This post by Benjamin Hoffman is the first of a multipart series on Google Analytics (GA) for real estate professionals that will help you harness the full power of GA and give you insights into what is driving the majority of traffic to your website. In this article you will learn how to set up, install and configure your GA account properly so that we can be sure the data you receive is accurate. In the posts that follow, we will dive into the fun by looking at how to interpret your GA traffic.
You cannot monetize what you cannot track. The best way to succeed on the Web is understanding what is working and what is not. You can then double down on what works and fix what does not.
Along those lines, if you want to increase the number of leads your website generates then you should begin to study your website analytics — who is visiting your website, where are they coming from, and what do they do once they arrive.
This is why it’s more important than ever to track your website traffic with tools like Google Analytics. With GA, you will have access to hundreds of data points that will help you allocate your marketing budget to the channels that convert the best for you.
Financial pie chart image via Shutterstock.
Why use Google Analytics?
According to GA’s official website, you want to track your website traffic because, “Whether you want to boost sales, find more visitors or improve your mobile app, Google Analytics has the answers and insights you need to improve your business.”
In a nutshell, GA provides insights into extremely powerful data, especially if you want to start generating leads from your website. Without knowing the source of the lead or what path the visitor took while on your website, you will have a hard time increasing the leads flowing to your site. Wouldn’t you love to know all that hard work of posting on Facebook every day is finally paying off?
Google Analytics is free to install and use!
Do you want to know the single best reason to install Google Analytics today? Because it’s FREE! Yes, that’s right, Google provides this software for free to all users. By providing GA free to the public, Google empowers website owners to help them improve their sites, thereby allowing Google to deliver better search results.
How to check whether you already have Google Analytics installed
The first thing you want to do is check to make sure you don’t already have GA installed on your website. If you do, that’s great news! GA is unable to collect historical data unless the code is already installed on your website, so for those of you with the code already installed, you likely have months of data built up!
I’ve made this short video for Inman readers on how to find the GA code on your website. In a nutshell, you will want to check your source code for the GA code snippet.
What do you do if you find that your website already has Google Analytics? Simply email the person or company who built your website and ask them politely if they could provide you administrative access to your GA account. The reason you want admin-level access is because we will be improving your GA account, and this can be done only with admin access.
For those who do not have GA installed or would like to start fresh, I’ve written the next section for you.
How to install Google Analytics
The first thing you will want to do is visit the Google Analytics home page and click create an account in the upper right-hand corner. I recommend you use your Gmail account if you already have one, as it integrates nicely with many of Google’s products. The sign-up process is relatively easy but feel free to ask me any questions in the comments if you get stuck.
Once you get through the account creation steps, you will land on GA’s setup page. Click the sign-up button on the right side and let’s get started.
The next screen will provide you the choice of whether you want to track your website or mobile app. Make sure to leave this section alone, as GA has already chosen website settings for you.
The next screen is your first look into GA’s settings. Use my example below to help guide you through the process.
Account Name: Here is where you will put your account name. You can name it whatever you want. I usually suggest simply writing your website name (with or without .com). It’s completely up to you and there is no wrong answer.
Website Name: This is similar to Account Name but on a more granular level. The Account Name and Website Name have a parent/child relationship; whereas you have only one Account Name, you will likely have many Website Names. But for basic setups, I usually give them the same name. For more advanced clients, I assign a more granular Website Name to help differentiate between websites. For example, if you have more than one website, you will have one Account Name and two different Website Names.
Website URL: This is where you will type in your website name. Be very careful here — make sure to put the exact URL. This means if you use www in your domain, you must include that (Yes, there is a difference between websites with the www and without it). The best way to get this section correct is by simply navigating to your website, copying the URL, then simply pasting it into this box. Then delete the http:// part. If your website uses a secure connection (https), make sure to change that option to include the extra security.
Industry Category: I assume most of us put Real Estate. But if you see something more applicable, feel free to change it.
Reporting Time Zone: Usually GA will detect your time zone. If it’s wrong, change it. Otherwise, your data will be reported in the wrong time zone and throw off our analysis.
Now click Get Tracking ID at the bottom of the page. You are one step closer.
The next screen will show you your tracking ID. For first-time users, Google provides additional documentation on what GA will help you do. If you are interested, I encourage you to read this extra info. When you are done, scroll down the page and find your GA code.
This code needs to be pasted onto every page of your website. This might intimidate a lot of readers, but let’s take this one step at a time:
Do you have control of your website and know how to read and edit HTML?
Congratulations! Little explanation needed. Simply paste this snippet of code just before the </head> section on every page of your website.
Do you have control of your website but do not know how to code?
In this scenario, you should ask a smart, trusted friend to help you. Simply provide them the code, as well as access to your website. Ask them to paste this code onto every page of your website, just before the </head> section. Make sure this is a trusted friend, as he or she will now have access to your website.
Do you have neither control of your website nor know how to code?
This is when things get tricky. If you have a company or person who is in charge of your website, you should get in touch with them immediately and ask for help. Tell them you want to install Google Analytics and provide them the necessary code to paste on your website. You might also want to take this opportunity to obtain the administrative login details to your website for your future use. If you don’t know who set up your website or you cannot get in touch them them, I suggest calling your hosting company (i.e., GoDaddy, BlueHost, etc.) to help you gain access. Then you can ask a trusted friend to help you install the code.
Installation complete — onto configuration
Now that the code has been installed on your website, we will begin to configure your GA settings. To navigate to your GA home page, simply click the logo in the top left corner of the screen. First-time users will see the following screen. This is where you control what emails you receive from GA. Although most of my clients do not want to receive marketing emails from GA, I personally do because of my obsession with GA and new product updates.
After clicking Save Preferences, you will see your home page. This is the first page that you will see whenever you log in. Don’t be overwhelmed — in my upcoming post I will explain exactly what each of these metrics mean and how to control the account to harness its full power. For now, let’s simply focus on the configuration.
The next thing you will want to do is prevent GA from recording any traffic to your website from your home or office. This is because you do not want your own personal traffic to be mixed in with your client’s traffic. Otherwise, your data will be skewed and you will not know which traffic is actual clients or which is simply you at home browsing your own website.
Click the admin button on the top of your screen. You will then see a screen that looks like this:
Next, click on the Filters button as I have indicated. You will then see a screen with a big red box that says: + New Filter. Click that button. On the next screen you will have the opportunity to create the filter that blocks out all traffic from your home. Here are the settings you want:
Filter Name: Type something that will remind you what this filter does. I usually type Home Filter or Office Filter.
Filter Type: Leave this the same as Predefined filter.
Drop-downs: Do you see the three drop-downs as shown in the image below? Click on the second drop-down and make sure it says, “traffic from the IP addresses.” Leave everything else the same.
IP address: this is where you will type in your IP address. Since most people don’t know their IP address (including myself), my GA Pro Tip is to open a new window and type the following query into Google: “What is my IP address?” The first result should display your IP address. Write those numbers down so that we can type them into our GA filter. Once you navigate back to GA do you see how there are four spaces for you to type in your IP address? Simply type in your IP address, ignoring the periods. The periods are given for you by Google.
Once completed, click Save. And you are now complete. Make sure to create an IP filter for each of your locations — home, office, etc. I also recommend creating a filter for other people you want to disclude from tracking (friends/family, webmaster, etc).
Congratulations! Your setup is complete
If you have read this far and completed the entire setup and configuration, you should congratulate yourself. You are one step closer to tracking your website traffic and finding out the most profitable sources of traffic.
Over the next few days, traffic will likely start to build on your website and your GA reports will begin to populate. In future posts I will dig into how to read and interpret this data, as well as take actionable insights from it. In the meantime, feel free to play around and explore on your own. If you care to stay updated with the latest Google Analytics features, make sure to follow GA’s YouTube Channel, as well as their blog.
Have any questions? I encourage you to leave them in the comments below and I will try my best to leave detailed responses. Good luck and thanks for reading!
Benjamin Hoffman is the head of growth and user acquisition at RealScout, a real estate search platform that powers successful relationships between real estate professionals and their clients.