What Is Google Analytics?
Published: March 12, 2018
With over 10 million users, Google Analytics is the single most robust data analysis tool used around the world. Released in November of 2005, the first Google Analytics program was far from what marketers and data analysts use today. Undergoing several re-releases, Google Analytics has evolved over the years to meet the demands of an growing and ever-changing industry.
Google Analytics is a freemium software, this means anyone can sign up and use it free of charge in exchange for Google storing the data collected for its own use. This agreement allows the Google Analytics user access to top-of-the-line software that can improve a websites Search Engine Optimization efficiently and effectively while Google retains unique data that allows them to evolve their software to meet the needs of its search engine customers.
Why is Google Analytics So Popular!?
Although we do not recommend using any software solely based on its popularity, its hard to ignore the popularity of Google’s one-of-a-kind creation. Because of the high-level simplicity and the almost unlimited customizable features, Google Analytics remains popular in the internet marketing and web development industries. Professional marketers, website designers and developers lead the charge when it comes to truly understanding the power of Google Analytics. They strive to understand Google Analytics data in order to spear-head Search Engine Optimization strategies and marketing efforts.
To put it simply, Google Analytics takes all of the internet traffic that is flowing through a website and sorts website interactions into several categories that include: Audience, Behavior, Ecommerce and Goals. These categories allow a website marketer to view the data at a high-level, which can then be drilled down to granular segments to help the marketer further strategize and evolve a website’s Search Engine Optimization strategy. This simplicity is attractive to both marketers and entrepreneurs who manage their own websites worldwide, this structure makes Google Analytics the most used website analytics software in the internet today.
What Kinds of Data Can Be Collected from Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is full of countless features that interconnect to produce valuable insights to those willing learn. In this article we explain what we believe are the most important and most valuable features of Google Analytics, but of course there are many more features to discover!
When creating and evolving a Search Engine Optimization strategy it is incredibly important for those marketing a website to know where websites users are coming from. Google Analytics makes this really easy to gather in its “Audience” category. In the “Audience” category, Google Analytics can determine what country the website user is located based on the computer’s IP address.
Real World Example
Carlos from White Whale Web Design is managing a website for a client who owns a business in the United States and concentrates all marketing efforts to the United States. Using the Audience category in Google Analytics, Carlos discovers that over a 6-month period 60% of website traffic is coming from the United States while 40% is sourced in Canada. Carlos can now give his client a valuable insight that their may be a valuable market for his client’s business in Canada and testing marking efforts in Canada may help grow his client’s business.
Google Analytics not only tracks where a website user is accessing a website from, but also tracks what type of device your website is being accessed on. Google Analytics breaks down devices into three categories: desktop, mobile and tablet.
Real World Example
Samantha from White Whale Web Design has just finished designing and developing a website for her newest client. Just before releasing the new website to the internet, Samantha inputs the Google Analytics code into the website for data tracking. After a few months of being on the web, Samantha discovers that more users are accessing the website through a mobile/tablet device. This valuable insight helps Samantha adjust the Search Engine Optimization strategy for her client by focusing more on the mobile and tablet market and optimizing her client’s website more for mobile platforms to increase website conversion rates.
The code Google used to track website traffic has evolved over the past decade. In previous versions Google only had the ability to track website traffic on a macro scale, but now has the ability to observe a website on a micro level. Google Analytics provides a high-level graph indicating popular times that a website is being accessed.
Real World Example
While managing a Google AdWords marketing campaign for a new client, Mark from White Whale Web Design closely monitors Google Analytics when determining when and were to allocate his client’s marketing resources. After collecting data for several months, Mark discovers that his client’s website is normally accessed between the 10am - 3pm on Mondays and Thursdays and 8am – 10am on Saturdays and Sundays. Knowing that these times are when the website is normally visited, Mark can allocate remarketing advertisements in order to increase website conversion and increase the investment in Google AdWords’ resources to other times of the day to help grow the website to new users.
Some of the most basic functionalities of Google Analytics are traffic trends. Google Analytics allows the user to not only track how many users have visited your website on an hourly basis, but also compare daily, weekly or yearly numbers to another similar time-period.
Real World Example
While managing a client’s website, Angela from White Whale Web Design receives a call from her client who is concerned that her website is not growing fast enough. The client is worried that her website’s Search Engine Optimization strategy isn’t working. Quickly accessing her client’s Google Analytics account, Angela pulls a website traffic report to check on the growth rate. After reading the report, Angela emails her client a copy and explains that the website is growing at normal pace by pointing out the graph that displays traffic growth month-over-month, for the preceding 6 months. By using the Google Analytics Traffic Trends feature, Angelia’s client can feel confident that her website is growing and the Search Engine Optimization strategy is working.
Google Analytics defines a Bounce as “a single-page session on your site. In Analytics, a bounce is calculated specifically as a session that triggers only a single request to the Analytics server, such as when a user opens a single page on your site and then exits without triggering any other requests to the Analytics server during that session.”
In other words, a website user enters a website through a link and then leaves the website without moving to another page within the website. Bounce rate is another valuable tool for any marketer striving to improve the Search Engine Optimization of a website.
Real World Example
Amelia from White Whale Web Design has been managing a website for her client for almost two years. In that time, Amelia has been evolving the website’s Search Engine Optimization strategy to help grow her client’s business. After completing her quarterly website audit, Amelia discovers that the main landing page of her client’s website has a higher bounce rate then in previous months. After doing some research and making sure that the website is still optimized correctly and that the other pages on the website are working correctly, Amelia comes to the conclusion that it may be time for the website’s main landing page to be updated with new content. Working with her client, Amelia updates the main landing page and several months later the bounce rate has decreased back to optimal levels. By using this valuable Google Analytics insight, Amelia helped her client retain more website visitors and in-turn increased her client’s business conversion rate.
Average Session Duration
A Session is defined as “group of user interactions with your website that take place within a given time frame. For example, a single session can contain multiple page views, events, social interactions, and ecommerce transactions.”
Average Session Duration equals the total duration of all sessions (in seconds) / number of sessions a website receives.
Real World Example
Working with a client who specializes in writing articles and content about recent political news and sports event, Evan from White Whale Web Design focuses on helping his client determine what content website visitors are more likely to read. After designing and developing his client’s website, Evan collects data over a 6-month period using dashboards in Google Analytics. In this case, Evan particularly focuses on Average Session Duration each month. By filtering and examining the data, Evan discovers that the average session duration for month 3 is considerably higher than months 4 and 5. After Evan explains this result to his client, the client realizes that they wrote many articles about sports in Month 3, in contrast to months 4 and 5 where they wrote more political articles. Through this valuable Google Analytics insight, Evan helped his client understand his customer base on a deeper level.
Google Analytics segments data into the following channels:
Direct: Website visitors access the website directly by typing the URL into the browser search bar.
Organic: Website visitors access the website via a search engine such as Google, Bing or Yahoo.
Referral: Website visitors access the website via a hyperlink from a different website other than a search engine.
Social: Website visitors access the website through a Social Media channel such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
Although growing Organic traffic is what most marketers strive to achieve, having a health distribution of incoming traffic is import the growth of any website.
Real World Example
Anna from White Whale Web Design is performing monthly Search Engine Optimization analysis for a client. Knowing that her client has been working extremely hard to expand her Social Media channels, Anna is particularly interested in the traffic entering the website through a Social Channel. After pulling the numbers, Anna compares this months Social Channel to last month and discovers that Social visits are up by 10%. By understanding this valuable Google Analytics feature, Anna can now tell her customer that her Social Media campaign is successful and can provide her client the data to back it up.
Google Analytics provides several insights into websites offering products or services for instant purchase.
Google Analytics offers several ways to track total revenue generated by the eCommerce website, including average revenue generated by user, country, channel and device. Revenue data can be drilled down to daily, monthly or yearly segments. Google Analytics also tracks the number of transactions that are being made on a daily basis.
Setting Goals within Google Analytics are a great way to track a websites progress over time. Goals can be set for any of the features mentioned in this article and can be useful when tracking what kind of return on investment a website is providing.