Google Analytics What Is it and How Does IT Work?
Google Analytics Explained
Google Analytics is a web analytics service that provides statistics and essential analytical tools for search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing purposes. The service is part of the Google Marketing Platform and is accessible to anyone with a Google account, and is advised to use for any online business.
Google Analytics is used to track website performance and collect visitor insights. It can help organizations determine top sources of user traffic and gauge the success of their marketing activities and campaigns. In addition, track goal completions (such as purchases and adding products to carts), discover user engagement patterns and trends and obtain other visitor information such as demographics. Small and medium-sized retail websites often use Google Analytics to get and analyze various customer behavior analytics, which can be used to improve marketing campaigns, drive website traffic and better retain visitors.
How does Google Analytics work?
The page tag functions as a web bug or web beacon to gather visitor information. However, because it relies on cookies, the system can’t collect data for users who have disabled them.
Google Analytics includes features that can help users identify trends and patterns in how visitors engage with their websites. Features enable data collection, analysis, monitoring, visualization, reporting, and integration with other applications. These features include:
- Data visualization and monitoring tools, including dashboards, scorecards, and motion charts that display changes in data over time;
- data filtering, manipulation, and funnel analysis;
- data collection application program interfaces (APIs);
- predictive analytics, intelligence, and anomaly detection;
- segmentation for the analysis of subsets, such as conversions;
- custom reports for advertising, acquisition, audience behavior, and conversion;
- email-based sharing and communication; and
- Integration with other products, including Google Ads, Google Data Studio, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Google AdSense, Google Optimize 360, Google Search Ads 360, Google Display & Video 360, Google Ad Manager, and Google Search Console.
Within the Google Analytics dashboard, users can save profiles for multiple websites and see details for default categories or select custom metrics to display for each site. Available categories for tracking include a content overview, keywords, referring websites, visitors overview, map overlay, and traffic sources overview.
The dashboard can be viewed on the Google Analytics site and is available through a widget or a plugin for embedding into other websites. Customized Google Analytics dashboards are also available from independent vendors.
Google Analytics - Metrics & Dimensions
Google Analytics reports consist of dimensions and metrics. Understanding the difference between them is critical for the proper interpretation of reports.
What are Metrics?
A metric is a standard of quantitative measurement. For example, Google Analytics enables users to track up to 200 metrics to measure their websites’ performance. While some metrics may be more valuable to certain businesses than others, these are some of the most popular metrics:
- Users. A user is a unique or new visitor to the website.
- Bounce rate. The percentage of visitors who viewed only a single page. These visitors only triggered a single request to the Google Analytics server.
- Sessions. The group of visitor interactions happens in a 30-minute window of activity.
- Average session duration. How long, on average, each visitor stays on the site.
- Percentage of new sessions. The rate of website visits that are first-time visits.
- Pages per session. The average number of page views per session.
- Goal completions. The number of times visitors complete a specified, desirable action. This is also known as a conversion.
- Page views. The total number of pages viewed.
What are Dimensions?
These are qualitative attributes or labels used to describe and organize data. For example, if the average session length is being measured across several different regions, the dimensions would be “Region”.
Dimensions can be customized in Google Analytics. Examples of standard dimensions include:
- browser type;
- city and country;
- models of devices; and
- user age group.
Benefits and limitations
Google Analytics has distinct benefits and limitations. Pros generally relate to the platform being powerful, accessible, and user-friendly. Google Analytics also provides the following benefits:
- The service is free, easy to use, and beginner friendly.
- Google Analytics offers a variety of metrics and customizable dimensions. Many different types of valuable insights can be captured using this platform.
- Google Analytics also contains many other tools, such as data visualization, monitoring, reporting, predictive analysis, etc.
Google Analytics historically has some shortcomings that may affect its data accuracy, including the following:
- Overall data accuracy can be compromised by users who block Google Analytics cookies, specific browser extensions, ad filtering programs, and private networks.
- Reports are generated by sampling 500,000 random sessions to reduce server load. In addition, margins of error are only given for the number of visits in these reports. Therefore, small segments of data may contain vast margins of error.
User acquisition data vs. user behavior data
Google Analytics can provide businesses with multiple types of data for marketing purposes.
User acquisition data provides insight into how customers are arriving at the website. Customers may come from various channels, such as paid search engine results, unpaid search engine results, social media links, or simply typing in the URL. Therefore, understanding user acquisition data is critical for maximizing website traffic.
User behavior data shows what customers are doing on the website and how they engage with it. This includes how long they spend on each page, how many pages they visit, and if they engage with videos and graphics. This data can be used to create web layouts that connect visitors with the content they are looking for, leading to a more compelling user experience. User experiences optimized according to user behavior data are more likely to create sales and conversions.
Google Analytics 4
Google Analytics 4, or GA4, is the most recent iteration of this service and was released in October 2020. GA4 is an overhaul of previous versions of Google Analytics. It offers an entirely new user interface and shifts from reliance on third-party cookies to machine learning for better data accuracy.
Features that are new in Google Analytics 4 include:
- machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) tools;
- deeper integration with Google Ads;
- customer-centric reporting designed around lifecycle data;
- additional codeless tracking features that can provide data with less latency; and
- enhanced data control features for regulatory compliance and data management.