What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a web analytics service launched in November 2005 by Google to track and report web traffic. It is the most widely used web analytics service on the Internet.
Google Analytics allows you to examine visitor traffic and portrays your audience and their requirements. It provides insights as to how your website viewers use your site and how to help them to come back.
Why should we use Google Analytics?
In a nutshell, Google Analytics provides information about:
- Type of traffic generated by the website — number of sessions, users, and new users
- Ways the users interact with your website & how engaged they are — pages per session, average time spent on the website, bounce rate, how many people click on a specific link, watch a video, time spent on the webpage
- Most and least interesting pages — landing and exit pages, most and least visited pages
- Information about users who visit your website — user’s geolocation (i.e. city, state, country), the language they speak, the browser they are using, the screen resolution of their device
- Activities performed on the website by the users — how long do users stay on the website, which page is causing users to leave most often, how many pages on average users view
- When users visit your website — date & time of their visits, how the user found you
- Source of access to the website by the visitors — through a search engine (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.), social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.), a link from another website, or a direct type-in
What are the main features of Google Analytics?
- Advertising and Campaign Performance
- Analysis and Testing
- Audience characteristics and behavior
- Cross-device and cross-platform measurement
- Data Collection and Management
- Just for mobile apps
- Product Integrations
- Sales and Conversions
- Site and App Performance
How to use Google Analytics?
- Create a Gmail account — to be able to use Google Analytics, you will need to have a Google account. Click here to create one.
- Once created, send your Gmail account to the person who will grant you access to Google Analytics for your website
- You will receive an email from firstname.lastname@example.org with a subject line: You have been granted access to a property in the Google Analytics account. Follow the instructions in the email (i.e. click on the link provided in the email)
- Sign in to Google Analytics account
- You will see the main Google Analytics panel. Choose the account and the view corresponding to your website.
- This is what you will see when you have access to Google Analytics.
Google Analytics Interface
For a website to be successful, it is crucial to use a comprehensive analytics tool like Google Analytics. Analyzing your site’s traffic will help you understand how your audience is interacting with your content and let you perceive how your site is performing over time. The Google Analytics interface is loaded with helpful insights and important bits of knowledge. Some points to consider when using Google Analytics:
- Determine the most important analytics that you should monitor
- Discuss how to analyze this data so you can gain a better understanding of how your audience is engaging with your website
- Cover how to use this data to improve your website and marketing strategies
In the screenshot below, we see the three main components of the Google Analytics tool:
- Navigation: Home, Customization, Discover and Admin
- Date-range: we can select the time period for which we want to analyze the traffic
- Main view: where the reports and data are present
The Home view in Google Analytics now offers an overview of key aspects of your website’s online presence.
Here are a few highlights:
- You can see snippets from a organized set of Google Analytics reports, including real-time data, with simple and streamlined controls.
- Each snippet is preceded by a helpful question that frames the data, such as “When do your users visit?”, “Where do your users come from?”, or “How do you acquire users?”.
- Hover over any data point for more details or drill into the relevant report with the provided link on each card.
- “Home” is automatically configured based on your setup.
Google Analytics is a powerful tool to help you measure the performance of your online world. With minimal configuration you get a tremendous amount of information about the performance of your business. But, if you add a few Google Analytics Customizations you’ll get more data to help you optimize your business.
There are several options to customize:
- Dashboards – Dashboards are a collection of widgets that give you an overview of the reports and metrics you care about most. Dashboards let you monitor many metrics at once, so you can quickly check the health of your accounts or see correlations between different reports.
- Custom Reports – These are built using Dimensions and Metrics. Dimensions are the attributes of your visitors and the visits they create (i.e. keyword, traffic source, etc.). Metrics are the actual data that is collected (revenue, conversion rate, visits, etc.).
- Saved Reports – Saved reports remember your settings so you don’t have to reconfigure a report each time you open it. Any setting you apply to a report, like adding a segment or a new metric, stays applied in a saved report until you manually change the settings. The settings are saved even if you sign out and sign back into your account. All report customizations and settings are saved except the date range. You can create a saved report from any Standard or Custom report that has the Save option in the action bar. Access and manage your saved reports in the Customization > Saved Reports section in the left pane.
- Custom Alerts – These trigger an email alert when the alert condition is met. It is even possible to set up mobile phone triggers (United States only).
This section acts as a guide to related Google Analytics Products and other educational materials. It doesn’t really provide any new functionality, but it links to handy tools and other great resources that make Analytics more powerful.
Discover page has everything about the latest enhancements. It offers products and services that might be useful for a Google Analytics user including apps and features.
This section is used to manage (add, edit, and delete users and user groups) and configure your accounts, properties, and views.
The date-range selector is at the top-right of every page. By default, Google Analytics will show data for the past 30 days. To select a date range, click the arrow next to the existing date range to open the selector. Once you’ve selected a new date range, click Apply to update your report.
To use a predefined date range, select one of the following from the Date Range menu:
- Custom – Data for your custom date range.
- Today – Data available for the current calendar date up until the time of your selection
- Yesterday – Data for the previous calendar date
- Last Week – Data for Sunday through Saturday of the previous calendar week
- Last Month – Data for the first to last day of the previous calendar month
We can also compare the analytics for a selected time range to the previous period:
The Reports Menu
The Reports menu on the left-hand side of the page lets you access deeper reporting for specific areas:
The Real-Time reports section in Google Analytics allows you to monitor activity on your website as it occurs from moment to moment, providing insights on how people are reacting to your marketing campaigns and infrastructure.
Audience – Who are your visitors?
This report gives you a quick overview of the overall performance of the website – number of sessions, users (both new and returning), page views, average session duration, bounce rate, new sessions.
Acquisition – Where is your website traffic coming from?
This report gives you a quick overview of the top channels of your website traffic – direct traffic, organic search, referral, social media, display advertising, email and paid search (i.e. AdWords)
Behavior – Which pages are engaging your visitors?
The Behavior overview report reveals what pages people visit on your website and what actions they take while visiting. It also provides information about the number of page views, bounce rate, and exit rate.
The conversions tab lets you track specific actions that your visitors take – and how effectively your website gets people to take those actions.
Pros and Cons of Google Analytics
- Some of its features are free of charge so everyone can use it.
- You can use it on different digital environments such as websites, mobile applications, kiosks, or anything that has an internet connection
- There’s a Google Analytics Academy, where you can get in-depth information about how to use it.
- You can connect your Google Analytics account with your AdWords account.
- You can also collect data from different platforms and sources.
- You can create custom goals and you can also track your ecommerce platform.
- You can create custom reports based on your needs. This way you can track specific information depending on your industry.
- In order to understand all the intricacies, you need to learn. The issue with that is that the information is sometimes hard to find, may be confusing, and overwhelming. The Academy is also quite time-consuming. So, if you’re on a tight time frame, it may not be feasible.
- The overall feel of the platform might be a little bit overwhelming. There are many dashboards and many features to look at.
- The free version of Google Analytics suits almost anyone, but if your traffic is high and you’d like to upgrade to Premium, there is a fee.
As you can see, Google Analytics can be an extremely effective way to track your website’s performance. By becoming familiar with the Google Analytics interface, you can understand what the data is telling you and then use this data to make informed decisions on how to improve your website.