Google Analytics Explained
Google Analytics is an online platform for recording and analysing data about a website’s traffic. It is one of the most powerful tools used by marketing and web professionals worldwide. It works by capturing information about a website’s visitor behaviour and collating it into a group of useful statistics. This data is then displayed on a user-friendly interface where you can generate reports and query information. Google Analytics allows users to track the following information:
Visitor numbers are the number of people that visit your website. Google Analytics tells you the total amount of times each page on the site was visited, known as ‘Page Views’. It also tells you how many of these visitors were visiting for the first time, known as ‘Unique Views’. Understanding visitor numbers for each individual page allows you to assess which pages are more popular and/or relevant to your audience.
Entrance Rate shows you which pages your visitors are landing on (i.e. which page a visitor sees when they first navigate to your website). This metric is useful to see what content is attracting people to your website. You can also view the Exit Rate of a page to see how people leave your website.
Length of Stay
Google Analytics records time stamps to show you how long a visitor stayed on a particular page. Time on page is an important measurement because it can be used to judge the time lag between landing and conversion. If someone spends a lot of time on a content-rich page it could indicate that the content is engaging. Alternatively, if someone lingers on a page that requires an action (e.g. a payment processing page) it could mean that the page is too confusing or that it takes too long to load.
You can use the Analytics tool to see the path that visitors follow when they are navigating your website. Understanding visitor behaviour allows you to assess the success of your website’s layout and navigation.
Google uses visitors’ IP addresses to determine their geographic location. Overall, Google Analytics will give you a reliable portrayal of where your visitors are browsing from however, location data is not 100% accurate. If visitors are browsing via a VPN (Virtual Private Network) the location is recorded as being wherever the VPN server is located. In other words, if you are in Ireland but your company VPN server is in England, Google Analytics will ‘think’ you are browsing from England.
The Visitor Source feature is a very useful feature for marketing managers because it tracks visits from search engines, social networks, direct visits and referring sites. You can also see who is visiting from mobile devices. Having access to this data allows you to concentrate your marketing resources more effectively.
If you have a Pay Per Click (PPC) account for managing your online advertising you can integrate it with Google Analytics via your AdWords account. This allows you to track clicks and conversions. A conversion usually refers to making a sale but it can also refer to other goals such as generating a lead, increasing page views for a specific page or increasing the number of times a particular file is downloaded.
Limitations Of Google Analytics
For the most part, the following limitations associated with Google Analytics only become noticeable if you have a large website with thousands of pages and/or millions of visitors.
Cookies: In order for analytics data to be sent to the Google server a website’s visitor must have cookies (a package of data) enabled. Internet users can choose to disable cookies for privacy reasons.
Sampling: The data reported by Google Analytics is based on a sampling of 250,000 visits. You can increase this figure to 500,000 but the data will take longer to process. If your website receives more than 500,000 visits (in the time frame that you are analysing) then you should consider upgrading to the premium version.
Adding Code: You must add analytics code to every individual page that you want to track. This is not an issue if you use a content management system (CMS) such as WordPress to manage your website. Following initial analytics set up, the CMS will automatically add the code to each page. However if you have written a HTML website without the aid of a CMS you will need to manually add the code to each page.