Web analytics is the measurement, collection, analysis and reporting of internet data for purposes of understanding and optimizing web usage. It is often done without the permission or knowledge of the user, in which case - particularly with third party cookies which can be shared between different web sites - it can be a breach of privacy.
Web analytics is not just a tool for measuring web traffic but can be used as a tool for business and market research, and to assess and improve the effectiveness of a web site. Web analytics applications can also help companies measure the results of traditional print advertising campaigns. It helps one to estimate how traffic to a website changes after the launch of a new advertising campaign. Web analytics provides information about the number of visitors to a website and the number of page views. It helps gauge traffic and popularity trends which is useful for market research..
There are two categories of web analytics; off-site and on-site web analytics.
Off-site web analytics refers to web measurement and analysis regardless of whether you own or maintain a website. It includes the measurement of a website's potential audience (opportunity), share of voice (visibility), and buzz (comments) that is happening on the Internet as a whole.
On-site web analytics measure a visitor's journey once on your website. This includes its drivers and conversions; for example, which landing pages encourage people to make a purchase. On-site web analytics measures the performance of your website in a commercial context. This data is typically compared against key performance indicators for performance, and used to improve a web site or marketing campaign's audience response. Google Analytics is the most widely-used on-site web analytics service;
Historically, web analytics has referred to on-site visitor measurement. However in recent years this has blurred, mainly because vendors are producing tools that span both categories.