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Taking the First Steps with Google Analytics

Google Analytics is used to track the usage of more than 30 million websites worldwide. It monitors the volume of website traffic, discovering where website visitors come from, their demographics, and how they click through the site.

To use Google Analytics a website owner logs on to the Google Analytics website and uses the facilities to make a short piece of code to embed in their web pages. The Google Analytics tracking code causes a wide variety of information to be collected on Google’s servers for subsequent use. The details of this will be explained later.

Once the Google Analytics code is active the website owner can view a lot of information on how their site is being used.

The Figures below show test data produced by the Course Team. The results of analysing the data you helped to create will be made available in Step 2.4 of Week 2 on Monday 22nd July 2019 - possibly sooner.

One of the most important things website owners want to know is how people are interacting with their sites – in particular how long people stay, if they view more than one page, and how they use the pages. The figure below shows the usage for a simple site over the last week including when they were on the site, how many were new visitors, and which countries they live in.

Figure 1. User statistics over a week provided by Google Analytics. Various charts and histograms displayed by Google Analytics (Control-click here to see an enlarged figure in a new window)

As the figure below shows, Google Analytics can identify the users’ cities, the browsers they used, and even the operating systems of their computers.

Figure 2. User cities identified by Google Analytics Google chart (Control-click here to see an enlarged figure in a new window)

Google Analytics can give realtime statistics on website use. For example, the screenshot below shows a website with two current users, one accessing the site from a notebook computer (red bar) and the other accessing it from a mobile phone (green bar), with histograms showing the number of users accessing the page simultaneously .

Figure 3. Real time use of a website tracked by Google Analytics. Real time use of a website tracked by Google Analytics (Control-click here to see an enlarged figure in a new window)

For many web sites the bounce rate is a particularly important statistic. It measures the number of users that enter a site and leave it without any interaction such moving to another page on the site, viewing a video, or entering some information. The figure below shows a site with a bounce rate of 71.43%, which the owners might interpret as a sign that the site is not achieving its goals.

Figure 4. A web site with bounce rate 71.43% in April 2018 A web site with bounce rate 71.43% in April 2018 (Control-click here to see an enlarged figure in a new window)

Apart from statistics, Google Analytics can give information on user behaviours, particularly how people move from page to page on a site and what they do on those pages. The figure below shows how users enter a site and ‘flow’ through it from page to page. Many web site owners want users to navigate their sites in particular ways, and Google Analytics can enable them to monitor this and how successful their site is in achieving the expected behaviours.

Figure 5. Users ‘flowing’ through our test website - August 2018 Users ‘flowing’ through a website (Control-click here to see an enlarged figure in a new window)

The figure below gives the numbers of users accessing our test website 14-19 January 2019. At the top are the number of users (249), the number of sessions (302), the bounce rate (13.91%) and the average session duration (2m 04s).

Figure 6. Users visiting our test website 14-19 Jan 2019 Users visiting our test website 14-19 Jan 2019

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This article is from the free online course:

Introduction to Data Science with Google Analytics: Bridging Business and Technical Experts

UNESCO UNITWIN Complex Systems Digital Campus