Google Analytics contains dozens of features and hundreds of reports. What if you could discover a basic set of features that are useful for every website?
I have actively worked with Google Analytics for almost 10 years now and there a couple of features I see coming back every time that I work with Google Analytics.
No matter which online business I am involved with. In this blogpost I will shortly touch upon each of features and why they are a must to use. Further I will provide you with useful additional resources.
1. Google Analytics Filters
By default, Google Analytics collects the information of all website visitors.
But do you count yourself among the website visitors that might buy your products or services? No, I didn’t think so! Not filtering yourself out in at least one reporting view will greatly affect your data. Especially on lower traffic websites as this might make a huge difference.
Filters are very useful to create separate buckets for different segments that you want to analyze. Contrary to segments (which have a non-permanent effect), they permanently remove the data collected in a view.
You should always set up the following views:
- Raw data view (no filters applied)
- View with internal IP addresses excluded
- View with internal IP addresses included
- Copy of view #3 for testing purposes
In order to create filters you need to have edit permission rights at the account level. This article about Google Analytics views will be very helpful if you want to learn more about views and filters.
I don’t believe you if you say that you don’t have a goal on your website! If that’s the case, it’s a waste of money to keep on paying for hosting. 😉
You should not have to think too long when I ask this simple question: Why does your website exist?
The reality is that many website owners have a difficult time when they need to answer this question. This doesn’t only apply to small blogs, but even owners of large commercial sites often lack a good feeling for defining their online business objective(s).
Google Analytics and their reporting is build around goals and transactions. You can segment each report and dimension to analyze your goals and conversion rate in greater depth.
Goals are set up at the view level:
You can simply fill in a name, choose a goal type and there you go! However, if you’re like me, you want to set up a measurement plan first and take a strategic approach in setting up your goals.
The preparation is what determines the outcome. It’s the same as with running marathons. You need to get your training/preparation right to run the race of your dreams!
3. Goal Values
By default, goals are just numbers but what triggers you more; a plain number or a monetary value?
A sub-feature of goals are goal values. Here are two simple rules you need to apply:
- For ecommerce transactions (thank you page) set up ecommerce tracking and goals, but no goal values. Otherwise you will measure the value twice.
- For non-ecommerce goals set up a goal value that indicates the relative value compared to other website conversions.
Defining goal values really helps to understand which visitor, page or channel drives the most revenue for your site.
Here are two examples:
- Lead generation website: 200 leads in a year, total revenue from those leads is $30.000. This means revenue per lead equals $150. If you set a goal in Google Analytics on the “thank you” page after someone submits a lead form, you want to add a goal value of $150.
- Blog: 2000 subscribers are worth $10.000 revenue in a year. The revenue per subscriber (on a yearly basis) equals $5. So the goal value of a new subscriber is $5 (calculated with LTV of one year).
In addition, setting up goal values unlock another useful metrics: page value.
It will help you determine which content is most valuable in relation to your goals and you can even go one level deeper by defining content groups, which I will explain in a minute.
4. Content Grouping
The larger your site and the more pages it contains, the more difficult it becomes to optimize your website on the page level.
A few weeks ago I wrote an article about Google Analytics and A/B testing and at the end of the article you will find a concrete example of defining content groups.
In short it comes down to defining different website sections so that you can analyze and optimize the performance of each section.
You could define a content group based on:
- Site architecture (different website templates)
- Blog category
- Product category
These are just three examples. Unleash your creativity when defining content groupings and the insights are waiting for you.
This guide will be really helpful if you want to get the most out of this feature. In addition, I recommend to try out Screaming Frog (they have a free version). It’s a very helpful tool to map your website structure, find broken links or other SEO issues in no time!
5. Campaign Tracking
Step 1: Navigate to Acquisiton >> All Traffic >> Source / Medium.
Step 2: Change the primary dimension in Medium.
This is an example of a website where campaign tracking has been screwed up:
You need to understand campaign tracking and apply it in the right way to all campaigns.
By default, Google Analytics measures organic search, direct traffic and inbound links (referrals). In addition you can integrate Google AdWords and Google Analytics so that your AdWords campaigns are also automatically tracked in Google Analytics.
All other online channels and offline initiatives are not correctly measured if you don’t apply the following tags:
- utm_content (optional)
- utm_term (optional)
You want to get this right so that you can optimize your channels based on reliable data.
Three tips to make things easier:
- Use a spreadsheet for campaign tracking in your organization
- Use naming conventions that are easy to understand by everyone
- Set up lowercase filters on all utm parameters
Example of lowercase filter on utm_medium:
These lowercase filters are really helpful. “Email” and “email” will both be measured as “email” in Google Analytics. So no duplicates are created in this case.
One last remark, I often prefer to use the default channel grouping report instead of source/medium report when analyzing channel performance.
This is because this report is more accurate and provides a great high-level overview. A known issue of the source/medium report is that a lot of social traffic is automatically measured as referral traffic.
Social is a separate channel in the default channel grouping report and you have the option to fully customize the channels by yourself.