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Top 10 Google Analytics Tips to Optimize Your Data Collection

June 4, 2016
Top 10 Google Analytics Tips to Optimize Your Data Collection

Why Write About Google Analytics Optimization

At Grue & Bleen, before we take over a client’s marketing, we provide a free assessment of their current marketing efforts; we call this assessment the Digital Marketing Analysis (ask us about it here). As part of this in-depth review, we extensively go through Google Analytics to see what is currently set up in their implementation. Over and over again, we see certain elements not utilized, not set up, or ignored completely. Although a client’s lack of setup often times pays our company bills, we figured it would be a great help to go through our top 10 basic Google Analytics tips to help you optimize your data collection!

Tip 1: Regular Implementation vs Google Tag Manager Implementation

A few weeks ago, I went through a step by step guide on how you can push Google Analytics through Google Tag Manager. Most companies are still running Google/Universal Analytics the old way with a snippet of GA code in the <head> or a GA plugin via Wordpress. While there is nothing wrong in the theory with that, GTM streamlines things you can do with GA after its initial setup.

Google Analytics in Google Tag Manager

Most likely, you are not a developer, or even if you are, GTM helps build Google Analytics events without having to touch code on the page (more on this later). This will streamline your efforts and speed up your tracking significantly. At Grue & Bleen, we highly suggest this route.

Check out the full article on how to implement GA through GTM.

Tip 2: Enable Demographic/Interest Reports (Advertising Features)

Demographic/Interest reports located in Advertising Features allow you to collect information about what type of customer is drawn to your website. Demographics give you age/gender insights while interests provide in-market and affinity group info, allowing for smarter marketing. This is an essential feature if you are planning on marketing to your customers. If you have set up Google Analytics in Google Tag Manager then this is quite easy. First, navigate to demographics under your Audience tab in Google Analytics. You will see a screen that prompts you to enable Demographics Reports:

Enable Demographics and Interest Reports in Google Analytics

Click Enable and then navigate to your Admin portal and find Data Collection under the Property level, Tracking Info.

Data Collection in Google Analytics
Enabling Advertising Report Features in Google Analytics

Toggle on Advertising Reporting Features. This is the basic analytics set up. From here, if you are using Analytics through GTM, all you have to do is toggle on the enable the display advertising button on your Google Analytics tag (see this basic set up in here).

If you have a traditional Google Analytics set up (tracking code in <head>) you will need to add a line of code to the tracking snippet. This line looks like this:

Modifying Google Analytics Tracking Code

If looking at that code makes your mind explode, don’t worry, you can reach out to us and we can help you with this implementation. Feel free to contact us with any analytics help you may need.

Tip 3: Goals, Goals, Goals!

In my (not so humble) opinion, I don’t see the value of using Google Analytics without goals. Sure there is session data, visitor count, and page info, but if you at all want to understand what value a user has for your website and have a general sense of ROI, you need to implement goals.

Too often when doing our Digital Marketing Analysis do we see this:

Enabling Goals in Google Analytics

Goals have not been set up. Goals in the Analytics sense are literally website goals in the business sense. What do you want a user to do when they get there? If you are an ecommerce website, you probably want them to buy, if you are a service based website, you probably want them to contact you, and if you are an informational website, you probably want them to read your content. All of these are potential Google Analytics goals that can be set up. An example of an easy one to set up is a Destination Goal. For instance, if you have a thank-you page after someone fills out a form, a user winding up on that page would be considered reaching the Destination Goal. Implementing one would look something like this:

Setting Up Goals in Google Analytics

From there you can set a value and even provide expected steps (funnel) that you think a user will take in order to get them to your goal. This can provide immense value and help you understand your website funnel. Secondary events such as clicks, video watches, content scrolls and form fills can all be counted as goals too, which brings me to my fourth tip.

Tip 4: Google Analytics Events

Sometimes you want to track secondary goals on your website. These would be things that may not be considered quite as important as revenue generation, but can provide valuable insight in some other way. Someone who clicks your product slider may be more engaged in your brand than someone who jumped on and off your site within a few seconds. These secondary goals are called events and they can be used to track pretty much anything on your website.

Google Analytics Events

Events can also be used as primary goals and can be integrated in the core infrastructure of your Google Analytics reporting. Events are complex to set up and we usually push them through via Google Tag Manager. Basic setup of Google Analytics Events and Goals deserve their own blog post which I will be writing soon (insert link here when ready!) but it’s good for you to be aware of them.

Tip 5: Be a Ninja, Track Your Campaigns!

Not very many people know what UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) parameters are, but they know they are key in tracking your campaigns in Google Analytics. UTM parameters are a bit of code that you attach to a URL to send campaign, source, and medium data into Google Analytics. GA and other tracking programs see those added parameters and store them for later reference. There are many chrome extensions that help you build these URLs, and also Google Analytics URL builder. Whether you are running a social campaign, email campaign, or putting a banner on a referrer site, UTM parameters can help you understand how well your campaigns are doing. They are key for organization.

Google URL Builder
Track Campaigns In Google Analytics

Tip 6: Tidy Up Your House, Clean Your Spam

In Google Analytics there are these nasty little things called spambots which populate in your data, hoping you’ll click on them. While it is always important to have a Google Analytics view that has All Website Data, it’s important to create a clean view as well that’s free of spam (or at least attempting to be free of spam).  

No Google Analytics Spam Please

Completely ridding yourself of Analytics spam is a tough process and there is enough content to share to fill an entirely different article (if you are looking for a great resource on getting rid of analytics spam check out Analytics Edge post about it here). The quick tip though is to set up a new view clear of spam, and load it up with spam filters.

Build a Filtered View in Google Analytics

If you aren’t sure what GA Spam looks like, try navigating over to your source/medium report under Acquisition. Pull up a secondary dimension of Hostname and exclude any reference to your site. You should see a report similar to this:

Get Rid of Campaign Spam in Google Analytics

Tip 7: Enable Remarketing Lists

Even if you are not actively advertising on Google Adwords it’s important to enable remarketing. Google AdWords Remarketing  is a form of online advertising that enables advertisers to show ads to users who have already visited their site while browsing the web. This feature needs to be actively turned on in Analytics and is one of the most powerful forms of advertising. Sometimes people need to see something a few times before they take the plunge and sign up or buy. If you are EVER planning on advertising it’s important to turn this on so you can gain some historical data. Navigate to the same spot you found Advertising features and you’ll see a toggle on/off to enable Remarketing data collection. Turn Remarketing on:

How to Turn Remarketing on in Google Analytics

You can create Remarketing lists out of any segment, event, goal, demographic or analytics data point you’d like. There are so many options that you can sit there all day thinking yourself into the ground (I wouldn’t suggest this). Start experimenting by building Remarketing lists in the Audience tab under your Property column.

Remarketing Audiences  in Google Analytics

Tip 8: Track Search Queries

Some sites have a search to help customers find what they are looking for more easily. Did you know Google Analytics can track these searches? There is a toggle on/off button under your View settings, that says site search. Toggle it on and it will drop down an empty space for you to tell GA what the query parameter you’d like to track is.

Track Search in Google Analytics

Perform a search on your own site and pay close attention to the URL. Your url will look something like: https://grueandbleen.com?s=do+you+have+pizza

In this case “s” is my query parameter. Just put that one letter into the empty space under query parameters and Google Analytics will start tracking everything after it. You can have multiple query parameters depending on how your site was coded. To define this, just add all parameters and separate them by commas. You can track up to 5 query parameters per view.

Tip 9: Connect Your Google Analytics & Your Google Adwords

One of the nice things about using Google products is that they all integrate with each other. If you build goals or remarketing lists in Google Analytics, you can send them into Google Adwords to use as Conversions and Targets. Google Analytics will also give you a sense of what your website visitors from Adwords are doing after the initial click and you can watch their path. Before you can utilize this though, you will need to create a link between the two.

Navigate to the property column in the Admin portal. Under product linking find Adwords Linking and select the Adwords account that you’d like to connect. .

Google Adwords Link in Google Analytics

You will then need to confirm this in your Adwords account under Linked accounts in your settings portal.

Google Analytics Link in Google Adwords

After that you should be all set up and linked.

Tip 10: Build Custom Dashboards

I will be writing an entirely different article on great dashboard ideas for Google Analytics, but in this one we can at least scratch the surface. Often times when we do an analysis, clients are not using custom reports or dashboards. This is likely why they don’t know the value of Google Analytics in the first place, because it looks like an overwhelming wild west of information. Creating dashboards can simplify your data and show you only the most important datasets customized to your liking.

This will save countless hours of searching through your GA just to find what you were looking for only to have to do the same search protocol the next day. With custom dashboards you can simplify a report to pie-charts, graphs or tables. Say you wanted to find out the top 5 sources by sessions and put them on a pie chart. You could build this:

Google Analytics Dashboard

There is no limit to what you can build with reports, you just need to know your goals first and foremost and then you can customize any reports or dashboards you like to them.

Google Analytics is an optimizer’s paradise. You can track almost anything, customize almost anything, and learn incredible value from the data it provides. These tips above only scratch the surface of what GA can do. If you need customized help with your data, feel free to sign up for our free Digital Marketing Analysis. Good data is waiting for you!  

The Optimizer

The Optimizer is a marketing specialist who uses data, user patterns and code to understand how to psychologically reach an audience best. He also loves tacos.

The Optimizer
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