Google Analytics 101: Discover the “How” of Your Website Results — Review

Poli Dey Bhavsar
5 min readMar 21, 2021

Are you still making marketing decisions based on gut instinct? Do you get intimidated by the sheer amount of data and have no idea what to do with it? Google Analytics (GA) can help you understand what’s exactly happening with your business if you know how to use it.

So, no more shooting in the dark! Remove your blindfold in the form of ignorance about data analytics by learning the data-driven approach and improve your marketing and strategy decisions.

Image: No more shooting in the dark; let GA remove your data ignorance blindfold.

In this blog (fifth in the series) I am going to share my learnings from the Google Analytics for beginners course at the CXL Institute, although at a very high-level.

Before enrolling for this course, I had little knowledge on the inner workings of Google Analytics and I was tired of missing out. This course by Chris Mercer, the Co-Founder of is highly comprehensive. Now I would need to keep practicing in order to get better at the tool.

Here are a few learnings from the course that I would cover in this blog:

· When and when not to use GA

· Dimensions vs. metrics

· Structure of GA

· Types of reports

· Standard reports

· Types of traffic

· Types of goals

· Time in GA

· Analyzing Reports

I won’t be starting my blog with ‘what is GA?’ You know it right! Let’s begin with how it functions to better understand the instances when it is wise to depend on GA and when it is not.

When and when not to use GA

As a business owner, you would have so many ways to know the end results about your marketing efforts. However, what you won’t be knowing is “how”. That’s where GA would come to your rescue.

GA will help you measure the how and it will showcase that in terms of numbers. However, to make the most of this tool, try to understand that GA stores behaviours in the form of numbers.

For that it collects, stores and reports data. It’s incredible at storing data (behaviors in the form of numbers) however it’s not so good at collecting and reporting. That’s why you should use GA for storing data, the task at which it is adept at.

However, it’s better not to use GA for collecting data (rather use Google Tag Manager) and for reporting data (rather use Google Data Studio).

Another reason for not using Google Analytics would be when you want something incredibly visual. For example, heatmaps or session recordings of how people are using your pages. You can rely on tools like Hotjar or TruConversion for such visual outputs.

Dimensions vs. metrics

Now, let’s put a quick glance on the difference between metrics and dimensions.

Metrics are numbers in GA and you can perform any sort of arithmetic with them. Whereas, dimensions are the things that help you to break down and metrics and sort them. For example, Page views is a metric while Page is a dimension.

There are two types of dimensions available in GA: primary and secondary dimensions.

Structure of GA

Let me give you an overview of how GA structure is organized. You have an account and accounts are able to have properties. Accounts can have multiple properties. Each property have a view, at least one. We can also have multiple views within a property.

Image: Structure of GA — Account, Property & View

For GA linking and property moving, visit this support document.

Also, there’s a lot to understand about the use cases of this structure of GA, which is extensively covered in the course by Chris Mercer.

Different types of reports

In GA, you will come across mainly three types of reports:

Overview reports — Reports that answers general questions, e.g. Home Report.

Table reports — Reports in tabular forms which allows you to drill down further by switching dimensions both primary and secondary, e.g. Acquisition Report.

Flow reports — Reports that are very visual and radically different, e.g., Goal Flow Report

Standard reports

By default, GA offers you these standard reports which can be categorized as follows:

Real Time Reports — Reports that answer “what”. For example, it answers testing questions such as what is working and what is not.

Audience Reports — Reports that answer “who” that is “who are my users?”.

Acquisition Reports — Reports that answer the “where” questions for you such as “Where are my users coming from?” In other words, they answer how your users found you.

Behavior Reports — Reports that show you what actions your audience is taking in terms of landing and exit pages.

Conversion Reports — Reports that give you the answer to the question “what are the results of all of my users’ actions?”

Types of Traffic

Traffic is categorized mainly under three types:

Organic — Traffic coming from search engines.

Referral — Traffic coming from other sites (third-party) other than search engines.

Direct none — Traffic that GA has no idea from where it’s coming from.

Types of goals

In order to measure results, you can set different types of goals such as:

Let’s have a quick glance at the four types of goals:

· Destination goals

· Duration goals

· Pages per session goals

· Event goals

Analyzing Reports

Chris Mercer introduced a very useful analysis framework known as QIA:

Question — Find the questions you need answers for from GA.

Information — Figure out the information that you’re going to need (from GA) in order to get those answers.

Action — Ask yourself what actions you would take to get those answers. This helps you to put the information in context.

Time in GA

Be cautious about time in Google Analytics, it’s a representation not an absolute. So, when Google Analytics shows you someone spending 30 seconds on your page, please understand it’s a representation and not exact time.

This is because GA calculates time stamp between two different hits. In case, someone lands on a page and they have no other hits then that duration spent on that particular page will be shown as zero. Interesting isn’t? To understand in detail, I would recommend you to check out this GA course, beginner’s edition today.

For me, understanding how GA tracks time is the most important takeaway from this course. Let me tell you why! At my previous job, I was once told that the content I write will be judged on the basis of ‘Average Time on Page’ and the benchmark would be 4 minutes.

After completing this course, now I know that this would have been such a wrong metric for judging if my content was engaging or not. Moreover, I also understood that many self-proclaimed ‘Analytics Experts’ have no idea about how GA tracks time.

I know this blog gives you a very superficial view of GA because I only preach what I practice. So once I have got my hands dirty with the tool to that extent when I have my own insights, you would definitely have a detailed blog on this topic too. Till then stay tuned!