You can’t run an advertising campaign without first setting up Google Analytics. Without it you’ll have a much more difficult time figuring out whether your ads are working are not (and whether you’re wasting money or not).
But we often find that people install Google Analytics but have made one or more big mistakes along the way. Usually this is because they don’t understand how to set it up. Or they have tried to set it up, but aren’t getting the data they need because they aren’t sure how to capture it.
In this post we’ll walk through how to setup Google Analytics correctly.
1. Use Accounts, Properties, and Views
Google Analytics is structured through Accounts, Properties, and Views. It’s important you understand the distinction.
An Account is your access point for Google Analytics. You should have one account for each organization you want to track. We have an account for our website, Online Advertising School.
A Property is a single website, device, or app. Each of your websites should have a different property. If you have subdomains (like blog.somedomain.com) then you may want to include those in a single Property.
A View is a scope of data for a Property. A View could include all data collected for a Property, or only a slice of that data based on criteria you choose.
Define your organization’s Google Analytics Accounts, Properties, and Views in a logical way. This will help you analyze your data later on, and make it easier for others to understand how your Google Analytics is setup.
2. Create Raw, Master, And Test Views
You should have at least three Views for each Property: Raw, Master, and Test.
The Raw view is your first View, and it should capture all the data for your Property. Set up this View and leave it alone. Think of it as your back-up. If you start applying Filters and excluding data, you want to have a backup of all your data in case of error.
The Test view is where you start adding Goals, Filters, and other custom rules. As you collect data, you’ll see if the modifications you make work as expected (or if they don’t, what you need to do to fix them).
Once you have confirmed your customizations work as expected on the Test view, you can migrate them to your Master view. Think of this as a production version of your website. You know that everything here works as you want it should and you are collecting sound data.
Setting up these three Views will prevent a lot of headaches down the road and ensure you maintain data integrity.
3. Organize Your Views
Google Analytics names the default View *All website data*. Not that helpful if you are looking for specific information.
You should develop a naming convention for your Views that makes them easy to sort through.
The convention I prefer is a one-word descriptor of the view plus the domain it applies to.
For example, I might setup my Views for Online Ad School like this:
- Master – onlineadvertisingschool.com
- Test – onlineadvertisingschool.com
- Raw – onlineadvertisingschool.com
- Forum – forum.onlineadvertisingschool.com
You don’t have to follow this convention, but it works well for us.
4. Exclude Internal Traffic
No doubt you and your team will be visiting your website often. But you don’t want this traffic included in your Google Analytics reports. It will skew results and make your analysis less accurate.
Fortunately, excluding internal traffic from your Google Analytics reports is simple.
Start by creating a new Filter under the View column of your Admin panel.
Give your Filter an appropriate name and select ‘exclude’ and ‘traffic from the IP addresses’ and ‘that are equal to’. Then set the IP address to your own network’s IP address. You can find your IP address by typing ‘find my IP address’ into Google — it will show up as the first result.
Click ‘save’ and you’re good to go.
5. Normalize Your Referral Sources
After you use Google Analytics for some time, you’ll notice an annoying problem: Google Analytics gives the same referral source different names.
For example, in the list of Sources below, twitter.com and t.co both represent people who visited the site from Twitter.
To get an at-a-glance look at how many people Twitter drove to the site, we should try to normalize our data as much as possible. In this case, we want both twitter.com and t.co to appear as twitter.com.
To do this, we can add a simple Filter. Create a new Filter as we did before, and set it up with the parameters you see in the image below.
Verify your Filter, and as you’ll see twitter traffic is now normalized. Easy!
You can add these Filters as you find more unnecessary differentiation in your analytics reports.
6. Setup Goals
Goals are one of the most important features of Google Analytics. They tell you if people are doing the things you want them to do, like buying something or signing up for your email list.
To create Goals, go to your Admin panel and select Goals under the View column. Then click ‘New Goal’.
Give your Goal an appropriate name, like ‘Newsletter Signup’.
Next you’ll choose a Goal Type. The easiest type to setup is a Destination goal.
A Destination Goal only requires you to provide a page that someone lands on after they complete your goal. If we sent everyone who signed up for a newsletter, for example, to www.onlineadvertisingschool.com/newsletter/confirmation, we could setup a Destination Goal like you see below.
You could also use a receipt page for a sale or a confirmation page for a registration. As long as it’s a page someone will only reach by completing the action the Goal is tracking, you can use a Destination Goal.
Sometimes you need something more precise than a Destination Goal. Imagine you want to track people who click on a Share link. You don’t want to send all these people to a confirmation page. For this, you should use an Event Goal.
An Event Goal requires a bit more setup. You will need to add some simple code to your website. The code tells Google Analytics to record an event everytime someone does something you want them to do. Google has good documentation on how to set this up which you can find here.
Once you have setup your Event and tested that it works, you can setup a Goal to track that Event. Just enter the parameters of the event (Category, Action, Label, and Value) in the Goal details options.
Create the Goal, and then test it out by firing your event. You should see a new Goal hit recorded.
There are some other Goal types you can use which are also straightforward to setup, but I often find them less useful. There are Duration Goals which track the Duration of people’s visits to your site. There are also Pages/Screens per Session Goals which track how many pages visitors view each time they visit your site. These are more useful for media sites than e-commerce sites.
Now that your Google Analytics is setup on a solid foundation, it’s time to go further.
How about using UTMs to better track traffic to your site?
Or try setting up custom events on your website to create more Goals?
Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can give you most of the data you’ll need for free.