Google Analytics

analyticsGoogle Analytics (GA) is a free service offered by Google that generates detailed statistics about the visitors to a website. Its main highlight is that the product is aimed at marketers as opposed to webmasters and technologists from which the industry of web analytics originally grew. It is the most widely used website statistics service, currently in use at around 57% of the 10,000 most popular websites.

GA can track visitors from all referrers, including search engines, display advertising, pay-per-click networks, email marketing and digital collateral such as links within PDF documents.

Integrated with AdWords, users can review online campaigns by tracking landing page quality and conversions (goals). Goals might include sales, lead generation, viewing a specific page, or downloading a particular file. These can also be monetized. By using GA, marketers can determine which ads are performing, and which are not, providing the information to optimise or cull campaigns.

GA's approach is to show high level dashboard-type data for the casual user, and more in-depth data further into the report set. Through the use of GA analysis, poor performing pages can be identified using techniques such as funnel visualization, where visitors came from (referrers), how long they stayed and their geographical position. It also provides more advanced features, including custom visitor segmentation.
Technology

Google Analytics is implemented by including what is known as a "page tag". This is referred to as the Google Analytics Tracking Code (GATC) and is a hidden snippet of JavaScript code that the user adds onto every page of his or her website. This code acts as a beacon, collecting private visitor data and sending it back to Google data collection servers for processing. Data processing takes place hourly, though it can be 3–4 hours in arrears of real time.
Limitations

Many ad filtering programs and extensions (such as Firefox's Adblock and NoScript) can block the GATC. This prevents some traffic and users from being tracked, and leads to holes in the collected data. Also, privacy networks like Tor will mask the user's actual location and present inaccurate geographical data. Some users do not have Javascript-enabled/capable browsers or turn this feature off. However, these limitations are considered small – affecting only a small percentage of visits.

The largest potential impact on data accuracy comes from users deleting or blocking Google Analytics cookies. Without cookies being set, GA cannot collect data. Any individual web user can block or delete cookies resulting in the data loss of those visits for GA users. The only protection a website owner can use to prevent this, is to ensure best practice policies are upheld on their web site. That includes being transparent in what visitor data is collected and how it is used. This information is usually placed within a privacy policy statement page.

Because GA uses a page tagging technique to collect visitor information via a combination of JavaScript and cookies, it has limitations with websites browsed from mobile phones. This is due to the fact that only the latest phones are currently able to run JavaScript or set cookies (Smart phones and PDAs).

These limitations affect all on-site web analytics tools that collect on-site visitor data using page tags. That is, the small piece of code (usually JavaScript) that acts as a beacon to collect visitor data.
 

 


it-consulting-bottom