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What Does Google Analytics Do? And How Do I Get Started

Google Analytics Screenshots

What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is a free tool that can help you track who visits your website, what they do while there and other essential data. Tracking this information is a great way to gain insight into how people interact with your web pages.

It’s not just for tracking web traffic from desktop computers, by the way. You can use Google Analytics to the activity of mobile platform users. The problem is that with such in-depth data available, Google Analytics can be a little challenging for new users.

What You Can Do With Google Analytics

Once you begin using Google Analytics, you will be able to obtain information about your visitors’ behavior on your website. Using that information, you can tweak your pages to increase visitor engagement.

Some examples of the insights available include;

  • Figure out what content people like best by looking at the most popular pages on my site. If I see that people only spend ten seconds on one particular web page, maybe I can improve it by adding more information or better visual elements.
  • Add new content based on what we know about visitor interests from our data. If my visitors are interested in video games, perhaps I can write an article about my favorite games! This way, we can keep both ourselves and our readers happy.
  • If you notice that many visitors exit after just a few seconds, it could mean that your page isn’t delivering what they were expecting or hoping to find. 

Also read – Google failures and what we can learn from it.

Getting Started With Google Analytics

Setting up Google Analytics 4

Before we do anything, I assume you already have a Google Account. The account is necessary to use any of Google’s services, including analytics. You don’t need to register a separate account for your Google Analytics for those who already have one.

You begin by setting up your Google Analytics account. Once done, Google provides you with code that you will need to embed in your web pages. Once the code is properly installed, it will begin tracking visitor data and sending it to your analytics console.

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of the process:

  1. Sign in to your Google Analytics dashboard
  2. Click “Admin” on the bottom left menu
  3. Select or create an account
  4. Under “Property,” click on Tracking Info
  5. Click on “Tracking Code” 
  6. Install the Tracking Code on your website

How to Install Google Analytics Code on Static Websites

Static websites are built on simple code and don’t use platforms like WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla. Because you don’t need to generate content on-the-fly, it is often easier to embed Google Analytics code on your pages.

  1. Copy the provided tracking code snippet.
  2. Paste the tracking code snippet into every page of your website, just before the </head> tag.
  3. Save your changes and upload the updated pages to your web server.
  4. Wait 24-48 hours for data to appear in your Google Analytics account.

How to Install Google Analytics Code on Dynamic Websites

Since the code of dynamic websites can frequently change, it can be challenging to know the exact locations where you need to install the Google Analytics code. Thankfully, most dynamic platforms like WordPress have plugins that can do the job for you. 

Once you've installed the plugin and entered your Google Analytics tracking ID, it automatically inserts the necessary code on your web pages. You'll then be able to track your website's traffic just like any other site.

Some plugins I recommend for this include:

Understanding Essential Google Analytics Terminology

The Google Analytics Dashboard presents most data graphically

Although the concept is simple enough, you need to understand Google's terminology to work with Google Analytics effectively. Here are some of the most important terms you’ll come across in your analytics console.


Attribution was previously known as conversion tracking. It is the process of assigning credit for the conversion of a customer to one source or another. In some cases, it might be obvious where credit should go. 

The easiest way to think about attribution is by looking at an example: Imagine I run an eCommerce site selling mugs and I have three different ways people can find my store: through organic search (people searching for “mugs”), paid search (people clicking on ads), and social media (people sharing links).


An Event is any interaction that results in a page view or conversion in Google Analytics. For example, when a user navigates to /blog/ and views the home page, this is one event. When they click through to /blog/top-5-best-aloe-vera-products/, that's another event.

The official definition of an Event is “a user interaction with your application that can be measured.”

Events are used for custom reporting and attribution, but can also be used for purposes such as eCommerce tracking, so it's important to understand how they work in GA4.

Engaged Sessions / Engaged Sessions Per User

Engaged Sessions is a new metric that GA4 introduced. It is the number of sessions in which the user spent at least one second on a page. This metric gives you an idea of how much time people spend on your pages, which can help you understand what type of content works best for your audience and if there are any problems with the user experience on your site.

Engaged sessions aren't necessarily the same thing as average session duration (the amount of time spent on a site during each visit), which is also a highly important metric for measuring engagement. 

For example, an engaged session can be made up of multiple visits from the same user in a given day or week if that user is spending most of their time on one particular part of your website. This can happen if there's only one way for users to get to that part of the website 

Data Stream

Data streams are collections of data points that are generated or received by GA4 in real-time. A data stream can contain any type of data, such as website visits, social media mentions, online orders, and much more.

In GA4, you can create multiple data streams for one company, product, or category. Each data stream can also have its own set of dimensions and metrics or KPIs.

Life Cycle

Life cycle is a new feature in Google Analytics 4 that helps you understand the journey of your users. It gives you an overview of the actions that different users take on your website, including the page they visit and their interaction with it.

You can use life cycle reports to find out more about which pages are most popular and how they're used. You can also see where people leave your site or get stuck.

Measurement ID

Measurement ID is a new feature introduced in Google Analytics 4 that allows you to track multiple versions of your site with the same property. For example, if you’re creating a new version of your site and want to test it against the current version, you can use this feature to track both versions at the same time.

User Explorer

User Explorer is a tool in Google Analytics that allows you to see detailed information about individual users. This information includes the pages they have visited, the events they have triggered, and their conversion paths.

Mobile Usage

Today more than half of web users access the Internet via mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. It is essential to know what percentage of your visitors come from mobiles and if their behavior differs from desktop users.

Audience Demographics

Audience Demographics allows you to see more targeted information like your website users' age, gender, and interest categories. For example, if most people who buy from you are women aged 45-54, then it's good to know that you can focus on marketing campaigns that will be effective for this target group.

Landing Page

A landing page is the first page users see when they arrive on your website. Landing pages are important because they allow you to make a good first impression and persuade users to stay on your site. For example, if you have a landing page for a product you're selling, you'll want to make sure that the page is well designed and easy to use so that users will be more likely to buy the product.

Active Users

The Active Users metric measures the number of unique users engaged with your site or app during a specified period. You can also segment active users by various parameters like date, country, device, etc. 


The Behaviour section of Google Analytics focuses on how users interact with your website or app. This report includes information on which pages they visit, how long they spend on each page, and what actions they take while using your site or app. This data can be beneficial for identifying areas of improvement for your website or app.

Difference Between Google Analytics and Google Analytics 4

Google Analytics
Screenshot of the old Google Analytics (commonly known as Universal Analytics or UA).

Even if you aren’t an active Google Analytics user yet, you may have heard about Google Analytics 4. Google released the first version of Analytics in 2005. In October 2020, Google announced the release of a new version: Google Analytics 4 (GA4)

GA4 is a comprehensive upgrade that incorporates user privacy into its core and provides more sophisticated insights about user behavior through machine learning.

One key difference between the two versions is how they are structured. Where traditional analytics organizes all data under one umbrella, GA4 uses “entities” to collect data into separate accounts. 

These entities can be websites, mobile apps, IoT devices, or offline properties. In addition to organizing collected data by entity type, GA4 also requires you to identify event parameters for each entity. These parameters are actions users take within your website or app (e.g., filling out a form, clicking on an ad) related to conversions and goals. 

You will need to identify at least one event parameter per entity before using it with Google Ads or other marketing platforms outside GA4.

Should You Use Google Analytics or GA4?

Ideally, you should implement GA4 since the current Google Analytics will stop getting updates after 1 July 2023. However, I feel that GA4 seems to remain a work in progress with some integrations missing. 

For example, the feature of integrating AdSense metrics into GA4 isn’t natively available yet. While you can do it in a fashion, it's nowhere as smooth as the current Google Analytics implementation.

Final Thoughts on Google Analytics

Google Analytics is powerful, but you need to implement it quickly to start collecting data. There are loads more that Google Analytics can do, so I suggest setting aside 30 minutes each week and looking through the data reports available.

Remember that when in doubt, ask Google.

Type your question into the search bar on top, and Google will pull a rabbit out of its hat based on the data collected. With that, you'll be able to keep an eye on where things are improving and what needs extra attention. That sort of awareness is key to long-term growth.

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Article by Timothy Shim

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