This post was originally published on the LXD @ Spartz blog on June 10, 2014.

Whether someone is asking me how to learn Google Analytics for professional development reasons or I am teaching someone in-house at Spartz, I have put together the sequenced, teach-yourself approach below.

For each outline point, or lesson, you’ll be able to find materials by Googling “Google Analytics” and the term for the lesson. When possible, use materials that were written within the last 6 months. I’ve linked my favorites in the Resources list at the bottom of this post.

Just like mathematics is a subject that you learn sequentially because one piece builds upon the next (Trigonometry builds on top of Algebra, for instance), so is Google Analytics (GA). You could skip around to only learn the pieces that are immediately relevant to you, but if you’re looking to get a comprehensive view, want long-term retention, and a solid foundation, this is what I recommend.

Sequenced Approach

  1. Types of GA Accounts (Standard, Mobile, and Universal)
    • The Javascript and SDKs are different, so make sure you match your UA- number with the right code.
    • Universal is the future of GA and you can upgrade previous accounts through the upgrade path.
  2. General principal/overview of what to use GA for and what not to use it for
    • It’s not just for website metrics anymore.
    • Retention data is not it’s strong suit.
  3. Implementation of code
    • JavaScript and SDK
  4. Standard reports
  5. Difference between dimensions and metrics and what dimensions and metrics are available
  6. Advanced Segments
  7. Events (LXD members will tell you I think events are the key to online measurement.)
    • The important part for this lesson that no one seems to talk about is to plan your naming convention from the beginning. You have 3 levels and an integer. My recommendation is to keep the integer as 1 (unless you’re doing something with counting seconds). That leaves you with 3 levels. I think of them as hierarchal.
    • Requires custom Javascript/SDK implementation.
  8. Account/Property/View hierarchy
    • This is also a good time to go through the administrative functionality.
  9. Goals
  10. Custom Reports
  11. Intelligence Alerts
  12. Custom Dimensions and Metrics
  13. E-commerce Tracking
    • Requires custom Javascript/SDK implementation.
  14. Social Tracking
    • Especially what is NOT tracked by GA.
  15. Dashboards and Ongoing Reporting
  16. Real-Time
    • If you need information that’s up to the minute, then now is the time to learn about Real-Time reporting in GA including it’s limitations.
  17. Integrations with other Google products
  18. API

Why this approach?

  • Books are always out of date. Google Analytics released 70+ updates in 2013 – that’s more than one a week!
  • Unless you really want the structure of a class, I recommend against them simply because Google provides such great resources for free.
  • Nothing beats hand-on learning, especially with GA. Because GA updates so frequently, I feel you should get used to teaching yourself from the beginning so you can roll with it when a new feature comes out.


I’m happy to answer questions in the comments. Happy learning!

How to Learn Google Analytics Like The Back of Your Hand