Google Analytics – Web Tracking By Numbers

Google Analytics is a free service from Google that allows users to track data about visitors to their site. It achieves this by generating detailed statistics that may be analysed, to create an accurate picture of user behaviour. Google Analytics have proved immensely valuabl e in determining online trends, and it’s greatest advantage has been to the internet marketer.

The Google analytic process allows marketers to determine not only where people arrived at their site from, but also the way that they navigated through it. Particularly valuable to them is the integration of Google Analytics with the very popular Google Adwords service. By using Google Analytics in conjunction with new and existing Adwords campaigns, marketers have the ultimate tool to measure the performance of their advertisement.

How Does Google Analytics Work?

By inserting a small piece of java script code, (the Google Analytics Tracking Code) on every page of a website, data is collected from the cookies stored on a user’s computer, and sent back to Google. This little piece of Google analytics code, also known as the page tag, is the core of the entire process.

Once you add it, this code not only accesses a file on the Google servers, but also sets it’s own first party cookie on the user’s computer, which stores anonymous information such as whether the site has been visited before, and where the user has come from, (the referrer), among others.

These files interact with each other, and because every page, on every site, that uses the Google Analytics code interfaces with the same file, it’s possible to build up a vast array of data variables for every user. So much data in fact, that the real trick lies in effectively analysing it.

Google Analytics And The User

Google Analytics does suffer from a few limitations to it’s accuracy that may create holes in the data it produces, but on the whole those limitations are issues with the user, rather than the service. For example, because the Google data code is javascript, anybody with their java disabled, (or using a non-java compliant browser), will not contribute meaningfully to the overall stats of the website. As another example, advertising filters may prevent the execution of the javascript, rendering it inoperable in a users browser.

Another limitation that originates with the behaviour of the user is the deletion (or refusal) of the cookies involved in the process. Without those cookies, there is no information for the site to exchange with Google. A final limitation may be found in attempting to analyse mobile phone browser data, as only the latest phones support either java, or the setting of cookies.

As well as being largely out of the control of either the developers or users of Google Analytics, it’s worth remembering that these limitations apply to all forms of web traffic analyses, and are not faults inherent in the Google Analytics system per se.

Making Google Analytics Work For You

The setup of this particular analytics package is a relatively simple procedure. With an active online community of users, forums and websites for Google Analytics help are easy to find, and Google itself maintains a good support network for its users. The dashboard interface is easy to use, and can display various levels of data, depending on your expertise and needs.

In the end, Google Analytics has become not only a valuable tool, but an almost indispensable one for anybody who needs to measure data, traffic, and trends in an online marketing environment.