Stop being all over the place! Know which tools to focus on to start possessing the analytics arsenal in-demand today by companies. If you’re an intermediate or beginner at Google Analytics (even agile in some cases), you might be at a stage where you feel uncertain about learning one of the tools we’ll talk about. Yet, I assure you that being aware of the necessity of picking them up ASAP will save you months dabbling in every new data gizmo without seeing substantial skill progression.
There are many Google Analytics courses out there that will teach you how to manoeuver and use it. Down the road you will realize that although Google Analytics alone stands as the most popular and powerful analytics tool, it also has limitations overcome by supplementary tools designed to enhance the effectiveness and depth of GA.
Today, I’m specifically referring to those from the Google Marketing Platform. The solution the platform provides is to bring different analytics tools to enhance Google Analytics and to do digital analytics all in one place. We will focus on the 3 you need for web analytics. We will talk about their differences and how they fit together. These are Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, and Data Studio. The good news is they’re totally free.
Note: Google Analytics is free unless your website exceeds the 10 million hits (web traffic) per month. The paid version is called Google Analytics 360.
Preparing yourself to learn them will save you from future implementation issues but also from lagging behind the new normal. Google Tag Manager is not mandatory for web analytics…yet it’s usefulness urges its constant recommendation by the pros making the “optional” the new standard. Having a unified platform of tools means you’re reducing the need to depend on scattered options online that are sometimes subject to change or become obsolete at worst. For example, you might use a plugin to connect your website to your GA account. However, the plugin may be limited or become obsolete. If you were to switch to GTM, for example, to start tracking your site’s activities, you’ll have to delete this plugin to avoid double tracking… and this does not include the time it’ll take you to learn GTM in order to fix issues related to the switch and get back on track. It is best to either learn it now or prepare for it accordingly rather than hitting that learning curve at future inconvenient time when your efforts would be best needed elsewhere. Let’s explore what you should include in your learning agenda:
We will divide them into 2 categories:
1- Primary tools (Google Analytics)
2- Secondary Tools (Google Tag Manager, Data Studio)
Google Analytics: what does it do in 3 steps.
Google Analytics would usually be your primary, or core tool for most of your web analytics efforts. This core position remains the same in the Google Marketing Platform. A quick look at the marketing platform homepage you’ll notice GA slightly standing out compared to the rest.
Google Analytics stores the activity of users on your website (their behavior). These activities or behaviors are quantified and kept in google analytics for a period of time (the period of your data retention can be adjusted but typically they remain for 26 months by default). ->
1) Data Collection
To store this data, GA must first collect data. This process is achieved by placing a tracking code (linked to your GA account and property) placed on all the pages of your website to track and collect the actions that visitors take.
2) Data Storage
Then, GA stores that data.
Finally, all these details are reported to you in the form of tables with dimensions and metrics. and graphs.
However, GA does not excel equally at all 3, hence the reason why Google decided to create the tools to support the other 2 functions. Google does an impressive job of storing data. It excels when it comes to storage capacity. This is not to say that it’s data collection and reporting are unsatisfactory. But given the resources available today these 2 features can be improved considerably and made more useful.
Google Tag Manager & Data Studio
Google Tag Manager, on the other hand, is greater at collecting data. Google Tag Manager allows you to collect data without you worrying about codes and facilitates the different sources and aspects of data collection to those less technically savvy and the veterans. It reduces these tasks that you would usually ask your developer to help with. Even seasoned users use and recommend GTM. Google Tag Manager also allows you to test your tags (codes). For example, in order to track website visitors from Facebook, you need to put on your website a Facebook code (Facebook pixel). GTM (Google Tag Manager) helps in implementing this task and many others while giving you the opportunity to test if everything works correctly. Implementing codes can have been tedious or complexities that are all simplified by GTM since the codes are already contained. You don’t have to write to them. Now all this information is sent to Google Analytics which then keeps it and reports it.
This is where Data Studio comes in. Although you will definitely use your GA reports on a constant basis, Data Studio has offered compelling dashboards. Data Studio reports are not limited to their esthetic. Their functionality is very useful in understanding and visualizing information in a clear way (an important factor for executives). Graphs are easily customizable with the option to include external data.
For a quick recap, Google Analytics is the behemoth of web analytics and you’re probably using it in your business. GA does 3 things overall. It collects your site’s data, stores it, and reports it. Despite being an analytics powerhouse, GA’s strongest point lies in the second task: storing data.
We have covered here 3 main tools needed for web analytics. Others exist, but these are the most popular. If you’re starting or have some kind of experience in the web area of digital analytics, make sure that Google Tag Manager and Data Studio make it into your schedule. This will help you structure your learning journey and keep you on track to gain valuable job market skills.
The good thing about the Google ecosystem is that everything is unified, centered in one place so to speak.