Google Analytics

I commonly get the question: “How did you learn Google Analytics and what resources can I look at to get started?”.

Well the route I took to learn Google Analytics was rather unconventional. It was 2008 and I was graduating school. Yes, what an awful time to be graduating in the midst of a recession. I built my own website as a way to get a job and then leveraged Google Analytics to measure the behavior of users visiting my website from the hundreds of emails I sent to recruiters.

Over the last 10 years, resources to learn Google Analytics have become much more prevalent. In this article I will run through the best way to get yourself up to speed with Google Analytics in no time.

Start with the Google Analytics Academy

This is by far the best step you can take to learn GA, and it’s my instant go-to resource whenever anyone asks me where to get started. Begin by taking the Digital Analytics Fundamentals and Google Analytics Platform Principles courses.

I love the fact that Google emphasizes by teaching the fundamentals of digital analytics and a process around it first. I commonly come across individuals that dive right in and try to start tracking behavior for their website. It’s important to first understand what you’re trying to achieve and creating a measurement plan. Once you do that, then you’ll be ready to begin planning your implementation. Remember, behavior can be tracked in many different ways, but you want to make sure you choose the method that best suits your business needs.

Another element I like most about the fundamentals course is the explanation of dimensions and metrics. This is a highly important topic to understand, as it’s truly the foundation for which Google Analytics is built on. Once you’re able to grasp this, you’ll have the confidence to build custom advanced segments and reports to gather insights that will make the most impact to your business.

Once you’ve completed those two courses, I recommend taking the Google Tag Manager Fundamentals course. I rarely implement Google Analytics without Google Tag Manager, and this course will get you going in no time.

Build your own website

Alright, you have the foundation you need in order to implement and use Google Analytics. Now it’s time to put that knowledge in action.

I firmly believe the best way to learn something new is with hands on experience. I highly suggest you build your own website. If you don’t have anything in mind, build a personal website and come up with your own measurement plan. I have a measurement plan for my own website because I like to treat it as my own personal business.

Nowadays, it’s very easy to build your own website with little web development knowledge. You can easily use a service like Squarespace or WordPress.com.

If you’re comfortable, you can also host your own website using one of the many shared hosting services out there like GoDaddy, Network Solutions or Media Temple. There are endless hosting services out there that have tools to get you going in no time. I personally like using WordPress as a platform because it’s what I’ve built a lot of my sites on in the past years.

Remember that all you really need to do is get the Google Tag Manager container code installed and you’re on your way to getting Google Analytics implemented. If you’re using WordPress, there are plugins out there that will help you install GTM without touching the code.

Stay on top of the latest resources and news

Now you’re proficient in GA and you have your own website. Next, it’s time to read, read, read! I spend every morning reading through my Twitter and G+ feed to stay on top of all the latest techniques when it comes to Google Analytics.

Here is a sampling of my go-to resources from around the web that I rely on a daily basis:

Twitter

I honestly don’t know what I’d do without Twitter. The top digital analysts and analytics agencies are active on Twitter, and it’s the best source to stay up to date on everything. I maintain a Twitter list with all of my favorite digital analytics related accounts that you can follow.

Google+

A lot of people are surprised when I mention G+, but it has a very active community of the best digital analytics professionals to answer every Google Analytics related problem. I also like to contribute and read through threads of other people’s questions because sometimes it’s best to see those real life scenarios when solving complex issues. Follow the Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager accounts for some of the best conversations on the web.

Google Analytics Community

This forum is highly active and you’re bound to get a quick answer if you ever have any Google Analytics questions. Just be sure to give as much detail as possible for a quick turnaround.

Google Analytics Blog

I like this blog for staying up to date on the most recent news around Google Analytics. They also post helpful resources from time to time.

Google Alerts

I have a Google Alert set up that gets sent to my inbox every morning. This is a great catch all for anything I may have missed in my Twitter feed.

The Blogging Community

A lot of professionals in my Twitter list write original content that you’ll find highly valuable. Here is just a handful of my favorite blogs that write about Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager.

There are a ton more out there, and sorry if I left you out, but Simo Ahava has summed up some of the best Google Analytics resources to check out.

Conclusion

I hope this helps you get up to speed on Google Analytics. If you ever get that question ‘how can I get started with Google Analytics,’ then these steps and resources should get you up to speed in no time.

Anything I missed? I’m sure (and I know) I did. Share your thoughts in the comments.