Google Analytics, also commonly known as “GA”, is an analysis tool capable of giving you an in-depth look at the performance of your website or your mobile application. It integrates ideally with other Google-branded marketing and advertising platforms and products, such as Google Ads, Search Console, and Data Studio, making it a perfect choice for all website managers and marketing teams who already use and appreciate the tools offered by the American giant of search engines and digital technology.
If you have a lot of data to exploit, and more importantly, you have the time and the ability to analyze it and act on it, then Google Analytics is a solution to consider in order to improve your online marketing action. Be careful though, because the configuration, training, implementation, maintenance and use of this complex product take time.
There is a free version and a paid version of GA, which is called Analytics 360. Small and medium businesses will certainly find all the features they need in the free version.
But if you want to get and work on the following, the paid version will be a must:
- Full sales funnel reporting and powerful attribution models
- Cumulative reports
- Possibility to get additional views, dimensions and statistics by property
- Unlimited and unsampled data
On top of that, Analytics 360, the paid version of GA, also gives you access to dedicated support and a personal account manager. Does this justify the subscription fee, which is a minimum of $ 150,000 per year (billed monthly)?
You will understand, Analytics 360 is reserved for companies of a certain size, which have a fairly significant financial capacity.
That said, if you have both the budget for this type of service and for an agency or internal analyst managing your data analytics business, this solution may be worth it.
Now, let’s take a look at the different steps you will need to follow to properly configure Google Analytics. Then we will see in this guide how to use this tool, before showing you everything that Google Analytics reports allow to measure and analyze.
I- How to configure Google Analytics
Before you start using Google Analytics, you will need to create a Google account. This means that you need to have a registered Google account email address and password.
Once your Google Account is created, it doesn’t mean that you automatically have access to GA. You will need to sign up for Analytics. In addition, to correctly configure GA, you must first understand how the tool is structured, in particular the notion of “hierarchy”.
– The Google Analytics hierarchy
The GA hierarchy is made up of the following 4 elements, ranked from largest to smallest: Organization, Account, Ownership, and View
Let’s take a look at each of these components in detail:
The organization is the highest level of the GA hierarchy. It represents a business, in general, and can therefore span multiple Google Analytics accounts.
Organizations are recommended for large businesses, but not required.
2-? Account (s)
Accounts, on the other hand, are not optional. The use of Google Analytics requires at least one account.
An account does not strictly mean a user account. It is possible for an employee of any company to connect to the various Google Analytics accounts of his company using his personal Google email ID, provided that he has the authorization to do so.
It is still interesting to note that it is possible to assign one or more properties to each account. Each account can contain up to 50 properties.
You can grant user permissions for an entire Analytics account, or only for a property in an account or a view in a property.
A property is actually a website or an application. Each property can support up to 25 views.
At a minimum, you need two views per property:
- One without configuration, that is to say a “raw” version of the view
- One with filters configured to exclude all traffic from your own business (i.e. a filter for your IP address) as well as bots and spam traffic.
A view only captures information after your configured filters and settings have been applied. And once you delete a view, that data is permanently lost. For these reasons, it is essential to maintain an unfiltered view of your data.
Now that we have seen the main GA setup procedures, here are the steps required to use the tool.
II- How to use Google Analytics
Here are the steps to follow if you want to use your Google Analytics account as quickly and efficiently as possible.
1-? Create a Google Analytics account.
First, you will need to create a Google Analytics account, or just log into your current account.
2- Add the name, URL and industry of the website you want to track.
Choose the account to which you want to add the property. You must create and name your property at this point and enter the website URL as well as the industry and time zone for the analysis reports.
3- Add a view to your property.
Navigate to the account and property you want to add a view to. To do this, use in the menu “Create a view”, and name your view, select the type of view (web or application) and you will have to answer a few other questions to complete the process. Remember that you can add up to 25 views to a property with Google Analytics.
4-? Add your tracking code directly after the <head> tag of your website.
When you create a property, you have access to a unique tracking ID and tag for your website (“Site Tag,” a code that you must add to each site page whose performance you want to analyze). This is how you will be able to collect data in your property.
Then paste your tag right after the opening <head> tag on each site page that you plan to measure.
You will also be asked to choose your type of site (static, dynamic, web hosting, Google Tag Manager) in order to be able to configure data collection with precision.
5-? Check your Google Analytics portal to see if the code is working well
Finally, verify that your code works. You can do this by viewing the “Real-time Reports” section of your GA dashboard while clicking on your site in another tab or on your phone. The report should show at least one visitor to the site, and that is of course yourself.
And there you are, you are almost ready to take action.
But before that, it is essential to understand the notions of dimensions versus metrics / or statistics / performance indicators and a few other things.
III- Other important elements to understand before starting your data tracking action with Google Analytics
– Dimensions and metrics with Google Analytics
Dimensions can be referred to as categorical variables, while metrics are quantitative variables.
Examples of dimensions are: browser, location, landing page, device type, customer type, etc.
Examples of metrics are sessions, pageviews, conversions, bounce rate, session length, etc.
In all of the Google Analytics reports that you will see, dimensions are represented by horizontal rows while your metrics / KPIs appear as columns.
– Custom dimensions and metrics
Google Analytics allows you to create custom dimensions and statistics from Analytics data, but also from external data, such as those coming from your CRM. For example, suppose you track the membership type of customers who have created an account in your CRM. Well, you have the option of combining this information with GA’s “page views” indicator to actually display the page views by type of customer.
Or, if you are running a blog, you certainly want to understand the impact of audience engagement on other performance metrics / metrics like conversions, pages per session, etc.
For example, you can create three custom dimensions for each type of visitor:
- Users who paid for premium access to your blog
- Subscribers who signed up to your mailing list
- And those who share your posts on social networks
Using these different dimensions will undoubtedly provide you with valuable information about each type of visit to your website.
– What is a Google Analytics audience?
An audience is a group of users who have something in common. This common point can be, for example, a geographical origin: perhaps you are targeting consumers in Belgium, so you have a “Belgian audience” dedicated to them, or even an age group. You are particularly targeting millennials for your online business, so you will create a “25-40 year audience”.
Fortunately, Google Analytics has several built-in audiences, including those just mentioned, geographic origin and age. You don’t have to do anything to configure them. Once you install the tracking code, GA automatically breaks down your visitors’ data into these audience reports.
However, you can also create custom audiences. If, for example, you are only interested in millennials from Belgium, you have the option of creating a personalized audience that only includes visitors living in Belgium and located in the desired age group.
Creating an audience is therefore very easy. What’s more complicated is determining the characteristics of the users that will help you accomplish your business goals.
– What is a Google Analytics segment?
A segment is like a subset of your data.
You can create segments based on the following:
- Users (for example, users who have already purchased something from your site, users who have signed up, etc.)
- Sessions (for example, all sessions generated from a specific marketing campaign, all sessions where a pricing page was viewed, etc.)
- Results (for example, whenever a purchase has exceeded 50 euros, or when a specific product has been added to the cart)
Much like the audiences we talked about before, Google Analytics offers you several predefined segments, but you can be even more precise in your segmentation with GA’s “Segment Builder”, which provides almost endless possibilities.
Before moving on to the “Reports” part, it is important to specify that it is possible to apply up to four segments at a time in any report.
IV— Google Analytics Reports
When you look at the left sidebar of Google Analytics, there are five reporting options available, which in turn have different options if you click on them.
So let’s go through each type of report.
1-? Real-time report from Google Analytics
As the name suggests, the real-time report gives you an overview of what is happening on your site the very moment you look at your screen. You can see how many visitors are on your site, what pages they are visiting, what social media platforms they are from, where they are located, etc.
While this report is fun to look at occasionally, it is actually the least interesting of the bunch. But still, here are some ways you can use the real-time report to good effect:
- Discover the traffic generated by a new social media post or blog
- Observe immediately if a sale or event organized during the day generates views, visits, or conversions
- Make sure the tracking URLs and custom events you just set up are working as they should
As you will see, the other types of reports are much more captivating.
2-? Google Analytics audience report
GA’s Audience Report gives you an overview of the property you want to view. So you can watch this report once a day to get an idea of your general trends.
By clicking on “Audiences”, you will see that expandable menus concerning “Demographics”, “Interests”, “Geography”, “Behavior”, “Technology”, “Mobile”, “Multi-device”, etc. . but also several other categories that we will decipher below.
– Active users
In reality, this category of “active users” does not refer to the users currently on your site, since this information appears in the “real-time report” section.
The Active Users report shows you the number of users who visited during the last day (active users over 1 day), the last week (active users over 7 days), or more (active users over 14 days, 28 days, etc.)
What is the value of this report? Well if you have more day users than long term users, it shows that you are struggling to retain your audience. People don’t come back to your site or app. And you will have to try to figure out why.
You can also use this report with different segments, so you can see that users of a certain age range have a much better than average retention rate.
– Lifetime Value
The “Lifetime Value” report gives you an idea of the value of users to your business, along the same lines as Customer Lifetime Value. For example, you can see the lifetime value of the users you generated from email marketing, versus those you gained from organic search. Armed with this information, you can decide which channel is best to invest more in.
Lifetime value is capped at 90 days. The acquisition date range, however, which you can adjust, reflects all of the users you acquired during that time period.
Imagine you want to look at the transactions per user for the users you acquired in the week leading up to Black Friday. You adjust the date range specifically for that week. Then you will see the average transactions per user for that cohort over the next 90 days.
– Cohort Analysis
Some marketers consider cohort analysis to be the most powerful report Google Analytics provides.
How it works ? This report groups users according to one characteristic, the “Acquisition date”. The Acquisition Date is the day a user first visited your website.
From there you have several options. First of all, you can choose the size of your cohort: day, week or month. Then choose your primary performance indicator, or what you want to explore for that cohort. In addition, you can benefit from an even deeper analysis thanks to the options “by user”, “retention” and “total”.
By user, means that the total number of the chosen performance indicator will be divided by the size of the cohort. So if you choose “Transactions per user”, for example, you will see the average number of transactions per user for that cohort.
User retention is the number of users who returned on a given day, week, or month (determined by the size of the cohort you selected), divided by the total number of users in that cohort.
The Total represents the total number of sessions, transactions, etc. that occurred for this cohort size.
Finally, choose your date range. Google Analytics allows you to view up to three months of data.
3-? Google Analytics acquisition reports
The Acquisition report breaks down your traffic by source: organic, direct, referrer, email, social, paid search, view, affiliate, and more. When it doesn’t know how to categorize a subset of traffic, Google Analytics uses the “Other” category.
From the “All Traffic” tab, you can click on “Channels”. And then click on any category to explore each source in detail.
Depending on the category, you will be able to see the landing pages (from which URL your visitors came to your site), the source (which website brought them to yours) or even the keyword (which query them brought to your site).
To see this information presented visually, click “All Traffic> Treemaps”.
Just above you will see another type of report called Source / Medium, which breaks down the general category of traffic that you may have seen in “Channels”. This is useful if you want more specific information about how people are accessing your site. For example, you might notice that 60% of your referral traffic comes from LinkedIn, while only 5% comes from Twitter. Depending on the priorities of your marketing team, it may be time to change direction.
4-? Google Analytics behavior reports
This “Behavior Reports” section contains a lot of interesting reports, starting with the “Site Content” section, which provides an overview of all the blog posts, landing pages and web pages on your site.
– All pages
If you click on “Site content> All pages”, you will be able to see the most visited pages for your current view and / or segment. This is a useful feature because you should always keep a close eye on your most viewed URLs, and most importantly, it allows you to analyze traffic growth or decline.
This is because if you go to “Site Content> All Pages” and change the date range for this month from last month, ensuring that the days of the week match, you will be able to observe the differences. in pageviews by URL, and this will help you identify which pages received the least traffic and which contributed to that decline.
– Content exploration
This report breaks down the structure of your site by subdomain then subfolder.
This type of report is certainly very useful for large companies that manage very complex properties.
– Landing pages
Google Analytics defines a landing page as the first page of a session, which is the visitor’s first interaction with your website.
There are several ways to use this report. First, if you are interested in the sources (organic, paid social, direct, etc.) that lead users to the landing page, you can add Source / Medium as a secondary dimension.
Second, if you only want to see landing pages visited by users from a specific source, on a specific platform, or in a specific category, you can add the appropriate segment. For example, if you’re more interested in landing pages that mobile and tablet users see, choose mobile and tablet traffic.
Or, if you are curious about which users have purchased an item, choose the “Made a Purchase” segment. There are many possibilities.
– Site speed
The name of this type of report is pretty self-explanatory: it tells you how fast your site is loading for users. Obviously, the faster the better, because not only do faster pages correlate with higher earnings, but Google’s algorithm takes page load time into account.
– Events stream
The “Event Flow” report tracks the order in which events occur at your site. It can provide you with the following information:
- Whether particular events tend to happen first – and whether they trigger other events. For example, maybe people watch your demo video frequently and then click the CTA to schedule a call with a salesperson.
- While some categories of events are more common than others. For example, the report will show you that videos on your site are viewed a lot more than your PDF files are downloaded.
- Whether users act differently based on a particular segment.
In this section “Behavior Reports”, there are many other reports, especially concerning events (which GA defines as the interactions of users with content that can be measured independently of a web page or loading. screen), pages and search terms, usage, etc.
5-? Google Analytics conversion reports
If you have a website, you have to have a goal, and probably more than one, for the people who visit your site.
For example, e-commerce owners want their visitors to subscribe to their mailing list, create a user account, add items to their shopping cart and complete the order confirmation process.
While media companies want their visitors to stay on their site as long as possible and view a certain number of pages, in order to maximize their advertising revenue.
B2B companies, on the other hand, want their visitors to download an ebook, sign up for a webinar, or get an appointment for a phone conversation with a sales representative.
Google Analytics can measure all of these things, and more.
A goal is basically a conversion that you have defined, and that is why this information appears in the Conversion section.
There are four main types of lenses on GA:
This goal is achieved when a user lands on a specific page, such as a product page, order confirmation page, or thank you page.
This is achieved when a predefined event is triggered (like any event you can configure, whether watching a video or sharing a social media post).
This goal is achieved when a user’s session lasts longer than a predefined duration.
– Pages / screens per session
This goal is achieved when a user views a specific number of pages (or screens for an application) per session.
To find out how you are doing in terms of goals in all areas, go to “Overview”.
And there are many other types of useful reports in the Conversion portion of Google Analytics, such as “Funnel Visualization,” which lets you see exactly at what point in the funnel your prospects have let go, and more.
Now all you have to do is get started with Google Analytics, and discover the extent of its capabilities.