Defining Digital Analytics
To begin, let’s start by defining “digital analytics” and why it’s important. So Krista, what’s the deal with digital analytics?
Well Justin, people usually purchase goods in stages.
In marketing, we have the concept of a purchase funnel. There are different stages within the funnel that describe customer interactions. A basic purchase funnel includes the following steps:
- Acquisition involves building awareness and acquiring user interest
- Behavior is when users engage with your business
- Conversion is when a user becomes a customer and transacts with your business
In the offline world, this process can be hard to measure. But in the online world, we can measure many different aspects of the funnel using digital analytics. We can track what online behavior led to purchases and use that data to make informed decisions about how to reach new and existing customers.
Digital Analytics in Practice
Think about an online store, such as the Google Merchandise Store. It might have a goal to sell more t-shirts. Using digital analytics, the store could collect and analyze data from their online advertising campaigns to see which are most effective and expand those marketing efforts.
For example, the store could analyze geographical sales data to understand if people in certain places buy a lot of shirts and then run additional advertising campaigns in those areas. They could also use analytics to understand how users progress through their online shopping cart. If they notice that users have trouble with a particular step on their website, they can make changes to the site to resolve the problem.
Different kinds of businesses can benefit from digital analytics:
- Publishers can use it to create a loyal, highly-engaged audience and to better align on-site advertising with user interests.
- Ecommerce businesses can use digital analytics to understand customers’ online purchasing behavior and better market their products and services.
- Lead generation sites can collect user information for sales teams to connect with potential leads.
While we’ve primarily talked about collecting data from a website, Google Analytics can also collect behavioral data from a variety of systems such as mobile applications, online point-of-sales systems, video game consoles, customer relationship management systems, or other internet-connected platforms.
That’s right. This data is compiled into Analytics reports, which you can use to perform in-depth analysis to better understand your customers and their purchase journey. Then you can test out new solutions to improve your business.
Tracking a Website
For the Google Store, the tracking code could show how many users visited a page that sells drinkware versus a page that sells houseware. Or it could tell us how many users bought an item like an Android doll by tracking whether they made it to the purchase confirmation page.
But the tracking code will also collect information from the browser like the language the browser is set to, the type of browser (such as Chrome or Safari), and the device and operating system used to access the Google Store. It can even collect the “traffic source,” which is what brought users to the site in the first place. This might be a search engine, an advertisement they clicked on, or an email marketing campaign.
Keep in mind that every time a page loads, the tracking code will collect and send updated information about the user’s activity. Google Analytics groups this activity into a period of time called a “session.” A session begins when a user navigates to a page that includes the Google Analytics tracking code. A session ends after 30 minutes of inactivity. If the user returns to a page after a session ends, a new session will begin.
Processing and Reporting
When the tracking code collects data, it packages that information up and sends it to Google Analytics to be processed into reports. When Analytics processes data, it aggregates and organizes the data based on particular criteria like whether a user’s device is mobile or desktop, or which browser they’re using.
But there are also configuration settings that allow you to customize how that data is processed. For example, you might want to apply a filter to make sure your data doesn’t include any internal company traffic, or only includes data from a particular country or region that’s important to your business.
The Analytics account structure
Now that you know how data gets collected, let’s look at how Google Analytics accounts are organized.All of your Google Analytics accounts can be grouped under an “Organization,” which is optional. This allows you to manage multiple Google Analytics accounts under one grouping.
Large businesses or agencies could have multiple accounts, while, medium to small-sized businesses generally (only) use one account. When you create an account, you also automatically create a property and, within that property, a view for that account. But each Analytics account can have multiple properties and each property can have multiple views. This lets you organize your Analytics data collection in a way that best reflects your business.
The Google Analytics Account determines how data is collected from your websites and manages who can access that data. Typically, you would create separate Analytics accounts for distinct businesses or business units.
Each Google Analytics account has at least one “property.” Each property can collect data independently of each other using a unique tracking ID that appears in your tracking code.
You may assign multiple properties to each account, so you can collect data from different websites, mobile applications, or other digital assets associated with your business. For example, you may want to have separate properties for different sales regions or different brands. This allows you to easily view the data for an individual part of your business, but keep in mind this won’t allow you to see data from separate properties in aggregate.
Just as each account can have multiple “properties,” each property can have multiple “views.” You can use a feature called Filters in your configuration settings to determine what data you want to include in the reports for each view.
For example, The Google Store sells merchandise from their website across different geographical regions. They could create one view that includes all of their global website data. But if they wanted to see data for individual regions, they could create separate views for North America, Europe, and Asia. If the Google Store wanted to only see data for external traffic (that didn’t include their own store employees), they could set up a view that filtered out internal traffic based on IP address.
The view level also lets you set Google Analytics “Goals”. Goals are a valuable way to track conversions, or business objectives, from your website. A goal could be how many users signed up for an email newsletter, or how many users purchased a product. We’ll discuss Goals and Conversions in a later lesson. Be thoughtful when setting up your accounts, properties, and views, because you can’t change data once it’s been collected and processed. by Google Analytics.
Before we move on to user access permissions, there are a couple important things to note about views:
- New views only include data from the date the view was created and onwards. When you create a new view, it will not include past data.
- If you delete a view, only administrators can recover that view within a limited amount of time. Otherwise, the view will be permanently deleted.
You can assign permissions to other users at the account, property, or view level. Each level inherits permissions from the level above it.
For example, if you have access to an account, then you have the same access permissions to the properties and views underneath that account. But if you only have access permissions for a view, then you won’t have permission to modify the property or account associated with that view.
By clicking “Admin”, Google Analytics lets you set user permissions for: “managing users,” “edit,” “collaborate,” or “read and analyze.”
- “Managing users” lets users add or remove user access to the account, property, or view.
- “Edit” lets users make changes to the configuration settings.
- “Collaborate” allows users to share things like dashboards or certain measurement settings.
- And finally, “Read and Analyze” lets users view data, analyze reports, and create dashboards, but restricts them from making changes to the settings or adding new users.
How you configure your organizations, accounts, properties, and views can affect how your data gets collected. Be thoughtful when setting up your Google Analytics implementation, and make sure you align your properties and views of the data you collect with your overall business structure.