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What Is Google Analytics? (Beginner’s Guide)

The key to website growth – whether through increased traffic, engagement, or conversions – is measuring performance. Understanding how your website is or isn’t working lets you tailor your digital marketing strategy to be more effective. To help with this, there are several programs that can measure how people are reaching your website and what they’re doing once they’re there. One of the most popular tools is Google Analytics. But what is Google Analytics, and how does it work?


What Is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is one of the most popular digital analytics tools available. It’s free and very easy to learn how to use, making it ideal for beginner bloggers and website creators. It collects both user acquisition data (how visitors get to your website), as well as user behaviour data (what visitors do once they arrive at your website). This is powerful information to have when it comes to developing your website’s SEO and marketing strategies.

Google Analytics tracks up to 200 different performance metrics, including:

  • Number of visitors to your website
  • Traffic sources
  • Bounce rates (the number of visitors who only viewed one page)
  • Pages with the highest bounce rates
  • Number of page views
  • Average session duration (how long a visitor stays on the site)
  • Pages per session (average number of page views each session)
  • Conversion measurements, such as sales or adding items to a shopping cart

Google Analytics uses this data to generate reports detailing your website’s traffic. You can customise these reports by language, location, age group, gender, and browser type to better understand your audience. You can then use this information to make improvements to your website’s functionality and performance.

Why Is This Useful?

Measuring and understanding your website’s performance is key to increasing traffic, engagement, and conversion rates. The information Google Analytics collects can show you what is or isn’t working on your website and can help you refine your digital marketing strategy accordingly.

For example:

  • Should the data show that visitors to your website are engaging more with pages that include graphics or diagrams, you might consider adding graphics to your poorer-performing pages
  • If the data reveals that most of your traffic is coming from Google searches but very little from your Instagram page, you might focus your marketing efforts on building up your social media following
  • If you notice that the highest bounce rate is at the check-out, you might do a review of this page to try and increase the number of people who complete their purchase

But how exactly does Google Analytics collect this data in the first place?


How Does Google Analytics Work?

Google Analytics uses page tags to monitor website traffic. These page tags are pieces of JavaScript code inserted on each page of your website, either manually or by using a WordPress plugin. The tag activates when someone views the page, triggering the visitor’s browser to start collecting and sending data to Google’s server.


Does Google Analytics Use Cookies?

Google Analytics uses cookies to collect data and remember a visitor’s previous interaction with a webpage. Cookies are pieces of data that are stored on a user’s browser when they visit a website. Let’s look at an example of how the tool uses cookies to measure unique visits to a page more accurately.


When a visitor views your homepage, their browser stores a cookie. If the visitor navigates away from your website but returns to it later the same day, the cookie allows Google Analytics to recognise that they’ve been there before, recording a single visit. So, what does this mean for visitors concerned about their data being collected?


Google Analytics and Privacy

Google Analytics doesn’t collect any data that could identify a person, such as their name or email address. And under its terms of service, you must display a privacy policy on your website to notify visitors that their data is being collected.

If visitors don’t want Google to collect their data, they can disable cookies and JavaScript. They can also download an opt-out browser add-on or a third-party tool to stop data analytics tools from tracking their online activity. Iubenda is a useful tool from a website developer’s perspective if you want an easy way to deal with cookie consent.


Is Google Analytics Free?

Google Analytics is free to use if you have a Google account. The free version is perfect for small or medium-sized businesses. There is also a premium version. Given its functionalities and price point (it’s around $150,000 a year for a licence), the premium version is only really suitable for larger companies.

The standard version of Google Analytics is free and easy to use and will help you understand exactly what is and isn’t working on your website. It’s an essential tool for anyone running an online business who wants to run an effective digital marketing strategy.

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