What is Google Analytics and how does it work?

What is Google Analytics and how does it work?

Accessing information today is much faster and more practical than in the past. With the widespread use of the Internet, people can easily find the information they are looking for. At the same time, with the increase of mobile devices, almost everyone in the world has become able to communicate with each other 24/7. With these combined, people’s buying process has changed forever. User reviews, price comparison. It is very easy to reach all these now.

Customers can now start their purchasing journey at any stage. Understanding them is more rewarding than ever before. All this increased the value of the data collection, analysis, and interpretation process. There are dozens of channels where you can interact with your customers. It is extremely important for businesses to follow, interpret and take action on all these channels correctly.

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There are many tools you can use to analyze your digital presence. There are tools to measure many channels, from your Facebook page to your mobile app or website. One of them is Google Analytics. In this article, we will talk about how Google Analytics collects data, what it enables, and how it provides reports.

Google Analytics

Google Analytics; It is a free-to-use web analysis tool that provides reports on the interactions of users entering your website or mobile application with your site. There is also a paid version called Analytics 360.

Google Analytics is built on 4 main components.

Data collection: In Google Analytics, data is collected with the help of javascript code snippets. This line of code transmits which URL the users visit, which browser or device they log in from, to your analytics account.

Data processing: The collected data is sent to Google’s servers and categorized and made meaningful.

Configuration: After the data is processed, it is saved in the database. The data saved in the database cannot be changed again. For example, even if you remove the filter in your filtered account, you cannot access the old data.

Reporting: It is the component in which the collected data is presented to Google Analytics users.

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Google Analytics Data

There are two types of data in Google Analytics, dimensions and metrics.

Dimensions

The properties of the users give information about the session that took place. It is a property that defines the data. Device, resolution, location, age, gender are some of the dimensions defined in Google Analytics. We can also add secondary dimensions to dimensions in many Google Analytics reports. For example, you can run the device report for users arriving in a certain date range and add the gender dimension as a secondary dimension to further refine your reports.

From which channel do users come to the website?

  1. Which pages is it scrolling through?
  2. What device/browser is it using?
  3. What region does it come from?

Metrics

It refers to the quantitative measurement of sessions and actions. They are numeric values. It gives how often something is done and how much. It also shows averages.

  • Number of sessions that took place yesterday
  • Average basket amount of orders fulfilled in the last month.
  • Bounce rates of users coming to the website from Google Ads.

Google Analytics also lets you create custom dimensions and metrics. For example, by using a custom dimension, you can distinguish between users who are members of your website and those who are not.

Custom Metrics & Dimensions

Custom dimensions and metrics are displayed and used in Google Analytics reports just like your metrics and dimensions. The only difference is that you create these metrics and dimensions entirely. You can create custom dimensions at hit, session, user, and product scope. You can create metrics within the scope of hits and products.

For example, your Google Analytics account calculates the goal conversion rate metric with the formula number of goals completed / sessions.

Using custom metrics, you can create individual custom metrics for goal completion rates for new users or goal completion rates for unique users and showcase them in your reports.

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Google Analytics Account Structure

You must have an account to access Google Analytics reports and use Google Analytics. You can define 100 different Google Analytics accounts on a single Google account. Your accounts include properties and views. You can create multiple properties/views under the same account if you wish.

For example, by creating separate properties for your subdomains, you can track each of your subdomains separately in a single Google Analytics account. In the same way, you can create different views to monitor users from organic channels, regions, devices. The most important point to note here is that you must have an unfiltered appearance at hand. Because even if you add a filter to your GA account and remove the filters when you eliminate the data, that data will not come back.

In Google Analytics, some settings can only be made through the account, some properties and some views. For example, if you delete your Google Analytics account, all your properties and views are also deleted. Or you can make your Google Ads and Google Analytics links only across properties.

Some settings you can make specific to the property;

  • Sector category determination
  • Google Ads integration
  • Automatic & Manual labeling
  • Enabling advertising features
  • Search Console integration
  • Audience definitions
  • Custom dimension & metrics
  • Data import

 

Some settings you can make in the view;

  • Setting the account currency
  • Monitoring site searches
  • Goal creation
  • Content grouping
  • Channel grouping
  • Managing brand terms
  • E-commerce settings
  • Calculated metrics

Google Analytics Account Access

You can add users at the account, property, or view level in Google Analytics. There are 4 different types of permissions you can define to users.

Manage users: Users with access to manage users can add or remove users wherever they are connected. You must be extremely careful when authorizing users to manage. With this account-wide access, the person to whom you have granted access will also have the authority to change your authorizations.

Editing: Apart from managing users, it can make edits related to administration or reports. They have procedural powers such as creating a property, providing a Google Ads link, creating a target audience. It is the cleanest way to get access for agencies.

Collaboration: Users with this access can create, edit, share personal items. Can use these created items in reports. Can’t edit account settings.

Read and Analyze: Read and analyze access allows reading reports without changing any settings in the account. Users with this access level can use segment, filtering, secondary dimension features when interpreting reports.

How to Set Up Google Analytics?

As I mentioned at the beginning of my article, you first need a Google account to open a Google Analytics account. If you have a Google account, you can start setting up your account directly by entering the Google Analytics homepage.

Get your tracking ID

Click on create account from Google Analytics homepage. On the next screen, you will be asked to give your account a name. Then you need to enter a website name and URL of your first property, which will be your default property. Select the industry category (optional) and your reporting hour and click the Get tracking ID button.

Add the tracking code to your website

Now all you have to do is add your Google Analytics javascript code (your tracking ID) in the <head> tag of all pages of your website. You can do this in two different ways.

The first method is to manually add your Google Analytics javascript code to all pages. The other method is to have your js code trigger on all pages by using a tag management system like Google Tag Mananger. If you proceed through the second option, you can activate your Google Analytics account by following the steps in the article to setup Google Analytics with GTM.

After adding your Javascript code to all pages of your site, it’s time to test it. You can use the Google Tag Assistant chrome extension for this. Google Tag Assistant allows you to see which js codes and events are triggered as a result of interactions on your website. Or you can test it from the real-time reports of the Google Analytics account you have set up. For your information, sometimes the second option can react a little late.

Congratulations, your Google Analytics account is ready to collect data. However, you should not leave the Google Analytics account with just setting up. There may be some things you need to check in order to collect healthy data. We will address these later in the article.

But before that, I would like to mention a point that you must know. One of the most important points in Google Analytics reports is from which source the traffic to your website comes from. Google cannot directly understand the source of traffic to your website. For example, we cannot say that the real source of 1000 users coming directly to your website is direct traffic. Because the users coming from the link you have added to any e-mail you send will also appear to have entered your site directly.

That’s why you should mark the traffic that you will direct to your website from 3 party settlements.

Google Analytics understands where the users coming to your website are coming from, by parameters. For example, when you integrate Google Ads and Google Analytics account, the source of the clicks you receive from Google ads is automatically sent to Google Analytics, and the mediator is CPC. But there are also traffic sources that Google cannot understand. 

For example, it can’t tell if traffic from social media is coming from your page or from ads. It shows this traffic as referral traffic. In order for you to parse this, you should use some parameters in your ads. Thus, you can see from which source, which vehicle or even which campaign your traffic comes from.

Google Analytics Metrics You’ll Encounter Frequently

There are dozens of metrics you can use in your Google Analytics account. Some metrics will appear frequently in standard Google Analytics reports. Let’s talk about these briefly.

Users: Your Google Analytics account defines unique ids for every user who enters your website. Displays the number of each unique ID defined in this metric. In other words, even if the same user enters your site twice on the same device, it is reflected in the reports as a user.

New users: Refers to users who visit your website for the first time.

Session: Refers to the interactions of users that occur in a certain time period. A user can perform multiple sessions from different time zones. By standard, sessions automatically expire at 30 minutes or at the end of the day. At the same time, Google allows you to customize the session duration.

Bounce rate: It shows the rate at which users who enter your website leave your site without performing any activity. I have mentioned this metric in detail in my previous articles.

Page / Session: Refers to the average page views that occurred in a session. Even if the user returns to the same page again, the number of pages viewed will increase.

Number of goal completions: We talked about goal definition above. This metric expresses the number of times the defined goal has been achieved.

Goal conversion rate: Refers to the goal completion rates of the actual sessions.

Number of transactions: It refers to the number of e-commerce transactions realized.

E-commerce conversion rate: Shows the percentage of completed transactions in sessions.

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