20+ Google Analytics Tips

20+ take-aways from the Google Analytics “Seminar for Success” in Montreal, Canada

According to Avinash Kaushik, Analytics Evangelist at Google, the process of web analytics is:

  1. the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data from your website and the competition,
  2. to drive a continual improvement of online experience that your customers, and potential customers have,
  3. which translates into your desired outcomes (online and offline).

At the Google Analytics “Seminar for Success” in Montreal, Canada on Monday and Tuesday, there were a lot of things to be learned, but we wanted to share some of the most important take-aways from these sessions for those of you all ready using, or considering Google Analytics.

  1. HITS = How Idiots Track Success. Instead of paying attention to how many hits your website gets, pay attention to your outcomes (leads, sales, etc.)
  2. Google Analytics doesn’t promote unique visitors. For those of you looking for “Unique Visitor” counts, Google doesn’t feel web analytics are accurate enough to truly track uniques, so they focus on hits. You can find a report of uniques, however in their “trending” section.
  3. Use complimentary sites. Google Trends and the FireClick Index can both be used to compare your analytics results with others in your niche and give context to your results. Context provides a framework to judge success, so using multiple metrics may help you understand the complete story.
  4. You are never “done” analyzing metrics. Web analytics, at an organizational level, is a continuous improvement process that helps your website meet the needs of your visitors. When something works, you find out why and see how you can continue these results; when something doesn’t, you find out why and fix what the problem is. Then you test, test, test, analyze, analyze, analyze. 

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  5. Assign proper resources. Tools are no longer an issue when it comes to web analytics. More likely, your biggest issue is not having the proper staff needed in order to make the data actionable. Optimally, you should have at least one person dedicated to analytics on your team.
  6. Know what you do. Web analytics are a way for us to translate the goals of our online business into metrics that we can measure. In order to measure your most important metrics, you must first determine what they are by creating a business plan that includes goals for revenue, leads, or whatever your online purpose is.
  7. Show the right numbers to the right people. In Google Analytics, the function to email scheduled (and targeted) reports is available. To make the most from your analytics, make sure you set up monthly reports to be sent to the people who can make the data actionable.
  8. Focus on a handful of metrics. There are 120+ reports you can follow in Google, but it’s unlikely that all of them are crucial to your business. Think of the other data in Google Analytics as your “supporting cast”. Focus on 1-10 simple metrics.
  9. Determine your Key Performance Indicators: Remember that your goal is to “get more sales/leads/etc.” not to “get more hits/improve bounce rate/etc.” For example:
    1. I have a website to: Sell a product – My KPI: How much revenue did I generate?
    2. I have a website to: Generate a sales lead – My KPI: How many leads did I generate?
    3. I have a website to: Generate ad revenue – My KPI: How many pages did visitors see?
  10. Use segmentation. Segmentation is useful for determining how productive each of your profit centers are. Segment PPC, Email, Banner Ads, Products, etc. metrics to understand which segments are profitable, and which are not; then adjust your approach to each.

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  11. Look at trends, not specifics. Data is not 100% accurate in any web analytics tool, and in general, Google Analytics is about 90% accurate. Look at trends over time, rather than specifics, in order to mitigate data issues.
  12. Remember, Google Analytics is not in real-time. Google Analytics is a “hosted” solution, and real-time data isn’t actionable for everyone. So rather than overloading servers over at Google, data is processed in 1-3 hours.
  13. Get it right the first time. When implementing Google Analytics on your site, or managing filters within the interface, make sure you do it right the first time. Google Analytics tracks data from the second you implement it on your site, and there is no way to change old data or apply retroactive changes.
  14. Set Goals. Possibly the most helpful feature in Google Analytics is the ability to set goals for your website. By using the Goals feature, you are able to let Google Analytics know what pages in an orderflow equal a conversion for you, and can determine the value of certain goals performed (amongst other things). Learn more about Google Analytics Goals.
  15. Customize your dashboard. In Google Analytics, you have the ability to organize your dashboard so that your most important metrics are front and center. Any report in Google Analytics has the functionality to be added to your dashboard.
  16. Get over your cookie issues. Yes, Google Analytics uses 1st-party cookies in order to track visitors, so anyone who has their browser set up to delete cookies regularly will likely show up as a new visitor in your analytics reports. The good news is that the percentage of users that delete their cookies will stay the same, so you won’t see a fluctuation of new/returning visitors over time based on a cookie-error.
  17. Define your members/non-members. To learn more about how your members/new visitors browse, use the “User Defined” report to identify members vs. non-members. See what percentage of traffic is accounted for by new traffic, as opposed to returning members. Learn more about Visitor Reports in Google Analytics. 
  18. Keep everyone on the same page. When you make drastic changes to your website, (or even minor ones), make sure your analytics person is informed. For example, your analytics person shouldn’t be wasting time trying to figure out why conversions dropped on a certain page, when you should have told him that you removed the page, changed the color of the button, or chopped the copy in half.
  19. Put your Google Analytics code at the bottom of the page. The best place for the Google Analytics code on a page is at the bottom. Why? Remember that it’s being pulled by Google, so if for any reason there is an error, or is loading slowly, so will the rest of your page if you have it at the top. By putting it at the bottom, you ensure that the page has loaded for your users before it starts processing the code.
  20. Use link-tagging. You MUST tag any inbound links to your site, whether they’re PPC, banner ads, email links or otherwise. If you don’t, Google Analytics will determine where the traffic came from on its own (Direct, Search Engine, or Referrals). If you send a lot of traffic to your blog from your email newsletter, this metric is lost to you without tagging. The same goes for your external ads; without link-tagging you won’t know which ads are working. At a minimum, your tags should include your campaign, medium and source. Other tags than can also be used include the content description and the keyword term (for AdWords). Learn more about Link-Tagging in Google Analytics.
  21. Be careful with redirects. Also inline with link-tagging, make sure your redirects don’t strip parameters, because your tags will be lost.
  22. Look at the “Top Landing Pages” report. Your homepage is not the most popular landing page on your site; search engines determine where users land. In this report, you can see the most popular landing pages on your site as well as where they came from and where they left. Using this report, you can also see which landing pages have the highest bounce rate, and adjust accordingly.
  23. Watch out for “Event Tracking”. Now in beta, event tracking lets you define elements in your pages as interactions. For example, imagine you have a landing page where the goal is simply for the users to watch a video. In regular Google Analytics, that page would have a high bounce rate, even though the goal was simply to watch the video. With event tracking, you can identify a user clicking on the video (to watch it) as a completed event, thus removing it from your bounce list and increasing your goals met.

Download a FREE copy of 7 Ways to Monetize your Portal Audience, and discover how today's top publishers are generating revenue through memberships, events, clubs, sponsorships, and more.


    Interesting post, keep the good stuff coming, good content appreciated!


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