What Is Google Analytics?

Gordon Choi
Gordon Choi

Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a free and an extremely powerful tool for you to monitor your website’s data.

Tracking Method

Google Analytics provides JavaScript based tracking code in which you are required to install on your website. This will then enable Google Analytics to collect data from your website.

For Google Analytics to work properly, the minimum requirement is the tracking code must be installed on all the web pages of your website.


Google Analytics is free to use. The exception is if you are using the paid version, Google Analytics Premium.


The types of and the number of reports that are available have exceeded most (if not yet all) free and paid web analytics tools. Just to name a few:

  • You are shown reports based on your website users’ origin of locations (i.e. Countries, regions or cities).
  • You can find out your users’ device types (i.e. mobile, desktop or tablet) and the device names when they visited your site.
  • You can find reports regarding your site users’ traffic channels and sources.
  • You can find reports on all your web pages and the landing pages.
  • You can look at your reports by applying Advanced Segmentations.
  • You can create custom reports based on almost all dimensions or metrics.
  • You can create and track conversions (i.e. goals).
  • You can track your ecommerce website’s transactions.
  • You can use default metrics or calculated metrics for your reports.
  • You can set up alerts to automatically send you notice on spike traffic trends.

Data Collection

If your website happened to have started using Google Analytics since many years ago, then all your historical data from the beginning are still always available to you. This makes it easy for you to do year-over-year (YOY) data trend comparison.

Google Analytics is unable to roll back the data. i.e.

  • If a few pages of your website have not been set up with Google Analytics tracking code, then you would not have data for those web pages, and you will have no way to get the missing data in retrospect.
  • For the old years when your website has not been installed with Google Analytics tracking code, then you would not have those historical data, and you will have no way to get the historical data in retrospect.


Reports are updated very quickly, and are rarely or never delayed. Yesterday’s data would always be fully available today. In many Google Analytics properties, reports are updated in which you can “feel” the data is almost up-to-date in real time.

The quick update of reports enables you to quickly spot data spikes or outliers. You can also pre-set “alerts” in your Google Analytics account. When any abnormal data is detected, you will automatically receive the alerts.

Real-time reports are available, which is a rare feature in most other web analytics tools. The real-time reports can actually show the number of users that are currently on your site at this very moment.

Data Accuracy

Data precision is low due to data sampling in Google Analytics.

Pre-aggregated data:

  • The data in most of the standard reports is pre-aggregated by Google Analytics. The metrics and dimensions shown in the standard reports are already calculated before you request the reports for any date range.
  • If your report contains more than 50,000 unique data rows daily, then your data is sampled. Often reports with large amount of unique page URLs or unique keywords show large amounts of unique rows and will easily exceed the 50,000 data row limit. When this happens, the report will group values into a single row labeled (other), and you lose accuracy for detailed data.

Non-aggregated data:

  • If the date range contains more than 500,000 sessions, Google Analytics will apply sampling to calculate the metrics for your report.
  • If you apply a second dimension to a standard report, apply a segment to a standard report, or create a custom report, the metrics for the report must be calculated on the fly. The data Google Analytics uses is non-aggregated data, and this is why sampled data comes up in your reports.

Data sampling is the main reason in which your reports are available very quickly. You have options to increase the data precision by having more data in sampling or decrease the data precision with less data in sampling.

  • When data precision improves, it will take longer processing time for your reports.
  • When data precision decreases, it will take less processing time to compile your reports.</

The data limit for Google Analytics Premium version is much higher, and that allows you to download totally non-sampled reports.


The data is stored on Google’s databases/servers. Reports are always available, but use of the data is limited.

You cannot take immediate actions based on the user behavior that was collected by your Google Analytics. Your Google Analytics data is store on Google’s databases/servers, and even you can extract the data through Google’s API, however it is difficult to connect your Google Analytics data back to the Ecommerce transaction data or the user behavior data that you have collected without Google Analytics.


If you are based in China using any China IP addresses, accessing Google Analytics interface can often be a problem. Most of the times when logging in or accessing the reports, you can encounter either slow loading or unavailability.

However, if you are accessing Google Analytics with most any other countries’ IP addresses, you should always be okay.

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Content on Gordon Choi’s Analytics Book is licensed under the CC Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 International license.

Gordon Choi’s Other Books:
The China Mobile SEO Book
Mobile Website Book

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