Google Analytics (GA) is the de facto solution for analyzing web site traffic and trends. Millions of users around the globe rely on GA for determining not only what web site content is resonating with visitors, but also how visitors came to arrive at the web site, each visitor's geographical location, their operating system and browser, and much more. If you're not regularly relying upon Google Analytics or a similarly capable analytical service, then you're left at a major competitive disadvantage in terms of your ability to effectively understand the interests, demographics, and technical requirements of your audience.
Yet logging into GA daily can be a tedious task. Faced with countless other work-related demands, adding even one more requirement can be overwhelming. Further, although you can configure GA to send formatted reports via email on a daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly basis (see Figure 1), sometimes you're just interested in quickly gaining a bird's eye view of key statistics, such as the current number of daily visitors and source of incoming links. The inconvenience is compounded if your traffic includes mobile-obsessed web users, as no viable solution for accessing Google Analytics via a mobile device currently exists.

Google Analytics Reports
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Figure 1. Google Analytics Report Configuration
Thankfully, last year Google made the Google Analytics Data Export API available for public use. Although still in beta, it already provides a powerful yet simple way to access your GA data and format it in a manner most convenient for your consumption, whether that's by integrating it into a corporate dashboard, monitoring trends using a desktop application, or creating a simple mobile interface. In this article, I'll show you how to begin taking advantage of this API to create a handy interface for web consumption.

Introducing the Google Analytics Data Export API

Like many web services, the Google Analytics Data Export API uses HTTP as the transportation protocol, responding to HTTP requests with raw XML data. Many PHP developers typically interact with web services such as this by using the cURL extension to send the HTTP requests and a feature such as the SimpleXML extension to parse the XML. Therefore, while you certainly can build our own solution from scratch, I suggest you use the powerful Google Analytics API PHP Interface (GAPI) instead. It's a powerful open source PHP class that makes interacting with the API trivial.
Browse to the GAPI web site to retrieve the latest version of the class, and then place it within an appropriate place within your project directory. To use this API, You need to enable PHP's cURL extension. (This operating system-dependent process is well documented across the web. So, if you're not sure how to proceed, do a quick search and you'll find detailed instructions.) When you've installed it, proceed to the next section.

Connecting to the Analytics Service

Because GA data is often considered a mission-critical part of business operations, you can't simply connect to the API and retrieve just any web site's traffic statistics. You first need to log in to the service so Google can confirm your account possesses the credentials necessary to access a web site's traffic profile. Therefore, you need a Google account, which I presume you already have configured in order to access your analytics data through the Google Analytics web site.
You pass your account username and password to GAPI when invoking the class, like this:
require 'gapi.class.php';
$gapi = new gapi("", "secret")
From there, you might use the requestAccountData() method to retrieve a list of web site profiles accessible by your account:
foreach($ga->getResults() as $result)
  echo "{$result} Profile ID: {$result->getProfileId()}<br />";
Executing this example in conjunction with my account produces the following results: ProfileID: 12345678
www.easyphpweb ProfileID: 87654321

Retrieving a Web Site's Traffic Data

Notice how in the previous example I retrieved the profile IDs of each web site associated with my account. This is relevant because you request a web site's statistics using its assigned profile ID. You accompany the profile ID with several parameters that determine the nature of the data you'd like to query. You start by defining the query dimension, which determines the context in which you'd like to view the data. For instance, you might wish to learn more about the total number of page views for a given time period, but in what context? Page views according to country? Browser? Visitor type (returning or new)? You define this context (seven of which are allowed) within the requestReportData() method's first parameter.
Next, you define the desired metrics. I already mentioned page views as a metric example, but you can also query for useful data such as total time spent on the site, total visitors, and—if AdWords is integrated into your Analytics account—data such as the total number of times users clicked on a particular ad. To view a complete list of dimensions, metrics, and other parameters, see the Dimensions and Metrics Reference.
Let's consider an example. Suppose you wanted to retrieve a list of visits that have occurred during the past 24 hours according to country:
$ga->requestReportData(12345678, array('country'), // Set the context
array('visits'), // Retrieve total number of visits
array('-visits'), // Display in descending order
'', // Optional filter
'2010-03-09', // Query start date
'2010-03-09'); // Query end date

foreach($ga->getResults() as $result)
echo '<strong>'.$result.'</strong><br />';
echo 'Visits: ' . $result->getVisits() . '<br />';
Executing this script produces output similar to the following:
Visits: 11
United Kingdom
Visits: 11
United States
Visits: 9
Visits: 5
Visits: 3
Visits: 3
Visits: 3
This is just one of countless query combinations at your disposal. To learn more about what's possible, see the Google Analytics Data Export API's Data Feed documentation.

So Much More Is Possible

The example provided in this tutorial barely touches the surface in terms of what's possible with the Google Analytics Data Export API. Check out this gallery of examples for some insight and inspiration regarding just how far you can go using this powerful API. And as always, if you've done something interesting with what you learn in this tutorial, let us know about it in the comments!

About the Author

Jason Gilmore is the founder of and the author of several popular books, including "Easy PHP Web sites with the Zend Framework" and "Beginning PHP and MySQL: From Novice to Professional" (currently in its third edition). Check out his new DZone reference card, titled "Getting Started with the Zend Framework."