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8 Tips To Get Started With Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a powerful tool. It can provide a wealth of data to help you improve your business, including information about the behaviour of your online consumers. But sometimes, it can be challenging to convert web analytics into meaningful action.

I wish there was someone who had created a list of Google Analytics practices back when I started with online marketing. Fortunately, most questions about your website’s performance can be answered. And the answer often lies in the data generated by Google Analytics.

At InCore Marketing, we’ve spent countless hours digging into web data and translating the numbers into an online strategy that delivers for our clients. Here are 8 tips to help you harness the power of Google Analytics to help you make better business decisions.

#1: Start by asking questions about your business

Meaningful decisions can be made when you are able to translate your web analytics into business value. This means that your Google Analytics analysis should be driven by your business goals. Defining actionable insights doesn’t mean that you need advanced knowledge of GA’s interface, but it does help if you take the time to learn your way around the dashboards. The most important thing is to take a step back and think critically about your business goals. Ask yourself questions and use the data to back up your answers.

But what are the right questions to ask?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. The customer journey of every business is unique. This means that every business should ask themselves different questions.

As Avinash Kaushik explains, you need business questions, because:

  1. Rather than being told what metrics or dimensions to deliver, you want business context: What’s driving the request for that data? What is the answer the requestor is looking for? Once you understand the context, you can develop the strategy.
  2. Best practices are highly overrated. If this is your first day on the job, it’s fine to do what “industry experts” recommend. But the key to success is actually understanding what the business is doing, cares about, and prioritizing. And that takes time and effort.

#2: Configure your Google Analytics account properly.

After you get started with Google Analytics, you have to make sure that your account is setup to measure the most important aspects of your business and customer behavior. This is not only necessary to get accurate data, but also to access the many additional tools that Google offers to help you better understand your traffic and customer behavior online.

This setup checklist will help you with setting up your Google Analytics account the proper way:

#3: Setup Goals

Whether you’re selling products through your E-Commerce platform or trying to generate leads on your website, the ability to set goals is where the actual value comes in. In my experience, goals are among the most important features to set up in Google Analytics.

Setting goals is all about measuring your KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators). While tracking page views, visitors, demographics, and traffic sources can bring valuable insights, finding out if your website actually helps your business is much more important.

Goals can be used to measure metrics like:

  • New Leads
  • Product Trial Signups
  • Newsletter Signups
  • E-Book Downloads
  • White Paper Downloads

Fortunately, it is setting up your goals in Google Analytics is fairly easy. And configuring your analytics is a powerful way to keep track of what’s most important to your business.

In Google Analytics you have four ways to track goals.

  1. Page URL
  2. Time on Page
  3. Pages/Visit
  4. Events

How to Set Up a Goal in Google Analytics

Account > Property > View

Setup Goals in Google Analytics - InCore Marketing

Here is a short guide on how to setup a new “Page Destination” goal.

  1. Click “Admin” in sidebar menu
  2. Click “Goals” in view column
  3. Click the red button “New Goal” 
  4. Choose “Custom” in Goal Setup
  5. Give your goal a name
  6. Select “Destination” as the type of goal
  7. Click “Next” 
  8. Under Goal details, set the destination equal to the url of your goal page.
  9. Select Value > On and assign a monetary value to your goal.
  10. Select Funnel > On (if you have more required steps leading up to your conversion).
  11. Click on Create Goal and you’re all set!

Note 1: Click on verify goal to verify your goal based on historical data.

Note 2: If you can’t set real, monetary values, it is a best practice to use relative goal values.

#4: Use Custom Segments to Enhance Traffic Insights

Google Analytics comes with a few standard reports, but you can also tailor them to your own needs with a little customization. Custom segments can provide valuable insights to learn more about the behavior of your audience.

To make it easier for you, Google has a large number of custom segments you can use right away without having to worry about a complicated setup.

For example, you can use custom segments to view analytics for visitors who find your website in Google, or segment your analytics based on the demographical area of your audience, sessions which resulted in conversions and so on.

While there are a wide number of segments available, here are a couple suggestions based on my experience.

  • Segment by traffic source
  • Segment by country / region
  • Segment by device / browser used
  • Segment by users with multiple sessions
  • Segment by users who completed conversion goals

Google Analytics provides you with a wide range of pre-defined segment templates. If you are looking for more specific data we have the option to create our own custom segments. Visit Google’s Support Page to learn more about how to set up custom segments in Google Analytics.

#5: The Bounce Rate, an Underestimated Metric

The bounce rate is commonly misunderstood by many users of Google Analytics, despite being one of the most important metrics to pay attention to.

The bounce rate is important because it explains a lot about the quality of your website. The bounce rate represents the percentage (%) of visitors who leave the website after viewing only one page. Our first intention is to say; the lower the bounce rate the better. Or in other words; a low bounce rate means that your users are satisfied with the content on your web page.

But it’s important to understand that website visitors can bounce for a lot of different reasons, which makes it hard to tell if your visitors had a good or bad experience from this metric alone.

Google Analytics does not differentiate between “good bounces” and “bad bounces.” A bad bounce can be a visitor landing on your page and deciding that it’s not the content they were looking. A good bounce might happen when a visitor reaches a webpage, decides to read the content, stays on the page for a while, and find what they were looking for, and then leaves.

While it is very hard to understand the difference between “good bounces” and “bad bounces” what we can measure and take advantage of is the bounce rate.

In order to monitor your overall bounce rate through Google Analytics, you can navigate to Audience > Overview and you will see the average bounce rate of all your web pages.

Bounce Rates in Google Analytics - InCore Marketing

However, the average bounce rate is a vague metric and only brings little real value.

To get a complete understanding of how users interact with your website we need to monitor the bounce rate for your landing pages. These landing pages matter the most because they are the first page a user sees when visiting your website. Once you are able to determine the bounce rate for individual pages, this is where decisions can be made for future web improvements.

Bounce Rates on Landing Pages - InCore Marketing

In order to monitor the bounce rate for specific web pages you can navigate to Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages and you will see how users interact with your landing pages. As you can see in the picture below, Google Analytics can calculate the bounce rate of every individual page on your website.

So, what is a good bounce rate?

Most websites will see bounce rates somewhere between 26% and 70%. As a rule of thumb, a bounce rate in the range of 26% to 40% is excellent. A bounce rate lower than 10% will probably mean that your tracking is setup incorrectly. 41% to 55% is roughly average. If your bounce rate is higher than 70% you might want to consider optimizing your most important web pages.

With a bounce rate higher than 70% we can conclude that your website visitors are not finding the information they are looking for. In other words; visitors do not see any value in your web pages (Note: Blogs, news, events, etc. can result in higher bounce rates).

#6: Measure the Quality of Traffic Sources to Compare Conversion Rates.

We often hear that traffic quality can be subjective and it is hard to measure. While this might be true, Google Analytics provides us with a wide range of data when it comes to traffic sources. There are multiple ways to measure the quality of any traffic source whether it is Paid Advertising, Organic Traffic, Email, Social traffic, and more.

Analyzing the different traffic sources can give us a better understanding of where quality leads are coming from and what steps to take to optimize conversion rates. When we know the best performing traffic sources, data-driven decisions can be made.

To measure the quality of your traffic sources you can navigate to Acquisition > Channels > Conversion Rates.

Acquisition Cost Google Analytics - InCore Marketing

When you are working on an SEO Strategy you can dig a little deeper into conversions from search traffic. To measure the change in search traffic quality you can use the Assisted Conversions report by navigating to Conversions > Multi-Channel Funnels > Assisted Conversions.

Focus on 5-10 KPI’s that are important in achieving your business objectives online and measure the conversion rate for each traffic source to determine what channels you should be using.

#7: Analyze the Performance of Your Social Media Channels

Social media is huge, and it will only get bigger. With so many of social media platforms to choose from, we need to understand what platforms bring the most value. When considering traffic from social media platforms, the best channels are those that convert visitors at the highest rate.

Once you set up a conversion goal in Google Analytics a report can be generated that will let you know whether your social media platforms are meeting that goal.

To measure the quality of your social media platforms you can navigate to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels, Filtered By Goal).

Social Media Traffic Goals - InCore Marketing

Determine the performance of your social media platforms and make decisions accordingly. Select a longer period for your Analytics reports so you can make a comparison between different months or various Social Media projects.

#8: Use Filters to Eliminate Noise and Keep Data Integrity

Specific and focussed is always better than broad and undisciplined, especially when it comes to data. The better you can filter out irrelevant data, the less noise there is to distract your analysis. In Google Analytics, Filters are used by Views to segment data into smaller groups. Include specific traffic, exclude unwanted data, and create a customized view for your website data.

Why use Filters and Views?

  • Excluding Internal IPs
  • Exluding Developer Site Traffic
  • Removing Query String
  • Lowercase Search Terms
  • Lowercase URLS

How to Setup a Filter

Filters can be created at the Account Level or the View Level. It is a best practice to create all the filters at account level and assign them to different views. In the example, we are going to setup a basic filter to exclude Internal IPs.

This filter can be used to exclude yourself and your company’s website visits from the main view. You can also exclude traffic from third parties you work with to keep data integrity.

To setup a filter at Account Level you can navigate to Admin > Account Settings > All Filters > Add Filter.

Add Filter to Google Analytics - InCore Marketing

  • In Google Analytics interface, under Account, select All Filters.
  • Click on +ADD FILTER.
  • In the Filter Name field, enter “Exclude Internal IP”.
  • For the Filter Type, choose Custom.
  • In the Filter Field drop down menu, in the search box, type “ip”, then select IP Address.

In the Filter Pattern field, use regular expression to enter all IP addresses you would like to exclude.

  • If you are excluding one or more distinct IP addresses, you should separate them by a pipe character, i.e. “|”. For example for the two addresses and you can enter 192\.168\.1\.1|255\.255\.255\.1
  • If you are excluding a range of IP addresses, use a regex pattern that covers the entire range in one statement.

Add Filter to View Google Analytics - InCore Marketing

  • Select which Views you would like to apply this filter to, then add them to the Selected views list. Hold the Ctrl or Cmd button down to select multiple Views and add them all at once.
  • Click on Save to create the filter.

Wrap Up on 8 Tips for Google Analytics

We hope those 8 tips on getting started with Google Analytics will help you use your data to make meaningful business decisions.

If you are able to master the standard set, you’ll have a great start when it comes to understanding site performance. Better still, you’ll be able to identify a robust set of actions that will please the toughest CEO.

Remember: Tracking and analyzing your performance data is not a one-time task. You need to revisit these reports on a regular basis to ensure that the actions you take are producing positive results and are identifying for new trends and tactics that may impact your content’s performance.

Want more information on how to setup your Google Analytics Account or gain a better understanding of how you can use Google Analytics to your advantage? We are here to help!


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