Google Analytics: advanced features to become an expert
Table of Contents
Google Analytics is an important tool to measure the metrics and KPIs of your company or startup and have a basis of real data to build a strategy.
If you are reading this article, you probably already know the basis of the world of data analysis and how to use this tool or you have already read our last article on Google Analytics for beginners. However, this tool can be quite complex, and we want to deepen this subject to help you better understand:
- How to collect, categorize, configurate and store data
- How to build a measurement plan
- How to use the most important advanced features
- What are remarketing and dynamic remarketing
How Google Analytics collects data
When a user interaction is tracked, the tracking code sends a “hit” to Google Analytics. We can define a hit as an URL with parameters that contain information about users. If you look at an URL string, you will see that it contains some information, such as:
- The language of the browser that the user is using
- The name of the page that the user is viewing
- The screen resolution of the device
- The Analytics ID associated to the Analytics account
- A randomly generated user identifier to diversify new and returning users
We can distinguish 3 types of hits:
- Pageview hits: it is activated when a user loads a web page that contains the tracking code
- Event hits: it is activated when a user interacts with a specific element on your website
- Transaction hits: it is activated when a user makes a purchase
There are some minor hits too, such as the “social” hits or “page timing” hits. The first one is activated when users make a social action (likes, shares, etc), while the second one tells you the loading speed time of your web pages.
Let’s now explore the concepts of:
- categorization of data,
- configuration of data, and
- storage of data.
Categorization of data
There are two ways to categorize data:
- into users or
- into sessions.
Concerning “users”, Google Analytics can distinguish between new and returning users. As we already anticipated, when a user arrives on a website with the tracking code, a unique ID is created, and it is associated to the user’s browser cookie. If the ID detected is new, it means that there is a new user. Otherwise, if it already exists in the database, it means that there is a returning user. Since cookies are the protagonists in the process, if a user clears the browser or uses a new browser/device, he will then be detected as a new user.
Another way that Google Analytics uses to categorize data is through “sessions”, which start when a user enters a web page with a tracking code and end after 30 minutes of inactivity. However, the session time out can be modified according to the usual behaviour of users on the website.
Configuration of data
You can change the way data are processed in Google Analytics and decide to configurate them in your own way using different features:
- Data filters: they allow to exclude, include, or modify a particular data by setting a filter on a view
- Goals: there are 4 types of goals (destination, event, duration, and pages per session) and each of them is only counted once per session
- Channel and Content Groupings: they allow to organize data in the way you prefer with customized channels
- Custom Dimensions and Metrics: you can create your own metrics and dimensions to collect data that is specific to your business
- Data Import: it allows to combine offline data with hit data from your website
However, it is important to remember that you need to apply this configuration settings before the data being processed, as you won’t be able to do that retroactively.
Storage of data
Once you have applied the configuration settings, Google Analytics will:
- Transform data into dimensions
- Calculate metrics that are associated with those dimensions
- Store dimensions in an aggregate database table
Dimensions and metrics are paired by Google Analytics according to their scope. For this reason, when you create a custom dimension or metric, you must set the scope manually.
Measurement plan on Google Analytics
Each business can have “macro conversions” (i.e., the biggest goals that can be reached) and “micro conversions”(i.e., smaller goals that can lead the user closer to the bigger ones). When you define which are your micro and macro conversions, you can start creating a measurement plan. It should include:
- An overall business objective
- Strategies to support that objective
- Tactics to achieve the strategies
Doing all of this will help you to set up Google Analytics to collect the metrics, although a measurement plan is usually more detailed, but that depends on the complexity of your business.
Advanced features on Google Analytics
In our previous article (link), we already explained some of the main features on Google Analytics and gave a definition of account, property, view, filters, dimensions, and metrics. Here, instead, we want to deepen the following aspects:
- Multiple accounts
- Advanced filters on views
- Custom dimensions
- Custom metrics
- Event tracking
- Multi-channel funnel reports
Google Analytics gives the possibility to manage multiple accounts through organizations (optional), accounts, properties, and views.
Each property should have at least 3 views:
- Raw Data view
- Test view
- Master view
In addition, if you have two websites with different URLs and want to track them in a single property, you can use a feature called “cross-domain tracking”, which is able to tell if a user is navigating between the related websites in the same session.
Advanced filters on views
Filters are usually used on Google Analytics to make your reports more readable, and we can distinguish 2 types of filters:
- Predefined filters
- Custom filters
Predefined filters are already present in Google Analytics when you create an account, so you just need to select the one that you prefer.
Custom filters are identified by you and give you the possibility to include or exclude hits from your data, choose the format of the data and search or replace data collected in the hit.
Creating custom dimensions on Google Analytics means defining what they are and their value, to collect data that is specific to your business.
You can create a custom dimension in the “Admin” area, but first you will need to name it and define its scope, which can be “hit”, “product”, “session” or “user”.
Once you have created your custom dimensions, you can choose to use them as secondary dimensions in standard reports or as primary dimensions in custom reports.
Creating a custom metric on Google Analytics means collecting data that is specific to your business.
Similarly, to custom dimensions, you can set up custom metrics in the “Admin” area by selecting the property in which to apply the metric. Here too, you need to name the metric and define its scope, which can be “hit” or “product”.
Creating an event tracking on Google Analytics means measuring the users’ level of engagement with your website. The following parameters can help you to organize the data in your event reports:
- Category: it allows to organize the events into groups
- Action: it allows to track the action that the user took
- Label: it allows to better describe the element you want to track
- Value: it allows to measure a numerical value, such as the amount of time a video takes to load
Google Analytics offers the possibility to segmentate the data of a report through “user” segments or “session” segments.
User segments can include data for a specific age or date range, gender, etc. and have a date range of 90 days. Session segments, instead, only include data on the user behaviour in a single session.
You can create user and session segments using:
- Session dates
- Sequences of user actions
Google Analytics offers both default and custom segments.
Multi-Channel Funnel reports
To determine how sales and conversions get attributed to marketing campaign on Google Analytics there is a set of rules called “attribution modelling”. It is very useful to better allocate your time and budget.
However, you should know that Google Analytics usually attributes the credit of the conversion to the last marketing activity, although there might be different factors that led to those conversions. This model is called “last-click” and, if you want to avoid it and find the real source or sources of the conversion, you can rely to Multi-Channel Funnel reports (MCF). In this way, you can better understand which channels really work for your business.
How to do Remarketing on Google Analytics
Remarketing is the action of reaching those users who have already been on your website without making a purchase. In this way, you can show them some relevant ads to bring them back to the website.
When you configure the remarketing feature on Google Analytics, you can create specific “audiences” to target groups of users with common attributes and decide for how long those users are eligible for your ads (it can go from 1 to 540 days).
Dynamic Remarketing allows you to re-engage users considering the kind of content that they previously viewed, your best content and products, etc.
To enable this feature, you will need to link your Google Ads and Google Analytics accounts to the Google Merchant Center, which is a website that lets customers view your online and in-store inventory. In addition, you will need to:
- Find your vertical attributes and custom dimensions
- Create audiences
- Create attributes
- Create the campaign in Google Ads
The audiences that you create can include:
- Users who have already been on your homepage/category or product pages
- Users who have already viewed a search results page on your website
- Users who have already consulted product lists or product detail pages
- Users who have abandoned the shopping carts
- Users who have already converted
Google Analytics: conclusions
The purpose of this article was to give you a focus on the main advanced features that you can find in Google Analytics. By following what we explained, you will be able to obtain an in-depth analysis of your data and set up the best possible strategy for your company and startup.
If you want to learn even more on Google Analytics and have a visual representation of what you need to do step by step, we recommend to attend the free course offered by Google at this link.
Be curious! Do not limit yourself and do not stop at our proposal of tools! Check out our article Software Discovery platforms: the top 9 for us to find the one that best suits your needs.