What Is Google Analytics? (Benefits And How It Works)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 7 September 2022

Published 30 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Website owners rely on large volumes of data to determine how to best serve their users. Google Analytics is one such tool that one can use to help guide business decisions. As a web analytics service, Google Analytics provides the basic analytical tools which are necessary for search engine optimisation (SEO) and generating statistics for marketing purposes. In this article, we explain what Google Analytics is, how it works and what benefits it offers.

What Is Google Analytics?

The answer to the question, “What is Google Analytics?” is that it is a data-collecting software tool for websites that helps developers and businesses analyse various metrics, such as web traffic and its sources, visitor behaviour, visitor demographics and e-commerce statistics. It also helps users check whether their marketing campaigns are running successfully and whether they are able to reach business goals. These metrics are often part of a business's digital marketing strategy.

Due to its effectiveness and ease of integration with other Google products, it is the most popular web analytics service in the market. It is also possible to use this tool with most web design platforms. Getting started with Google Analytics is as simple as placing JavaScript code in the header of your website, followed by viewing and downloading your available metrics and reports. Small or medium-sized businesses generally use the standard version of Google Analytics, which is currently free, while larger businesses use Google Analytics 360, which has additional paid, enterprise-level features.

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How Does Google Analytics Work?

The first step to using Google Analytics is to generate a tracking code to install on your website. Information and metrics may not be visible to the end-user, but the tracking code can gather their data by depositing a cookie in their browser through page tags. It then sends the information it collects to one of Google's many data collection servers.

The system can generate custom reports to track and visualise various types of data, such as number of visitors, the average duration of sessions, number of page views, goal realisation and bounce rates. Due to Google Analytics' reliance on cookies, it cannot collect data from users who disable this system setting. These are the primary features that Google Analytics offers:

Initial overview

The initial overview of Google Analytics shows you basic statistics such as:

  • Users: number of unique visitors to your website within a customisable time frame

  • Active users: number of people who are currently viewing your website

  • Page views: total number of pages that users view within a particular time period

  • Sessions: number of interactions a viewer makes with your website, like clicking a page, making a purchase or downloading a file within a certain time period

  • Number of new sessions: percentage or number of users who visit a website for the first time

  • Bounce rate: number of visitors who clicked ‘back' or closed the window without performing any other interactions

  • Conversion: also known as goal completion, this metric refers to the number of users who perform a desirable action on a website, such as making a purchase or creating an account

  • Session duration: the amount of time the average user stays on a website

  • Location: a map view of your users' locations over a customisable time frame

  • Sessions by device: a ranked graph of the devices that users rely on to visit your site

  • Users by the time of day: a graphic display of day and time for user-activity

Dimensions

While using Google Analytics, it is important to understand the difference between metrics and dimensions in reports to interpret data accurately. Dimensions are different from the above-mentioned metrics in the sense that they are qualitative labels or attributes that help describe and organise the data you collect. For example, if the percentage of new sessions is being measured across different age groups, ‘percentage of new sessions' is the metric and the dimension is the ‘age group'. A few resourceful dimensions available in Google Analytics include:

  • Browser type

  • Region

  • Device

  • Age group

  • Language

Reports

The reports section of Google Analytics displays five categories that detail how users interact with your website:

  • Real-time: This report gives the same data as ‘active users' in the overview. This is the number of visitors at the moment you are viewing the report. It also aggregates location, page views per minute, traffic sources, content, conversions and events to visualise the impact of something like a recent sale or product launch.

  • Audience: This report breaks down viewers' stats into finer details using metrics such as demographics, geographic location, engagement behaviour and device usage. It also includes the option for customisable data.

  • Acquisition: This report shows how visitors find your website, including referrals, ad clicks, search queries, social media linking and specific campaigns. It includes organic search, paid search and results from social media.

  • Behaviour: This report shows how users interact with the pages on a website through total page views, unique page views, how often and when users leave and the pages that users most frequently visit. The behaviour flow chart details how a user navigates your site, including how they enter, where they visit and how they exit and features button clicks, video views and downloads.

  • Conversion: This report shows the number of times a user completes an action, such as making a purchase, signing up for an email newsletter or downloading an e-book or video. The most effective conversion reports might require customised plug-ins or tracking codes.

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Benefits Of Using Google Analytics

Businesses that rely on their digital presence to gain new customers and retain existing ones require tools to analyse the success of their digital marketing efforts. Regardless of the kind of content your website offers, visitors' behaviour and interactions show whether your content is interesting or valuable, and ultimately whether your product or service is worth buying or availing.

Although Google Analytics is highly beneficial and extremely effective in its functions, a few flaws may affect its data accuracy. If a user blocks Google Analytics cookies or certain browser extensions, the data it generates can be inaccurate. Ad filtering programs and privacy networks also affect data accuracy. Also, since Google Analytics generates reports by sampling over 5,00,000 sessions, smaller segments of data or reports with fewer data may have larger margins of error in comparison to reports with large volumes of data. Apart from being a free and easy-to-use service, these are some additional benefits it offers:

It measures and optimises website performance

A fundamental metric of your digital marketing efforts is the number of visitors on your website and how that number matches your business goals. Every behaviour data point beyond that helps you narrow and focus its impact. This data can help you analyse trends like popularity of pages and test if adding similar content can retain visitors and encourage new traffic.

For example, if you are offering an educational newsletter and the reports show that your number of page visitors is drastically different from desired sales, you can use analytics data to reposition download links or buttons to promote the newsletter.

It determines the effectiveness of your marketing strategy

Whether your website is a mostly static presentation of basic company data or constantly producing new content, analytics tools can help determine if you are utilising your marketing budget effectively or if you can refocus efforts elsewhere. Some basic data points can help a new business develop its digital marketing strategy or assist an existing business to reach potential clients. These include:

  • Number of visitors

  • Average time visitors stay on a page

  • Referring websites

  • Interests and keyword searches

  • Geographic location

It improves search engine results page (SERP) placement

Driving traffic to your site typically takes multiple approaches, such as social media marketing, conventional advertising and maximising search engine optimisation (SEO) results to generate more users through keyword searches. Google Analytics tells you how people find your site and the keyword searches that got them there. You can use this information to make sure that your website pages are showing up at the top of user searches more often.

Related: What Is An SEO Analyst? (With Skills, Duties And Salary)

It directs content and product decisions

Since metrics and dimensions help you understand how users visit your site, it can help you customise experiences that suit their requirements. For example, if your most frequent visitors use a personal computer, you might choose to focus most of your web design budget on optimising your site for a PC-based user experience.

Similarly, user regions can help you determine if you can reach more visitors by offering your content in additional languages. On the content side, if you opt to transition your website to mostly videos, metrics can show the number of views your videos receive and if users view them until the end or if users bounce back. In addition to this, Google Analytics also generates an overview of user attributes who are watching your videos the most.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are associated with Indeed.



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