Knowledge Bridge

Global Intelligence for the Digital Transition

Google Analytics 101 – The what and how

Google Analytics is a powerful tool for tracking and analysing your website traffic data. By placing a small piece of code in your site, Google Analytics can then tell you where your visitors have come from, how long they stayed, and which pages they  looked at, amongst other things. This allows you to understand how different pieces of content perform and gives you insight into user behaviour so that you can improve your site, both from a technical and an editorial perspective.

Here we explain how Google Analytics works, how to set it up on your website and share it with your staff, what the definition of “metrics” and “dimensions” are, and where some of the most common standard reports can be found. Lastly there are some exercises so you can try what you’ve learned.

What is Google Analytics and how does it work?

In order for a website to use Google Analytics, it must carry a small piece of tracking code which runs when a person visits that site. The tracking code either creates or modifies Google Analytics cookies (a little snippet of information that a website stores in your browserBrowserA software program that can request, download, cache and display documents…

Two things can stop this from working properly: if first-party cookies are blocked (not third-party), or if Javascript is disabled. Some estimates say less than 5% of internet users have blocked first-party cookies.

One last note is that if the code doesn’t load in time – for example the pagePageA document having a specific URL and comprised of a set of associated files. A…

Accounts, Properties and Profiles

Before you create an account, it is useful to understand the hierarchy of Google Analytics.

An account is the topmost level of organisation for Google Analytics. It allows you to manage multiple web properties (usually a website), which can have different profiles.

The default profile should always be the entire web property (for example, the entire website or the entire domain), but you can also make other profiles which filter the data to look at a subsection of your audience, or look at specific subdomains of the website. This can be useful if your digital newsroom is separated into content silos – the editor of sports can easily see his or her web statistics separately from the editor of business.

How to create an account

1. Go to and sign in with your Google login and password. For future purposes, it is best to use the same Google account you use for AdSense or AdWords.

2. ClickClickA click can denote several different things. It can be a metric that…

At a minimum, name your account and add the website that you want to track.

3. Select httpHTTP (Hyper-Text Transfer Protocol)The format most commonly used to transfer documents on the World Wide Web.

4. Select a timezone and industry category (the industry category is for Google compare to similar industries).

5. Select “Share data with other Google products”, as this will allow you to incorporate AdWords or AdSense into your Google Analytics account.

Once you have created the account, you will be shown a tracking ID.  A tracking ID always starts with UA, followed by the account number, and then the profile ID.  So an ID UA-XXXXX-Y means that XXXXX is the overall account, and Y is this particular profile.

6. To access the code you will need to put add to your website, scroll down to “Website tracking” and select “What are you tracking?”.

7. Select the website you are tracking. You will then be given the tracking code to put on your website.

How to give other people access to your account

You probably have other people in your organization that you want to be able to access the analytics.  It is important that they do not create a new Google Analytics account on their own Google account, instead you should give them rights to view the account you just created. The reason for this is that since cookies are based on a user visiting a website, it can confuse things if multiple accounts are trying to update a user’s cookies. The data will likely be incorrect.

1. Make sure that you are administering your account, not your property or profile, then click on the Admin button in the top right.

2. Underneath the menu, click either on “Account List” or the name of the account that you see directly after “Account List”.

3. Once you are in the account admin screen, click the Users tab.

4. Click the button to add a new user. You can give them user rights, or admin rights. You can also select just specific profiles in the account for the user to be able to see.

Metrics and Dimensions

Google Analytics splits its data into “metrics” and “dimensions”.  Simply put, metrics are anything that gives you numbers, and dimensions are ways in which you can categorize those numbers. For example, number of visitors is a number, so it’s a metric, but the way you want to view those numbers – by day, by month, by country, by device – those are dimensions.

Common Metrics

Common Dimensions

Standard Reports

Reports are where Metrics meet Dimensions.  For example, you might want to look at the behaviour of new vs returning (dimension) visitors. You could compare the number of visitors (metric) who are new and the number who are returning, or the number of unique pageviews (metric) for new visitors compared to those for returning visitors.  Perhaps you want to see the bounce rate (metric) for the visitors from your country vs from other countries (dimensions).

In the standard reporting view, which is one of the buttons in the main menu, there are some useful reports that you can pull up from the sidebar:

For every report in Google Analytics, you can set the date frame and the range.  To set the date frame select the arrow in the top left-hand corner beside the current date frame and choose a start and end date.

You should immediately see your graph change dates. By default, you will notice that the analytics graph reports on the metric by day. You can change this at the top of your graph by toggling the day, month, or year buttons.

You can also compare to a previous date range by clicking “Compare to” when you select your start and end dates.


  • How many unique visitors did you have yesterday, last week, three months ago for the month?
  • How many visits in the last week were from mobile devices? What were the top three mobile devices used?
  • What are the top three countries, based on number of visits, to your site?
  • For the people that are from your country, what is the bounce rate?
  • How many visits to your site were from referrals?  What were the top three domains that they were referred from?
  • Compare the sources of visits to your site between this month, and last month. Is there a significant difference? Why do you think that is?
  • Compare the number of visits in general between the last week of this month, and the last week of last month. If there is a difference, then why?
  • What were the top five pages visited in the past week? Does that surprise you? If so, how could you use that information to change your editorial flow for next week?

Article by Shubha Bala

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