Successful businesses understand how their audiences engage or interact with their websites.
And the best way to understand your audience is to study your site’s traffic data.
That’s why you need a tool like Google Analytics.
Google Analytics provides valuable and actionable insights about your web visitors. But it can be complex and tricky, particularly for beginners.
However, I’ll help you demystify this data tool so you’ll walk away from this content knowing how to squeeze the juiciest benefits from it.
What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a free data collection and analytics tool for tracking and measuring website and app performance data.
The tool helps you understand your website and app users and how these users interact with your content. You’d also receive data on your site traffic sources and other website technical data.
Why is Google Analytics Important?
Site owners can leverage Google Analytics for different purposes. Let’s briefly review three common applications of Google Analytics.
1. Improve Marketing
Google Analytics reports can provide critical insights for improving your marketing. The information gathered can help you answer various questions about your marketing efforts and help you better tailor your marketing efforts.
2. Improve Site Performance
Google Analytics reports provide valuable insights about your site and site users. These insights offer practical approaches to improving your site performance.
3. Aid SEO
In SEO, information is power. Understanding your site visitors and target audience improves your conversion chances.
Google Analytics provides a lot of insights. Accessing the right reports can help boost the ROI of your SEO efforts.
What Does Google Analytics Do?
Google Analytics offers critical insights into user behavior and site performance. It achieves that aim in three fundamental steps:
- It collects data
- Processes the data
- Generates visual reports
Let’s look at these steps closer.
1. Collect Data
Data collection is Google Analytics’ first task. It gathers data about your site and visitors with the help of the embedded code you’d add to your site.
The data it collects includes:
- Number of site visitors
- Visitors’ location
- Time of visit
- Visitors’ activities on the site
- Visitors’ interaction with site elements
- Duration of visit
- Where and when a visit terminates
Google Analytics collects data using a tracking code. The tracking code inserts a cookie in each site visitor’s browser. The cookie then relays a hit to Google Analytics every time users interact with your site.
What is a Hit and Types of Hit Tracked by Google Analytics?
A hit is a specific interaction that a user has with your website.
Hits occur when a user’s behavior triggers your tracking code. The tracking code then records and packages the interaction data into a “hit” and sends it to Google Analytics.
Google Analytics works with three common types of hits:
- Pageview Hit
- Event Hit
- Transaction Hit
Let’s look at each of these three hit types.
Google Analytics collects a pageview hit when a user visits any of your pages. This data may include visitors’ devices and browser types. Pageview hit also tells you which pages were visited.
An event hit registers a visitor’s activity on your site. Activities may include filling out a form, playing a video, clicking a link, and other activities.
When a visitor buys something, Google Analytics receives a transaction hit. Collected data may include purchased products, the amount spent, pages visited before buying, and other transactional activities.
2. Process Data
Google Analytics doesn’t display the raw data it collects. It processes the data before generating a report.
A fundamental step in Google Analytics’ data processing is data separation. The platform groups collected data into two distinct categories:
- User Data
- Session Data
User data includes information about different, distinct site visitors. Google Analytics generates a unique, random user ID for each new site visitor. This helps Google Analytics recognize the same visitor when they revisit your site.
Recurring visitors are logged as “returning visitors.” But this only works if a user revisits your site using the same device and browser.
The process also terminates if a user clears your cookie from their browser cache.
A session is a period a visitor spends on your site.
Google Analytics gathers different session data types during each session, including pages visited, actions and activities, duration of visit, and more.
This information can help you understand critical user behavior.
3. Generate Reports
Google Analytics presents data in report formats. These are visual and graphical representations of your site data. The reports’ designs are user-friendly, making it easy for you to identify trends and gain insights.
Google Analytics reports consist of a combination of dimensions and metrics. It’s critical to understand their differences for accurate reports’ interpretation.
Dimensions are qualitative labels or attributes. Google Analytics uses these attributes to describe and organize the data it collects.
For example, if you measure the average session length across several regions or countries, the dimension would be “Region” or “Country.” It would show you the location concentration of your site visitors
Other common examples of dimensions include browser type, language, user age group, city, and device model.
Metrics are quantitative measurements. They indicate the quantity or size of something.
For example, the “sessions” metric measures the number of sessions on your site over a specific period.
Common examples of metrics include page views, pages per session, average session lengths, and average time on site.
Getting Started with Google Analytics
To get started using Google Analytics, you need a Google account. You can sign up if you don’t have one yet. Now, log in to start using Google Analytics.
Here is what the Google Analytics homepage looks like:
Click “Start measuring” to start setting up.
That takes you to a user information page. First, enter your preferred account name.
Then, click “Next” to go to the property page. Google Analytics prompts you to enter a Property Name.
The final step is to provide details of your site.
Click on “Create” to finish setting up your account. After creating your account, you’ll get a tracking code for your site. Google Analytics uses the tracking code to collect data from site visitors. But you must add the code to your site.
Adding Your Tracking Code
For sites or pages built off a CMS like WordPress, you can install the Google Analytics plugin.
Google Analytics will start tracking your site data right away. While waiting for site data to build up, you need to set up some useful features.
Setting Up Site Search
Site Search Tracking is a valuable Google Analytics feature. It allows site owners to collect and analyze data on how visitors use the site’s search function.
Open the Admin Menu
Navigate to “View Settings” on the “View” column. Select “Site Search Settings.” Toggle the “Site Search Tracking.”
Fill out the “Query Parameter” field and click “Done.”
Setting Up Goals
Most sites have a specific goal. Google Analytics can help you assess performance.
To set up goals tracking, open the Admin Menu and navigate to “Goals” on the “View” column.
On the new page, click the “+ New Goal” button” and select either an existing goal template or create a custom goal.
Next, fill in the details of the goal you wish to track. That may include destination, duration, pages/screens per session, and events.
Click on “Create Goal” to finish the process. Now, Google Analytics will start collecting goal-related data.
Google Analytics Dashboards
After setting up your Google Analytics and features, it’s time to view your first reports.
These reports are accessible via the Google Analytics dashboard. The home page of that dashboard is also known as the Overview dashboard. You’ll find everything you need to know about navigating the platform on that page.
Start Using Google Analytics
Now, you’re up-to-speed on how Google Analytics works, how it can help your site, and how to set it up.
Google Analytics delivers tangible data on your site and site users, which provides concrete and actionable insights to help you develop your business further.
With your new knowledge, these insights are at your fingertips.