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Google Analytics - Part 5: How Google Analytics Works

01/09/2016

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This month we look at how Google Analytics actually works and its four main mechanisms: Collection, Processing, Configuration and Reporting.

Collection

For the purpose of this series, we're primarily focusing on how Google Analytics can be used in relation to your website. However, Google Analytics can be used to gather information about user interaction not only on websites, but also mobile apps and virtually any other kind of digital product.

To enable your website to collect data about who your users are and what they're doing on your website, Google Analytics uses a piece of JavaScript tracking code that has to be added to every page on your website that you want to gather data from.

When a new user visits your website, the code collects a variety of information: firstly from your website (e.g. the page name etc.), secondly from the user's browser (e.g. Safari on a Mac, using the English language etc.), and thirdly, from the referring website the user was on before they came to your site (e.g. Google.co.uk, Facebook, Twitter etc.).

Processing

As soon as a user interacts with your website, this counts as a 'hit' and this data is sent to Google for processing. As Google processes your data, it begins to categorise it into more meaningful metrics such as: "Was the user on a mobile device?", "What country are they in?" etc.

Configuration

Within your Google Analytics account you can actually create a custom configuration, filtering out metrics that have little meaning or use to you, and instead focussing on the aspects that really matter. For example, you may decide that you only want to know about iPhone users from the UK, because this happens to be your target market.

Google takes into consideration any custom configurations you may have at this point as the data is stored into a database.

Reporting

The final mechanism of Google Analytics is its Reporting facility. Most users access their data through the Google Analytics website itself, where you can utilise the great reporting tools Google provides there.

It is also possible however, to develop your own custom interface with your data using Google's core reporting API. This can be used to create bespoke web pages and applications that display the specific data you want to see, in the way you want to see it. For example, a web developer could create a private page on your company Intranet to allow executives to view the most crucial information about interaction with your website in real time. This way, they wouldn't have to log into Google Analytics themselves and can just have access to the key information they need in real-time, whenever they need it.

If you're interesting in discussing Google Analytics or custom systems using the core reporting API, why not get in touch with a member of the team today.

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