What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is a web analytics service that provides statistics and basic analytical tools for search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing purposes. The service is part of the Google Marketing Platform and is available for free to anyone with a Google account.
Google Analytics is used to track website performance and gather visitor insights. It can help organizations determine the main sources of customer traffic, evaluate the success of their marketing activities and campaigns, track goals achieved (such as purchases, products added to cart), discover patterns and trends in customer engagement, and obtain other information about visitors such as demographics . Small and medium-sized retail websites often use Google Analytics to obtain and analyze various customer behavior analyses, which can be used to improve marketing campaigns, increase website traffic, and improve visitor retention.
How does Google Analytics work?
The site tag functions as a web bug or web beacon to collect information about visitors. However, because it relies on cookies, the system cannot collect data for users who have disabled them.
Google Analytics includes features that can help users identify trends and patterns in how visitors interact 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 trend charts that show data changes over time;
– data filtering, funnel manipulation and analysis;
– data collection application program interfaces (API);
– predictive analytics, intelligence and anomaly detection;
– segmentation to analyze subsets, such as conversions;
– custom reports for advertising, acquisition, audience behavior and conversion;
– sharing and communicating via email;
– 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 view details for default categories or choose custom metrics to display for each website. Available tracking categories include content overview, keywords, referring pages, visitor overview, map overlay, and traffic source overview.
The dashboard can be viewed on the Google Analytics website and is available via a widget or plugin for embedding on other websites. Custom Google Analytics dashboards are also available from third-party vendors.
A metric is a standard of quantitative measurement. Google Analytics allows users to track up to 200 different metrics to measure the performance of their websites. While some data may be more valuable to certain companies than others, these are some of the most popular metrics:
– Users. A user is a unique or new visitor to the website.
– Bounce rate. Percentage of visitors who viewed only one page. These visitors made only one request to the Google Analytics server.
– Sessions. A set of visitor interactions that occur in a 30-minute activity window.
– Average session duration. How long on average each visitor stays on the page.
– Percentage of new sessions. Percentage of website visits that were first time.
– Number of pages per session. Average number of page views per session.
– Achieved goals. The number of times visitors performed a specific, desired action. This is also known as conversion.
– Page views. Total number of pages viewed.
Measurement data in relation to dimensions
Google Analytics reports consist of dimensions and metrics. Understanding the differences between the two is essential to correctly interpreting the report.
Dimensions. These are qualitative attributes or labels used to describe and organize data. For example, if average session duration is measured across several different regions, the dimensions would be “Region”. “Average session length”, which is a quantitative measure, is an example of a metric.
Dimensions can be adjusted in Google Analytics. Examples of common dimensions include:
– browser type
– city and country
– device models
– age group of users
Metrics. These are quantitative measurements of one type of data. Examples of metrics include average session duration, page views, pages per session, and average time on site. Metrics are used to compare measurements in different dimensions.
Advantages and limitations
Google Analytics has various advantages and limitations. Professionals generally refer to a powerful, free and simple platform. Google Analytics also offers the following benefits:
– The service is free, easy to use and suitable for beginners.
– Google Analytics offers a variety of metrics and customizable dimensions. Many different types of useful insights can be captured using this platform.
– Google Analytics also contains many other tools, such as data visualization, tracking, reporting, predictive analysis, etc.
Google Analytics has historically had some flaws that can affect its data accuracy, including the following:
– Overall data accuracy can be compromised by users who block Google Analytics cookies, certain browser extensions, ad filtering programs and privacy networks.
– Reports are generated by sampling 500,000 random sessions to reduce server load. Furthermore, error margins are provided only for the number of visits in these reports. Therefore, small segments of data can contain very large margins of error.
User acquisition data versus user behavior data
Google Analytics can provide businesses with multiple types of data for marketing purposes.
User acquisition data provides insight into how users arrive at a website. Customers can come from a variety of channels, such as paid search engine results, unpaid search engine results, social media links, or simply by typing in a URL. Understanding user acquisition data is critical to maximizing website traffic.
User behavior data shows what customers do on the website and how they engage with the website. This includes how long they spend on each page, how many pages they visit, and whether they engage with videos and graphics. This data can be used to create web layouts that better connect visitors to the content they are looking for, leading to a more efficient user experience. User experiences optimized for user behavioral data are more likely to generate sales and conversions.
Google Analytics 4
Google Analytics 4 or GA4 is the latest iteration of this service and was released in October 2020. GA4 is somewhat of a revision of previous versions of Google Analytics. It offers a completely new user interface and moves from relying on third-party cookies to using 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;
– user-centric reporting designed around lifecycle data;
– additional codeless tracking features that can provide data with lower latency; and
– enhanced data control features for regulatory compliance and data management.