A Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics

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A Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics

As members of today’s technology-driven society, much of what we do on a daily basis involves going online. Activities such as work, play, and everything in between have caused America’s average time spent online to rise from 9.4 hours per week in 2000 to nearly 24 hours per week in 2018 as suggested by researchers at USC Annenberg.


Considering this, one might ask what happens with all of the data that users willingly put out on the web. Whether we are intentionally giving companies our basic information on their websites, or just surfing the web for things that interest us, large organizations within the technology sector are using this information for many business-related purposes. So how does it all work? Here’s a beginner’s explanation of one of the most widely-used analytics services.


Google Analytics is a digital data-collection platform used by businesses that tracks and reports on website traffic. Its main focus is to track user interaction throughout the various stages of a site’s “purchase funnel”- the process users go through to purchase products/services from a business online.


It manages to do so by collecting data from mobile apps, point-of-sale systems, video game consoles, and CRM systems using a piece of Javascript tracking code. This code collects sales data, interaction behavior, language, browser and operating system information, and the source of the traffic itself.


Businesses can use all of this data to help monitor user interactions with their web content, and strategically craft their marketing efforts to boost sales, allocate advertising efforts, and find new markets. This is made possible by using company filters to block the collection of data from in-office IP addresses, ensuring that the information they collect isn’t unintentionally skewed by team members.


When navigating Google Analytics’ interface, it’s important to be familiar with some of the tools that provide insights behind groupings of data. First off, it is crucial to understand how this data is managed within the program. With Google Analytics, all of the data for a company can be categorized under Organization, Account, Property, or View. Organizations are the largest of the data collections, and administrative access to an Organization provides the same level of access to the Account, Property, and Views within it. Likewise, if you only have access to a view or property, you cannot make administrative changes to higher ranking datasets within that organization. Listed below is a diagram to help demonstrate this concept.

Google Analytics



Now that you have a better understanding of the structure of Google Analytics’ interface, here are some terms to know when navigating the program:

Audience Reports provide insights into the characteristics of users by measuring site reach by day, week, etc. Using the Javascript software, Google is able to track demographic information such as age, gender, location, and interests in order to help you better understand the users who view your content.

Acquisition Reports show which channels, or advertisement methods, actually brought users to a website. This could come in the form of Organic ads, which are unpaid, cost-per-click paid search campaigns (CPCs), Referrals, which are which are clicks from sites other than search engines, and emails.

Bounce Rates are the percentage of users that leave a site without browsing beyond the landing page. A high bounce rate would suggest that the landing page content is not relevant to its readers.

Behavior Reports show how people engaged with a site, including which pages they viewed, landing & exit page interactions, site searches, etc. This allows you to measure content performance on each page, including the relevance of the content on your landing page. This is done by monitoring bounce rates.

Conversation Reports track website goals based on business objectives and can be customized to fit the personalized objectives of each business using the software.

A Segment is a filter you can apply to look at specific data and compare metrics. When monitoring segments it is important to understand that Pageviews are considered the total number of times that pages with your Javascript tracking code were displayed to users. Dimensions are various attributes of a data set, for example, different styles of t-shirts being sold by a merchandise website. In addition, Metrics are specific values within a data set. In this same example, metrics could be considered the number, or amount of each t-shirt that is sold from that merchandise website.


When measuring the success of an organization’s marketing campaigns, Campaign Tracking can be used to monitor the progress within a specific channel or method. This is made possible by embedding tracking capabilities within URLs to link them to site products. In doing so, companies can track which campaign caused that product traffic by monitoring the following:

      • Medium (the mechanism used)
      • Source (where the user is coming from)
      • Marketing campaign
      • Content (the version of advertisements)


These concepts should help provide a basic understanding of how Google Analytics works, and how the insights it can provide are extremely relevant to the growth of businesses large and small! For more information, or to access Google’s beginner course on Analytics, visit the Google Analytics Academy.