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If you have a website, chances are you’ve heard of the tool, Google Analytics (GA). But what is Google Analytics used for, and how does it work?
Google Analytics is a way to collect data on who is visiting and using your website, as well as organizing said data to better understand what’s going on. It can segment this data into audiences, events, and sessions that provide a lot of insight into how your site and its individual pages are performing.
This is a comprehensive guide to all things Google Analytics with particular emphasis on GA4, the latest iteration of Google Analytics. Universal Analytics, GA4’s predecessor, was sunsetted July 2023, but we’ll address all of this below.
In short, Google Analytics/GA4 is a free tool for any website that captures data about your site – traffic, sessions, audience, etc. It then takes all the information from relevant data streams and organizes it into easier-to-understand data segments that provides insight about your pages overall performance.
But how does Google Analytics/GA4 work?
When you create a Google Analytics account, and set up Google Analytics for your website you are provided a small line of code to be placed in the header of every page on your site. This Google Analytics tracking code, allows the platform to collect data about each landing page in terms of how users interact with it. Cumulatively this is the data we can examine in Google Analytics.
The measurement code Google Analytics provides tracks user interactions with any page with said code on your site; it can examine volume, engagement, length of interaction, and more. The code tracks by page visits; that’s why it’s installed on every page.
One of the standout features of Google Analytics (GA4) is its emphasis on data collection and cross-platform tracking. Users are constantly switching between their devices. Traveling from laptop to mobile phone and having multiple touchpoints with a website across devices. GA4 leans on machine learning to pull together tracking data on users across platforms, websites, apps, and devices.
The data gathered from tracking page visits and user’s journeys across your site can then be aggregated and segmented in a variety of ways to help you report on your page’s metrics.
These comprehensive reports help businesses better understand a user’s path from the first time they visit your site, crafting a more comprehensive customer journey from multiple traffic sources, platforms and devices.
Google Analytics allows you to track individual user journeys, segmenting user data to get a sense of broader audience. You can look at conversions (that you can create), page traffic, bounce rate, page views, engagement, and more to construct reports exactly to your (or your client’s) needs.
Google Analytics 4 is the latest iteration of Google Analytics. Before GA4, there was UA, or Universal Analytics.
One major difference between Universal Analytics and GA4 is its combination of mobile/app data and web data into one view– Universal Analytics kept them separate. It presents Google’s latest approach to helping its users analyze their sites and make better choices in SEO and overall site design.
While migrating from UA to GA4 might be a tedious process, there’s plenty to love about this new incarnation.
GA4 boasts many useful features any user might want to explore. Here are some of them:
Google Analytics / GA4 has many strengths. Not only is it free, but it’s all-encompassing and can give you about as much data as one might desire. You can manipulate the data to show you anything from page traffic to a user’s journey through your site, and it can help you make decisions that will improve your business.
While competitors like Semrush, Clicky, or Matomo offer similar data insights, they all require a paid subscription. This might make sense if you want a truly advanced or fully customized way to analyze your site, but Google Analytics will deliver the basics and then some.
There’s a lot of things we (the SEO team of Digital Third Coast) like about GA4, some of which include:
““Explorations can be used to discover new audience segments based on source, behaviors, demographics or devices. Following the reverse path for a conversion can provide insights on where users came from, where they went after landing on your site, and what paths led to the highest conversion rates. You can also discern who did not convert via page paths.”
– Ryan Dornan, SEO Account Manager
“GA4 encourages us to set up and organize the reports and tracking we like in a way that suits our needs best. I’m able to create exactly what I need through Explorations or Reports so I have the data I need on a daily/monthly basis at my fingertips.”
– Andrew Najdovski, Senior SEO Analyst
“GA4 makes it simple to create custom audience segments based on specific user behavior parameters. For example, you can focus on audiences that enter the site via a specific page or suite of pages.”
– Keith Fenner, SEO Account Manager
Did we act fast enough? It will be one of…