Updated: Oct 27, 2020
Many excellent tutorials show you how to use Google analytics, none less than the Google Academy itself.
So, rather than rehash the existing material and bore you to death in the process, in this Google analytics introduction, I'm going to give you a brief overview of what it is, how it works and why you should be using it.
What Is Digital Analytics?
Digital analytics uses tracking software to analyse how users interact with your site. For example, you can measure how long they spend browsing your website (session time), how many visits they make (sessions), where they come from (acquisition), what browser and device they use, what country they are from and much more besides.
You can use this data to increase your sales and make your marketing more efficient by:
Discovering the most profitable pages of your site
Analysing where users come from
Dissecting individual campaign information such as pay per click (PPC)
Optimising shopping cart abandonment rates
For optimum results, connect Google Analytics with your Google Webmaster console and Adwords accounts.
Being able to monitor traffic from different platforms like PPC, social media and organic search makes it easy to compare them against each other and figure out what is providing the best conversion rates. Using analytics software is like plugging a data analyser into a motor vehicle to see what the faults are and how to make it run more smoothly.
What Is Website Tracking And Analysis?
Have you ever had the feeling that you are being followed? Have you noticed that every time you visit another website, the adverts are targetting you specifically with offers for purchases you've recently made or items that you have been diligently researching?
Of course, it's not by chance. Every website you visit uses "cookies", and you are continually being asked if it is OK to accept them. A cookie is a small text file dropped into your browser cache which might contain any or all of the following:
The amount of time you spend on a website
The links you click while using the website
The options, preferences or settings you choose
Accounts you log into
Recording which pages you've visited in the past
Items in a shopping basket
Cookies are a powerful data collection tool for internet marketers, and under May 2018 EU law, companies need your explicit consent to collect and store your information which is why everyone these days asks you for "cookie consent".
Incidentally, you can simulate a cookie free browser session by starting an incognito or private browser session, and this is useful for logging into multiple email or social media accounts simultaneously or browsing websites without alerting family members to that surprise holiday you have been planning.
Analytics Software Works By Using Cookies
Cookies are browser-specific, which means that Internet Explorer can not read Google chromes cookies and vice versa. So if a user elects to use two different browsers, you won't be able to reconcile them as the same user in analytics.
Cookies are not shared across devices, and they are not passed between logged in and synchronised browsing sessions, which leaves a big data hole. For example, someone could browse your website in their lunch break at work and when they make the purchase on their tablet at home in the evening, and you wouldn't know it was the same user.
It is possible for the user to clear their cookie browser cache and destroy all cookies manually! Any subsequent cookie creation will give the user a new client ID.
However, the amount of information you can gain by using website analytics far outweighs the above, so how do you collect the data and put it to use?
Website Analytics Software
Whenever a discussion about website analytics comes up, it's most likely to revolve around Google analytics because it is free, easy to implement, simple to use and hence the most well known. There are alternatives, but you would need a specific reason to use them first, and you can only establish that by doing some analysis. So Google Analytics is the place to start.
Google Analytics works by inserting a small piece of code that runs one every page of your site. In Wordpress or Joomla, for example, you put the code in the footer or use an analytics plugin. In Wix or Weebly, you have a custom code option, and all eCommerce software has a setting for you to place your Google analytics account number found in your admin dashboard.
Why You Should Use Google Analytics
1. It is a free enterprise-class analytics software. Google can see your data if you are wondering what they get out of it.
2. All data is collected automatically. You don't need to do anything once it is set up and as soon as data starts to be collected it can be reported on, even if you don't plan to do any analysis yourself.
3. It integrates with Google Adwords so you can analyse and perfect your paid-for campaigns.
4. Quickly see which pages have a high bounce rate. "Bounce" is the metric used for visitors who leave your website after viewing only one page or less. if you can fix the reason people find your page(s) unappealing you can reduce bounce rate.
5. See which locations your visitors are coming from, what language they use, and what devices are most prevalent.
6. Find the top-performing pages on your website so that you can write more useful content for your readers.
7. Set different goals to be achieved and monitor them. For example, you might like to know how many people fill in a subscribe to a newsletter or lead generation form.
Google Analytics Summary
Analytics is a crucial part of building your online business, and without it, you are working in the dark. The critical step is to get your analytics ID installed on your website as soon as possible because data can be analysed retrospectively.
Using analytics, you can identify the source of your website traffic and compare them to discover the best performing channels. Use analytics in conjunction with a paid Adwords campaign to provide conversion tracking analysis.