Google Analytics is a free web service that provides comprehensive statistics and analytical tools for SEO and marketing purposes. Analytics monitors traffic to a website and collects data on how visitors interact with the site.
Data available through this service includes user demographics, behaviour and interaction, such as pageviews, bounce rate and average time spent on site. Analytics can also distinguish between direct, organic, referral and paid traffic, allowing you to gain an understanding of how users are finding your site.
How does Analytics work?
Each time a user visits a new page on your site, the code collects updated information about the user’s activity and pushes this information to Analytics servers to be processed. Processing this information can take up to 24 hours. Once completed, Google will organise the information, store it in a database and display the data on the Google Analytics dashboard where you can access and interact with the information.
Analytics will occasionally provide results based on sampled data. Sampling refers to the reporting of trends within a subset of data, usually in order to quickly generate reports for large data sets. When this occurs, the date does not record every single user’s interaction but rather projects a trend based on the sample.
You will receive an alert if your report is based on sampled data, which occurs automatically when more than 500,000 sessions are collected for a report. Sample size can be adjusted to increase the accuracy of reports.
Why do you need Analytics?
Analytics is an essential tool for all website owners as it allows you to continuously track the progress of online objectives. Based on the data provided, you can then make informed decisions on necessary actions as and when required.
Aside from tracking objectives and results, Analytics also provides information that helps you to understand your audience better. This enables you to tailor the website to the audience’s needs, encouraging site visitors to convert into valuable customers.
Furthermore, if you want to track events on your website using Tag Manager, you’ll need Analytics to hook it into.
How do you set Analytics up?
The service is freely available to anyone with a Google account. It’s necessary to sign up for an account if you don’t already have one. Once this is set up, you can go to Google Analytics and begin the process of signing up.
You’ll be greeted with a three step process. First, you’ll be asked to provide essential information about your website. Once this is filled in, you’ll be given a unique tracking code which must be added to every page on your website you wish to track. Your SEO agency can complete this sign up process for you, but will need complete access to the website. Once completed, you’ll begin receiving traffic data within a few hours.
What reports can I view with Analytics?
Each time you login to Analytics, you’ll automatically be taken to your Audience Overview report. Here you can view basic information on site visits, pageviews, bounce rate, and how many sessions have been first-time or returning visits.
For an SEO team, these are some of the most important metrics for measuring the success of a campaign, along with traffic source, landing page, exit page and average session duration. Analytics provides a month’s worth of data by default, but date range can be easily adjusted if you wish to measure progress over a longer time period.
There are more than 50 different reports available on Analytics. SEO reports will often include some of this data, but not all of it. It’s important to discuss which metrics are important to your business so your agency can adapt progress reports for you.
Here is a quick summary of the information available in each of the standard Analytics reporting sections, located on the left sidebar:
Real-Time reports allow you to monitor user activity as it happens on your site. For instance, you can see how many people are on the website right now and which pages they’re interacting with. These reports are updated continuously, with hits reported just seconds after they occur.
Audience reports provide demographic and geographic information about site visitors, allowing you to gain a greater insight into your website’s audience. You’ll find detailed reports on the age, gender, interests, location and language of your visitors.
You’ll also find information on the technology they’re using to access your site. For instance, which browser they’re using and whether they are accessing the site via desktop, tablet or mobile.
Acquisition reports tell you exactly how visitors have accessed the site by differentiating between direct, organic, referral and paid traffic. This is essential in helping you determine whether your SEO efforts are paying off. It’s also a good place to view referrals, which is often indicative of how effective link building efforts have been and whether you have any spam pointing at the site.
Behaviour reports provide information on your website’s content, giving you a breakdown of views for specific website pages. You can also view data on how long visitors spend on each page, what percentage of people leave after a specific page and page loading speed – all of which can help to identify issues with the website’s content.
Conversions are separated into two main areas, goals and ecommerce. Goals represent the completion of a specific activity that contributes to the success of your business, such as the completion of a contact information form. To monitor goals on Analytics, you’ll need to tell Google what activity you wish to track by setting up event tracking in Tag Manager.
E-commerce conversions are more complicated to set up, involving the insertion of specific code on your website. You can find more information about ecommerce tracking in this Google Analytics help file.
What is Google Analytics 360?
Google Analytics 360 is the premium version of standard Analytics. Both the free and paid for versions operate in a similar way, but Analytics 360 has much higher limits on the amount of data that can be collected and is much more flexible with data sources.
We would only recommend Analytics 360 for large enterprises that need to monitor huge data sets. For small to medium sized companies, all the information you’ll need is available through standard Analytics.