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10 Top Tips For Getting The Most From Google Analytics

07 Apr 2011
By atom42

Google Analytics is a free web Analytics product which helps you analyse the activity of users who reach your website. You can find out where they’re coming from, how long they’re staying on your site, what keywords they’re using to get there, whether they’re buying, whether they’re using a smart phone, if they’re returning later, etc, etc. In Google’s own words; ‘Google Analytics makes it easy to turn page views into profits and, from our point of view, is an invaluable tool when it comes to optimising online marketing activity’. But with so much data available, how do you find what you are looking for? Here are my top ten tips for Analytics success:

1. Set up Alerts

With so much data at your disposal, it’s easy for any mistakes or improvements to be missed or overlooked. The alert feature (found in the intelligence section) lets you specify certain events you want to be notified about. For example, I might want to be alerted if the conversion rate from my ecommerce site drops below 2% (suggesting something could be wrong with the payment process), or if organic traffic reaches a record high level (suggesting a new high position in the SERPS). With the ability to receive alerts via email or text alerts (only in the US), this tool ensures you will always be on top of your accounts.

2. Set up Advanced Segments

One main flaw of the old Analytics interface was that it didn’t allow you to compare trends for two types of traffic at the same time. Yes, I could filter keyword traffic looking just at brand using the ‘contains’ function, but what if I wanted to compare that to unbranded traffic in one graph? What if I wanted to look at my Yahoo! Display traffic against Facebook traffic for the last 6 months? The only way to do this was by exporting each variable separately and manually creating a graph in Excel. With advanced segments, however, you can specify a source/medium/keyword parameter and then compare multiple segments in one graph. GA also allows you to share these segments with other users (good for consistency) and copy across multiple profiles.

3. Create Custom Reports to give you what you want quickly

Want to look at total clicks and conversions for each medium in one report? Not an easy task without the custom report feature. An under-rated tool but possibly the one that I use most often, Custom Reports allows you to, well, customise your reports to show only the metrics and dimensions you need. You can even segment your data by time of day to look at hourly clicks/conversions, which can inform any day parting strategies. One major flaw in the custom reporting feature is that you can only see aggregated data for one specified time period – not broken down by day / week within that period (for anyone who has used this feature, you know what I mean!).

4.  Exclude your own site usage

If you spend all day looking at your website, chances are you will be skewing all the site usage metrics – increasing time on site etc. Exclude your IP address in your account settings to make sure your Analytics data is only reflecting actual users, not you!

5.  Interrogate the data

So you are looking at time spent on site for your ecommerce site and you see that it has suddenly increased in the last week. Good, right? Users are engaging more with your site, right? Not necessarily! An increased time on site could mean that users are struggling to find what they are looking for or are clicking aroun aimlessly. Always think about your stats in context and don’t just assume that a line going up is a good thing!

6.  Link with your AdWords account

Being able to see your impression/cost/CTR data in the same interface as time spent on site/pages per visit/bounce rate is highly valuable when trying to optimise your PPC activity. This is why we always recommend our clients link their AdWords accounts to Analytics.

7. Personalise your Dashboard

Many people don’t realise that the dashboard in Google Analytics is fully customisable, allowing a user to see their most important reports on their welcome screen. To add a new graph/report, simply navigate to it as you would normally, then, above the graph, you will see an ‘add to dashboard’ button. Clicking that will make sure you can see that report immediately in the dashboard next time you log in. Each module on the dashboard also contains a handy link, allowing you to view the full report in its usual place, which can be moved around so that more important information can be displayed without scrolling down.

8. Use Google Annotations

You’re running historic reports and you see that your traffic doubled on a specific date three months ago and your immediate question is: ‘why?’ It’s difficult to remember what action at that time led to such a dramatic increase without a significant amount of digging in old emails or change history reports. The Annotations feature allows you to place a comment next to specific dates outlining anything that happened that may have an effect on results which you may need to refer to later.

9. Set up Goals

It might sound obvious, but how can you work out what is working and what isn’t without setting up accurate goals in Analytics? These need to be tested and sanity checked before being taken as gospel, (for example, ensuring the final step is on a confirmation/thank you page, not on the contact us page). Combining goal set up with a goal funnel (which outlines the steps on the way to the goal) will enable you to see where you are losing traffic along the way. You will be surprised how much difference tweaking each step can make to your overall results!

10. Track everything & be consistent!

If I could give you one piece of advice for total Analytics success (it’s like some geeky version of Baz Lurhmann’s ‘sunscreen’), then it would be this – track everything and be consistent with the way you do it! Make sure every link in email communication, every click tag on display creatives, every PPC ad, every voucher code listing and every directory submission has tracking parameters appended to their destination URL. Unfortunately, Google hasn’t quite worked out how to differentiate between upper and lower case and will track ‘google’ and ‘Google’ as different sources, so consistency is also key for making sure you have data you can rely on – as a rule I always use lower case – saves confusion!

In summary, Google Analytics is an invaluable tool for analysing your site’s traffic levels and quality. By using all of the features Google offers, you should successfully be able to navigate your way through the reams of data to find what’s most important to you right now. I said right now…..Go!

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