While explaining some topics or tools, it may be hard for anyone to figure out where to start, however while starting to explain Google Analytics, this topic is definitely it. There are three pillars of Google Analytics– 1.) Data Collection, 2.) Configuration/Processing, and 3.) Reporting, but everything starts with Data Collection– think of it like a foundation of the house. Just a few errors here will be enough to make all your insights and data analytics skills go to waste.
Data Collection, Configuration/Processing, & Reporting are three pillars of Google Analytics
So, how does google analytics collect data? Through their tracking code 😉
but wait, there is a bit more than that.
Let’s say, Jamie wants to shop from Amazon. So, what does she do? She goes to her browser and enters the URL in her browser’s address bar. She could also be following a marketing campaign, but ultimately a call is initiated between Jamie’s browser and Amazon Webserver where Jamie’s browser requests for the webpage.
This is when Amazon returns some HTML. Once Jamie’s device receives this HTML, her browser starts interpreting HTML language line by line as commands and starts constructing the webpage. This is how all websites work.
HEADS UP ! HTML stands for “Hyper Text Markup Language,” and it is a computer language. Computer understands it like a set of commands or like a recipe for creating webpages.
Google Analytics Tracking
Once you paste Page Tracking Code on all pages, it’s all glory. This Tracking Code executes a series of complicated steps in a split second to collect data and track users.
Once the tracking code becomes a part of HTML, browser starts interpreting it as a command as well. When this page loads now, the browser tries to interpret HTML and starts constructing a webpage. However, as soon as this browser reaches and executes the tracking code, a packet of information (some data) is sent from the visitor’s browser to GA server. This transfer of data is also called a “hit.” This hit gathers tons of information about user at that exact moment in time– much like a snapshot– and relays it to GA server.
Once Tracking Code is installed on all pages, visitor’s data starts getting collected & shared with Google Analytics.
What gets tracked in a hit?
There are limitless possibilities to capture tons of data through custom dimensionS, event tracking, etc, but even if you are using only Pageview Tracking, with a basic copy and paste implementation, GA collects huge volumes of data. For example:
- Page Information: URL, Title, Landing Pages, Page Load Time, Page Flow, Exit Pages, etc.
- User Information: Location, Language, New/Repeat user, Frequency, Recency, Age, Gender, Interests, etc.
- Technology: Mobile Device, Browser, Operating System, Screen Resolution, etc.
And tons more!
You get the point– GA collects a whole bunch of data right out of the box.
HEADS UP ! Now there is a new way to track your website through Google Analytics, i.e. Google Tag Manager. It makes analytics implementation super easy & fast.
Awesomness doesn’t end here. Once Google Analytics collects data, it begins a process called Visitor Tracking. This step completes the identification of visitors on the basis of a unique ID called “Client ID”.
Once data is collected and Google makes sure that visitor is being tracked, it proceeds to the second and last step of the response. This response will be either success or failure itself. This is the final confirmation from GA’s server.
Google Analytics sends the final confirmation after it successfully collects data & tracks the visitors,
Google Analytics sends in the final confirmation in the form of 1X1 pixel transparent image. This is a common method used by many third party tools, and it is often referred to as “Pixel Tracking”
HEADS UP ! Traditionally, network calls with status code as “200” are considered to be successful, but even calls with status code “302” submit data to Google Analytics successfully.
It took me a few hours to compile this article, but it takes Google Analytics Data Collection only 200 milliseconds to complete all these steps!
I love understanding actions happening behind the scenes, and I hope I was able to bring some clarity on how data collection in Google Analytics works. If you liked this article, please share.