Google Analytics: theory and practice for beginners
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Google Analytics is one of those must-have tools when you run a company and a startup, as it supplies important data that you need to track to keep under control and even improve your online business.
By using the Google Analytics tool, you can measure different metrics, such as:
- Number of users
- Duration of the session
- User’s demographical data and interest
- Number of pages viewed
- Traffic source
These are just the main information that you can obtain, but there are even more, and they can be useful to get to know your users and their behaviour, thus, to build an ad hoc strategy for your business.
Along this article, we will give you some theoretical definitions to better understand the process and we will help you to put in practice the data analysis on the Google Analytics tool.
Definition of Digital Analytics
We could define “Digital Analytics” as the analysis of data from sources like websites and mobile applications.
By using Digital Analytics, companies can have a better idea of which areas of their business need an improvement, thus using tools such as Google Analytics.
The aspects that can be measured with Digital Analytics are acquisition, behaviour, and conversion, which also represent the main steps of a purchase funnel:
- Acquisition: it means building awareness and acquiring the user interest
- Behaviour: it is the level of users’ engagement with your business
- Conversion: users become customers and start purchasing your product or service
Which businesses can benefit from Digital Analytics?
- Publishers can use it to create a more loyal audience
- E-commerce businesses can use it to understand the behaviour of customers to better sell products or services
- Lead generation websites can use it to collect user information and connect with potential customers
Collecting data with Google Analytics
To understand the data that Google Analytics will show you, it is important to understand the concept of “session”. We can call the user’s activity a session, which ends after 30 minutes of inactivity. When the user comes back to the same page after the end of a session, a new one will begin.
It is also important to remember that Google Analytics processes the data and stores it in a database where it can’t be changed. For this reason, it is fundamental to set the configuration in the right way without excluding important data. Let’s see how to do it.
The account structure
If you have many accounts on the Google Analytics tool, you can group them into an “organization”. An organization is optional, while “properties” and “views” are automatically created for every account. You can also assign different properties and views to the same account, to view the data in a more organised way.
Keep in mind that new views can’t include past data, so you will only be able to see data that refer to the moment of the creation of the data and onwards, while deleted views can only be recovered by administrators and within a limited amount of time (35 days).
User permissions can be assigned at the account, property, or view level. If you click on “admin”, you can set user permissions and find different options:
- Manage users: adds or removes user access to account, property or view
- Edit: allows users to change the configuration settings
- Collaborate: allows users to share dashboards and more
- Read and analyse: allows to view data, analyse reports and create dashboards
When navigating the Google Analytics tool, you will realize that there are different kinds of reports, each one with different kind of data. In fact, we can distinguish reports into:
- Standard reports: they are full reports, audience reports, acquisition reports and behaviour reports.
- Custom reports: in the “Customization” area, you can create your own reports based on the data you need the most.
Let’s see the standard reports in detail:
- Full reports
- Audience reports
- Acquisition reports
- Behaviour reports
Standard reports: Full reports
In Google Analytics, a full report is made up of different features:
- Site usage: it shows the number of users, sessions per user, new users, sessions, pages per session and the average session duration
- Goals: it shows metrics based on the configurated goals
- E-commerce: it shows transaction metrics
You can also find different visualization options:
- Data table: your data is organised in a table made up of acquisition, behaviour, and conversion metrics
- Pie chart: your data is organised in a pie chart that allows you to compare percentages
- Performance: your data is organised in a bar graph that allows you to compare individual segments
- Comparison view: it allows to see if something is performing above or below the website average. If the value is better than average, it appears green. If the value is below the average, it appears red.
- Pivot: it shows different dimension values for comparison
Standard reports: Audience reports
The audience reports of Google Analytics can be helpful to understand the main features of your users, such as their country, language, technology, age, gender, interests, etc. In fact, these reports are divided in this way:
- Active users report: it shows the number of users that had at least one session on your website during a certain time
- Demographics and interests report: it shows information about age, gender, and interests of users
- Geographic report: it shows user’s continent, sub-continent, country, and city through the IP address
- Behaviour report: it shows how often users visited and returned to your website
- Technology and mobile report: it shows the technologies used by users
Standard reports: Acquisition reports
Within the Google Analytics tool, the acquisition reports can be used to compare the performance of different marketing channels and find out the sources with the highest quality traffic and conversions.
To better understand these reports, it is useful to know more about traffic sources. In fact, the tracking code can capture different attributes, such as:
- traffic medium,
- source, and
- marketing campaign name.
The medium is what brings users to your website. There are different types of mediums:
- Organic: it could be a Google Search result
- CPC: it could be a Google Ads text ads
- Referral: it is the traffic generated by the user when clicking on a website other than a search engine
- Email: it is traffic generated by an email marketing campaign
- None: it represents users that directly type your URL into a browser
The source, instead, gives more information about the medium. It could be an URL, Google, etc.
Acquisition reports can be divided into channels reports (they show traffic by channel) and referrals reports (they show which websites have linked to yours).
Standard reports: Behaviour reports
The last type of standard reports that you can find in Google Analytics are behaviour reports. They help you to understand the behaviour of your users by looking at these features:
- Pageviews metric: it shows how often each page of your website was viewed
- Average Time on Page & Bounce Rate: they show the level of engagement of users on each page of the website
- Content Drilldown: it groups pages depending on the website’s directory structure
- Landing pages: it shows the first pages seen by users
- Exit pages: it shows the last pages seen by users
- Events: it shows how users interact with some elements of your website
Dashboards and shortcuts
You can use the dashboard of Google Analytics for different purposes, as they are very flexible. For example, you can quickly see the performance of your website by displaying summaries of different reports as widgets on a single page. You can also choose to show the data as a number, a timeline, a map, a table, a pie chart, or a bar graph.
Once you have created your dashboard, you can choose a layout, drag, and drop widgets, edit them, or delete them.
Dashboards can be:
- private or
When it is private, it is only visible to you. Instead, when it is shared, it is visible to anyone who has access to that view, but other users can change their dashboards and changes will only be visible to them.
We can divide goals into:
- Business Goals and
- Google Analytics Goals.
Business Goals are those action that you want your user to make on your website. If a user completes a business goal, you get a “conversion”. Instead, Google Analytics Goals are a feature to track the conversions and the “conversion rate”, which is the percentage of converted users.
You can set up a goal, within Google Analytics, only if you are an administrator on that specific view and there is a maximum of 20 goals per view.
When you set up a goal, you will need to choose among:
- Destination: when a user reaches a specific page on your website
- Duration: it is the length of a user’s session
- Pages or Screens: it is the number of pages that a user views in a session
- Events: it is used to track specific actions on a website
Tracking of a marketing campaign on Google Analytics
The Google Analytics tool tracks marketing campaigns by using campaign tags, which are parameters that you add to the URL links of your online marketing or advertising materials.
There are 5 campaign tags, but the compulsory ones are medium, source and campaign. Let’s see all of them:
- Medium: it communicates how you sent your message to the user
- Source: it communicates where the user came from
- Campaign: it communicates the name of your marketing campaign
- Content: it communicates different versions of a promotion
- Term: it communicates the keyword for paid search campaigns
To add these tags into the URL of your ad, you can use the “URL builder”.
The URL Builder
To obtain the URL of your campaign, you can rely on the URL Builder of the Google Analytics tool. It will ask you to type in the URL of your website and fill out the fields for campaign, source and medium. By clicking “generate URL”, you will obtain the link with all the right parameters.
This tool can only be used to build one URL at a time, so if you have a large campaign, you can consider using a spreadsheet.
Google Analytics and Google Ads
Google Ads is an advertising system built ad hoc for businesses that want to create text and display ads. You can connect Google Ads to the Google Analytics tool to obtain these benefits:
- Overview of Google Ads click and cost data
- Create remarketing lists for Google Ads campaigns
- Import your goals in Analytics into Google Ads as conversions
- View Analytics engagement data in Google Ads
In Google Ads, you will also be able to see the following reports:
- Campaigns: it is useful to see how campaigns are performing
- Keywords: it shows how well keywords and individual ads are performing
- Bid adjustments: this feature automatically adjusts keywords bids by taking into consideration the user’s device, location, or time of day
Google Analytics can be difficult to understand if you are a beginner, but with the information in this article we showed you that Digital Analytics are fundamental for your business and Google Analytics is the main tool to collect data. For this reason, we explained how to create an account and set a campaign and we gave you some important definitions.
Obviously, there is a lot more that could be said about this important tool and that you can find out by following the free course offered by Google at this link.
If you are interested in Google Analytics, please read more on: Google Analytics: advanced features to become an expert
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.