13 Google Analytics Tips & Tricks for Better Data

13 Google Analytics Tips & Tricks to Better Data

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April 4, 2018

We thought it might be useful to conclude the Advanced Google Analytics series by reminding you of some of the most important and useful Google Analytics tips.

These are very easy to forget, but they can provide so much more information – quite disproportionate to the amount of effort needed to set them up.

For quick review of the lessons, here are our best Google Analytics tips & tricks to using the most important features. Think of it as a checklist to run through before you declare your web analytics configured.

1. Once you create and configure your account, always create three views:

  • All data view
  • Test View
  • Main or Master View

These three views are mandatory. You cannot (you can, but really shouldn’t) be using Google Analytics without them. Consider your All data view as HOLY: Never change anything in there! It’s there to retain all of your data should you accidentally change your Main/Master view beyond repair (basically, scr*w it up).

Google Analytics Views Panel
An example of implementation of views on Google Merchandise Store

2. Use Google Tag Manager to set up your tracking. It’s so much easier, and later you’ll be able to use Tag Manager to insert event tracking, third party tags and much more. For the details, consult parts of our guide on event tracking and Google Tag Manager for eCommerce.

Analytics Tag Configuration in Google Tag Manager
It is easy to set up Google Analytics tracking using Tag Manager

3. Always, always filter the internal traffic to your web site. Never forget that. Filtering is a basic setup procedure, not to be skipped. Filters can be found in your ‘views’ section. If your internal traffic is not filtered, your data will be polluted, especially when changes and maintenance are done on your website.

Be careful using filters, though. One mistake and you can lose the data it took many months to gather. To avoid some pitfalls, check our guide to filters in Google Analytics.

Once filters are set up, Google Analytics will not collect the data that is filtered out. You will have no way to access it – it’s permanently lost. So, prior to changing anything with filters, do it in your test view first and check the results. If the results are satisfactory, then you can implement the filters to your master view. Remember, no filter is worth losing large amounts of valuable data.

An example of a spam filter
An example of a spam filter

4. Make sure you activate ‘Exclude all hits from known spider and bots’ in your View settings on the Admin screen of your Google Analytics. Google maintains this list and automatically filters those sources from every Analytics report that enables this option.

Spiders and bots exclusion filter
Spiders and bots exclusion filter

5. Always activate the Demographics and Interest reports. It is easily done in your account setup. This allows Google Analytics to use the databases that are gathered and maintained by Google, giving you valuable information you can use to segment your visitors by location, gender, language, etc. Do not forget to inform the visitors of this fact in your website policies. Some of your visitors may not appreciate this. When you enable Demo and Interests reports, you can use the data to segment your visitors.

Advertising features in Google Analytics
Make sure ‘Enable Demographics and Interest Reports’ is on

6. Group your channels and assign them names that will make sense to you at first glance. Channel grouping is a feature in your views. It allows you to assign custom names (that are more informative) to your channel groups, instead of the default Google designations. You can also create different groups and add individual or related channels to them.

Set up custom channel grouping
You can have up to 50 different channel groupings, including the default

7. Create your own dashboard containing your most important reports, so you can review them at a glance. You can even set up Google analytics to mail you the reports at specified periods (monthly, weekly or even daily). There are also a number of ready-made dashboards created by some of the leading authorities in web analytics. Check them out, but this is an area where you are your best judge.

Dashboard in Google Analytics
A default dashboard

8. If you operate an eCommerce site, use the goals to measure your micro conversions. Assign them values so you can compare them with each other (and don’t forget that those values are not actual incomes). We have a dedicated goals post in our Guide to Google Analytics.

Funnel visualization report
Funnel visualization report

9. Also, if you operate an eCommerce site, always enable the eCommerce and Enhanced eCommerce features. Most eCommerce platforms already contain ready scripts to integrate with Google analytics and there is really no excuse not to use those options. You can check it out in our Guide to eCommerce in Google Analytics post. Enabling these features allows you to track revenue, popular products, customer shopping behavior and many other extremely useful reports.

Enhanced ecommerce report
Enhanced eCommerce report

10. Use event tracking. Track any event that users can initiate while interacting with your site. There is no such thing as useless information. Remember, you can always filter the data in the tables, segment them or otherwise manipulate them. Event tracking may be a handful, but is worth it in the end.

Top events report
Using events you can track all interactions between visitors and your website

11. Create custom segments that reflect your target audience, or personas, of your most valuable customers so you can check the performance of these segments and see if you are doing the right thing.

For eCommerce sites, you may want to create a segment that accurately reflects your target audience. An example would be a women’s clothing site that targets primarily women in their 20’s and 30’s – they would probably like to have a segment of this population to observe how well their marketing efforts are working.

Set up segments
You can apply up to four different segments simultaneously

12. Whenever you change something in event tracking or goals, or any other custom aspect of reporting, use real-time reports to check if it is working and reporting as you wanted it to. NEVER use real-time reports to check on the performance of the web site or draw any insights from it. Real-time reports allow you to observe the Google Analytics with minimal delay, so if you added an event-tracking script to your website, you should be able to start seeing the hits immediately. Otherwise, you’d have to wait 24 hours before the first report would become available in regular Google Analytics.

Real time report
Real time report enables you to watch interactions with your website as they happen

13. To ensure that the data you receive reflects the nature of the visitors, you should adjust the timezone you use in Google Analytics. The default timezone is Pacific Standard Time. If the majority of your visitors aren’t from the West Coast of the USA, switch the timezone to the one more suitable to you. This is a small detail that is often overlooked. Nothing can be more confounding when you operate a B2B website and the majority of your visitors come at 3 am.

Set up the correct timezone
Set up the correct timezone

BONUS: Potential problems and how to solve them:

  1. If your bounce rate is 0%, there is something wrong. Possible causes:
  • You have two tracking codes on your pages
  • You have an event that fires automatically whenever user loads the page.
  1. If you are not receiving reports on the traffic you know should be there, check your filters to see if it is not being filtered out.
  2. If you see a sudden spike in your traffic that you cannot account for, you are being hit by bots. Update the filters to exclude this traffic.

Google Analytics tips conclusion

If you want to use Google Analytics for gathering the performance data of your eCommerce site, be sure to apply the lessons you have learned in our guides.

Always keep in mind that, despite having ‘Analytics’ in the name, Google Analytics does not analyze by itself. It is a reporting tool that allows you to do the analysis while keeping you as fully informed as is possible.

The quantitative data that Google Analytics collects is neutral, and is only as objective, comprehensive and accurate as the mechanism that reports it. This is why it’s so important to set up your Google Analytics properly.

It can be an intimidating process at first, but really, the only mistake you can make is not being informed.

A properly set up and running Google Analytics account is one of the best and most cost-efficient ways to remain informed. It is an indispensable tool to gather the data necessary to successfully and efficiently optimize for conversion and improve website performance. Without it, the process would not be possible.

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Edin is a Senior CRO Consultant. Edin is into Google Analytics and testing (any A/B testing tool really) and likes to write about it. You can follow Edin on Twitter.