Google Analytics Academy Part 3: Understanding and Using Analytics Data

I love this time of the year; spring has sprung, summer is on its way and we have a bucket load of bank holidays to enjoy (wooooo)! Not to be outdone on the serious fun, I have the next part of my Google Analytics Academy series for you guys to enjoy. This month is amongst the shorter of the series but that doesn’t mean it’s any less interesting or educational!



This month’s post is all about understanding and using Google Analytics data you receive after measuring the data. In this post will be touching upon how GA works and then were going to define GA’s key metrics and dimensions. On with the show…

Unit Two: Understanding and Using Google Analytics Data

In order to properly understand the data you’ll be with in GA, you need to have a good understanding of how the data is first collected and then processed before you see it in your reports.

How Google Analytics Works

There are four man components to the GA system, these are:

  • Collection
  • Configuration
  • Processing
  • Reporting

We are going to look at each of these four components in detail to see how they work together to get the data that your business needs.

1.) Collection

You can use GA to collect user interaction from any digitally connected environment such as websites, mobile applications or point-of-sale systems.

Website Tracking

  1. To track a website, GA uses a little piece of javascript code to collect the information. You need to place this code on every page of your website.
  2. When someone arrives on your website, the code will collect information about how the user engages with your site.
  3. You can also customize the collection process so that can collect additional data you may have pointed out during measurement planning.

Mobile App Tracking

  1. Collecting data from mobile applications is conceptually similar to tracking websites but it does have a few key differences.
  2. Rather than using JavaScript to collect data, mobile app tracking uses different implementations based upon the different operating systems.
  3. Instead of ‘Page Views’ ‘Activities’ are tracked on mobile applications.
  4. Finally mobile ‘hits’ from offline devices can be stored and dispatched to GA when the device reconnects.

2.) Processing

No matter where you’re collecting the data from, the next step that occurs is the processing of that data.

Basically you can think of this stage as transferring the raw data that Google shoots back at you into something a lot more useful such as categorizing your users devices in to mobile or non-mobile.

3.) Configuration

During this step GA applies your configuration settings to the data you receive, for example, adding filters to your data. Once your data is processed using your configurations, it is stored in a database, and once it has been stored it cannot be changed.

4.) Reporting

The last step on the GA platform is reporting. You use the web interface at: to access your data.

Now on to looking at the key metrics and dimensions of GA. Here’s a fun gif to keep you going. (Never say I don’t look after you – an educational master class and some thrilling gifs, you lucky people…)

No reasons for this, except that you deserve it!

No reasons for this, except that you deserve it!

Key Metrics and Dimensions Defined

Here we are going to look at the types of data you find in GA and also define some of the most common metrics that you will find in GA.

In any type of analytics tool there are two type of data, dimensions and metrics:

  • Dimensions: These are characteristics of the users; their sessions and actions.
  • Metrics: These are quantitative measurements of users, sessions, and their actions.

Every report that you see in GA will have both dimensions and metrics. Commonly you’ll see these reported in a table, with the first column containing values for a dimensions and the rest of the columns containing the corresponding metrics.

Let’s have a look at the common dimensions and you’ll see in GA;

User dimension e.g. geography:


Session dimension e.g. traffic source:


Interaction dimension e.g page title:


Metrics help you understand the behaviour of your users. For example, the number of users, the number of sessions, their behaviour on the page, and your e-commerce data (if applicable):


Visitors (Users)

This metric measures the number of unique users that visit your site in a specific time period. This is commonly used to understand the size of your audience. You can then segment this into ‘new users’ and ‘returning users’ for you app or website.

Visits (Sessions)

Sessions are defined are a period of consecutive activity by the same user. In GA, by default, a session continues until a user stops interacting with the site for 30 minutes.

You can customize this in configuration settings, you might want to do this because of the type of site you are, if you’re a text site then a user might leave after only a few minutes, meaning 30 minutes is okay.

But if you’re a video site then 30 minutes might be too short as people could still be watching something on your site without clicking on different pages.


In each visit your user will engage with one or more pages within your website. GA will automatically track these as page views, the page view metric counts every time a webpage is visited.

GA is also able to track other interactions such as watching a video. These are called events and require customization via your implementation plan (see my previous blog post on creating a measurement plan for how to do this).

It is these interactions that keep a visitors session ‘active’ in GA.

Bounce Rate

Finally another key metric to understand is the bounce rate. Bounce rate is the percentage of sessions with one only user interaction, i.e. who is coming onto your webpage and then disappearing after visiting just the one web page.

It is important because you need to understand why people are leaving. It could be sign that you’re not providing a good experience for them once they arrive, but alternatively it could also be that you have a one page blog meaning a higher bounce rate is fine.

To conclude; dimensions are characteristics of your users and their sessions and metrics are quantitative measurements that describe user behavior.

Woo no more more work!

Woo no more more work!

So that’s it for another month ladies and gents. I hope you’ve found this month’s installment useful. Have a good May and enjoy those bank holidays, but not too much, until next time!

Alex Thomas About the author

Alex was an Online Marketing Executive here at Boom Online Marketing. He's now one of our alumni.

Learn more about Alex Thomas

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