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Let’s Learn Google Analytics – Lesson 2

 

The process of collecting Analytics data

(This is a slightly modified copy of Google’s own Google Analytics for Beginners course material available here: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/6383007)

For someone who’s never used Google Analytics, how does it work exactly?

Google Analytics is a platform that gathers data about visitors to your website and compiles it into useful reports. So we need a way to connect your website to this platform. This is done by adding a small piece of Javascript code which collects information about visitors to your web page. Preferably this is done for every page that you want tracked at your website.

So first requirement is that you need to have a Google Analytics account. It is strongly suggested that you use an account that clearly is associated with your website.

Then you need to add a small piece of Javascript tracking code to each page on your site. Typically this can be done by adding this piece of code to template that gets used for creating your web pages.

This can also be part of HTML Header information that every page would have.

If you are using WordPress, you may need some special plug-in which can handle this.

Every time a user visits a webpage, this tracking code will collect anonymous information about how that user interacted with the page.

This information would include how the visitors came to visit your page, the device they used, the operating system they used, from which part of the world they visited your page and how long they remained on your page before going away.

The tracking code can even collect the “traffic source,” which is what brought users to the site in the first place. This might be a search engine, an advertisement they clicked on or an email marketing campaign.

The tracking code could show how many users visited a specific page versus another page. Or it could tell us how many users bought an item by tracking whether they made it to the purchase confirmation page.

Keep in mind that every time a page loads, the tracking code will collect and send updated information about the user’s activity. Google Analytics groups this activity into a period of time called a “session”.

A session begins when a user navigates to a page that includes the Google Analytics tracking code. A session ends after 30 minutes of inactivity.

If the user returns to a page after a session ends, a new session will begin.

When the tracking code collects data, it packages that information  and sends it to Google Analytics to be processed into reports. When Analytics processes data, it aggregates and organises the data based on particular criteria like whether a user’s device is mobile or desktop, or which browser they’re using.

But there are also configuration settings that allow you to customise how that data is processed. For example, you might want to apply a filter to make sure your data doesn’t include any internal company traffic, or only includes data from a particular country or region that’s important to your business.

But one very important thing to remember is: Once Analytics processes the data, it’s stored in a database where it can’t be changed.

In other words if your filter filters out some data, that data is lost forever.

On the other hand if your website gets lots of visitors and many of them can not be properly serviced by you for whatever reason, you may not want such information cluttering up your database.

So remember, when you set up your configuration, don’t exclude any data you think you might want to analyse later. But you may have to filter out the data that does not constitute your target audience.

Once the data has been processed and stored in the database, it will appear in Google Analytics as reports. We’ll see what these reports look like a little later.

Summary

  1. Create Google Analytics Account
  2. Get the Javascript code snippet from Google Analytics platform and incorporate this code into every page on your website
  3. Properly configure how Google Analytics platform collects and stores data so that you can analyse it later.

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