What is it?
Google Analytics (GA) is a free, web-based product that allows you to track activity associated with your website. It provides you with a wide range of information about the number of people interacting with your website, including their behaviour and their demographics.
GA comes in two flavours – standard and 360. The standard platform is available to everyone and is suitable for most websites. The 360 platform requires a subscription and offers more functionality, flexibility, and insight, but is more suited to websites that carry very large volumes of traffic and handle many thousands of transactions per day, such as large ecommerce stores, government agencies, or other large commercial concerns. For most people, the regular analytics platform will be sufficient for their needs.
Why should I use it?
For your website (and by extension, your web-based business) to be successful and reach the largest possible audience it is necessary to understand its performance. At a basic level, performance might simply be a measure of the number of visitors visiting your site; more complex performance insight might measure the time users spend on your site, how many pages they view, or how many useful actions they perform. All of these metrics provide a deeper understanding of the quality of your website and also the marketing activities that encourage visitors to your site, not to mention its success, whether that be in generating sales, reading articles, or some other valuable activity.
If you’re interested in monitoring the performance of your website, Google Analytics is the go-to solution. It can be used in a simple or complex way to provide deep levels of insight and inform your business decisions.
How does it work?
Once the code is implemented on your site visitor behaviour will be passed into GA behind the scenes; you can login to your account and begin watching the visitors roll in! The standard GA platform takes up to 24 hours to process and log your website’s data, so you’ll only be able to see results up to and including the previous day.
Friends of Analytics
GA is the standard tool for business and marketing professionals who wish to gain insight and business intelligence from their web-based portals. There are thousands of online articles explaining the various functionalities and tools available to do this, as well as tutorials and guides to interpreting GA data. However, what’s less well-documented is how other related Google products can integrate with and enhance your analytics experience. Here’s a description of these products, their uses, and their advantages:
Google Ads is the platform for creating and deploying paid online adverts across the Google network and its partners. Google Ads allow you to build text and image adverts that will appear in response to user-searches. You build a catalogue of search terms and phrases (keywords) that relate to your website or business, which will trigger your adverts to be shown when someone uses those terms in a Google search. Google Ads uses a bidding system that allows you to choose how much you wish to spend in order to make your advert appear – this can be set manually, or you can ask it to do some behind-the-scenes machine learning to maximise how frequently and efficiently your adverts are shown. If you have a limited budget (and most people do!) you can set a maximum spend per advert. Remember – other people are likely to be bidding on similar keywords, so your adverts are not guaranteed to be top of the list or the most frequently shown. The number of visitors to your site who came from your ads will be passed automatically into GA so you can see how effective your adverts are. There is much more depth and functionality to Google Ads, and creating, optimising, and efficiently targeting your adverts is a skill that takes time and experience to develop.
Google Search Console (SC) is a distinct, but complementary tool to GA. It allows you to monitor the position of your website in Google’s rankings to determine where your site will appear in the results list following a user search – obviously you’ll be aiming to get to the top of the list! However, this is difficult to achieve, unless your website is in a niche industry, is extremely popular, or users are very specific in their searches. SC also provides information on how many people have seen your site in the listings (impressions) how many have clicked on the link to your site (clicks) and the organic search terms that resulted in your website being presented in a list of search results. This can be useful for designing keywords in AdWords or in optimising the content of your website, both of which may result in your site appearing higher up the list in search results. SC also provides information on the countries from which individuals made their search and the devices that they used. You’ll also be able to see the performance of links present on your site as well as any external sites that link to yours. As with Google Ads, SC can be linked to GA and the data passed into GA to be monitored alongside your other metrics.
Data Studio is a relatively new addition to the Google product range and is still effectively in a beta development phase. However, it is being used extensively and is a nice addition to the range of data tools available. Data Studio is a reporting tool that allows the visualisation of GA data to present to colleagues and decision-makers in an attractive, understandable format. The real power of Data Studio is the ability to design flexible reporting templates that show exactly the data you want to see, and which can be used to display information from various time periods. Building a single template that can be easily updated to show different date ranges can dramatically reduce reporting time and allows you to focus on strategic marketing decision rather than building, copying, and pasting new graphs and charts. Data Studio uses a system of drag-and-drop charts and tables to allow you to build customised reports showing any of the data from GA. As with all of the platforms discussed here, Data Studio connects seamlessly with GA and automatically updates your report as new data is produced. It also connects with a host of third-party platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, although many of these integrations require a paid subscription.
Google analytics can be considered the hub of your data collection setup; it is a powerful platform for measuring the performance of your website and associated marketing activities. How you interpret and act upon that data is up to you! The integration with other Google products is relatively painless and can add extra insight and value to your business. Google Ads, Search Console, Tag Manager, and Data Studio all combine to provide a suite of tools with which you can optimise and grow your business. There are additional Google platforms that work alongside GA, but these can be explored as and when you need them; there are also other data collection and analysis tools available from companies such as Adobe and Tableau. Finally, advanced analysis can be performed by integrating sophisticated programming languages such as R and Python with the data-collection power of Google Analytics, but we’ll leave that for another day!
If you’d like to learn more about the Google platforms described above, or want to chat to us us about how we can help you utilise these tools, get in touch with us here.
Metrics – quantitative numerical measurements relating to your website, e.g. number of pageviews
Dimensions – descriptive categorical groups of data, e.g. the types of devices used to view a website
Keywords – user-defined words and phrases that trigger the appearance of AdWords
Machine Learning – computational methods that use large datasets to build predictive models
Impressions – a measurement of how many times a link URL or advert has been presented to a user
Clicks – the number of times a URL or advert has been clicked
Organic Search Terms – the words and phrases that have been used in a Google search
Trigger – a user-defined event that occurs on a website, e.g. a page view, link click, or other type of event
Tag – a snippet of code that records when a particular trigger is ‘fired’ and pushes the data to Google Analytics