Google Analytics Dashboard
How does Google Analytics Work?
Simply put, Google Analytics puts several lines of tracking code into the code of your website. The code records various activities of your users when they visit your website, along with the attributes (such as age, gender, interests) of those users. It then sends all that information to the GA (Google Analytics) server once the user exits your website.
Next, Google Analytics aggregates the data collected from your website in multiple ways, primarily by four levels:
- User level (related to actions by each user)
- Session level (each individual visit)
- Pageview level (each individual page visited)
- Event level (button clicks, video views, etc)
What are the distinctions between Metrics and Dimensions on Google Analytics?
The way I think about the differences between metrics and dimensions is that metrics are actual statistics Google collected about user behavior on your website, and dimensions are the various ways you can view those numbers based on the business questions you’re trying to answer.
For example, just knowing the total amount of people visiting your website is not very helpful to your business. Knowing how many people visit your website by age or location, on the other hand, is very helpful to figure out who your core audiences are on the internet. You may learn, for instance, that 80% of your visitors are women between 25–35 in east coast cities (NYC, DC, Boston) — that’s extremely useful and actionable information about who you should be targeting with your digital marketing.
In this example, the raw number of visits is the metric, and age and gender are dimensions by which you segment that metric.
Essentially, data analytics is slicing and dicing metrics by dimensions based on the business questions you are trying to answer.
What kind of data are available on Google Analytics, and what can you do with them?
P.S. I realized the way I explained this in the video is not very clear, so I elaborated further here in this section.
There are two types of data that you can collect in Google Analytics:
- User Acquisition Data: data about your users before they visit your website
- User Behavior Data: data about your users when they visit your website
(1) User Acquisition Data
Before users visit your website: you can access data about your user demographics before they visit your website (e.g. their age, gender, and interests). You can also get data about where they are coming from, whether that’s Facebook, other websites, or Google search. I call these data “user acquisition data” because they can help you figure out which user group and channels to target.
These characteristics of your web visitors, such as what media channel they frequent and their demographic information, are intrinsic to the users themselves. You really cannot do much to change these attributes.
Luckily, the internet is huge, so even though you cannot change these intrinsic characteristics of your visitors, you can choose specific user groups on the internet who have the characteristics you want to target. You can attract more of them to come to your site by running targeted ads through Facebook, Google, and other advertising platforms. Your user acquisition data can serve as the guiding compass to direct your digital marketing strategy and activities.
(2) User Behavior Data
The second group of data are “user behavior” data, which are collected during a user’s session on your website. “User behavior” data include:
- how long a user stayed on your website
- what is their first and last page on your website
- the most common “pathway” through which they go through your website
Now unlike “user acquisition” data, “user behavior” data can be easily changed by your changes you make to your website. The key here is to use various analyses to identify the pages where your users get “stuck.” You can then smooth out their user experience on these problem pages so users can move seamlessly toward converting to paying customers with minimal friction.
“User behavior” data can serve as a guide for you to improve your website so more of your users end up converting, whether that means making a purchase on your website, or signing up for your newsletter.