How Google Analytics worksYou need to understand how the data is collected and processed in Google Analytics before you see it in your reports.

There are four main components to the Google Analytics system: The collection of data, the configuration, the processing and reporting.  Below is a review of each of these and how they work together to generate your data.

1. Collection of data.

You can use Google Analytics to collect user-interaction data from websites, mobile apps, and any digitally connected device that you want to track.

Lets focus on the basics of website tracking – to track a website, Google Analytics uses a small piece of JavaScript code to collect this information. You have to place this piece of code on every page of the website you want to track. Or if you have a template/back ground that is used throughout your site you can add it there.

The javascript can collect information from the website  – like the URL of pages the visitor is using, the user’s browser, language and the device and operating system along with the referring source that brought the user to the site.

A huge amount of data can be collected just by using the standard Javascript tracking code, but there are many possibilities that allow you to collect additional data that you need, based on your measurement planning process.

Collecting data from a mobile application is very similar to tracking websites, but there a a few key differences that you should be aware of.

  • Instead of using javascript to collect data, mobile tracking uses a different set of methods that are specific to the operating system.
  • Mobile app tracking collects data after each activity rather then each page view.
  • A unique aspect of mobile tracking, is that mobiles are not always connected to the internet, and the data can not always be sent to the collection server in real time. Google Analytics stores this data and sends it to the server when the device reconnects.

With web tracking, a “Hit” is sent every time a user views a page. With mobile tracking a “Hit” is sent every time a user completes an activity, so you have to choose what type of user interaction you consider a “Hit” for that specific environment.

For example, you want to track store purchases, you could have your cart send a “Hit” every time a purchase is complete. It could include information like, number of items purchased etc…

2.Processing

Once the hits from a user have been collected by Google’s servers the next step is data processing. This is where your raw data turns into something more useful, like the device they used, mobile or non mobile.

3.Configuration

This is where Google Analytics applies your configuration settings to the raw data. For example you can add any filters to your data, like excluding hits from your own internal users. Once the data is processed using these filters it cannot be changed.

4.Reporting

The last step is reporting. You can access your reports in your Google Analytics account.