Google Analytics is an amazing tool that can help you easily translate data into meaningful insights which can be used to grow your business, and better serve your current customers and even win new ones. What is great about how Google teaches the analytics concepts is the way in which they walk you through the overarching principles of the platform. There are four components of the platform: collection, processing, configuration and reporting.
Each of these components factor into the quantity and quality of the data you are able to collect.
- Collection: collects user-interaction data.
- Configuration: allows you to manage how the data is processed.
- Processing: processes the user-interaction data, with the configuration data.
- Reporting: provides access to all the processed data.
In order to collect the data Google Analytics (GA) requires a tracking code on each of your website pages that sends a set of instructions to GA, as to which user interactions it should pay attention to and which data it should collect. As GA is collecting your data from you website or mobile sight it is organizing the hits by the users and sessions. When it organizes hits by users it attaches a unique ID to the device which loaded your page and each device is seen by GA as a unique user. By organizing the hits this way GA is able to segment the traffic into new users and returning users based on whether or not there is a current unique ID for any specific device. Sessions are the second way that GA organizes your hits. A session is a collection of interactions (page views, transactions or video played) or hits from a specific user in a defined period of time. Both of these methods of organizing user activity will help you better understand the raw data you are collecting. You can also configure GA to import data directly into your reports from other Google products, like Google AdWords, Google AdSense and Google Webmaster Tools. Even internal data from your own non-Google sources. This is helpful because you are able to compile your data into one central location to run your analysis. Once you have you user-interaction data and configuration data, GA will process the raw data from the collection and configuration. REMEMBER: once your data has been processed, it cannot be changed. So do not process until you are sure you have the settings set correctly. After processing your data GA will allow you to view and analyze your data with the reporting interface, which as tools and data visualizations that help you easily understand what is what.
Google provides a great step by step introduction into Google Analytics that will slowly introduce these concepts in further detail with great examples to solidify the ideas. Do not be discourage and check out the videos here. You may want to start with the videos about the fundamentals before checking out the principles of Google Analytics. Good luck and best wishes on your company’s success!