Google Analytics: Everything You Need to Know



February 20, 2020 (Updated: May 4, 2023)

Tablet with Google homepage on a table with a coffee cup and phone.

In this article… 


Google Analytics is an important tool for anyone employed in the marketing field, including people who run their own business. That’s because the Analytics tool offers free insight into the traffic patterns of your company’s website. These insights and more are valuable to anyone who markets to consumers. In this article, you’ll learn what Google Analytics is and how to get started using this tool.

CopyPress Google Analytics Dashboard

Screenshot taken from Google Analytics on February 20, 2020

What Is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is an important, free tool for business owners and marketers that provides insight on to web traffic and user demographic information, and often becomes the basis for marketing campaigns and overall strategy. In short, Google Analytics tells users who is looking at their website. It does this by using attributes like location information, and how engaged the visitor is with the website, by recording visitor actions.

The resource uses these four distinct types of information from web users to provide insight to marketers:

  • User type: The data provided relates to each user’s actions.
  • Session type: The data provided is about an individual visitation session.
  • Event type: This includes information on things like video interactions and button pushes.
  • Pageview: Pageview information records which pages were visited.

Google Analytics aggregates this information and presents it with reports and visualizations, like charts and graphs. Users review the reports and interpret the information to draw key insights and relationships between the types of data provided. It’s a popular tool because it doesn’t cost marketers anything to use Analytics. Users do need to know how to set it up and get started reviewing the insights, as we will discuss in the sections below.

Metrics and Dimensions

Each report has a set of dimensions that is proceeded by metric information. To understand the difference between metrics and dimensions, you can consider quantitative versus qualitative data. Dimensions are qualitative data like what city the user visited from or what pages they looked at. This provides context to marketers about things like where they have the strongest footprint and what pages are performing the best. They can further use that information to learn why the pages are performing well, how to increase their global presence, or how to tweak information on other pages to get more traffic.

Metrics are quantitative. That means they have numbers as values and are measurable. Metrics include information like how many pages were visited in a session. With information like this, marketers can determine whether or not they are producing engaging content. People can also make decisions about site navigation and use this metric to determine whether they need to optimize a page’s navigation to make it more user-friendly.

Custom Reports

The default scope in Google Analytics allows users to see various dimensions in terms of one of the following scope indicators:

  • Product: This contains data about a product.
  • Session: This data targets hits that happen in a single session across a single user’s experience.
  • Hit: A hit is anytime a user takes action on your site. This is tracked with a cookie.
  • User: User data can contain multiple sessions and hits as it follows the actions of a user over multiple periods.

By default, Google Analytics reports show one of these scopes per dimension, even though multiple scopes might be useful to gain insight from a single dimension. The report limits scope within a dimension to avoid confusion in the case of two metrics that contradict each other on a report. This can happen based on the nature of technology, and the fact that collecting user data isn’t a perfect science.

With such broad use, it makes sense that Google defaults to limiting the number of conflicting information users can see. However, by using custom reports you can create your own combinations of metrics and dimensions that could give you a better picture of the behaviors that occur at the site-level of your business, even if you have to decipher between a few pieces of conflicting data.

Who Benefits From Google Analytics?

Marketers and business owners benefit from using Google Analytics to gain insights about the traffic that comes to their company website. Google Analytics offers insights that can serve as indicators of overall success and provides valuable marketing data that can be used to better target audiences who are likely to use your product.

When to Use Google Analytics

Marketers use Google Analytics when they need to gain insights that help them better target the right audience, and business owners use it to determine the success of campaigns and promotions. People use Google Analytics to answer questions like:

  • How can I improve the user experience, mobile experience, and load speed of my website?
  • What is the most engaging content on my website?
  • Where am I seeing the most traffic from?
  • What are my most popular pages?
  • How many visitors came to my site?
  • Are any websites referring traffic? Which ones?
  • How are my conversion rates?

It’s true, Google Analytics helps to answer these questions, and many more, that may be specific to business or industry needs. In the following sections, we’ll look at the various ways marketers and business leaders use Google Analytics.

Google Analytics for Business Acquisition

One way marketers use Google Analytics is for new business acquisition. Using data that tells you things like demographic information of people who visit your site, marketers can make decisions about what new traffic to target. This allows them to reach new users who have never been introduced to the product, using Analytics information as a template for channels that a marketer can pursue.

Look for these kinds of insights to drive new traffic acquisition from target markets:

  • Referral traffic: Where users are coming from on the web
  • Demographic information: Visitor insights like age, gender, location and more

Marketers use this information to determine where to run ads and who ads should be directed toward. For example, if a marketer for a bath product learns that the target user is a 35-year-old woman in the United States who is referred from Facebook, they can run their ad, using Facebook’s robust business platform to target women in their thirties.

In addition to learning where to advertise online, looking at referral traffic tells marketers if anyone is back-linking to their marketing content. Discovering back-links can tell marketers who is writing about them, who is linking to them. Understanding backlink behaviors can provide insight for improving public relations strategies, like building relationships with publications that make sense for their audience.

Google Analytics for Business Retention

User-experience professionals, like some software developers, can use Google Analytics information to improve the experience people have on the website. For example, if Google Analytics reveals that a typical traffic pattern is to bounce quickly from the homepage, then the user-experience professional might deduce that the navigation panel needs to be reworked, or the image carousel needs to be replaced by a stand-alone image.

When Google Analytics results in changes to the website to improve its utility, this is an action taken for business retention purposes. Making adjustments to a website based on Google Analytics can help existing traffic stay engaged on the website longer, and seeks to increase site traffic and conversions.

Google Analytics as a Measure of Success 

There are a number of ways stakeholders use Google Analytics to measure success within the organization. Here are a few primary ones:

  • Pageviews: An increase in pageviews can indicate the success of a marketing campaign or new product, among other things. Using pageviews by source tells you more about where your page views are accessing from, which can be a measure of success for digital marketing. Pageviews by title tells you which content is most engaging, and can indicate success for the marketing team, also.
  • Referrals: Referral reporting tells a marketing team if it has been successful in attracting attention from other sites outside of their existing marketing channels. A backlink in an article or blog can direct traffic back to your website and present a big SEO win. Social referrals tells the viewer precisely how much of that traffic was generated from social media.
  • Demographic reports: Demographics reports are an indicator of whether or not you are reaching the right people. Once you have a digital marketing strategy in place, it should be geared at a specific market segment or segments that meet the individual needs of your business. If that plan has been successful, you should see an increase in the desired demographic.

Where to Find Your Google Analytics Tracking Code

Your Google Analytics tracking code is essential to the functioning of Google Analytics on your site. After you locate the code and paste it in the appropriate part of your website you can access your Analytics. You can follow these steps to find your Google Analytics tracking code:

  1. Access analytics: On the Google Analytics login page, select “Access Analytics”
  2. Select your site: It should appear on an Accounts List
  3. Select Edit: This is on the right of your site name
  4. Find and select Check Status: This should be in the top right corner of the screen
  5. Copy code: The code that appears when you check status is your tracking code. This must be selected, copied and pasted into your website’s header code.
  6. Advanced tracking: Navigate to the Advanced tab to set up features like multiple domain tracking

Alternatively, a number of CMS editors will let you simply use your Google Analytics ID to add the tracking campaign to your site. Here’s how to find your Google Analytics ID:

  1. Select your site: Starting from the Analytics Dashboard, select your site from the Accounts List.
  2. Copy your ID: Next to your site’s name your ID will be revealed once you select your site. It’s identifiable by its structure which will be a value structured like “UA-98765432-1”.
  3. Paste ID into editor: You can paste this code into the appropriate part of your CMS editor or blog engine.

Why Use Google Analytics?

Marketers, business leaders and user-experience developers use analytics for the following benefits:

Reliable and Free to Use

Google Analytics is a free resource that can provide valuable business insight, which makes it an attractive option for businesses big and small. Companies also like that the tool was developed by a reliable, household name, Google. Google Analytics offers the same kinds of analytic information as other tools that aren’t free, making it a very popular choice among business users.

Valuable Insights

Google Analytics provides valuable insights that can impact SEO. For instance, not only will you see how your paid search keywords are performing you can also find out what keywords users are using to find your page. This insight on organic traffic can be used to adjust paid search campaigns and better target new customers.

You will be able to see which links, content, and pages are the most popular. This can help you decide where you need to optimize the content or change your marketing message. Additionally, demographic information can provide insight as to whether a targeted marketing campaign has been successful. There are a number of ways that the insights from Google Analytics can help strengthen marketing efforts, like optimizing SEO, improving content and learning who to target.

Website Improvements

Traffic patterns can provide a deeper understanding of how visitors are using your site. Most companies have an idea of how they want traffic to flow around the site to lead to conversions. This is usually accomplished in development when programmers create wire-frames of layouts and features. However, if your website traffic isn’t doing what you want it to, it could be the case that the site layout needs to be adjusted to make it easier to use.

Developers use metrics like above-average bounce rates and conversion rates to determine if their layouts are producing the best results. When bounce rates are high and conversions are low, that could signal that changes need to be made in order to better serve the experience needs of the customer.


You can segment your campaigns by valuable insights like new or returning traffic, referral source and more. By using segmentation, marketers can segment out the results of paid search campaigns to determine how much organic traffic is coming to the site. For these reasons, visitor segmentation is a powerful feature of Google Analytics.

Lots of Documentation

One great thing about Google Analytics is that it’s so popular it’s easy to learn about from a number of digital sources. There’s lots of online documentation on how to use Google Analytics and best utilize your results, including extensive documentation from Google Support. Newcomers can easily get started using the tools that are available to any user who wants to learn more.

Certification Available

Marketers and developers may find a benefit in that they can certify in Google Analytics. To do this a marketer must sign up as a Google Analytics Partner and then take the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ). It sounds simple enough, but it’s probably a good choice to refresh your Google Analytics skills before you attempt the exam.

You can participate in Google Analytics Academy, where you’ll have free access to Google Analytics courses at all levels, or find a provider online who offers paid courses that teach you what you need to know for the exam.

How to Use Google Analytics

Using Google Analytics means learning how to get set up, as well as interpreting analytics. Keep reading to learn more about how to use the various features of Google Analytics.

To get started using Google Analytics, you need to begin with the initial setup. For many marketers and business leaders, just getting it set up might be the most challenging part of the whole process. For this reason, we are offering instructions below on how to get your Google Analytics account running to give you the best insight:

1. Create a Google Analytics Account

The first step to creating a Google Analytics account is to have a standard Google account. If you use Gmail, you already have one. Any Google account you currently use to access any Google Apps like Gmail and Google Drive, is sufficient to create your analytics account.

If you don’t have a current Google account you will need to create one, which you can do by navigating to Gmail and signing up for a new email account.

With your Google account ready, navigate to the Google Analytics homepage and click the “Sign In” button. During this sign in process, a pop up will provide you with three steps you need to take to initialize your Google Analytics account. To set up your Analytics account after you create your Google account, you can follow these steps:

  • Sign up for Google Analytics
  • Add the tracking code to your site
  • Learn about your audience

You will be prompted to signup with a button push. After selecting Sign Up, you will be directed to a new account configuration page.

2. Perform Account and Property Set Up

At the first configuration screen you’ll begin account set up by answering some basic questions about tracking. Be prepared to answer whether or not you are tracking website or mobile clicks, and other things like website name, URL, and standard website information.

3. Optionally Organize Hierarchies

Google Analytics caters to businesses both big and small. Analytics users can register accounts in a hierarchy.

In total, users can have 100 Analytics accounts to a single Google account. There can be as many as 50 websites listed under an Analytics account, and up to 25 views are held for each website.

If you’re a small business owner with one website, you may never use this capability, but you could if you wanted to register both a business and personal website under the same Analytics account. For growing businesses, the ability to scale is a benefit. Even large companies, with multiple child companies that have dozens of websites can set up tracking using hierarchies.

4. Install Tracking Code

Locate your tracking code or ID, as described above, and apply it to your website. This can be done by pasting the code into your website before the < / head> tag, pasting the ID into your CMS editor wherever Google Analytics ID is required, or using other resources.

One such tool, Google Analytics by Yoast plugin in WordPress makes it easy for WordPress users to install code into the platform. Websites like Shopify and Tumblr also have fields for Google Analytics tracking information.

5. Set Goals

If you click the Admin link in Google Analytics, you’ll find that you can use the tool to set goals. This is an incredibly useful thing to do. Goals, when used in conjunction with landing pages, help marketers determine when a successful event has happened. For instance, you can set a goal like a benchmark for pageviews of a thank you page that visitors land on after filling out a lead generation form. In doing so, you can track insights from people who completed your form.

From the goals page, select “Add New Goal”. You can select one of the preconfigured goals, or select Custom. In this example, we are going to set it to Custom.

You can enter a name for your goal, and locate the Destination radio button, click it. You will be prompted to enter in a destination location. This is where you will enter your custom landing page URL. Following this process, you can set up to 20 goals per site.

6. Configure Site Search

Navigate back to your Admin dashboard and find View column. Select View Settings. In the Setting panel, toggle Site Search Settings so that it says “On”. In another window, perform a search on your site. You’ll need to enter the query parameter from your site search result URL. This is usually the letter s or q. Then, you can start tracking searches made on your site and gain more insight about what your customers want to find.

7. Read the Dashboard

Gaining insights from Google Analytics means learning how to use the dashboard and run reports. In data analysis, a dashboard is a grouping of important widgets that allow you to visualize your data in a way that is easy to quickly understand. Google Analytics offers several options for personalized dashboards that marketers and stakeholders can use to get quick information.

To get started with dashboards, it’s important to know you can have up to 12 widgets per dashboard and 20 dashboard views for each website property.

In your Analytics administration, if you click on Dashboards you will see, by default, “My Dashboard”, which is your primary view. There are a number of ways you can arrange your dashboard and any number of insights you can visualize. Luckily, the internet holds a number of examples and templates for arranging your dashboard, so if you want to get a head start you can do a quick Google search for “Google Analytics Dashboard Templates.”

Once you have dashboard views arranged how you can best utilize them, it will be simple to gain deep insights from visualizations that make Google Analytics an important tool.

8. Run a Report

Next, you might decide you want to run a report to give to stakeholders or analyze in a spreadsheet editor or other piece of software. Upon login, you are taken to an Audience Overview report each time. This is one 50 reports marketers can use to gain insights about what their website traffic is doing or predict trends. You can access all reporting features by navigating to the Reports tab in the Google Analytics dashboard.

When you’ve selected the report you want to run, you can use the arrow in the top right-hand corner of the screen to make selections like which website property you want to run it for and what date range to use. You can also select to compare reporting periods with two date ranges.

In the reporting feature of the software, hovering over visualizations will show you the data that comprises them. There’s also an Export feature on the report tool panel that allows you to export into formats compatible with most office software designed for organizing data.

9. Learn About Report Types

There are four types of default reports you can run in Google Analytics. These are:

  • Audience reports: This is a comprehensive report that tells you about your visitors. These reports contain demographic information, like age and gender, general interest information, geo-location information, website visitation behavior, and technology considerations.
  • Acquisition reports: This is how marketers learn about what brought a visitor to the site. Your traffic will be broken down into channels like Source and Social. It’s in this space you can link your AdWords paid search account and start optimizing for keywords as well.
  • Behavior reports: These reports use behaviors on the site to give you information about your content and navigation, like top pages, or which pages people typically exit from.
  • Conversions: Using Goals in Google Analytics helps companies track conversions, whether it be a sale or a custom landing page, Google Analytics makes tracking conversions a matter of a few configurations. This data tells marketers how they are performing on specific actions that are usually assigned to metrics.

Google Analytics Examples

Below are some examples of the ways marketers, stakeholders, and developers can use Google Analytics to build their business:

Analyze Success of Campaigns

You can use the Advanced Segments feature to see which of your marketing campaigns is having the best results. Click on the Advanced Segment dropdown in navigation then select New Custom Segment. You can include your business’s local search URLs, like Yelp or Google. In addition to local insights, you can use this feature to track ROI on your social media campaigns and other digital marketing.

Find Your Biggest Fans

Using Google Analytics, marketers can learn where their best customers are located. They can see the top locations that are viewing the site and taking actions. Using this information, marketers can target other campaigns with big advertisers who have national coverage. Marketers are armed with the knowledge that they should focus their digital marketing strategy around certain states or countries and can make better purchasing decisions for their business.

Browse to the Visitors menu to receive location demographic information in the form of a map visualization with rows of location data underneath. Stats like bounce rate and average time on site can tell marketers where their website is performing well and where their marketing isn’t as strong, so they can make changes.

You can also learn the locations of visitors who converted. This can help you grow your marketing footprint strategically.

Prioritize Most Important Data

By creating dashboards in the section designated ‘Dashboards’, you can prioritize your most important analytics to ensure you are seeing business-critical information first. You can create multiple dashboards that hold a dozen widgets each to create a number of strategic views that give you insightful visualizations with which you can make marketing and general business decisions.

A nice feature of dashboards is that you can globally change the date range for all widgets. When you do this, you can select any date range and see all the widgets update to show you the updated picture of data. You can use this resource to compare conversions or site traffic between periods.

Gain Mobile Insights

Because Google Analytics tells marketers how many people are visiting their website from phones and other mobile devices, they can make an informed decision about whether or not to invest in a mobile website.

Learn What People Search for on Your Site

Use the site search feature to learn about what people are looking for on your company website. Once you’ve set up site search in Google Analytics, as described earlier in this article, you can go to the Content area of your admin panel and look for Site Search. In the Site Search section, you’ll see Usage, which will tell you what terms are being searched for, and Pages, which tells you what page someone is on when they use the search feature.

Discover Top-Performing Content

In the Content menu, you can also learn which pages have the most engaging content. You can use this tool to learn which pages people spend the most time on and which ones have the lowest bounce right in total. To view these insights, you would select Pages in the Content menu, and navigate to Site Content.

Identify Issues

You can also use the same technique as above to learn where your content may need improvement. If you have a high bounce rate on a particular piece of content or a page of content isn’t attracting much engagement, you may be able to optimize the content to improve how the user behaves on the page.

Google Analytics FAQ

Here are some frequently asked questions about Google Analytics with answers:

  • Is there anyway to simplify reports with a summary? There are third-party services available that will summarize analytics data for busy executives and marketers who just need a high level summary.
  • I struggle to check all my analytics every day, is there a way to fix this? In your Home screen in Google Analytics you will see a list of all website properties and it includes a summary of metrics in line.
  • How can I share what I’m seeing in Google Analytics? In the Admin member, where you handle Account administration and website properties, you can update sharing settings to include the email addresses of people who need to see your data.
  • What is keyword (not provided)? If Analytics is telling you the organic search terms that get to your site are (not provided) that means the tool is attempting to protect the user who searched for the item but not offering the result. It’s a privacy feature. There are ways to uncover some of those keywords using third part products.
  • What reports should I use? Some key reports are Source/Medium report, which tells you about the source of your traffic, Channels report, which tells you about trends in traffic, and Audience Overview, which provides key demographic information for targeting new customers.
  • If I have Google Ads conversion tracking do I need Google Analytics? Yes, Google Analytics is much broader than the basic AdWords conversion tracking tool. The conversion tracker only tracks conversations on AdWords, which is your paid search campaign. Analytics gives organic traffic data and tells you about the people who are visiting your website and what they do when they get there. Therefore, Analytics is a much more comprehensive tool.
  • What is “First Click” and “Last Click” attribution? First click attribution attributes the conversion, let’s say it’s a completed sale, to the first click that brought the user to the page. Meanwhile, last-click attribution does the opposite and attributes the conversion to the last click that brought the user to the page before checkout. In this example, the user saw an ad online last week and visited the website. A week later, they returned to the page to make the purchase and clicked on an AdWords ad after searching for a keyword. First click attribution accounts for the ad making the sale, while last-click attribution would credit the sale to paid search.

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