How to set up free Google services on a new website

I was fortunate enough to be on the ground floor when one of our clients launched an important new website a couple of weeks ago. They had a good website design agency to produce the new site (an online store, as it happens), but they were left to get on with the “webmaster” stuff themselves. Which is where they asked me for some advice. It comes free – we love our clients. Here’s what we did, in case you find yourself in the same position in future.

There were four main things we decided were needed for the new site: Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools, a Google Merchant Centre account, and remarketing code for Google AdWords.

The first thing would normally be to access the company’s Google Account (the one used for Google Analytics etc), although in this case there wasn’t one, for various reasons. So we set up a shiny new Google account – bluewidgetco.marketing@gmail.com – with a nice, long (but easily typed) password, and checked that was all working.

Setting up Google Webmaster Tools was easy – just go to the Webmaster Tools site, register the new site’s domain, and they give you a tiny file to upload to the site to prove you’re in control of it. Setting up a Google Analytics account was similarly straightforward (although if you’re already using it, you’d just need to add your site instead). Finally, we set up a Google Merchant Centre account, which would be the basis of getting the company’s products into the Google Shopping results, which is important now, but will be critical in the future. The job of adding the product data feed to the Merchant Centre account was a job for the website design agency, fortunately.

Now, to get Google Analytics working, you need to put some code on every page on the website. It’s the same if you want to set up remarketing for Google AdWords. Easy enough for the website design agency to do. But there’s a potential problem with this, in that we might want to make changes to the code in the future, to accommodate as-yet-unknown developments. And we wanted to avoid the need to ask the website design agency to make changes in the future.

So instead, we signed up for Google Tag Manager, which is a similar process to Google Webmaster Tools. This gives us code which the website design agency can put on the site, and which “stands in” for the real code we want. In this case, to begin with, it could be the Google Analytics and the remarketing code.

Job done: the website design agency put the Tag Manager code on the pages, and we configured that to serve up the Google Analytics code. We also went to the company’s Google AdWords account, got the relevant details, and told Tag Manager to serve up the remarketing code too. Although the company did not have immediate plans to use AdWords remarketing, it’s always worth having the code running, so that a list of people who’ve been to the site is constantly being maintained.

And that’s it – a nice set of free Google website services all set up, and largely future-proofed. If you’re thinking: “that’s putting a lot of site analysis functionality in the hands of one service provider”, you’d be right. But at the moment, Google is the main game in town, and using its free services is still a win-win situation.

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