What on Earth is…Google Analytics?

Chris Nguyen
4 min readJun 14, 2021
Google Analytics logo

A few months ago, I was asked to work with some data in Google Analytics (GA) at my workplace. I had never used it before and was only vaguely familiar with it but was able to pull the data I needed to show some simple charts. I thought it was really fun to try and figure out the tool so recently I took the Google Analytics for Beginners course available on Google’s Analytics Academy. There are many articles and tutorials out there for GA already so instead I’m going to try summarizing what I think the tool is in this article to answer the (not-always-so-simple) question “What is Google Analytics?”.

What is Google Analytics used for?

Google Analytics is a web analytics software used to track and report on website traffic for e-commerce. It can report on online metrics such as user count, session count, session duration, bounce rate, and much more. This is useful for trying to determine user behavior on your website and can help develop marketing/advertising campaigns based on the information you get.

Is there a bad page on your site that users get frustrated with? It will probably have a high bounce rate so a developer should go in there and fix it. Are more and more users using your website on mobile over time? Make sure enhancements to the mobile version of the site is prioritized and run more campaigns on it!

How can Google Analytics be used?

GA relies on Javascript tracking code

GA requires an account and a Javascript tracking code to be added on the site page to do tracking. It can track features of users’ online profiles like: language used, browser used, device type, operating system, and more.

GA can be used on a wide range of devices and mediums. Besides laptops and mobile browsers, GA can be used on video game consoles, CRM, point-of-sales systems, and more.

What is the overarching model?

E-commerce funnel for GA

The overarching model for GA is basically this e-commerce funnel that I find many different variations of. Each stage is defined as:

  • Acquisition: build awareness and acquire user interest
  • Behavior: when users engage with the business
  • Acquisition: when user transacts with the business

As users go through each stage, they may drop off or they may be converted into a transaction. Identifying what happens at each stage and what type of users end up transacting is the key goal of GA.

User Interface

User interface in Google Analytics

When you load up the user interface for GA, it will look like this (for a Universal Analytics property. The more recent Google Analytics 4 will look a bit different). There are summary charts filling up the page over a certain time range and a set of reports you can dive into on the left hand menu. A few of these match up to the funnel categories above but there are also Realtime and Audience reports as well as custom reports you can make yourself.

Let’s look at the Audience report as an example:

Typical report interface

We can see that reports start out with an Overview section and then there are more specific reports that come with it. GA reports are designed to be friendly and simple enough to just click around to change or drill down into reports on the page. Hovering over certain words also gives a handy definition of the terms used throughout the report.

Hovering over “Bounce Rate” to get its definition

Conclusion

There’s a lot more I could go into with all the reports you can use in GA and the set up within organizations and accounts. But that should be saved for a proper in-depth tutorial of all the things you can do in the tool. Hopefully, it’s clear by now what GA does and what it’s good at: reporting on how users interact with your e-commerce website, their characteristics, and how you can best improve the user experience and marketing you provide on your website.

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