We are constantly being told that Google Analytics (GA) can do endless things to drive business. But how exactly? The topic of Google Analytics can be extremely intimidating for someone who is just trying to get their feet wet. Once you get past the complexities and strong learning curve, the key to optimizing your business is right under the surface.

The Platform Principles course that Google provides is an ideal way to hit the ground running for integrating analytics into your business. The glory of the course is that it provides you with knowledge of how the system actually runs so that you can better understand the tools it offers. Just in case you’re too busy watching binge Netflix to keep up, I created a quick shortcut guide to the behind the scenes of GA.

There are four main pieces of the pie that makeup the backend of the GA platform. These components work together to create a seamless operation to help you gather and customize your data. Bare with me folks, it’s going to be a long ride.

Collection

I’m sure you’re wondering how exactly Google Analytics can be the most intelligent technology out there. The secret is that organization is the key to analyzing data. Google has built a data model that can break data into users, sessions, and interactions. All three of these components are interconnected and build off of each other.

For instance, if I spent a sunny afternoon browsing my beloved Nordstrom.com, this would begin a new session. Google is even intelligent enough to decipher between new and existing users. Since I religiously shop for new shoes and trends, I surely already have my own distinct user ID.

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If I leave my computer and come back a few hours later, a new session begins. GA also can track my interactions with the Nordstrom website within each session. When I click on the gorgeous pair of featured Vince Camuto pumps ,it’s recorded. Once I write a review on the new pair of Zellas I purchased last week, it’s recorded. Each of these interactions is linked to a session and each session is linked to a user ID.

We have the data… so how is it transmitted back to Google? Well, it depends on which type of device is being tracked. There are a couple essential ways to make your data as accurate as possible.

  • Website: If you’re looking to track data on a website. GA provides a javascript snippet that controls when data is collected. Remember, the snippet must be placed onevery single pagethat you want tracked. It’s also crucial that the snippet is placed before the </head> tag.
  • Mobile: One of the benefits of mobile tracking is the ability to segment data based on operating system, screen views, and how often users open the app. Instead of Javascript, mobile apps can collect data with a Software Development Disk (SDK). Although this disk is different for IOS and Android, it operates very similarly.

Another differentiation between the website and mobile tracking is the time it takes to send the data. With websites, the data is sent over almost instantaneously. Mobile devices can potentially lose network connectivity which means it is safer to store the information locally until a strong connection can be made which also conserves battery life.

Google Analytics also has the capability to track other types of devices such as appliances or kiosks. That’s right, you could track a fridge if you wanted to learn about its usage. (Wow!) These types of devices use a measurement protocol and must be built into the device manually.

Configuration & Processing

Worried missing some data past data?

Guess what? You don’t have to. GA has the capability to configure to Google Adwords and other Google products. After that, it takes it a step further and configures to any none Google products that are storing your data.

The configuration and processing step go hand in hand in order to deliver accurate and meaningful data. Once the data is combined all together, it’s aggregated into tables. This step organizes the data into a meaningful way to prepare for analysis. This stage is also when each device receives its own user ID. These ID numbers can be manually modified to customize your data whichever way is easiest for your business.

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While the data is being configured, it also is taking into consideration any filters or goals that you have in place. These automatic filters can help you stay on track with your business goals and targets. Data can also be automatically included or excluded based on your settings. For example, if a company wishes to analyze data only with users that have IOS, the system can automatically exclude users with Android.

One of the suggested segmentation tactics is to divide the data into channel groups. By taking a closer look at which channels or are most effective for which user segments, you can maximize the content provided for each channel. Fairmont Hotels recently faced the challenge of having small social media metrics with minimal marketing value. It was difficult to determine which social media channels were the most effective for different locations of the chain.

Google Analytics provided the tools needed in order to uncover which social media platforms were most popular for different demographics. This allowed the chain to optimize the current strategies in place and expand its reach to build a strong social media presence. Cases like these demonstrate the possibilities for your business when you can properly utilize analytics. Similar strategies can be built into segments such as content groups, which can encourage your business to reach users based on their interests.

Reporting

The last step in processing your data is building reports to fit your business needs. The reporting is what makes analytics endlessly useful because it makes your data meaningful. It transforms raw numbers into an organized collection of data that we can utilize to draw conclusions.

Reports are built with both metric and dimensions.

  • Metrics: Quantitative measurements of your data. (i.e counts how often things happen on a page or mobile app)
  • Dimension: Describes a characteristic of the data (i.e where the traffic from your website came from)

Both metrics and dimensions are combined in order to create value in the reporting.

The reporting feature can also be used for report sampling which can generate small and customizable reports. This feature is useful for maintaining a high level of accuracy in your reports as well as condensing data.

A new feature that GA offers for more advanced firms is an Application Program Interface (API). This provides the capability to have your data that is processed through GA appear directly into your own marketing dashboard. If a firm already has their own dashboard organized and personalized the API can be built directly into your own application.

If you were not already convinced that adding Google Analytics into your business plan should be the first thing on your list, I hope you are now. This platform is one of the most effective ways to maximize your current marketing strategies as well as produce data for new ones.

Stay tuned for more updates on Google Analytics.

Until next time,

Angie

One thought on “The Mechanics of Data

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