A Basic Guide for Setting up Your First Website for Google Analytics & Search
In this blog post I am going to go through the steps necessary for setting up your first website for Google Analytics and Google Search Console. I am not covering how you can register a domain name and setup DNS settings on your website hosting platform. There are many guides out there for this and I may revisit in a future post.
Content Management System (CMS)
One of the first choices you need to make when it comes to hosting your website is the type of CMS you want to use. This system looks after the creating, editing and publishing of your content. My recommendation is that you go with WordPress. It is very easy to use and you can get plugins for just about everything. I host this website on Siteground and I signed up to their basic WordPress hosting offerings.
Once you have signed up with a hosting plan, you need to decide on what WordPress theme to use. A theme controls the look and feel of your website and you should choose a responsive design. A responsive design is one which automatically adapts to the screen sizes of the visitors to your site. I went for Zerif Lite but you can choose whatever theme you like.
One thing I should have mentioned earlier is before you go to the trouble of setting up your first website, you should think about why you want to do it and what you will call it. I setup my own site as a test platform for WordPress stuff and I plan to add Google advertising when visitor numbers reach certain numbers. It is also better to host your own blog rather than using platforms like Facebook. If you host your own you retain full control over it. It does not need to be expensive, my yearly WordPress comes to around €65.
My own tag line is Cycling & Technical Blog which maybe a bit boring and generic but I will run with it for now. One you decide on this site tag you set this in your theme and then follow through each step to create your home page. I do cover this in the video which is shown at the bottom of this post.
WordPress plugins are add-ons you can use to do anything from creating fancy feedback forms to integrating your website with services like SalesForce. Avoid installing loads and loads of them as they all have to be maintained. Many of them are updated on a regular basis due to security vulnerabilities so the less you have the better. My own recommended list for a basic blog site are:
- Yoast SEO. Search engine optimization.
- Duplicate Post. Used to create copies of existing posts
- WPBakery Visual Composer. Really nice editing tool. You do need to pay a small charge for this one.
Your theme of choice may install others as well. Do learn more about the Yoast plugin, it can really help you get your content\posts ready for the search engines. A SEO plugin will also help with avoiding duplicate content which can cause problems with the Google Panda Algorithm. In a worst case situation, Google can lower your website down the search ranks if your content is not structured correctly.
Google algorithms are methods Google uses to index content from millions of websites around the Internet. You don’t need to worry about these if you create unique, high quality content. In most cases they are there to help content creators like you and weed out those who produce crap material and go out of their way to up their rankings through dubious methods. Google also published a guide recently on search quality guidelines. Have a look through this when you get a chance are good tips in the middle of all the really technical stuff.
Registering Your Website With Google
Once you start publishing content, you need to let the search engines know that it exists and this is a vital step when setting up your first website. For this post I am only going to cover Google as they dominate the market. To register with Google you must first find your website XML sitemap. If you use Yoast you can find it under the XML Sitemaps setting through your WordPress dashboard. You then need to follow these steps
- Create a Google account by registering for a GMail address or use an existing one
- Go to the Google Search Console application. This used to be called Webmaster Tools.
- Click on option to Add A Property
- Follow the instructions to validate your site
- Once validated click on the Crawl option on the left hand side and select Sitemaps
- Click on button to ADD/TEST SITEMAP and paste in your sitemap URL
- Then click on Submit Sitemap and you should be done
It may take some time for the Google spider to crawl your site and start indexing your content. Indexing means that if you produce quality content you will appear in the Google search results when people search for topics that you cover in your content.
Registering Your Website With Google Analytics
Google Search Console will give you some performance data like the number of time your content appears in search results. However, most website use reporting is done through Google Analytics. You can do everything from real-time monitoring to find out what countries your visitors are coming from.
The initial setup is very similar to Google Search Console.
- You first setup and account
- Add a property (your website) to this account and validate by following the instructions provided
- You then need to copy the tracking code which has to be inserted into every page on your website.
I cover the code copying steps in the video below. In summary you edit the page header (header.php) via the WordPress appearance editor. By inserting the code into the header file you automatically add it to every existing and new page on your website. My video also cover how you can troubleshoot Google Analytics issues. The easiest test is to view the source code of any webpage and search for your unique Google tracking ID.
So that’s it. Get your site hosted, pick a CRM, pick a theme, start producing content, tell Google about your site and then set it up for Google analytics. After that you just need to produce content. Don’t try to over engineer it, just post whatever comes to mind and make sure you add images etc… to make it look good. Once you publish lots of content, check out my other blog post which looks at how you can do a website content audit so you keep your website content in good shape.
Happy hosting and best of luck setting up your first website!