "UA-" in the source code. You should see your tracking code snippet and Tracking ID.
  3. For a deeper check, use the Google Tag Assistant Chrome extension to verify your tags are firing correctly.
  4. Go to your Google Analytics Real-Time reporting section. Navigate around your site in another tab, then go back and see if GA is logging active users on your pages. Note that it can take up to 30 minutes to start seeing data.
  5. After 24-48 hours, check your standard Google Analytics reports under Audience > Overview. You should see pageview and user data coming through consistently.

If you don‘t see your tracking code in your source or your real-time reports are empty, your code is likely not installed correctly. Double check that you added it to the right location, didn‘t modify the snippet accidentally, and that the tracking ID matches your property.

Initial Google Analytics Configuration
After installing your tracking code, there are a few key setup steps to take to get the most out of Google Analytics:

  1. Adjust your data retention settings to ensure you don‘t lose historical data after 14 months
  2. Set up basic goals to track conversions like signups, downloads, or purchases
  3. Link your Google Ads, Search Console, and other marketing accounts for more complete data
  4. Create custom dashboards for your key metrics
  5. Add additional team members or grant access to agency partners
  6. Enable Demographics and Interests reports for audience insights
  7. Set up filters to exclude internal traffic and clean up your data
  8. Turn on bot filtering and site search tracking
  9. Consider adding custom dimensions or event tracking for more granular data

There are tons of ways to customize Google Analytics for your needs, so keep exploring the settings and features.

Alternatives to Google Analytics
While Google Analytics is the default choice for most websites, there are some noteworthy alternatives to consider:

  • Adobe Analytics – Adobe‘s enterprise-grade option with advanced predictive capabilities and integrations with the Creative Cloud
  • Matomo (formerly Piwik) – An open-source platform you can self-host for more privacy and ownership over your data
  • Fathom Analytics – A simpler, privacy-focused analytics tool that doesn‘t use cookies or track personal data
  • Mixpanel – Focused more on product and user behavioral analytics, with powerful segmentation and funnel reports

Each has its own strengths and tradeoffs on price, feature set, privacy, and ease of implementation. Be sure to select a solution that fits your website‘s audience, scale, and business model.

Google Analytics and Privacy Compliance
With new data privacy laws like GDPR and CCPA, you can‘t just install Google Analytics and start tracking everything by default. You are legally required to get consent from your EU visitors before enabling tracking cookies and to disclose your usage of Google Analytics in your Privacy Policy.

To stay compliant:

  • Provide clear notice that you use cookies and analytics on your site
  • Allow users to opt out from being tracked, either with a direct setting or by rejecting optional cookies
  • Anonymize IP addresses and disable data sharing settings in your Google Analytics account
  • Update your Privacy Policy to explain how you use Google Analytics and what you do with the data
  • Consider enabling the "Restricted data processing" option for California and EU traffic

It‘s also important to recognize the ethical concerns with ubiquitous web tracking and using personal data to target ads. Think carefully about what data you actually need to improve your website and limit your tracking accordingly.

Conclusion
Installing Google Analytics tracking code is just the first step – the real value comes from consistently analyzing your data and translating those insights into experiments, optimizations, and real improvements for your site and business. We recommend checking your analytics weekly (if not daily), creating custom reports, and using tools like Google Optimize to A/B test changes.

No matter your technical skills or website setup, any marketer or website owner can configure Google Analytics with the basic steps we‘ve covered:

  1. Create your Google Analytics account
  2. Find and copy your tracking code snippet
  3. Install it on your site via your HTML, Tag Manager, or CMS
  4. Verify it‘s working and configure key settings
  5. Analyze your data and use it to drive optimizations

Web analytics are essential to understand your audience and improve your digital performance over time. While there are many powerful paid solutions, Google Analytics remains the standard for its depth of features and integrations at the attractive price of free.

The most important thing is that you use some form of analytics, study them regularly, and focus on the metrics that actually matter for your goals. Traffic vanity stats are meaningless if you‘re not getting conversions and revenue.

So go install that tracking code and start uncovering insights about your website today! Remember that analytics are only as useful as the effort you put into interpreting and acting on the data. Happy analyzing!