How Does Google Analytics Work? (Complete Beginner’s Guide)

Do you want to know how Google Analytics works? Google Analytics offers powerful insights about your website’s visitors. But using it isn’t straightforward, as many beginners find it complex and tricky.

That’s why in this article, we’ll show you how does Google Analytics work. We’ll also help you navigate to different reports and explain what they mean.

By the time we’re done, Google Analytics will no longer feel like a complicated mystery to you – we promise.

What is Google Analytics?

In simple words, Google Analytics is a free tracking tool offered by Google, and it shows you how visitors use your website.

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For instance, let’s say you own an eCommerce store and want to know how many users visit your website. With the help of Google Analytics, you can exactly see the number of visitors on your store, where they are coming from, which device they are using, and much more.

What Does Google Analytics Do?

Google Analytics offers information about user behavior that can be critical for your business. There are many reasons why you should be using Google Analytics.

Here’s are some of its benefits:

  • Measure your website’s performance
  • See if your marketing efforts are working
  • Which type of content to create or products to list on your website
  • Divide users into different segments (like age, gender, country, device, etc.)
  • Optimize website pages to boost conversions

Now, are you ready to use Google Analytics? Let’s start…

Video Tutorial

If you don’t want to watch the video, then check out our written guide on how Google Analytics works.

How to Use Google Analytics?

Using Google Analytics might look like a difficult task, but trust us, it isn’t. We’ll guide you every step of the way.

Create a Google Analytics Account and Add a Tracking Code

The first thing you’ll need to do is create a Google Analytics account and add a tracking code your website.

You can follow our easy guide on setting up a Google Analytics account and how to add it to your WordPress website to get started.

So, what the heck is a tracking code?

It is a code through which Google Analytics knows it must track your website visitors and any action they perform. It’s made up of a programming language called JavaScript and looks something like this:


You don’t need to understand the contents of the code, but you might like to know how it all works.

When a user visits your website, Google Analytics will drop a cookie on the user’s browser. Cookies are small files that contain information about the user’s activities.

Using these cookies, Google Analytics will know how a user behaves on your website and then collects this information to show you different reports.

Using Google Analytics Reports

Once you’ve created an account and added the tracking code, it’s time to see what can you do with Google Analytics.

As you start, you’ll arrive at Google Analytics home. It gives you a quick overview of how your website is performing.


For instance, you can see:

  • Users: how many visitors came to your website (in the past 7 days)
  • Sessions: how many interactions a visitor makes with your website in a time frame (usually 30 minutes) like viewing a page, clicking a link, or purchasing a product
  • Bounce Rate: how many visitors hit the back button or closed your website without performing a single interaction (it’s calculated through a formula)
  • Session Duration: how much average time a visitor spends on the website
  • Active Users right now: how many active users are currently active on your website

On the left-hand side panel, you’ll see options to different reports. Each of these reports will tell you how a user interacts and behaves with your website.


You’ll see five reporting options in Google Analytics:

  • Realtime
  • Audience
  • Acquisition
  • Behavior
  • Conversions

Let’s take a look at each of these reports, what they track, and how you can use them.

Realtime Report

The realtime report shows the number of users on your website right now. This is where you go to see real-time activity on your website.

Under Overview, you can see the top active pages of your website, how many visitors are on these pages in real-time, and the country they are from.


Realtime reports are great for measuring the performance of a recent campaign that you’re running, like a sale, free giveaway, or promoting content on social media.

The overview report will show all the important information. But you can use more options like traffic sources, content, event, and location to get more details about your website’s real-time performance.

Audience Report

Audience report in Google Analytics breaks down your website traffic. If you want to know the age of your visitors or the device they are using to view your website, you can head over to the audience section.


As you can see on the left-hand side panel, there more reports under audience report in Google Analytics. Most of these reports are easy to read, and you can use the data as per your needs.

For instance, you can use the Demographics report to check the age and gender of your visitors.

And if you select the Geo report, it will show you the countries that drive the most traffic. This way, you can customize your products, create content, and optimize your landing pages for visitors from different regions.


Another important report you can use is Mobile under the audience section. It will show you which device your visitors are using to view your website.

For instance, if more visitors are coming from mobile devices than desktop, you need to make sure your website is optimized for mobile (is mobile-responsive).


Acquisition Report

As you are getting started with Google Analytics, Acquisition reports are extremely useful. It’ll tell you how the traffic reaches your website.

Google Analytics will divide your web traffic into four categories:

  • Organic Search: it’s the traffic that comes from search engines like Google or Bing
  • Direct: this is the traffic that arrives when someone types in your website’s URL, opens your website through a bookmark or when Google cannot recognize the traffic source
  • Referral: it’s the traffic that comes from any source other than search engines, such as a link on another website or a YouTube video
  • Social: this is the traffic that arrives from social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter


If you want more detail, you can dig deep in Acquisition report to find traffic sources.

For instance, if you want to know which search engine is bringing in the most organic traffic, select Acquisition >> All Traffic >> Source/Medium. It will show exactly how many visitors come from which search engine.


Similarly, you can use Referrals to find out which referral sources brings in a lot of traffic.

So as you can see, using acquisition reports, you can find traffic sources for your website and create different segments.

With this information, you will know where to invest your time and money. For instance, if you’re lacking organic traffic, you need to focus more on search engine optimization (SEO) activity.

You can even integrate your Search Console and Google Ads account with Google Analytics. Both reports can be found under the Acquisition section.

Behavior Report

When it comes to finding out what your visitors are doing on your website, you need to look at the Behavior report in Google Analytics.

In its Overview, it will show you a quick snapshot of your visitors’ behavior:

  • Pageviews: the total number of pages viewed by your visitors
  • Unique pageviews: when an individual user has viewed a certain page at least once on your website
  • Average Time on Page: it’s the average amount of time a visitor spends viewing a web page on your website
  • Bounce Rate: the percentage of visitors that only view a single page and leave with interacting with it
  • Percentage Exit: it tells you how often visitors exit your website’s page (or set of pages)

Besides these metrics, you can also see the top-performing pages of your website.


You can go a step further and find out your user’s behavior by looking at the Behavior Flow report.

It gives you a complete picture of your visitor’s journey. You can see the page from where your visitor enters the website and from where he or she exits.

Next, you can view the Site Content report to see how different content types or pages perform.

There are more reports under this section.

Let’s say you want to see how your visitors behave with your top pages. Then you’ll have to view the All Pages report.


You can also see which landing pages are performing better than the rest using the Landing Pages report.

It shows you how much traffic a landing is driving (acquisition), how much time a visitor spends on the page (behavior), and how’s conversion rate of the landing page (conversions).


Using the Exit Page report, you can also view the page from which visitors exit the most.

Another important report you might want to check out as a Google Analytics beginner is of Events. This report is for tracking button clicks, external links, videos, and other user interactions.

Let’s say you have five eBooks on your website. To see which eBook downloads the most, you can go to Behavior >> Events >> Top Events and find out. This way you can create similar eBooks or optimize the rest so that they get more clicks or downloads.


Conversion Report

Finally, we’re on to the last report offered by Google Analytics, Conversion. As the name suggests, it tells you how your website’s conversion rate is performing.

What is conversion rate?

Conversion rate is simply any activity completed by a visitor. It can be downloading a video, buying a product, or subscribing to your newsletter to grow your email list.

As a beginner, we’ll keep this section short as it requires advance setups, like creating a goal in Google Analytics or setting up eCommerce tracking.

But to understand how does Google Analytics work, we’ll give you an overview of two reports that might be useful to you, Goals and Ecommerce.

Under Goals, you can go to Overview and see the total goal completions on your website, like visitors purchasing a hat. It also shows you the location where goals are completed the most.


And if you’re running an online store, then Ecommerce section is important for you. It shows individual product performance, sales performance, order size, and time of purchase. All these metrics can help you improve your online store and boost conversions.

Since Conversion report requires additional set up, there’s an easier way. Using a WordPress plugin called MonsterInsights, you can track your store’s performance without any manual set up.

Let’s take a look at the plugin.

MonsterInsights Reports – A Quick Look

MonsterInsights is the most user-friendly Google Analytics plugin for WordPress.

It enables anyone, including the beginners, to install and use Google Analytics in WordPress easily, without using any code. It’s one of the best WordPress plugins ever built.

MonsterInsights offers different reports that make reading Google Analytics very easy.

Overview Report

First, it’s the website overview report. You can see a graphical presentation of the sessions and pageviews for your site. Then, below that, you’ll see the total number of sessions, total page views, average duration per session, and bounce rate.

MonsterInsights Overview Report

You can see these more metrics in the overview report:

  • New vs. returning users
  • Device breakdown – Proportion of users on desktop, tablet, and mobile
  • Top 10 countries your visitors are from
  • Top 10 referral websites sending you traffic

Publishers Report

The second report you can view in MonsterInsights dashboard is Publishers Report. You can see your top landing pages, top exit pages, top outbound links, top affiliate links, top download links, demographics and interest categories in this report.

Publishers Report Top Landing Pages

eCommerce Report

The third report in MonsterInsights is eCommerce report which provides a quick overview of your online shop’s performance. You can view your shop’s conversion rate, the number of transactions, how much revenue you’ve generated, and the average order value in it.

MonsterInsights eCommerce Report

Plus, you can see the list of your top products and many more useful metrics about your online shop.

Search Console Report

The fourth report is the Search Console Report where you can view the top search queries your users use on search engines to find your site.


Custom Dimensions Report

The fifth report is Custom Dimensions Report. You can view the following metrics for your site in this report:

  • Most popular authors on your site
  • Your best ranking keywords
  • Top categories and tags on your site
  • Most popular custom post types, etc.

Custom Dimensions Report Popular Authors

Forms Report

The sixth and last type of report in MonsterInsights is Forms Report. It shows the performance of your contact forms and other types of forms.


And that’s it.

All these metrics are really useful to learn about your users and improve your marketing strategies, SEO, and to boost your conversions.

We hope this article helped you understand how does Google Analytics work.

You might also like to check out our article on 10 Key eCommerce Metrics to Boost Your Revenue.

Also, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more Google Analytics tutorials.

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