Google Analytics

Google Analytics (abbreviated GA) is a free, web-based tool from Google Inc., for web analytics. Webmasters and SEOs can get important KPI (key performance indicators) and website statistics with it. Additionally, you can also track marketing campaigns and perform A/B testing with Google Analytics. GA is the most widely used web analytics tool the world over. Although there are no exact figures, it is assumed that Google Analytics covers a market share of 80 percent.

History

Google Analytics was introduced in 2005. The fact that it is a free service caused a stir particularly in the US because fee-based web analytics tools were already offered by many companies.

But the story of Google Analytics is starts with the purchase of the “Urchin” company and goes back to 1995. That was the year when Urchin was founded. Just two years later the first web analytics software was introduced on the US market. At that time the program was based almost exclusively on the analysis of log files, but could already be used via the Internet. This was followed by many extensions of the Urchin software until 2004, which still represent central features of Google Analytics, such as e-commerce or campaign tracking.

In 2005, Urchin was eventually acquired by Google Inc. Today, the account ID is still reminiscent of Urchin, whose accounts were transferred into the Google Analytics system. The Analytics ID starts with UA, which stands for “Urchin Account.”

Following the acquisition of Urchin, the web analytics system was adapted to Google. An important step was linking it with Google AdWords. With the market launch under the name of “Google Analytics” Google expanded the original product so that it could be used immediately in 16 different languages. At the same time the analysis software was free. Because of the big rush that followed and the resulting high server load or overload, issuance of Google Analytics accounts were initially controlled by invitation codes. By 2006, Google had eventually created the infrastructure so that Google Analytics was fully available for free for all webmasters.

In subsequent years, Google stepped up the development of its web analytics software and the development steps have been getting shorter. Due to numerous other acquisitions of IT companies, functionality could be expanded gradually.

A significant leap forward in development was completed in 2007 with a new layout and enhanced reporting functions.

The latest development stage is “Universal Analytics,” released in 2013. It enables you to do tracking with different devices and the “customer journey” is the focus of the analysis.

Today Google Analytics is available in 31 languages worldwide.

Implementation

In order to use Google Analytics you need a valid Google account. After logging in to Google Analytics and confirming the terms of use, the user receives a tracking code that you have to add into the <head> section of each page in order to track usage data. Some CMS or shop systems facilitate the integration of Google Analytics code with plugins in which you simply need to enter your ID. However, in this case, you often are not able to make any kind of modifications to the tracking code thereafter.

A tracking code usually looks like this:

  <script>
  (function(i,s,o,g,r,a,m){i['GoogleAnalyticsObject']=r;i[r]=i[r]||function(){
  (i[r].q=i[r].q||[]).push(arguments)},i[r].l=1*new Date();a=s.createElement(o),
  m=s.getElementsByTagName(o)[0];a.async=1;a.src=g;m.parentNode.insertBefore(a,m)
  })(window,document,'script','//www.google-analytics.com/analytics.js','ga');
  ga('create', 'UA-xxxxxxx-x', 'meineseite.de');
  ga(['_anonymizeIP']);
  ga('send', 'pageview');
  </script>

The Google Analytics anonymize|parameter ga(['_anonymizeIP']); should be added manually in order to comply with the local data protection regulations. It prevents the transmission of user IP addresses to Google’s servers in the United States. It is also possible to use an asynchronous tracking code that does not affect the page layout:

  <script type="text/javascript">
  var _gaq = _gaq || [];
  _gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-XXXXX-X']);
  _gaq.push(['_anonymizeIP']);
  _gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);
  (function() {
  var ga = document.createElement('script'); ga.type = 'text/javascript'; ga.async =
  true;
  ga.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https://ssl' : 'http://www') +
  '.google-analytics.com/ga.js';
  (document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0] || document.
  getElementsByTagName('body')[0]).appendChild(ga);
  })();
  </script>

Tracking can be set up with Google Analytics on HTML pages and PHP pages. Moreover, a website can also be analyzed using two Google Analytics accounts. To this end, the tracking code must be expanded to include the ID of the second account. It can also be done the other way around using cross-domain tracking wherein the user behavior for multiple domains can be analyzed.

The tracking options with Google Analytics are very extensive. In order to enable even laymen to use the necessary analysis methods, Google has implemented a Tag Manager. You can track events on the website, for example, if you have previously marked them in the frontend. Click here to get to the Tag Manager: http://www.google.de/tagmanager/

Hierarchy

You can create different accounts in a Google Analytics account and these can in turn be divided into individual “properties.” Thus, it is possible to track multiple websites on one account. Each URL then has an individual ID or UA.

Within a single account, properties can be created. It may be sub-domains or even mobile versions and other language versions of a website or apps.

Account or property management is especially important if Google Analytics is used in conjunction with other Google services such as Google Search Console or Google AdWords.

Features

The report function is a very powerful tool. Custom reports can be automatically created and sent to a specified e-mail address at a set time. Important KPI can be controlled very efficiently in this way. With the “alert” report function you can get an e-mail notification for any significant changes in visitor numbers or conversions, etc. Any part of the reports can be exported in different file formats, for example, as a PDF or Excel spreadsheet. Web developers can also use an interface to process data from Google Analytics with their own software, for example, with a BI program. Information about the API can be found here

The Google Analytics interface is composed of five basic functions that can be segmented into sub-sections in turn.

Real Time

Relevant data can be accessed in real-time from Google’s servers. Using real-time analysis, current visitor numbers, sites with the greatest activity, the origin of visitors, or conversions can be analyzed. This feature is especially useful for current marketing campaigns in order to be able to immediately make any adjustments to the homepage.

Target group

This menu item contains a lot of data about the visitors to the site. It provides analysts the necessary metrics on visitor origin, the operating system used, or user behavior. Moreover, this element reveals more data about demographics, or gives information on how many users accessed the site with mobile devices. With the “page flow” feature you can track user movements through your website. Thus, the page value of different pages can be determined. A website is accessed by more than one type of mobile device. Whether these are smartphones, tablets or desktop computers can be verified in Google Analytics. Additionally, customer journeys can be analyzed by means of cross-device tracking.

Acquisition

Under this heading, Google subsumed all important key figures concerning visitor sources. In Google Analytics, the respective channels are further sorted by organic search, direct accesses or accesses via referrals, etc. If you are using campaign tracking, you can also track traffic and conversions of individual campaigns. If the Analytics account is linked to an AdWords account, its data will also be monitored. The “Search Engine Optimization” field provides insight on the number of hits and includes data from the Google Search Console. Linking of these accounts is in this case also a requirement for additional information.

Behavior

Although perhaps not recognizable from the title, under this menu item you can find relevant data concerning the most popular subpages of a domain, exit pages and bounce rate. Moreover, with “In-Page Analytics” you can place a page overlay over a specific sub-page, to see in what ratio the individual elements on the page were clicked by visitors to the page.

Conversions

If Ecommerce tracking is activated, you can track relevant sales figures, data related to best-sellers, and individual targets. Defined targets would, for example, be a newsletter subscription or a certain amount of visitor time spent on the website.

A/B testing

Content tests can be done using Google Analytics to determine a successful page version before a relaunch.

Analyses

Although the Google Analytics account has already been pre-segmented, all major access data can be analyzed based on its own target definitions and also interrelated. Thus, for example, access can be viewed directly along with conversions without needing to open “Conversions.”

For more accurate analyses all data can be represented in various types of tables such as a pivot table.

Linking with other accounts and Google services

If you use Google AdWords, you should link your account with the Google Analytics account. In this manner, you don’t just get more accurate ways to evaluate, but you can also create remarketing categories in the Analytics account which are controlled as remarketing campaigns through Google AdWords.

Linking to the Google Search Console is of particular interest to SEOs since the Analytics account can be enriched with additional access data.

You can also set up social websites in the settings. In this way you can get even more precise traffic assignment from social networks.

Privacy

The privacy practices of Google Analytics has been viewed critically from the outset by people concerned with data protection in Germany. There were always incidents where even just the use of Google Analytics was already a reason for a warning. By the end of 2011, an agreement was finally reached with the German data protection organizations. The following requirements must now be met:

  • a special contract must be concluded with Google
  • The tracking code must contain the “_anonymizeIp ()”parameter, since only that way IP addresses can be transferred anonymously
  • The privacy policies have to be modified and advise about the use of Google Analytics:
  • All existing data must be deleted (that usually means old accounts will also be deleted)

Benefits for Marketing and SEO

Google Analytics is an important tool for webmasters and SEOs alike for the reliable monitoring and reporting on websites. The major benefit of the tool is that it provides a variety of analysis options, without the customer having to pay for it.

Benefits for SEO:

  • Important traffic figures and KPI, such as bounce rate or pages per visit
  • Assistance with on-page optimization
  • Detailed analysis of visitor sources
  • A / B testing

Benefits for Marketing:

  • Analysis of advertising campaigns and campaign tracking
  • A / B testing
  • Creation of remarketing categories
  • Live data at big events

Beyond the above-mentioned aspects, the benefits of Google Analytics always depends on the previously defined objectives. To really take advantage of the efficiency of the system, you should first always set analysis or monitoring objectives. Otherwise, the mass of data can quickly lead to confusion.

Outlook

With the increasing data protection restrictions and the limitations of cookies, it has become increasingly difficult, especially at keyword level, to obtain reliable tracking results. You will find the term “not provided” more frequently under visitor origin at keyword level in the Analytics reports. Many paid web analytics tools have already found alternatives to provide customers with relevant information. Thus, it is widely assumed that Google Analytics will also be offered as a paid version that allows you to determine the exact origin via keywords.

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