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How Does Google Analytics Work?

There is a reason why Google Analytics is so popular (and not just because it’s free.) Google Analytics is a tool that helps you learn how users find and use your website. But how does Google Analytics work? In this article, we’ll discuss how Google Analytics works, what Google Analytics offers, and how it collects information from your website’s visitors.

google analytics

What is Google Analytics? 

First, let’s discuss what Google Analytics is. Google Analytics is a free tool offered by the search engine that helps you analyze your website and users to help you monitor the performance of your marketing, content, products, and more. It provides analytics reports that show you data like your traffic sources. You can use Google Analytics to set goals, like destination goals, duration goals, page/screens per session goals, and event goals. If you want to learn more about your site’s user behavior or bounce rate in real time, you can use its analytics data to help you.

How Does Google Analytics Work?

The first step is to sign up for a Google Analytics account. Then, you’ll need to add some code to each web page in order to track your metrics. However, despite what some believe, Google Analytics does not track every single visitor to your site. (More on that later.)

how does google analytics work

How Does Google Analytics Gather Data? 

The way Google Analytics works is by gathering data about visitors to your website. It provides you with information about the people who visit your website and collects this data quickly. For example, it can tell you where your site traffic is coming from and how many hits you are receiving in a given period of time.

Javascript

But how does Google Analytics gather this data? It uses Javascript. Javascript, a nearly universal computer language that allows coders and website developers to make websites more interactive, passes data about your site visitors to Google’s servers.

When you look at a site, the content you are seeing is saved in HTML, which is the standard language for documents meant to be displayed in a web browser. If this is too technical, imagine the HTML as a Google Doc you might use to write a paper. The HTML file, like a Google Doc, tells the computer what text to show, where to include images, and how to format it.

However, dissimilarly to a Google Doc, HTML pages are read-only. This means that without a language like Javascript, the HTML page is not interactive. Without it, you wouldn’t be able to make changes or communicate with the server.

Javascript, however, is interactive because it is a standardized language. This means that most web browsers can read Javascript’s instructions. The popup windows we all know and love? Those exist because of Javascript.

Javascript and Google Analytics

But what does this have to do with Google Analytics? Well, Javascript lets your computer communicate with other computers that are also online. When you look at a website that is utilizing Google Analytics, that site will ask your computer to download some Javascript instructions from Google Analytics. Those instructions ask your browser to send information back to Google. This information might be the web page that you are looking at, the way you found the page, or how you moved around the site once you arrived.

As many as 30 to 50 million websites use Google Analytics. Chances are, any time you are looking at a given website, your data is being sent to Google. While this might be disturbing news to you, don’t worry: Google makes sure that the data collected is anonymous. So, anyone checking Google Analytics won’t see your name specifically. They will simply see that someone, using a certain keyword found their site and visited it six times.

how does google analytics gather data

Drawbacks to Google Analytics

So, why does this information matter? If you are just starting out with Google Analytics, it is helpful to know how it works for two reasons.

Number one, you should know that some people who visit your site will not show up in Google Analytics (or GA.) This is because some viewers do not have Javascript capability on their computers, or because they choose to turn off Javascript on their browsers. Most computers, tablets, and phones these days have Javascript by default. However, older devices do not use Javascript. So, those users will not show up in your Google Analytics dashboard.

By the same token, some extremely advanced techies choose to prevent Javascript from ever being used on their computer. This might be for privacy reasons or because it affects their performance.

If you need to know exactly how many times your site has been seen, Google Analytics will not work for this reason. If your audience is extremely high-tech and might have Javascript enabled, or is on the other end of the spectrum and only utilizes old-school technology and devices, it is best to utilize another tool to track the visitors to your website.

Additionally, because Google Analytics uses anonymous tracking, you can’t track user-level interaction that deeply. There are other tools available that can help you track users on your site between devices.

Luckily, for most sites, these drawbacks of Google Analytics do not matter much. There is a reason why Google Analytics is such a popular tool for tracking website users. For help setting up and understanding your own Google Analytics account, contact SEO Design Chicago today. We offer Google Analytics services to help make sure your business is meeting your goals and getting your desired results.

what is google analytics

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