Google Analytics Glossary

Data Collection in Google Analytics

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Published on Dec 23, 2022 and edited on Feb 28, 2023 by Iron Brands

56% of the websites on the internet use an analytics tool, and more than 86% of those use Google Analytics. Most people have heard of Google Analytics, but how does it really work?

To find out what Google Analytics can do for your business, it's vital to understand the basic concepts and inner workings.

In this article, we’ll dig a bit deeper into this matter and also answer valuable questions concerning the data collection practices of Google Analytics.

  1. How does Google Analytics work?
  2. Which kinds of hits does google analytics track?
  3. What data does google analytics collect?
  4. Does Google Analytics collect sensitive data?
  5. What data is Google Analytics unable to track?
  6. What data does google analytics prohibit collecting?
  7. Final Thoughts
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Let’s dive in!

How does Google Analytics work?

Google Analytics collects and analyzes website data to provide insights into the performance of your website. Without making it too technical, the data is collected using a JavaScript tracking code you will need to add to your website.

If the tracking code is installed and someone visits your website, data will be collected on the visitor’s behavior. This data includes things like the pages they visit, the time they spend on your website, and the actions they take, such as clicking a button.

Once the data is collected, Google Analytics processes and organizes the data into reports and charts that you can view in your dashboard. You can also create custom reports and alerts to track specific metrics and events that are important to your business.

Google Analytics provides insights into your website performance and lets you uncover opportunities to optimize this. However, Google Analytics is a rather complex tool requiring know-how and experience to find your way. If you are looking for a more straightforward analytics tool that provides the insights you need in a straightforward dashboard, you might want to check out other tools like Simple Analytics, for example.

Which kinds of hits does google analytics track?

Google Analytics tracks various hits (or datapoints), including pageviews, events, and transactions.

Pageviews are the most basic type of hits. They represent a user visiting a page on your website. Every time a user loads a page on your website, a pageview hit is recorded in Google Analytics.

Events are user interactions with specific elements on your website, such as clicking on a button or playing a video. You can use events to track user behavior and get more detailed insights into how visitors interact with your website.

Transactions are completed purchases or other conversions on your website. They represent the result of a user's journey on your website, and they are often used to measure the success of your website's performance. Transactions are mainly used by e-commerce websites, also known as e-commerce tracking.

Google Analytics also tracks other datapoints, such as social interactions, exceptions, and user timings.

What data does google analytics collect?

Google Analytics collects a wide range of data. We’ve outlined the most common datatypes below:

  1. User demographics: Google Analytics collects data about the age, gender, and interests of your users, as well as their location and language. This data is collected from third-party sources, such as Google's advertising network, and it is used to provide insights into the characteristics of your users. It is also highly privacy-invasive as you collect personal information on your website visitors. If you don’t need this, you can also look at other analytics tools that are more privacy-friendly.
  2. Traffic sources: Data is collected on the sources of your website traffic, including data about the search engines, websites, and social networks that are referring traffic to your website. This data helps you understand how people are finding your website.
  3. Conversions and goals: Goals and conversion data are collected, including data about the number of times a goal is completed, the value of each goal, and the conversion rate for each goal.
  4. Device and browser information: This mainly collects data on which devices and browsers your website visitors use to access your website, such as the type of device, operating system, and web browser. This data can help optimize the user experience for different devices and browsers.
  5. User engagement: GA collects data on how engaged your website visitors are. This entails data about the pages they view, the time they spend on each page, and the bounce rate (the percentage of users who leave your website after viewing only one page).
  6. Traffic channels: This is different than traffic sources. Whereas traffic sources indicate the specific domain your traffic navigated from, traffic channels classify sources into different groups, including data about organic search, direct traffic, referral traffic, and paid search.
  7. Campaigns and promotions: Last but not least, data about the campaigns that you are running for your website, including data about the keywords, ads, and landing pages that are associated with each campaign.

Does Google Analytics collect sensitive data?

This is difficult to answer, as different countries use different legal frameworks, so the notion of sensitive data depends.  For this reason, there is no universal answer to the question.

It is your responsibility to process data in compliance with data protection law. Refer to the applicable legislation (or to a legal professional) to assess whether you are processing sensitive data using Google Analytics and ensure you can process such data lawfully.

What data is Google Analytics unable to track?

Obviously, Google Analytics cannot track everything, such as offline activity or customer information.

The program is designed to track users' behavior on your website. For example, if a website visitor signs up for a subscription, this data can be collected. However, the lifetime value of this customer can not be identified by relying on Google Analytics data.

What data does google analytics prohibit collecting?

According to Google's terms of service, you are not allowed to use the service to collect or share any data that could be used to personally identify an individual (such as name, email address, or phone number) without explicit consent.

In addition, collecting or sharing data that is illegal, fraudulent, or violates the privacy of others is also prohibited. This includes data obtained through spamming, phishing, or other deceptive or malicious practices.

As mentioned above, It is your responsibility to process data in compliance with data protection law.

Final Thoughts

If you made it here, you now clearly understand how Google Analytics works and what data it collects. This forms the basis for your decision on whether Google Analytics can benefit your organization.

Google Analytics is an analytics tool that provides many functions that can be used to gather insights and uncover opportunities to improve your website performance and, ultimately, your bottom line. However, it must be noted that Google Analytics is also a complex tool that requires experience to use optimally. Google Analytics is built to give its power users the capability of tracking multiple dashboards and custom reports.

Google Analytics might not be the right tool if you're looking for a straightforward dashboard that tells you how your website performs. This is also why we built Simple Analytics (a simple Google Analytics alternative). We want to provide the insights you need at a glance in a very straightforward dashboard. Check our live dashboard to see what it looks like. If this resonates with your needs, feel free to

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