Google Analytics is a free service that enables you to gain useful information about the visitors to your website or blog. See the most popular content, whether they use PCs or tablets, how long they stay and much more. Here's how to use or upgrade to the new Universal Analytics.

If you have a website or blog, it's vital that you know how many visitors you have, which pages they like best, whether they stop and browse or move on to another site, whether they are Apple Mac or Windows PC users, if they use a tablet or smartphone, and so on.

This information will influence the next web page or blog post you put on the site. You can analyse the web server logs, but fiddling around in the admin section of your website control panel is not easy, and you couldn’t give access to someone else.

Google Analytics makes it easy to analyse visitors and you can add extra user accounts with limited access so others can see the data too. Analytics can show lots of useful data about visitors and here we show how to get started with the new Universal Analytics.

Before you start, you'll need a Google account. If you don't have one, you'll have to create one.

How to set up and use Google Analytics (Universal Analytics)

Step 1. Head to www.google.com/analytics and click on Access Google Analytics at the top right. Sign in (or create an account) and click Admin at the top. Add a new account by clicking the Account button and selecting Create a new account. Choose the Website option and fill in the boxes for the name, URL, site category and so on. Universal analytics is the default.

How to use Google Analytics Step 1

Step 2. The account is created and the Universal Analytics tracking code is displayed. This must appear in the <head> section of all the pages on the website to track. Click and drag over the code with the mouse to select it, right click it and select Copy.

 How to use Google Analytics Step 2

Step 3. If the web pages are hand coded you need to manually paste the analytics code. Load each web page into an HTML editor or Notepad, then paste in the code just before </head> near the start. Repeat this for every page on the website.

 How to use Google Analytics Step 3

Step 4. It is easier if your website or blog uses a content management system. There are Google Analytics plugins for WordPress, such as All In One SEO. Add your Google Analytics account, select the tracking ID (in step 2) and tick Use Universal Analytics.

 How to use Google Analytics Step 4

Step 5. Return to the Admin page and select an account. If you have old tracking code there is an option in the Property column to upgrade to Universal Analytics. Use it, then get the new tracking code and paste it into your site as in the previous steps.

 How to use Google Analytics Step 5

Step 6. Web servers provide logs, but only the site admin can access it. Analytics enables you to create accounts for other users with restricted permissions. This lets them view and analyse the data without danger of them mucking up the account.

 How to use Google Analytics Step 6

Step 7. If you use AdSense to display adverts, select AdSense and click Link Accounts to open an AdSense window. Click the gear, click Settings, and go to Access and Authorisation, Google Analytics integration. Just select the Analytics account to link to.

 How to use Google Analytics Step 7

Step 8. Let's go to the Reporting section at the top of the page. Select Audience, Overview on the left and then pick a date range at the top right. You can analyse the data for any time period you choose and see the number of visitors to the website.

 How to use Google Analytics Step 8

Step 9. The shocking truth. Selecting Audience, Behaviour, Engagement reveals that out of 1.29m page views, 833,498 stayed less than 10 seconds. It is details like these that simple statistics like page hits cannot tell you. Ask yourself why people don't stick around.

 How to use Google Analytics Step 9

Step 10. See where visitors are from and what they view. Select Users Flow and you can see the country, starting page and 1st interaction. Everything is clickable, customisable and zoomable. Click Country and choose to view by OS, browser, mobile, and so on.

 How to use Google Analytics Step 10

Step 11. Expand the Real-Time section and you can watch people visit the website, see what pages they are accessing, whether they are using a desktop PC or tablet / smartphone, and so on. A busy website might have several hundred or more active users.

 How to use Google Analytics Step 11

 If your website doesn't work well on a smartphone or tablet, you probably need to update it. But is a responsive or adaptive design right for your website?