[3QF-GA-4] 3 Quick Facts: How does Google Analytics work?
Updated: Aug 31, 2020
So, I'm going to assume that by now you're hooked, or at least intrigued enough to start finding out more about Google Analytics (GA) and how it can help you achieve your business goals.
We will get to the most important configuration steps soon, but to move forward we have to take a step back. That is, in order to really take advantage of GA you need to take a brief look 'under the hood' and see how the system works.
Below are 3 Quick Facts which are pretty much all you need to know about how GA hooks up to your website - but if you are seeking even more detail, then I suggest taking our 2-day course (which gets you a certification as well!)
So, how does Google Analytics work?
1) Google Analytics tracks everything your website visitors do (but the data is anonymised)
First off, in case you have missed our previous posts, Google Analytics works by tracking what people do on your site. It monitors all your website visitors and reports back what they do. Kinda creepy, right?
Well, actually no, for two reasons. One, you will not know the identity of your visitors. All the data captured by GA is anonymous and it's impossible to track a visit back to a single individual.
Two, you won't even see the data about the visit. When someone visits your site, Google tracks your site visitors using 'tracking code' which runs on the site visitor's browser. This tracking code then sends information about what the visitor did straight to Google, not you.
Google then processes all the data and provides you with reports via Google Analytics. This way, you can see everything that visitors do on your website but Google isn't at risk of violating anyone's privacy via its tracking code.
2)For Google Analytics to work, you have to put the tracking code on every page of your site
The one downside of this method of collecting visitor behaviour is that it requires that you put the GA tracking code on every page on your website.
Doing so involves getting the tracking code from Google (which we will cover later, but is available in Admin/Property/Tracking Info) and then putting that code on every page on your whole website.
The tracking code hides in the 'head' section of the HTML and so it does not appear on the page and your visitors will not see it. Moreover, it runs silently, so it's unlikely that anyone will notice it at all.
Besides, according to W3Techs, more than half (and perhaps up to 80%) of all websites use GA for web analytics, so it would hardly be surprising that you were using it if someone did look for it.
3) If you use one of the major website providers, it's really easy to hook up to Google Analytics
While having to put the tracking code on every page of your website sounds like a bit of pain, in reality, it is very easy.
All the major website hosts - Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, WordPress - all have plugins which help you integrate your site with Google Analytics.
Typically, the providers will already have the Tracking Code ready for your pages and you just have to provide the Tracking ID (also available via Admin/Property/Tracking Info). Some may even let you log into GA via their site so you won't have to do any configuration at all.
Regardless, you do have to do something. If you sign up for Google Analytics and do not follow the instructions from your provider, Google will not know about your website and will not track your visitors.
To dispel one common myth, Google is not tracking every website already and you just need to sign up to GA to get the data. If you want to know what your site visitors are doing, you have to make sure that your tracking code is on your web pages - and that it's working.
How will you do that? Next time... (quick hint, Real-Time).
So, again, if this piques your curiosity about GA and you want a hands-on, instructor-led course then do have a look at the 2-day Google Analytics Certification course we offer. It's on the funded course list for Singaporean Citizens and PRs - and you can find out more here.
Until then, happy analytic-ing!