What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a free Web analytics service that provides statistics and basic analytical tools for search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing purposes. The service is available to anyone with a Google account.
Google Analytics features include:
- Data visualization tools including a dashboard, Score card and motion charts, which display changes in data over time.
- Segmentation for analysis of subsets, such as conversions.
- Custom reports.
- Email-based sharing and communication.
- Integration with other Google products, such as AdWords, Public Data Explorer and Website Optimizer.
Google Analytics is geared toward small and medium-sized retail websites. The service has limitations that make it less suited to more complex websites and larger enterprises. Google uses sampling in its reports rather than analyzing all available data.
Furthermore, some security experts have raised concerns about privacy issues in Google Analytics. Through the Google Analytics Dashboard, users can collect information on people whose websites link to social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Why is it important to business?
Google Analytics is a free web analytics tool offered by Google to help you analyze your website traffic.
Even though “web analytics” sounds like a very small area of your digital presence, the implications of Google Analytics are in fact huge.
This is because for most companies, your website serves as a hub for all of your digital traffic. If you are running any marketing activities such as search ads or social media ads, your users are most likely going to visit your website somewhere along their user journey.
Given that your website is the central hub of your digital presence, your website is the best way to give you a holistic view of the effectiveness of all the campaigns you are running to promote your product/services online. Google Analytics is a free tool that can help you track your digital marketing effectiveness.
That’s why over 50 million websites around the world uses Google Analytics. If you are not using it, you should set it up right now.
How does Google Analytics Work?
Simply put, Google Analytics puts several lines of tracking code into the code of your website. The code records various activities of your users when they visit your website, along with the attributes (such as age, gender, interests) of those users. It then sends all that information to the GA (Google Analytics) server once the user exits your website.
Next, Google Analytics aggregates the data collected from your website in multiple ways, primarily by four levels:
- User level (related to actions by each user)
- Session level (each individual visit)
- Page view level (each individual page visited)
- Event level (button clicks, video views, etc)
What are the distinctions between Metrics and Dimensions on Google Analytics?
The way I think about the differences between metrics and dimensions is that metrics are actual statistics Google collected about user behavior on your website, and dimensions are the various ways you can view those numbers based on the business questions you’re trying to answer.
For example, just knowing the total amount of people visiting your website is not very helpful to your business. Knowing how many people visit your website by age or location, on the other hand, is very helpful to figure out who your core audiences are on the internet.
Essentially, data analytics is slicing and dicing metrics by dimensions based on the business questions you are trying to answer.
We wrote a guide here to help you better understand couple of fundamentals of Google Analytics include unit of analysis, differences between metrics and dimensions, and choosing the correct metrics
What kind of data are available on Google Analytics, and what can you do with them?
There are two types of data that you can collect in Google Analytics:
- User Acquisition Data: data about your users before they visit your website
- User Behavior Data: data about your users when they visit your website
(1) User Acquisition Data
Before users visit your website: you can access data about your user demographics before they visit your website (e.g. their age, gender, and interests). You can also get data about where they are coming from, whether that’s Facebook, other websites, or Google search. I call these data “user acquisition data” because they can help you figure out which user group and channels to target.
These characteristics of your web visitors, such as what media channel they frequent and their demographic information, are intrinsic to the users themselves. You really cannot do much to change these attributes.
Luckily, the internet is huge, so even though you cannot change these natural characteristics of your visitors, you can choose specific user groups on the internet who have the characteristics you want to target. You can attract more of them to come to your site by running targeted ads through Facebook, Google, and other advertising platforms. Your user acquisition data can serve as the guiding compass to direct your digital marketing strategy and activities.
(2) User Behavior Data
The second group of data are “user behavior” data, which are collected during a user’s session on your website. “User behavior” data include:
- how long a user stayed on your website
- what is their first and last page on your website
- the most common “pathway” through which they go through your website
Now unlike “user acquisition” data, “user behavior” data can be easily changed by your changes you make to your website. The key here is to use various analyses to identify the pages where your users get “fast.” You can then smooth out their user experience on these problem pages so users can move seamlessly toward converting to paying customers with minimal friction.
“User behavior” data can serve as a guide for you to improve your website so more of your users end up converting, whether that means making a purchase on your website, or signing up for your newsletter.
24 Reasons Why to Use Google Analytics
- FREE to use; you don’t have to pay any (monthly) fees for using this product. This way you can invest a decent budget in resources, instead of only/mainly in tools.
- Relatively easy basic setup; a basic implementation is easy compared to tools from many other vendors. However, in order to fully benefit from all the features of Google Analytics, deeper knowledge is required.
- Documentation available on almost every aspect; on both the implementation as well as the configuration part thorough documentation is available. This This Google Analytics Tracking code Library is a great start.
- Powerful customizable reports; create your own reports with an easy drag and drop interface. Add many different dimensions and metrics in one report.
- Intuitive tool; set aside some time and you will soon understand the interface, the different report sets and how to work with the tool.
- Great Analytics API; for more advanced users, you will love the Google Analytics API
- Integration of WMT; it’s easy to connect your Webmaster Tool data to Google Analytics. For anyone serious about SEO, this information is great.
- Handy way of tracking campaigns; you can literally track any campaign that is driving traffic to your website. In order to get this right, you have to understand how to work with utm parameters.
- Lots of great add ons available; add ons can make your Google Analytics implementation, configuration and monitoring life a lot easier.
- Easy to connect to other tools; I am a huge fan of exporting data and automatically building reports & dashboards via Next Analytics. And there are many more ways to automate data reporting and uncover insights more easily.
- Send reports periodically via email; it may be useful for you to send out powerful custom reports to clients or internal stakeholders.
- Export to Excel at a breeze; the data export function works flawlessly and the opportunities are endless.
- Easy use of annotations you can add private or shared annotations. In this way the data gets more meaning and causalities can be shared on the surface.
- Setup custom alerts to save you time; uncover insights more easily.
- Ability to measure internal site search know what people on your website are searching for. Make effective changes to your navigation and product offers.
- Setup profiles for long term segmentation analysis; you can choose to exclude ‘own’ traffic, focus on certain traffic channels, include only traffic from a specific region etc.
- Advanced segments for ad hoc analysis; powerful on the fly analysis on a group of visitors.
- Powerful real time reporting; great way to get direct feedback on campaigns you are running. Very effective when testing implementations.
- Multi-Channel Funnels; go beyond looking at Last Click Conversions (LCC).
- Powerful integration with AdWords; it takes a few steps, but it’s worth it. Many insights on your AdWords campaigns are waiting for you in Google Analytics.
- Monitor your mobile and tablet traffic; it is easy to see how your mobile and tablet traffic is growing and whether this visitors segment is converting or not.
- A large group of specialized consultants to offer help; Google Analytics has an enormous network of qualified consultants around the globe. So in case you need help, it is easy to find someone who can assist you.
- New features added periodically; the Web Analytics package has evolved to become a high-end solution for small, medium and large companies.
- Easy testing via experiments; if you want to try out testing, start with experiments in Google Analytics. Later on you can choose to invest in a paid solution.