A Beginner's Guide to Google Analytics

Benefits of using Google Analytics

The concept of a purchase funnel is well known in the marketing industry and addresses the customer interaction throughout each of this funnel phases. Typically, the phases are classified into the following categories:

Acquisition – acquiring interested users and building awareness

Behaviours – engaged users who interact with a business

Conversion – Users who become customers and transact with a business

Within digital marketing, tracking, measuring and analysing the funnel’s steps is relatively easy to achieve, and with the right setup can be done in a very granular way.  Publishers can use digital analytics to cultivate their audience and align advertising with user intent, e-commerce retailers are better able to understand purchasing actions, and lead generation sites are able to effectively capture valuable information and leads, which make up their sales pipeline.

A digital marketing tool which can do all those things is Google Analytics. This free Google tool can capture a wide variety of information which are then available within various reports. These reports can be used to better understand our customers and their journey across our website, and ultimately inform our strategic marketing decisions.

How does Google Analytics collect data?

Before start using GA tracking ability, we’ll first need to sign up for an account and set our website property. Following this, we’ll then need to install a simple piece of javascript tracking code to every page of our website.

This code will then collect anonymous data, interpret it and send it to our GA account where we can see it under different reports. The processed data is organised based on pre-existing criteria, for example, whether the user arrived at your site via a mobile, tablet or desktop device. However, Google Analytics allows a high level of customization.

This can be particularly useful when there’s a need to exclude or segregate data. For example, if you only want to see unique visitors and their associated behaviour arriving at your site from a particular country. In this example, a filter could be applied to exclude traffic data from regions within which your business does not operate or want to reach.

The structure of any Google Analytics account

Any Google Analytics account has a hierarchy structure, which means that within any account you can setup multiple properties , which can each have multiple views. As per your own requirements you can manage and organise your own data effectively and most important, effortless. Breaking down this structure we have:

Accounts Level – enables you to organise your collected data from multiple websites or/and apps and is the level at which you can add/remove different users and adjust their level of access.

Properties Level – for each property usually you have a website/app or a subdomain for your website; for each property Google Analytics assigns a unique tracking ID which needs to be specified into your GA snippet.

Views – as we mentioned before, each property can have multiple views. Normally, the views are created with different requirements, such as filtering out specific traffic or having data collected only from a specific subfolder or subdomain. It’s also at view level where Goals can be configured to capture different performance information, leads and associated actions that would represents your business KPIs.

Google Analytics account view

Available reports in Google Analytics.

After you’ve setup your properties and views, is time to take use of any data GA collected through the JS snippet. To do so, you have a series of available reports within your view level, such as Real-Time Reports (allows you to view any active users live on your site/app), Audience Reports (allows you to see who visited your site by location, language, device type, browser, screen size, if they are new or returning users) Acquisition Reports (allows you to see through what channel they’ve reached your site and how performant each of those traffic sources are in a given time frame) or Behaviour Ones (allows you to identify the best performing pages in terms of traffic, revenue or any other relevant goals you’ve setup, you can analyse your users navigation summary throughout your website, you can see on which page they’ve landed and much more)

When browsing any of the mentioned reports, you may have a series of aspects you want to consider, or you require to understand your customer specifics. Therefore, we need to go through different features which GA offers for their reports.

First thing first, you need to choose a time frame for your report – in the top right corner you will find a date range. This date range can be modified to view a specific time period for the data, such as the last 7 days, 30 days, 6 months, etc within the report, and in addition you can then compare different periods in time against each other, including the previous year, previous period or a custom time-frame.

GA data range

A second important feature for your reports is the option to segment your data which can be done by a multitude of options, such as: user type, device type, traffic channel, landing page, location, browser size or even by a conditional sequence (it is almost limitless). Also, Google Analytics offers pre-set segments for you to take advantage of before you get familiar on how to setup a custom one or to modify the pre-set ones to your requirements.

GA segment setup

Another useful feature of Google Analytics is allowing you to compare metrics within any given report and to illustrate this comparison to observe any trends in your historical data. In the example below, I can view both my users, vs the average time on site over a specific duration; Also, under the graph visualization you can add annotations for any actions/events which can bring more insight later on. We would recommend taking advantage of the annotation feature because when you see a trough/peak in your data you can read the note and it will make sense before you start to panic.

Google Analytics graph view

Useful GA metrics and report features

Some of most common used metrics shown in your reports are summarised below;

“Sessions” – the total number of sessions for the given date range.

“Users” – the total number of users that visited for the given date range.

“New Users” – related to the first-time visitors to your site – triggered by a unique client id which is created by your tracking code.

“Pageviews” – the total number of times pages that included your Analytics tracking code was displayed to users. This includes repeated viewings of a single page by the same user.

“Pages per session” – the average number of pages viewed during each session. This also includes repeated viewings of a single page.

“Average session duration” – the average length of a session based on users that visited your site in the selected date range.

“Bounce rate” – the percentage of users who left after viewing a single page on your site and took no additional action.

Also, within each report, you can use additional dimensions and metrics to filter /sort your data even further providing you with a more granular view. Dimensions are essentially entities, which data can be attributed to, for example, a city, country or language; a dimension can be measured against a quantitative measurement, such as sessions. For example, it’s possible to see the number of sessions (metric), derived from people arriving at your site from the United Kingdom (dimension).

Dimensions and metrics can be used either at a user-level, session-level, or hit-level and so in most cases when using a combination of dimensions and metrics is important to keep in mind that both entities need to serve the same scope. Only certain dimensions and metrics can be used together to create a valid combination. A useful tool is Dimensions & Metrics Explorer.

GA second dimension click

By default, your Google Analytics recorded data is displayed in tables, which can be sorted to view ascending and descending data. In addition, you may find it useful at times to filter your data on a more granular level using the Advanced feature from top right corner of your tables.

GA advanced filter

Another useful feature, especially when you are working with 3rd parties or remotely and you want to make yourself easily understood, is the share feature available by default in your Google Analytics account.

At the top of every report is a selection of options which allow you to share or save your reports in a number of ways. Reports can be saved with their “current configuration” and will then appear within the saved reports area which is housed within the customisation overview.

Reports can also be exported into a variety of formats including CSV’s and PDFs and saved to a desktop, as well as being shared directly with an email inbox.

Standard available reporting

Now that we covered the most common features, let’s focus on each reporting area within Google Analytics.

Active User Report – This report displays the number of users who initiated at least one session on your website in the last day, seven, fourteen and 30 days

Demographic and Interests Report – Before taking advantage of the data within this report, you must first enable the demographics and interests report within the associated Google Analytic property ( this can be enabled under Property Settings section from the Admin tab.)

Geographic Report – This report provides insight into where your audience is physically located, and how they interact with your site. It can also help you to identify where you have a large audience yet substandard site performance and address issues accordingly.

Technology and Mobile Report – This report enables you to identify on which technologies your users are accessing and consuming your website’s content – for example, the device they are using like a table or a browser like safari.

Acquisition Reports – Within this section of Google Analytics, you’re able to identify how users are arriving at your site, including the traffic source, and channel and referral reports. For traffic sources, GA has a default grouping channel which splits your traffic as:

  • “Organic” – used to identify traffic that arrived on your site through unpaid search like a non-paid Google Search result.
  • “Paid” – indicates traffic that arrived through a paid search campaign
  • “Referral” – used for traffic that arrived on your site after the user clicked on a website other than a search engine.
  • “Email” – represents traffic that came from an email marketing campaign.
  • “Direct” – is applied to users that come directly to your site by typing your URL directly into a browser or they saved your address as a bookmark.

Behaviour Report – Drilling further into the behaviour report will allow you to see how users are behaving across your website, what content is most valuable, on what page your customer landed and more. Therefore, we are going to cover these reports in more detail. So, focusing on the Site Content subsection of Behaviour Report, we have:

All pages – This report contains the pageviews metric, which allows you to see how frequently each page on your site was viewed, and by default will display the most frequently visited URLs in descending order.

Content Drilldown – The content drilldown report groups pages logically based on the structure of your website and is a useful report to access when trying to understand the performance of particular sections of your site in isolation.

Landing Pages – This is probably one of most used for SEO, because it shows you where users first arrived at your website and can provide you with insights on where to start improving your engagement metrics.

Exit Pages – This reports shows you from which pages users left your website, therefore you can identify opportunities and adjust your content so your users do not want to exit.

Goals and conversions Report – The beauty of Google Analytics is that allows you to setup goals which will allow you to measure the performance of your website in line with your desired KPI, for example: submitting a contact form or purchasing a product. These goals within Google Analytics are referred to as “conversions”.

Following the steps below you can create a goal:

1. Under the Admin section, select View and click on Goals section.

2. Choose one of four Goal types. Each of these types is triggered by a particular user action. (“Destination –  user reaches a specific page on your site, such as a thank-you page; “Duration,” – is based on the length of a user’s session; “Pages or Screens” – how many pages a user views in a session; “Events,” – tracking specific actions your site, for example a button click)

Google Analytics Goal setup

With a bit of luck, this guide will provide a good impression of how Google Analytics can help you in establishing and informing your business plan. Also, we hope this beginner’s guide helps you with your everyday reporting and takes the daunting feeling out of the equation if you just starting using this amazing and free tool. For any suggestions or if you require any support with your Google Analytics account please feel free to contact us.

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