How to integrate some Google Apps and services into a WordPress site.
Google Products you Need to Integrate Today
Google has so many free and great options that can integrate and support your site that you absolutely have to have a Gmail account these days. Remember the golden age when you had to be INVITED to get a Gmail account from some in-the-know tech guru that you knew? Good times that changed the times. Ok, I’ll presume you’re logged into your Google account at this point and let’s get started.
Site visitor tracking is absolutely the number one product to get running on your site, the sooner the better. Eventually, you’ll be done playing with all the shiny new plugins and features and want to know HOW your site is doing, and Google Analytics is the king in this regard. Yes, I know Jetpack also provides site visit stats, which is great, but analytics gives you so much more that if you are at all serious about measurements eventually you have to go to Google Analytics. So head on over to google.com/analytics and sign in.
Bottom right is the gear ADMIN icon, click on that, and you’ll see a list of properties you’ve got running. Don’t worry if there isn’t any yet, that’s why we’re here. There are three new columns that should pop up. On the left one is a drop down menu, select that and choose to Create New Account. You just entered the rabbit hole.
You’ll have to fill in some info about your site – basically fill in what you know, and accept the emails you want to receive about additional analytics emails to you – then at the bottom click Get Tracking ID. This is a number like “UA-xxxxxxxx”. Copy that, you’ll need it when you head back to WordPress.
Yeah, I know that there is a bit of script code that goes along with that if you want to MANUALLY add it to your site but if you know how to do that, you probably don’t need this tutorial.
What we’re going to do is suggest some plugins that handle that bit for you. Actually, it seems EVERY plugin and theme wants to do this for you if you provide them that number. Don’t. Choose one method of putting it into your site and stick with it for all your sites. That way you’ll remember where it is if you need to change it in the future (you probably won’t, but still).
A simple plugin that will provide some user data is Google Analytics Dashboard for WP. After you put in your UA code and authorize it, you’re all set. Google Analytics will start tracking your data and this plugin gives you a dashboard chart of visits for the last week and a quick way to get to your analytics page to look deeper.
Monster Insights is another plugin you might like, it’s from the people that brought us Yoast SEO. There’s also addons that can track Adsense and Adwords inside this plugin.
Basically, most of these Analytics plugins give you an easy way to insert your UA code and pull a little data from Analytics for you.
If you’re more serious though, you’ll go to analytics to see the data. And once you get more serious there’ll be more scripts from Google to insert onto your site. To handle these I use the header and footer plugin to control these tracking scripts and keep them all in one space. IF it’s a really serious site that has lots and lots of tracking codes, use Google Tag Manager (which you can find at the login window for Google Analytics). That’s a whole tutorial unto itself so we won’t go there.
Google XML Sitemaps
A sitemap file contains a list of all the pages on your site and is used by search engines to index your site and figure out where things are on your site. Google XML Sitemaps is a free WordPress plugin that creates a sitemap file for your website so your site can be indexed more quickly by search engines. If you’re a Google Webmaster user, it’s one of the requirements to having a healthy website for search engines.
Going an extra mile, this plugin automatically creates and submits your new sitemap file to the major search engines (Google, Yahoo! and Bing) every time there’s a change (e.g. you publish a blog post). Yoast SEO plugin also has this capability but this is a one-trick pony plugin and I like that type of pony.
Google Page Speeds Insights
Google has a tool to help you see how fast your site pages are loading and to give you tips on how to speed up your site. Now, you could go to Google Page Speed page and manually enter your page but this is an integration blog post, let’s get it right into our nice friendly WordPress backend.
There’s two steps beyond installing and activating this plugin. You’ll need to create a Google API key (the plugin walks you through that under OPTIONS) AND you’ll have to enable the PageSpeed Insights API in the same Google Console. Don’t overthink creating this key, leave most of the options alone and just follow the instructions at the plugin page and you’ll be good.
Then it’ll run. This may take awhile depending on the size of your site as it is checking every page and post. When it’s done, you’ll have every page and post of your site mapped out and graded for speed with suggestions on how to improve speed right in your WordPress backend.
Best feature? You can sort it by the speed grade to see your worst offenders.
I did hit some instances where selecting DETAILS didn’t resolve due to server speed – which was also the biggest thing holding back that site speed too so it made sense – but just go back and try again.
Google Apps Login
You can also set up your site login to use Google Apps Login via this plugin. Takes some configuring but if you users are Google users you can save them a password. Also, you can then setup the next handy plugin.
Want to embed a Google Doc from Drive right into WordPress post? There’s a plugin for that. Google Drive Embedder.
This handy little plugin let’s you add images from your Google Drive to your media library. AND with a shortcode, users of the site can upload images to your connected Google Drive as well. Bonus features: not just your Google image library, it allows image uploads from a lot of online storage locations like Facebook, Instagram, Dropbox, etc.
Google Calendar is one of the company’s core tools. Event sites, such as a community centre, could have their event coordinator create a public Google Calendar, update it as necessary, and have it displayed on their site to make it easy for their people to keep people up to date as to what’s going on at the centre. I’d love it if my community centre would do this as I wouldn’t have to call them so dang much.
With the Google Calendar Events plugin, you can display your full calendar as a WordPress post or page or, as shown below, by using a widget. Here’s some of this plugins great features:
- Display events from any public Google Calendar.
- Keep managing events in Google Calendar.
- No need to create events in WordPress or create/educate a new user.
- Out-of-the-box designs that match your theme’s look and feel.
- Fully responsive and mobile-friendly monthly grid and list views.
- Customize event content display using simple tags. No coding required.
All four of these plugins (Easy Google Fonts, Google Fonts for WordPress, Google Font Manager and Google Typography) enable you to add and use any of the 600+ Google Fonts on your website. Their features vary a bit so give them a look and grab the one that fits you best. And DON”T USE TOO MANY PER SITE. That looks like garbage and cheapens your site. Pick a few and stick with it.
I don’t always use Google Fonts, but when I do I use:
Last One – Google Reviews
I’m a huge believer in Google Reviews driving organic traffic for local business – if you can get the reviews in the first place. If you’ve managed to do that, why not put the reviews right on your page instead of driving them off you site? Google reviews have more credibility than testimonials (that you *koff* place “without edits” onto your site, yeah, right). And here’s an additional tip about making it easy for people to leave a review in Google Reviews.