Digital marketing professional evaluates Google Analytics report
Digital marketing professional evaluates Google Analytics report

What Is a Google Analytics Certificate and Why Do You Need It for Digital Marketing?

Since this blog was initially published, the curriculum has been updated to be even more relevant to the modern marketer. As of Fall 2022, Emerson College is proud to offer our reimagined Master of Arts in Marketing, previously known as the Master’s of Digital Marketing and Data Analytics (DMDA).


The landscape for marketing continues to change at a rapid pace, but one of the dynamics that is clearly here to stay is the shift toward digital marketing. Global spending on digital advertising in 2018 was just over $283 billion. In a five-year period, that number is expected to nearly double to well over $500 billion by 2023.

The key to thriving as marketing professionals is accumulating knowledge and skills that are effective now and that will endure in the digital economy. One of the most valuable tools — and one that’s essential in almost any digital marketing setting — is a Google Analytics certificate. Additionally, an online master’s in digital marketing and data analytics can provide not only that certification but also a diverse toolkit for career success.

What Is Google Analytics and Why Was It Developed?

As the world continued to shift more of its time, attention, and resources to the internet, businesses and organizations began to recognize a need for tools to monitor and maximize their online presence. That quickly included finding a way to gather and analyze statistics related to websites. Today, Google Analytics dominates that space, which is one of the reasons Google Analytics certification is so valuable.

Team of Emerson Digital Marketing and Data Analytics students review Google Analytics report

What Is Google Analytics?

Google Analytics is Google’s web analytics service that enables a business or organization to gather, organize, and analyze data about visitors to its website. With a wide variety of tools and features, Google Analytics offers incredibly detailed information about web traffic. This allows a business or organization to both build a more effective website and learn how to better market itself to site visitors.

Google Analytics offers a range of analytic capacities, including:

  • User Analysis

  • Social Media Analysis

  • Content Analysis

  • Advertising Analysis

While incredibly valuable, Google Analytics is not a particularly simple program to use effectively. The Google Analytics certificate was developed to enable marketing professionals to demonstrate a proven ability to help businesses and organizations make the most of the service.

The Origin and History of Google Analytics

In 2005, Google purchased an internet statistics analysis program called Urchin, and several months later they launched their own version of the product, version one of Google Analytics. One of Google’s early goals was to make tools that previously were only accessible to companies willing and able to spend large amounts of money available to essentially anyone.

Phil Mui, a former Group Project Manager of Google Analytics, articulated it this way:

“The primary focus was to make sure that not only people who are willing to pay a million dollars or more on analytics products are able to get access to a very decent set of tools to understand the behaviors of online browsers.”

Google correctly understood the need for those tools but dramatically underestimated the initial demand. The service was so overwhelmed in its early days that Google had to temporarily suspend it. They then reissued the platform on an invitation-only basis for a period of months before again releasing it freely in 2006.

Since the permanent launch of the free service, Google has continued to refine the product, adding features and flexibility. Some of the enhancements over the years that spurred the need for the specialization demonstrated by a Google Analytics certification include:

  • 2009: The addition of the Asynchronous Tracking Code, which provided a more accurate way for a business or organization to track its website

  • 2011: Real Time Analytics, which enables a business or organization to view user activity on its site in real time

  • 2012: Google Tag Manager, which allows for more efficient organization of analytics, advertising, and other tags

  • 2013: Universal Analytics, first in beta testing, then fully developed, added state-of-the-art features that changed the way data is collected and organized in a Google Analytics account

  • 2016: Google Data Studio, which enables users to more efficiently access all of their data and convert that data into attractive, useful reports that are easy to understand, share, and customize

  • 2017: Global Site Tag, which unifies the tagging system and simplifies implementation

As Google Analytics has grown and evolved, it has dominated the market for website analytics. Almost 55 percent of all websites use Google Analytics, which gives it an 84 percent market share in the traffic analysis tool market. This widespread use is another obvious part of the case for earning Google Analytics certification.

What Are the Benefits of Google Analytics for Businesses and Organizations?

Google Analytics Is Free

For the vast majority of Google Analytics users, including small- and medium-sized businesses, Google Analytics is completely free. With many services, free versions are scaled-down, highly limited truncations of a more expensive product. That’s not the case with Google Analytics.

In fact, the free version of Google Analytics is its core service, and the paid alternative -- Analytics 360 -- was only developed to serve large clients whose needs are deeper and more specialized. Analytics 360 pricing begins at $150,000 per year, demonstrating that it truly is meant for larger businesses and organizations. The heart of the Google Analytics service is appropriate for most users and remains completely free.

Google Analytics Shows You Your Most Important Data First

Google Analytics is designed to let each business and organization prioritize the kinds of data analytics it deems most important. One of the primary ways this happens is by allowing users to assemble primary data under customized dashboards. Multiple dashboards can be created, each one including multiple widgets showing different kinds of data.

A Google Analytics dashboard can include:

  • One specific metric

  • Charts comparing metrics

  • A timeline of one to two metrics

  • A table showing a dimension with two specific metrics

Each of these options can be filtered in various ways, so, for instance, data can be adjusted and sorted by date range to give more specific views of your most important information.

Automated Data Collection Is Simple and Painless

While Google Analytics is far too powerful to be considered user-friendly for the untrained, some of its most important features are almost automatic. This enables those who earn Google Analytics certification to focus on the details that matter instead of the basic processes of gathering data into usable forms.

In particular, Google Analytics will deliver data to Google Docs, Sites or Spreadsheets by simply adding a small piece of code to a website. Once that code is in place, Google Analytics begins collecting data from the site and delivering it to those other sources in the form of useful reports.

Google Analytics Produces Detailed Custom Reports

Like most of its features, Google Analytics’ reporting ability offers both standard, ready-to-view options as well as almost endless options for customized reports. Reports in Google Analytics begin under five preset categories:

  • Real-Time

  • Audience

  • Acquisition

  • Behavior

  • Conversions

Within each of those categories are multiple layers of customization, which allows users to locate and analyze the data most pertinent to their needs. The detail and nuance available in Google Analytics reporting is one of its most attractive features. It’s also one of the reasons a Google Analytics certification, which demonstrates a capacity for maximizing this tool, is so valuable.

Google Analytics Tells You Who Is Visiting Your Site From Where

Once upon a time, statistics on website visitors were essentially just a number. You knew how many times a visitor had landed on your site and not much more. In stark contrast, Google Analytics offers comprehensive insight into your website’s audience, including:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Interest

  • Location

  • Device used for access

As in other cases, each of these demographic categories can be explored for deeper insight. These details are useful for an organization or business to better learn and communicate with its various audiences.

Google Analytics Integrates Well with Other Helpful Tools

While Google Analytics is one of the most powerful services on the web, many businesses and organizations also rely on other important tools. Google Analytics works well with many of these programs, including:

  • Google Ads

  • Search Console

  • Data Studio

The connection between these valuable platforms further enhances the value of each of them. For instance, integrating Google Analytics with Google Ads not only puts your analytics to tangible use, but it also offers insights that enable you to build better ad campaigns.

What Specific Role Does Google Analytics Play for Marketing Professionals?

Google Analytics Efficiently Tracks Audience, Acquisition, and Behavior

While Google Analytics offers a virtually unlimited supply of data that is relevant to marketing, it prioritizes three areas that are crucial for marketing professionals:

  • Audience: offers a deep look at data about visitors to your site, including gender, age, location, and interests, allowing marketing to know who they are reaching, who they need to reach, and what messages are likely to resonate with different audiences.

  • Acquisition: provides specific information about how people find your site, whether via search engine, social media, or other linked sources. This enables marketers to maximize search engine optimization (SEO) efforts and determine what other digital marketing is most effective.

  • Behavior: offers insight into how visitors are using and interacting with your site, meaning marketing can optimize sections that are working and improve or eliminate sections that are not working.

Successful digital marketing professional leans against desk

Google Analytics Helps Identify What Isn’t Working on Your Site

Of course marketers want to know what works, but often the key to solving that mystery is first understanding and changing what does not work. One of Google Analytics’ most helpful features for marketing purposes is tracking “bounce rate.”

Bounce rate: the percentage of visitors who leave your site from the same page they entered, which means they did not meaningfully interact with your site.

By offering meaningful data regarding bounce rates, Google Analytics enables marketers to understand audience interest more clearly.

Like so many other Google Analytics features, the possibilities available in bounce rate analytics are immense and far beyond the obvious. For instance, a deep dive into mobile bounce rates might unlock a whole new audience of mobile users who are not otherwise engaging with your site. The capacity to drill down to that level of insight is yet another way Google Analytics certification can be a real asset to marketing professionals.

Google Analytics Helps You Increase Traffic From Various Channels

The acquisition tracking abilities of Google Analytics have a particular value to marketers. Knowing how various visitors arrive at your site is key to determining which channels are most effective at generating more traffic.

Google Analytics tracks traffic from many different channels, including:

  • Direct: visitors who arrived at your site by typing in your URL, using a bookmark, or other direct means. This often helps measure brand strength.

  • Organic search: visitors who arrive at your site via Google or another search engine. These numbers help identify content strength and SEO effectiveness.

  • Paid search: visitors who arrive at your site through a sponsored search result as a result of digital ad campaigns. This can help measure the effectiveness of tools like Google Ads.

  • Referral: visitors who clicked on a link on another site that directed them to your site. High referral numbers indicate either good brand awareness from other site owners or effective campaigns to feature your site on blogs or other non-ad venues.

  • Social: visitors who arrive on your site from social media channels, information which obviously will help direct social media strategies.

  • Email: visitors who arrive at your site from an email campaign, data that can shape your email marketing strategy.

Once again, the possibilities in channel tracking are immense, making Google Analytics certification key for a marketing professional to demonstrate real acumen with this powerful tool.

Google Analytics Allows You to Set and Track Goals for Site Visitors

One of the most challenging dynamics of tracking website success is identifying whether visitors are using the site as you hope. Google Analytics dives straight into this space by allowing businesses and organizations to set and track goals for site visitors. This includes four main types of goals:

  • Destination: does a user reach a specific page (product page, order confirmation page, etc.)?

  • Event: does a user complete a predefined event (e.g. watch a video, share on social media, etc.)?

  • Duration: does a user’s session or time on a particular page last a preset time?

  • Pages/screens per session: does a user view as much of your site as you hope?

Other goal options also allow you to track details like whether a purchase is completed, whether a user completes a form or subscribes to a newsletter, and so forth. The ability to maximize the goal-setting feature is often crucial, and earning a Google Analytics certification helps demonstrate that level of expertise with the service.

These are just a handful of the ways Google Analytics utilized properly can revolutionize marketing for a business or organization. That also means command of Google Analytics can revolutionize a marketing professional’s career. In the context of an online master’s in digital marketing and data analytics, Google Analytics certification can be particularly powerful.

What Is Google Analytics Certification and How Do You Get It?

To earn a Google Analytics Certificate, you have to take and pass the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ) exam. This exam is Google’s standard for demonstrating both basic and advanced knowledge of Google Analytics concepts. It covers topics such as:

  • Planning and principles

  • Implementation and data collection

  • Configuration and administration

  • Conversion and attribution

  • Reports, metrics, and dimensions

Obtaining Google Analytics certification is simply a matter of passing the exam, though passing the exam is far from easy. It is a comprehensive test that cannot be paused once begun and requires a score of 80 percent to pass.

Is a Google Analytics Certification Worth the Time and Energy It Requires?

The case for earning Google Analytics certification has mostly been made in demonstrating the power you wield if you can provide an employer (or yourself) with expertise in such a crucial marketing tool. As evidence of that point, Brandastic named the Google Analytics certification (GAIQ) the #1 digital marketing certification on its 2020 list of “Digital Marketing Certifications That Get You Hired.”

Put succinctly, the potential career benefits for marketing professionals who earn Google Analytics Certification include:

  1. Gaining new analytical skills for marketing expertise

  2. Broadening career opportunities

  3. Strengthening job security and benefits

  4. Maximizing earning potential

Maximize Your Opportunities by Earning Google Analytics Certification as Part of an Online Master’s in Digital Marketing and Data Analytics

Obtaining Google Analytics certification takes time, effort, and a lot of learning. It is well worth it, but it requires a sizable personal commitment. One way to multiply the returns on that investment is to pursue the certification as part of earning an online master’s in digital marketing and data analytics.

Emerson College offers an online master’s in digital marketing and data analytics that can be completed 100% online in as little as a year. Not only will completion of the program include Google Analytics certification, but graduates also:

  • Gain hands-on experience

  • Build their professional portfolio

  • Earn additional certificates in Hootsuite and Brandwatch

  • Master tools like SAS Studio and Enterprise Miner, Microsoft Excel, Stukent Digital Marketing Simulation Platform, and many other SEO and text analytics tools

The advantages of earning Google Analytics certification are clear, but don’t stop short.Seize the opportunity to deepen your knowledge and expertise even further through an online Master’s in Digital Marketing and Data Analytics degree from Emerson College.