Google Analytics Explained
You might be thinking:
“I’m not very technical and won’t be able to do this.” Don’t worry you don’t need to be. Advanced installations are complicated, but anyone can set up the basics.
Every Google Analytics installation follows the same three-step process.
Step 1: Data Collection
First, you need to collect data to report. You do this with the Google Analytics tracking code mentioned above.
Let’s take a look at how the Google Analytics Tracking Code Works:
The way Google Analytics collects information is very technical. Unless you’re a developer, it can be difficult to understand it.
For the sake of using Google Analytics, it’s not necessary to understand all the details. But I’ll give you the “how Google Analytics Tracking Code works for dummies.”
- The browser a person is using (e.g., Google Chrome or Firefox) requests a page from a website.
- From here it gets pretty technical. A bunch of code stuff happens to collect all the data.
- Finally, the tracking code has collected all the data. It’s then sent to the Google Analytics database, where it’s processed for your reports.
I probably disgraced all the talented engineers at Google with that explanation. But for a beginner that’s all you need to know.
Why you should install Google Analytics using Google Tag Manager
Best practice is to install and deploy the Google Analytics Tracking Code on your website via Google Tag Manager.
By doing this, it’s much easier to manage long term. For Google Analytics to work, the tracking code needs to be on every page.
Placing the tracking code on every page can be quickly done with Google Tag Manager or Analytics.js tracking snippet.
The problem is when you begin to scale your tracking it’s difficult to keep every analytics.js tracking snippet on your website up to date. On the flip side, with Google Tag Manager keeping your tags up to date is a breeze.
Step 2: Data Processing
Data processing is when custom configurations to Google Analytics are applied. Google Analytics beginners skip this step. And sadly, it’s the most important.
For example, you can create Filters that exclude your internal traffic (e.g., employees) from your primary data view.
You can also configure Analytics to measure when a visitor completes a desired action on your website. This configuration is known as a Goal.
Google Analytics Filters
Google Analytics filters are used to refine your data to be more meaningful. You can use them to include or exclude data to only see specific groups of your website traffic.
You set Filters on the View level of your account, and you can have up to 25 views, which makes them useful.
For example, you can create different views by filtering out Mobile vs. Desktop website traffic. Another example is if you’re a global company you can set a view for different countries.
I’d recommend that every Google Analytics account at least use a filter to exclude your IP address.
Google Analytics Goals
Setting up Google Analytics Goals is the most crucial part of your configuration.
If you don’t set up goals, your data can be pretty useless.
You might be wondering:
“Why are they so important?” Well, Google Analytics Goals let you measure the most critical business KPIs on your website.
For example, if someone buys a product, fills out a contact form or whatever is most important KPI in your business.
I’ll go through how to set up goals later in this guide.
Step 3: Reporting
Reporting is the part of Google Analytics your most familiar with, the user interface.
Custom Reports (Dashboards)
In Google Analytics, there are standard built-in reports that are super useful. But to get customised insights for your business you need to build custom reports.
For example, if you’re a content site with many authors, you might create a report that shows which authors content performs the best.
This report could lead to decisions about who you should encourage to write more. Or even authors you might want to stop posting content.
Google Sheets & the Google Analytics API
The Google Analytics API is very powerful. It lets you send your data through to other tools, like Google Sheets and Google Data Studio.
You can access any data that’s available in Google Analytics via the API. As you can imagine, the API makes setting up automated reports in Google Sheets very easy.
If this is something, you want to try out, here is Google’s official Google Analytics Spreadsheet Add-on documentation.
Google Data Studio
Google Data Studio is Google’s data visualisation tool that lets you build custom reports and dashboards that update in real time.
You can fully customise the reports to aesthetics (e.g., to include in your brand color).
It gets better:
The reports work like any Google G Suite products, and you can easily share them with anyone. And it’s 100% free to use!