Understanding what Google Analytics tracks: A beginners’ guide

Understanding what Google Analytics tracks: A beginners’ guide

Before we get started, let’s get to know Google Analytics (GA) a little bit closer. Google Analytics is a tool developed by Google to help marketers and web owners track their website performance. Since its launching in 2005, the tool has rapidly grown into the most-used web tracking tool in the universe.

A couple of factors could explain why Google Analytics is so popular. The first explanation lies in the name itself. Who doesn’t know Google? It’s literally the most popular website in the world. Having the “Google” brand already benefits GA over its competition.

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The second factor is the fact that it’s free. There’s almost no other software out there that can give you features as complete as Google Analytics for free. It’s no wonder that GA is currently the market leader in the web tracking industry, estimated to have between 30 to 50 million active users.

Why you need Google Analytics?

Although the idea of web performance can seem like a small part of your business, it actually plays a significant role in your marketing strategy’s success.

Whether you’re running ads on social media platforms or verbally telling people to visit your site, in the end, your users are most likely going to end up on your site. Your site is a great way to see if your campaigns are effective or not.

Google Analytics collects important data from your website in the form of statistics and numbers instead of gut feeling and instinct, making it reliable for analysis. Whether you’re an established business or a budding entrepreneur, Google Analytics is your perfect tool for measuring your digital marketing’s impact and your brand’s online presence.

Google Analytics tracks 4 types of data

  • Audience demographics.

GA tracks important information about your audience, like their age, gender, location, interests, buying preferences, and the browsers they use.

  • Traffic source.

Another thing that GA tracks is the source of your traffic. Whether it’s from other websites, social media platforms, email, organic search, or paid ads.

  • Audience engagement.

What the audience does on your site is also recorded by GA. This tool gives you insights about what page(s) they visit, how long the time spent on that page, what links they click, and what actions they take (signing up, subscribing to the newsletter, or adding a product to cart).

  • Website’s performance.

Last but not least, GA tracks the performance of every page in your site. It tells you which page(s) is the most visited, the average time spent on each page, the page with the highest bounce rate, and also the effectiveness of your landing page.

Understanding basic GA metrics

Now that you know the kinds of data Google Analytics tracks and records, let’s learn more about its basic metrics. For first-time users, GA terms can be unfamiliar and quite complicated. Take a look at this mini GA glossary to understand its metrics better.

Users / Visitors

Users or visitors are people that visit a page or multiple pages on your website. GA relies on your website’s cookies to identify incoming visitors. Users that come to your site for the first time will be identified as new users, while users with existing cookies will be identified as returning users. However, keep in mind that if a returning user clears his/her cookies or uses a different browser, then that person will be identified as a new user again.

Sessions / Visits

Sessions are a set of activities that a user does on your website during a specific time frame. For Google Analytics, the specific time frame is set by default at 30 minutes. So, if a user browses on your site for 15 minutes, leaves, and then comes back within 30 minutes, it will be recorded as one session. But, if a user browses, becomes inactive for over 30 minutes, and then comes back online, it will be recorded as two sessions.

Average Session Duration

The average session duration is the average time users spent on your website within a specific time frame. GA measures it by dividing the total time spent with the total amount of sessions. For instance, in 30 days, your website receives a total of 500 sessions with the total time spent 1,500 minutes (90,000 seconds). It means that your average session duration for that particular month is 3 minutes (180 seconds).


Pageviews refer to the number of times a user visits a particular page on your website. If someone visits your homepage, refreshes the page 5 times, and then goes to the sales page, it’ll be counted as 6 views for the homepage and 1 view for the sales page.

Bounce Rate

The bounce rate is the number of users who visit a page on your website and then leave without browsing any further. A high bounce rate is an indication that you need to upgrade the content of your site.

Google Analytics Infographic

When we first used Google Analytics, we were overwhelmed by all the charts, reports, complicated settings, and unfamiliar terms. That’s why recently, we’ve decided to create an infographic about the basics of GA to help beginners and first-timers learn about it.

We all have to start somewhere, right? We learned GA the hard way, but we don’t want you to. Scroll below to find the infographic.

Click image to open interactive version (via A Beginner’s Guide To Google Analytics

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Jacob Wolinsky is the founder of ValueWalk.com, a popular value investing and hedge fund focused investment website. Jacob worked as an equity analyst first at a micro-cap focused private equity firm, followed by a stint at a smid cap focused research shop. Jacob lives with his wife and four kids in Passaic NJ. - Email: jacob(at)valuewalk.com - Twitter username: JacobWolinsky - Full Disclosure: I do not purchase any equities anymore to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest and because at times I may receive grey areas of insider information. I have a few existing holdings from years ago, but I have sold off most of the equities and now only purchase mutual funds and some ETFs. I also own a few grams of Gold and Silver

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