Google Analytics: Google’s Free Web Analytics Software Tool

Review of Google Analytics: A Free Web Analytics Software Tool That Allows You To Analyze Website Statistics


Disclaimer


This blog post will explain what Google Analytics (www.googleanalytics.com) is and my experiences with Google Analytics. This post will cover some of the more commonly used features within Google Analytics. I tried to make the content in this post as accurate as possible, but I cannot guarantee that this post is completely reliable or free of errors.


Web Analytics Software


As an advertiser (member of a company) or a publisher (affiliate or independent contractor), using Web Analytics Software can help you keep track of  traffic statistics of your online business. This can be very useful for growing and maintaining your online business. Having insights into the different categories of traffic that your website is receiving can help online business owners have a better idea of how to target more consumers. Targeting more consumers will help you generate more sales. One example of a commonly known Web Analytics Software is known as Google Analytics. This a Free Web Analytics Tool offered by Google that anyone can use. If you already have a google account such as a Gmail Account or a Google Plus Account, you can use the same email and password from that account for your Google Analytics Account. The account information from one Google Account and be used for any Google Account that you create.


How Google Analytics Works 


The process that explains how Google Analytics works can be described in 3 distinct steps

1) Collection: The first thing Google Analytics does in order to provide you with Analytical data is to retrieve the raw data from your actual website. This is known as Collection. Google analytics is collecting your data from your website.

Connecting your Website to Google Analytics: In order for Google Analytics to collect the raw data from your website, you will need to connect your website with your Google Analytics Account. This can be done with a Google Analytics ID: When you first create a Google Analytics Account, you will be given a Google Analytics ID that you will need to use within the Back End of your website. The way every website does this is different. I personally am using a WordPress Website. One plugin that I’m using that allowed me to connect Google Analytics to this website is the All In One SEO Plugin. If you are using a WordPress website, I would recommend doing the same thing.

Once you install the All In One SEO Plugin for WordPress, you can enter your Google Analytics ID in General Settings underneath Google Settings.

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This is a plugin that allows you to configure your website so it is better suited for the criteria of Google’s search algorithm. In order to have a website that is optimized within Google’s search engine, your website needs to comply with the multiple factors that google search algorithm analyzes. This can include things such as Duplicate Content or Social Engagement. Google’s search algorithm rewards websites with less duplicate content and more social engagement by indexing them higher within the search engine. With WordPress’s All In One Seo Plugin, I was able to enter in my Google Analytics ID and was able to link my WordPress Website with my Google Analytics Account. Once I did this, my website’s raw data was transferred to Google Analytics.

2) Configuration and Processing: Once Google Analytics has collected your website’s raw data, you can go configure your account settings in Google Analytics. This is known as Configuration. Configuring your Account Settings in Google Analytics will allow it to filter your website’s raw data. Doing this will eliminate some of your website’s data and Google Analytics will only show you data that revolves around your goals or objectives. This is known as Processing.

3) Reporting: Once Google Analytics has processed your website’s data, you can create customizable reports that will help you compartmentalize the different types of data that you have told Google Analytics to show you.


Google Analytics Basic Features


Although Google Analytics offers many different features that allow you to analyze Web Statistics, some of the features Google Analytics offers are very specific and aren’t really needed for new online business owners. Some of these features include site speed reports, flow reports, and network reports. These Features are more suitable for more experienced online business owners. Some of the more basic features that are more suitable for online business owners that are just starting out include:

1) Real Time

2) Audience

3) Acquisitions

4) Behavior

5) Conversions


Real Time


Real Time is a Features that allow you to see live traffic on your website. You can see an overview of how many visitors you have on your site at any given point in time. This allows you to look at general statistics of your websites live traffic. This includes the number of page views your website gets from each visitor for any minute or any second. Google Analytics also allows you to analyze your website’s live traffic by different demographics. Some of the different demographics that Google Analytics include

1) Location

2) Traffic Sources

3) Content

4) Events

5) Conversions


Audience


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Audience is a Feature that doesn’t show your website’s traffic in real time. It provides a comprehensive overview of website’s traffic from the past hour, day, week or month. There are multiple metrics that Google Analytics provides for analyzing your traffic.

a) Users: This metric tells you the number of users your website has in total. Google Analytics provides a Pie Chart that shows the ratio of New Users to Returning Users. If your website has any returning users, then your website will have users with multiple sessions. A session is a single period of time your website receives traffic (your audience). If your website has one visitor that is on your website at different points in time during a single day, this will be reported as two sessions for one user. The different intervals of time that Google Analytics allows you to analyze your website’s sessions by include hour, day, month or year.

b) Page Views: Page Views is a metric that reports the total number of web pages viewed by all of the different users (visitors) of your website. This metric also accounts for web pages that were viewed multiple times.

c) Pages Per Session: This metric shows the average number of web pages that were viewed by a single visitor or multiple visitors during any given session.

d) Average Session Duration: This metric shows the average amount of time of a session for any given hour, month, day or year. This is calculated by taking the total amount of time from all of your website’s sessions divided by the total number of sessions.

e) Bounce Rate: The Bounce Rate is a metric that provides that shows the percentage of users on your website that only look at one web page. The Bounce Rate can be indicative of whether or not you are capturing your audience’s attention within the first 30 seconds of being on your website. A high bounce rate means that a vast majority of your website’s visitors (audience) do not find your website very appealing. Sometimes a website has a plethora of content, but the content isn’t organized very well. Having a website with good navigation can help you lower your website’s bounce rate. You ideally want a single user on your web page having more than a single page view.

f) Percentage of New Sessions: This metric shows the fraction (percentage) of total sessions on your website that from New Users that are visiting your website for the first time. The percentage of new users on Google Analytics Pie Chart is equal to the percentage of new sessions.


Acquisitions 


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Acquisition is a feature that mainly focuses on analyzing your website’s traffic. This includes the channels and sources that your visitors are using to arrive at your website. Channels and Sources are rather similar to each other in Google Analytics, but they are different. Channels refer to the routes or paths that your website’s visitors use to arrive at your website. Channels don’t focus on where a visitor was before he or she arrived at your website, but they focus on how the visitor arrived at your website. On the other hand, sources don’t focus on how a visitor arrives on your website, but where the visitor was right before he or she arrived at your website. Channels can include Organic Search Results,  Google Adwords Search Results (Google Advertisements). Sources include search engines such as Google and Bing.

Acquisitions Overview: Acquisition Overview provides an overview of different aspects of your website’s traffic. These include the top channels and sources of your website’s traffic, the number of sessions your website has had over a given period and the number of conversions you have made.

a) Top Channels: The default option for the pie chart is Top Channels. This includes the top 3 channels your use. The top 3 channels for my website are currently organic search results (highest), Direct (second highest) and Referral (third highest).

b) Top Sources: This is an option that you can also choose. You can switch Top Channels to Top Sources. This will allow you to see a pie chart of the different search engines your visitors used before they arrived at your website.

c) Sessions: Sessions is a metric that is already covered in Audience Overview, but Acquisitions Overview provides a more compact version of the same chart.

d) Conversions: The conversions chart will show you the number of conversions you have made and the fraction of conversions you have made relative to your goal.


Behavior


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Behavior is a feature that allows you to analyze the behavior of your website’s visitors. The behavior of your website’s visitors can help you see if your website is interactive and if your website’s design and layout has optimal navigation. On Google Analytics, you can use this feature to see which content is getting the most attention (page views) and which content isn’t getting a lot of attention. There are multiple metrics that Google Analytics uses for analyzing audience behavior. Although a few of these metrics are already covered under Audience Overview (Page Views and Bounce Rate), most of these metrics are not.

a) Unique Page Views: Unique Page Views is similar to Page Views except that it does not account for repeated page views during a session. This metric analyzes pages that were viewed more than once during a single session. Every page within your website that is viewed more than once during a single session (visit) is considered to be one unique page view. The number of unique page views that Google Analytics shows will come from the total number of sessions (visits) your website gets during a given hour, day, week or month.

b) Average Time Spent on Page:  This metric analyzes the average amount of time spent on a single web page within your website.

c) Percent that Exit (% Exit): Unlike the Bounce Rate, your websites Exit Rate (% Exit) looks at the percentage of visitors that leave your website on the last page that they looked at. Instead of measuring the percentage of visitors that leave your website from the entrance page (first page a visitor looks at during a session), the Exit Rate for a web page measures the percentage of visitors that exited your website from a second, third or fourth web page.


Bounce Rate and Exit Rate Examples 


Here is an example that illustrates the difference between Bounce Rate and Exit Rate:

1) Number of Visitors: 5 visitors

2) Name of Visitors: 

   a) 1st Visitor: Visitor A

   b) 2nd Visitor: Visitor B

   c) 3rd Visitor: Visitor C

   d) 4th Visitor: Visitor D

   e) 5th Visitor: Visitor E

3) Number of Web Pages within Website: 4 web pages

4) Name of Web Pages within Website:

  a) 1st Web Page: Page A (entrance page)

  b) 2nd Web Page: Page B

  c) 3rd Web Page: Page C

  d) 4th Web Page: Page D

 5) Website’s Bounce Rate and Exit Rate:  

   a) Visitor A leaves website after looking at the entrance page (Page A)

   b) Visitor B looks at Page A, Page B, and Page C. Visitor B leaves the website after looking at Page C.

  c) Visitor C leaves the website after looking at the entrance page (Page A)

  d) Visitor D looks at Page A and Page B. Visitor D leaves the website after looking at Page B.

  e) Visitor E looks at Page A, Page B, Page C and Page D. Visitor E leaves the website after looking at Page D.

Bounce Rate: 40% (Visitor A and Visitor C)

Exit Rate: 60% (Visitor B, Visitor D and Visitor E)


Conversions


As an advertiser or publisher, a conversion occurs when a consumer (website visitor) purchases the product or service that you are selling or promoting. Conversions are an important metric that indicates whether a business is generating a lot of sales or not. The more conversions a business has, the more profitable the business is.

Real-Time Conversions: Google Analytics allows you to monitor sales conversions in multiple ways. The first way is through live conversions. Google Analytics allows you to monitor your website’s conversions that are taking place in real time.

Conversions Tab: Underneath the Acquisitions Tab in the Reporting menu is the Conversions Tab. This tab allows you to analyze website conversions in four different ways.

1) Conversion Goals:

2) E-Commerce:

3) Multi-Channel Funnels:

4) Attribution:


Conversion Goals


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The Conversions Tab is located under the Behavior Tab in the Report section. Under Google Analytic’s account settings, you can configure your settings and create conversion goals. You can set a goal for the number of conversions that you would like to see during a given period of time. Under Goals Overview within the Conversion tab, there are multiple metrics that you can analyze for your conversion goal.

a) Goal Completions: Goal Completions are the number of conversion goals that you have met or completed. In the example above, I currently have zero goals completed. I have set up one conversion goal that has yet to be completed.

b) Goal Value: Goal Value refers to the monetary value associated with your conversion goal. This can tell you whether or not you have earned the amount of revenue for a particular goal. If you have multiple conversion goals, then the total goal value is the number of conversion goals you have set up multiplied by the monetary value associated with each conversion goal.

c) Goal Conversion Rate: The Goal Conversion rate is the fraction (percentage) of conversions you have made relative to the total amount of conversions you have set up for conversion goal.

d) Total Abandonment Rate: The Total Abandonment rate is the fraction of goals that you have abandoned relative to the to the number of goals that you have created.

Process of Creating a Goal:

Creating a Goal on Google Analytics is a 3 step process:

1) Goal Setup:

2) Goal Description:

3) Goal Details: 

In order to access Goals in your Google Analytics account, you will need to follow a few steps.

a) Click on the Admin Tab in the Top Menu next to the Customization Tab.

b) Under the Customization Tab, click on Goals underneath the View Tab.

c) Under the View Tab, click on New Goal.

d) In Goal Setup, choose a Template Option

In Goal Setup, these are the different Template Options that are available.

Template Options: 

a) Revenue:

b) Acquisition:

c) Inquiry:

d) Engagement:

The Revenue template option allows you to track the number of orders that have been placed (completed purchases or pre-order requests). Although this is the more common option for tracking conversions under Goal Setup, you can also track conversions through Social Engagement and Acquisition. Here are the different ways you can track conversions for Social Engagement and Acquisition.

Social Engagement Conversion Goals:

a) Sign Ups:  Sign-ups is an option under the Social engagement template in Goal Setup. Signups could include signing up for an email newsletter on a free training course or signing up to a series of emails with special offers on different products and services.

b) Compare Information: When a visitor compares two different products or options on a website.

c) Share/ Social Connect: If your using a social media plugin and have social media share buttons on your website (i.e. Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, etc….), this button will allow you to track the number of shares that visitors have made for any particular blog post.

d) Media Play: Media play measures the amount of visitors that interact with the media on your website. This could include visitors who watch a video or visitors that listened to a podcast.

e) Add to Favorites: When a visitor bookmarks a webpage and saves it for future reference.

Acquisition Conversion Goal:

a) Create an Account: This allows to track conversions for anyone who has created an account. Creating An account could include creating a Free Trial Account for a tax service such as Turbo Tax. Another example of this is creating a free trial account on Netflix for a month.


Ecommerce


Ecommerce is a feature that is usually for advertisers that are running e-commerce websites. Since I am a publisher (affiliate) and not an advertiser, this is not necessary for my particular website. Some of my blog posts contain affiliate links. These links will redirect my website’s visitors (you) to the websites of the advertisers and I am affiliated with. The conversions I make through my website occur through the affiliate links set up on my website. If you click on an affiliate link on one of my blog posts, a cookie (tracking device) will be placed on your computer.  This will allow an advertiser to have a record that I was the one that redirected you to them. As a result, I receive credit for the sale in the form of a commission from the advertiser.

Although I am a publisher, I could create an e-commerce store for certain affiliate programs. There are certain advertisers with affiliate programs that allow you to do this. Amazon, the largest e-commerce site allows its publishers (affiliates) to create an a-store (amazon store) on their website. I could create an Amazon a-store on this website and allow my visitors to purchase products from Amazon directly from my website. Since Amazon is the advertiser, they will take care of the transaction and shipping.

If you are running an advertiser that is running an e-commerce website and would like to use e-commerce tracking from Google Analytics, then you would need to use a small line of code that will allow Google Analytics to collect information regarding transactions such as the total number of sales and the different prices of products and services.


Multi-Channel Funnels (Conversion Channels)  


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Multi Channels Overview: In Multi Channels Overview, this is the report that is shown for tracking conversions. I recently created a new Conversion Goal. At the moment, I have made zero conversions.

a) Conversion Segments: Conversion Segments is the first section of the report located at the top. This feature allows you to see the number of conversions made for a particular goal over a period of days. The default conversion segment is 30 days, but you can adjust this and track conversions that took place over the past 15 to 90 days.

b) Overview: Overview is the second section of the report that provides a graph of the number of conversions you have made in a particular period of time against another metric. The only metric that you can compare conversions to in this graph is assisted conversions.

c) Conversion Path:  Unlike Conversions, a Conversion Path does not associate a conversion with the last channel a person used before meeting a conversion goal of yours. Instead, Conversion path tracks the series of channels a visitor used before meeting your conversion goal. Here are some of the more common channels that are shown with Conversion Paths:

  • Direct Traffic: Direct Traffic refers to traffic that arrived at your website directly by typing the URL of your website into a search bar.
  • Organic Search Traffic: Organic Search Traffic is traffic that arrived at your website through an organic link (search result) on a search results page. Organic links on a search results page (i.e. page 1 of Google) do not include advertisement links on the page.
  • Paid Search Traffic: Paid Search Traffic refers to traffic that land on your website from advertisements on a search results page. These advertisements are links that are used for different things such as PPC (Pay Per Click) Campaigns or Sponsorships.
  • Referral Traffic: Referral Traffic is traffic that lands on your website from links in different channels such as social media channels, web forums, and emails. Referral Traffic excludes direct traffic and organic search traffic.

Here is an example of a Conversion Path

Example:

1) Organic Search Result –Social Media Channel–Your Website

d) Assisted Conversions: Assisted Conversions are conversions that are made from visitors that use a conversion path. Unlike conversions that are made from direct traffic, assisted conversions are recorded for conversions made by visitors that use a series of channels.

e) Multi-Channel Conversion Visualizer: 

Multi-Channel Funnels is an option that allows you to see a Venn diagram of the different channels your website’s traffic is using. It shows the conversion rates of different channels and how different channels interact with one another.  Some of the channels the visualizer use includes.

  • Organic search results on a search results page
  • Google Adwords advertisements on a search results page
  • Links located on different social media channels

Attribution


Attribution refers to the way in which conversions are credited to certain channels within conversion paths. Google Analytics attribution features allow you to create attribution models that allow you to see how conversion rates differ among different channels in a conversion path.  Here are a few examples of this.

First Interaction Model (First Click Attribution Model): The First Interaction Model assigns all of the credit of a conversion to the first channel within a conversion path. First Click attribution refers to a conversion that is credited with the first click of a search result, advertisement or social media channel in a conversion path.

Last Interaction Model(Last Click Attribution Model): The Last Interaction Model assigns all of the credit of a conversion to the last channel within a conversion path. Last Click Attribution refers to a  conversion that is credited with the last click of a search result, advertisement, or social media channel in a conversion path.

I hope you found this information helpful. Feel free to leave any questions or comments in the comment box below. Please let me know if there is something you would have liked to have seen in this post or in a separate post.


Bibliography


1) Barker, Shane. “Google Analytics Behavior Report: More Useful Than You Think.” Marketing Tech Blog. Marketing Tech Blog, 22 Sept. 2015. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. <https://www.marketingtechblog.com/google-analytics-behavior-reports/>.

2) Mazaheri, Sam. “Tracking Conversions With Google Analytics.” Blog.adstage.io. AdStage, 26 Nov. 2013. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. <http://blog.adstage.io/2013/11/26/tracking-conversions-with-google-analytics/>.

3) Hines, Kristi. “The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics.” Moz.com. Moz, 24 June 2015. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. <https://moz.com/blog/absolute-beginners-guide-to-google-analytics>.

4) Hines, Kristi. “How to Use Google Analytics Acquisition Reports to Know Where People Are Coming From.” Socialmediaexaminer.com. Social Media Examiner, 12 Aug. 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. <http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/google-analytics-acquisition-reports/>.

5) Frost, Phil. “How to Track Conversions with Google Analytics.” Practicalecommerce.com. Practical Ecommerce, 28 Mar. 2015. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. <http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/116166-how-to-track-conversions-with-google-analytics>.

6) Lee, Kevan. “The 5 Most Meaningful Google Analytics Reports for Social Media Marketers.” Blog.bufferapp.com. Buffer Social, 11 June 2015. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. <https://blog.bufferapp.com/google-analytics-reports-social-media>.

7) Maedge, Ehren. “A Beginners Guide to Google Analytics 5.” Blog.kissmetrics.com. Kissmetrics, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2016. <https://blog.kissmetrics.com/google-analytics-5/>.

 

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20 Responses

  1. Mike says:

    I use Google Analytics as well and agree it’s an incredible resource. I still get a kick out of watching the results happen in real time. It’s incredible to see people from all over the United States, really from all over the world, visiting your site. It gives you a tremendous sense of accomplishment. It’s definitely a tool that anyone who has a website should use.

  2. Gomer Magtibay says:

    Although I’ve been in online business for a long time now, I admit there are still sections in Google Analytics that I need to explore and study. One of them is, the Percent that Exit (that you have mentioned here in your post). Another one is the E-commerce side, as I have not yet used this feature in my own business.

    Thanks. You have aroused my interest again, in exploring this wonderful tool from Google!

  3. Andrew says:

    Wow, a very extensive review of Google Analytics here. So that’s how you calculate the bounce rate huh. Thanks for the info. I have always wondered how the values came about.

    But I would say those people who have just started building their websites should pay more attention to build out their content and not worry so much about the analytics side.

    • Dom says:

      Hi Andrew! I also think Google Analytics is not necessary for someone who is just starting to write content for their website.

  4. Marley Dawkins says:

    Really thanks for sharing this Dom, i have heard a few people online talking about Google Analytics, but i haven’t made the jump myself to test it out.

    I really like the sound of watching visitors come to my website in realtime – bookmarking this to remind me to get myself going with Google analytics.

    • Dom says:

      Hi Marley! I highly recommend trying it out. The real time feature that Google Analytics has is one of my favorite features.

  5. Ashley says:

    Google Analytics seemed sooo hard for me at the beginning! But after a few weeks I got used to it and now I use it almost daily.
    I really like your explanation about adding GA to All in one SEO plugin, when I had to do this it wasn’t very easy and I couldn’t find it anywhere. So your explanation should be great use for people adding Analytics to their website.
    However, you really help me understand what Average Time on Page from Behaviour means. I had no idea why the average time on site and average time on page weren’t the same for my site, considering that I looked at the same period of time. I got it now, it wasn’t that hard!
    Thanks a lot for these great explanations 😀

  6. Anthony Little says:

    Using Google Analytics for my website, but I have to admit;” I don’t study it like I should, But I’m glad to come across your article, you have definitely done an incredible job explaining Google Analytics. I really need to pay more attention to this concerning my own website. Thanks for informative article,

  7. Darren says:

    google analytics is one of the best tools to use to figure out if your website is good. It’s also one where it’s very difficult to figure out what analytics actually mean and how to effectively interpret the data.

    Your post is an excellent primer for those who visit your website. Thank you for this excellent post on google analytics. Also, are there any tips for what I should be looking at if my website is just starting to get a bit of organic traffic?

    • Dom says:

      Thanks Darren! The first couple of things I would focus on are your websites bounce rate and exit rate. These two metrics are good for knowing if most of your audience is responsive to your websites landing page or if they loose interest when they arrive on your website. Another feature that I would take a look at is Audience Behavior. You can use audience behavior to see which web pages are getting the most visitors. This is good for knowing how responsive your visitors are to different content within your website.

  8. Jackie says:

    Very useful article! I just started getting into affiliate marketing about a month ago and I must say Google Analytics looks like a very useful tool to keep track of website traffic. I haven’t touched Google Analytics yet and reading this really helped me see what kind of information I will be seeing.

  9. rik says:

    Hey Dom,

    I agree, Google Analytics is a great program. A negative thing for me is that it has so many options! It’s too overwhelming for me.

    I like this post because you explain in short and understandable language what all the option mean and how you can use them. Therefore, a great post! I will bookmark this.

  10. georgetx1990 says:

    Thanks for the comprehensive look at Google Analytics. I have not yet ventured into the territory of using it on my own site, but I am definitely going to bookmark this and come back at that point. It seems this is a necessity for tracking all conversions, even for affiliate programs.

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