Google Analytics is a powerhouse of information about what is happening on your website. It captures a wide range of information about what your visitors are doing on your website and how they got there.
Google captures information about each of your website visitors in cookies (a data file associated with your browser that websites use to store data short-term ). When you visit a website with Google Analytics enabled, your browser sends the information about your visit to the Google Analytics central servers. Over on the server the data is stored in a database and this data is delivered to you when you log into your Google Analytics application and request reports.
The Google Analytics application you sign into has been set out with pre-defined reports to attempt to make your life a bit simpler, but there is a lot more going on under the hood. Essentially, like a database it lets you pull down the information that it has stored, but it automatically adds up the numbers for you so that you just see the total number of any given piece of information. This is called aggregation.
The tables in Google Analytics are made up of Dimensions which is the type of information and metrics which is the value assigned to the information.
Dimensions are defined by a unique text. So this might include for example your page URL, the URL of the website your visitor was at when they clicked a link through to your website (referrer URL), or the country that your visitor is located in. There are many more standard dimensions available. Dimensions can also include any piece of text information that you add into Google Analytics yourself, such as the name of a PDF or an activity that a visitor did when they went to your website (these bits of information that you add to Google Analytics yourself are usually a specific format of information called events).
Metrics are displayed as a number and are an aggregate (added up total) of all the values of each unique dimension over the time period chosen.
So as an example, lets say we want a very simple report with the dimension being Page Name and the metric being the Number of Page Views then Google Analytics will automatically add up the Number of Page Views for each unique Page Name over the time period that you request. The time period enables Google Analytics to know what values to include when it adds all the numbers up.
There are a lot of different types of information you can get from Google Analytics. Here’s an example list of Dimensions that are stored:
- Information about the pages viewed by your visitors
- Geographical data about where your visitor is located
- Data generated by your Adwords camapigns
- Data about your app if installed as part of a mobile phone app
- Details about your visitors’ demographics
- Ecommerce data such as product name, price, tax, shipping, category etc
- Custom events that you add to your Google Analytics from your website
- Data about where your traffic originated, including different social media and referral sources
- Data about what your visitors searched for and where they searched for it
- Information about the type of device used by the website visitor
- Data about whether visitors have met goals that you have set
Metrics often relate to specific dimensions and can be summed up as “quantity of X” most of the time and can be displayed as a number, percentage, a dollar amount etc.
The next thing that Google Analytics can do is show you the information that you want to know about (a dimension and a metric and a timeframe) as a graph. Google Analytics very quickly creates graphs of your data and these make it easier for people to spot trends and unusual activity.
Lastly, Google Analytics can aggregate your data differently if you apply view filters, segments, secondary dimensions or advanced filters. These are all different ways to restrict the aggregation of your data depending on the conditions you set. Using filters, segments and secondary dimensions enable you to restrict, compare and contrast, or change the data so that it is more useful for your application. I’ll go into this more in another post.
For a bit more of a summary, here is a video clip of me explaining what Google Analytics is, in under a minute.
#1 – What does Google Analytics do?
If you would like assistance with using Google Analytics to grow your leads and sales online then please send an email to Petra Manos ( firstname.lastname@example.org ). Web Data Analytics loves to help businesses grow their sales and leads online through showing them how to effectively use their Google Analytics.