Google Analytics updates: Certification, API, tutorial

Welcome for our hub for Google Analytics updates, a regularly updated page with the latest on GA certification, API, tutorials, videos and our pick of blog posts.

What’s in our Google Analytics hub?

A picture of a scientist making notes about the Google Analytics hub.

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What is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics (often referred to as “GA” or its newer version “Universal Analytics”) is a service for you to track how people use your website or mobile apps. The basic features are free and available to anyone with a Google Account (also free). It can be used to measure simple things like the number of visitors over a given period or provide more complex data like how long a visitor spends on a particular page, what device they’re using and how they arrived there.

Google Analytics was launched in 2005, a time when many companies were paying for tools like WebTrends to generate website analytics. Gradually they realised that Google Analytics was free and more than adequate in terms of functionality. Google was able to provide the service for free because it fit so well with its highly profitable AdWords product, encouraging businesses to keep spending money on pay-per-click search campaigns.

Linking AdWords with Google Analytics enables a more complete data picture when it comes to AdWords campaigns – something which, unsurprisingly, Google encourages.

Google Analytics updates: What’s the latest news?


MARCH 2016 – New features
Google takes on the big marketing clouds through an upgrade to Google Analytics Premium, dubbed the Google Analytics 360 Suite, turning it into a capable marketing data management and analysis platform – Smart Insights.


DECEMBER 2015 – Features

The Smart Goals feature, via Google Analytics, comes to AdWords for advertisers that aren’t able to track conversions in order to optimise campaigns – press release.


JUNE 2015 – Features

Google brings Remarketing Lists for Search Ads [now known as “Audiences”] to Google Analytics, with limitations – analysis from Search Engine Land.

Here’s a guide to how “Remarketing” works – Google Support.


 

How Google Analytics Works

Congratulations – you’ve enabled a powerful tool that will generate lots of statistics for you. Trouble is, that torrent of information won’t be much use until you define what it is you want to know in the first place.

Broadly speaking, when using Google Analytics, you’re taking part in the cycle: measure, learn from the results, tweak accordingly, measure and so on.

Some things you can find out include:

  • How is my audience finding my site? (where they came from = “source”)
  • How many people are visiting my site? (visitors = “users”)
  • How long do they stay? (duration of a single visit = a “session”)
  • How many different pages are they clicking between? (“pages per session”)
  • Which pages are most interesting?
  • What search queries are bringing people to my site?

As with your business, you should have goals that you want your website to achieve, for instance by August, you want to see newsletter subscriptions grow to 10,000.

To help you measure whether you’re reaching your goals, Google Analytics has a feature aptly named “Goals”. The helpful people over at Kissmetrics have written an in-depth guide to the different types of goals.

The Google Small Business YouTube channel has a video which can help you decide what you want to measure:

If there’s a term you didn’t quite understand, there’s a handy glossary over at Socialmediaexaminer.com.

Google Analytics is designed around the structure of Accounts, Properties and Views:

  • An Account (of which you can have 100) is the umbrella under which…
  • …you can track up to 50 Properties (distinct websites or apps)…
  • …and you can have 25 Views per Property. This is the level at which you’ll create reports

For more info on these hierarchies, have a look at Google’s support pages.

Google Analytics review: What the analysts say

This Datanyze chart compares analytics software used across the top 1 million Alexa-ranked websites: Google Analytics and Google Universal Analytics enjoy a whopping 65% combined market share:

A Datanyze chart of the market share of analytics software across the Alexa top ranking 1 million sites, showing Google Analytics and Universal Analytics enjoying a combined 65%
TrustRadius published reviews of Google Analytics all score the service 7/10 or above, although there are some caveats:

“For most SMB’s I would definitely recommend Google Analytics. If a business sells a lot of ‘complex’ products with many attributes, then Omniture [Adobe Analytics] may be a better solution.” – Michael Baker, Digital Marketing Manager, Raymour & Flanagan.

Generally, people are effusive:

“As a free product, Google Analytics is hands down a fantastic value and a terrific tool for everyone from professional marketers, to beginning bloggers or search engine marketers.” – Joshua Van Horsen, Marketing Manager, Drury Hotels

Google Analytics Academy, training and certification

A picture of the three pillars of the Google Analytics Academy: "View lessons from experts", "test your knowledge" and "join the learning community"

Google Analytics Academy is a website stuffed full of free courses and resources. The courses cover things like Tag Manager Fundamentals, Mobile App Analytics and Ecommerce Analytics.

If you’re so inclined, you can take short quizzes and try exercises.

There are numerous other providers of local or online GA training, such as UK-based Jellyfish (£500 + VAT for a one day London course) and Lynda.com (which operates a monthly membership subscription + free one month trial).

The Google Partners accreditation scheme for advertising agencies, digital marketing professionals and other online consultants offers a Google Analytics Individual Qualification (IQ). The exam is free, although there are plenty of hoops to jump through to become a Google Partner, not least a minimum AdWords spend in the tens of thousands USD.

The Google Analytics IQ exam tests knowledge of both digital analytics and GA. In advance you should consider these Analytics Academy courses: Digital Analytics Fundamentals and Google Analytics Platform Principles.

Then there is the company level The Google Analytics Certified Partner accreditation program with its own set of requirements.

What is available through the Google Analytics API?

A flowchart showing the Google analytics structure and APIs

There are a number of APIs for Google Analytics, including the Management API (info relating to GA accounts) and the Core Reporting API (the report data itself – pageviews etc).

The Google Developers site gives a good overview of the various APIs, as well as resources relating to them.

Optimizesmart.com has a simple to follow but deep guide to using the basic GA APIs without any coding.

Google Analytics tutorial: Useful resources

The Google Developers site is a great place to start for technical know-how.

Here’s a top-level overview presentation about the importance of analytics, if you need a primer –

Digital agency ArcStone has collected together a useful list of resources, starting from the basics.

This video covers the essential functionality of the platform:

Google has its own repository of white papers and other resources with some things to read on the customer journey, for instance this guide to digital attribution and customer touchpoint mapping: “Four Ways To Measure What Matters Most” – PDF.

This article, for search marketers, goes over the benefits of combining Google Analytics with Remarketing Lists for Search Ads – Search Engine Land.

Building reports and filters

Reports
The various standard reports live on the left-hand sidebar of the main reporting screen.

A picture of the Google Analytics reporting dashboard

These defaults can be limited in terms of how relevant they are to your particular business.

Custom reports can be used to isolate the stats that really matter – Econsultancy has a few handy examples of custom reports.

Filters

Filters are a handy way to help keep things simple and relevant. They can be set to include or exclude certain data, and can cut across all domains or be applied just to one. A good example is that you might want to differentiate traffic caused by your own employees on your website from that of customers.

You can access filters via the Admin tab:

A screengrab of the Google Analytics admin tab showing where filters are
Google Analytics’ support pages cover Filters extensively, including this introduction video:

A quick history of Google Analytics

Google Analytics service was launched in November 2005 following Google’s acquisition of web statistics company Urchin. After some hiccups with high demand causing capacity issues, the service was made available to everyone in August 2006.

In late 2009, Google launched a new version of the tracking code added to users’ websites, improving the accuracy of the data generated and addressing previous complaints that the service was causing websites to load more slowly for their visitors.

Over the years, the kinks have been ironed out of Google Analytics’ usability, with the somewhat addictive feature of real-time data being added in 2011, meaning you can see who is using your site at any given moment.

Universal Analytics, announced in 2012 and launched in 2014, was the last major update to the platform, designed to help users keep track of site visitors across different devices. It currently exists alongside “classic” Google Analytics and, as with older versions of Windows, is causing some companies anxiety over the ease and timing of migration.

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Thomas Quillfeldt

Thomas Quillfeldt

Content Contributor, UBM

Thomas Quillfeldt is a writer for UBM covering customer technology across Technology for Marketing, eCommerce Insights and Callcentre.co.uk.

In another universe, he enthuses about music and video games. Oh, and it’s “Tom”.

January 29, 2016

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