Whether you run a blog or an enterprise-class website, there are common things you need to know about your website. For example, you need to know where your visitors come from, how long they stay on your website, and what content they like the most.

Having a great website is a must for any savvy company in today’s marketplace. The key to making it great is understanding how your customers (and potential customers) are using it. You need that information to be able to adopt a smart design, deliver great content, and interact with the right audience.

Google Analytics can make it easy to know everything happening with your web presence. Here, we’ll walk you through how to set up an account. And if you have a full team that needs access, we’ll also explain how to get all of them set up with the proper permissions.

Start with Your Account

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To get started, click on the “Access Google Analytics” button on the main site to sign up. You’ll need to have either a Google email address or an AdWords account that you tie to the Analytics information. Once you’ve logged in with your account, you’ll be walked through the basic information for setting up your site with Analytics. The tool can be used for either a website or a mobile app, so when you first start setting up a new account, make sure that you’ve got “website” selected for the tracking that you want.

You’ll have the option to pick between two sets of features. Classic Analytics is the more basic, with basic features, event tracking, AdWords account linking, and custom variables. Google is also developing Universal Analytics, which is currently available in beta. This service includes custom dimensions and metrics, data syncing online and offline, multi-platform tracking, simple configuration controls, and certain new feature releases. For enterprise-level companies, there is a third choice. Google Analytics Premium will give your entire team a higher degree of support, security, and power for an annual flat fee.

At the end of the account creation, you’ll have three options for data sharing settings. Google Analytics will determine what degree the company will make use of the information from your site. You can opt to only share your website data across other Google products, to share it anonymously with Google and others for bench-marking purposes, or to share it with account specialists at Google to get their insights on your performance.

Code Behind the Scenes

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After you complete the signup information, you’ll receive the tracking code from Google that monitors visits to your site. Implementing this requires access to the source code of your site and familiarity with HTML coding, so it might be worthwhile to have a developer on hand when you’re ready to take this step.

You can access the tracking code from the Admin tab of the top menu bar once you’ve signed into your Google Analytics account. Use the drop downs for Account and Property to select the exact website you’re working on. Then click on “Tracking Info.” This will bring up a box with some lines of JavaScript. Copy all of the code from that box; it should begin with <script> and end with </script>. Paste it all into the code immediately before the last </head> tag for each web page where you want to collect data.

This code is unique to that specific property, so if you’re managing multiple domains, double-check that you have the correct one selected. Also, if you have chosen to use Universal Analytics, you’ll have more advanced configurations for your tracking code. These instructions are for a basic setup, although you’ll have the ability to customize your code to gather other information that’s not covered in the automatic tracking. Google offers several tracking functions to get more out of your analytics. For instance, you can customize your tracking code to gather intel on links that lead to downloadable files, or set up Ecommerce tracking.

Users and Permissions

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If you want multiple people to have access to Google Analytics, you’ll need to set up new user permissions. There are four different levels of access. “Manage Users” is the level for adding or deleting users and assigning permissions. The “Edit” level is able to perform functions for administrative tasks and reports. The “Collaborate” level allows for the creation and sharing of personal assets in addition to working on shared assets. The most basic level is “Read” & Analyze, which gives view only access to the report and configuration data.

To add new people to an account, you’ll need to have the Manage Users level permission. Go to the Admin tab at the top of any screen within the Analytics program. The menus at the tops of the columns allow you to select the account, property, or view that you want to add. Click on User Management in the column where you want to add a user at the account level, or click Permissions in the appropriate column to add a user at either the property or view level. Enter the Google email address of the person you want to add under “Add permissions for.” If you want to send a notification, you can click a check-mark to enable that feature. Then click “Add” and you’re set with the new users.

[Image credits: Blue Fountain MediaMarjan Krebelj, Ervins Strauhmanis]