Torchbox University: Advanced Google Analytics

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Author information: Christopher Whalen , Search and Analytics Consultant , Post information: 23 Nov 2012 , x min read ,
Related post categories: Digital Marketing , Data ,

Google Analytics is full of hidden treasures that some website owners don't use. Learn about eight features you should know about and follow our best practice tips.

Last week was the seventh anniversary of the launch of Google Analytics, so we decided to mark the occasion by highlighting seven features you should be aware of and one new kid on the block that might revolutionise how you track user journeys on your site. We'll also propose some best practice guidelines and pose one problem we haven't figured out yet.

But first, naming of parts.

Account vs Property vs View

Google Analytics n00bs are sometimes confused by the terminology of the GA structure. I got my head round it this way:

An account is the top-level. But what's the difference between a property and a view? A property in GA could be your main website, your blog or a mobile app. A view (aka profile) is a subset of data about a property. It's at the view level that you access reports and filter your data. You can set up a view to exclude traffic from your organisation's office IP address or to isolate traffic from your Google Grants ads. We'll revisit views in our best practice tips later on.

8 things you should be aware of

#1 Tracking multiple domains or subdomains

You can track traffic across multiple domains or subdomains in a single GA property. This is useful if your user journeys spans more than one domain or subdomain - for example, users might read about an event on www.example.com/event, buy a ticket on shop.example.com and return to www.example.com/thank-you for confirmation of their order. Ideally, your conversion funnel would track that whole process. If you didn't have multiple subdomain tracking set up, you'd lose track of users when they left the event page for the shop.

We'd like to see new GA instances set up with multiple domain tracking as standard so that you can accommodate new subdomains in your default property at a later date. If you want reports on a subdomain in isolation, you can create a separate filtered profile for that.

#2 Advanced segments

These are filters you apply to your data after it's in the account. For example, you can compare paid and non-paid search traffic. You can also define custom segments. We created an advanced segment to exclude one of our client's branded keywords from their search traffic reports.

#3 Event tracking

You can track user actions (or "events") such as a PDF downloads, clicks on a video's play button or even clicks on your navigation links. GA now allows you to convert events into conversion goals and import them into AdWords so you can better optimise your ad campaigns.

#4 Ecommerce tracking

Not all sites have a need for ecommerce tracking, but for any that collect donations or sell products, this is essential. You'll need to install a bit of extra code to get it working.

#5 Google Analytics debugger

There's a handy Chrome extension that shows you what data is passed to GA when a page loads.

#6 Site search

If you have a search function on your site, set this up to gather users' search queries. Next time you redesign your site architecture, you'll know what they couldn't find. It's also a great source of SEO and PPC keywords and can highlight gaps in your site's content or navigation.

#7 Content experiments

Formerly known as Google Website Optimizer but now fully integrated into GA, content experiments enable you to run A/B tests on your pages to compare the effectiveness of different designs and layouts. Use it to optimize landing or conversion pages.

#8 Google Tag Manager

Finally, the new kid on the block. Google launched this product on 1 October 2012 to help marketers manage all their tracking tags in one place. Install a single snippet of code in the <body> and define which tags are fired with rules you set in Google Tag Manager. You can use this to manage standard tags for Google Analytics and AdWords as well as custom tags e.g. for a checkout process or confirmation page. Once it's set up, marketers can create tags for new campaigns and products without further technical assistance from a developer.

Google Analytics best practice tips

  • Leave a default GA view untouched to gather all data. If you're going to apply filters, create separate views…
  • …For example, exclude your organisation's office IP address in a new view.
  • Insert the GA tracking snippet immediately before the closing </head> tag, not in the <body>…
  • …If you do, you'll be able to verify your site easily in Google Webmaster Tools.
  • Associate your Webmaster Tools account with your GA account in the admin property settings to import SEO data on search queries and landing pages into the traffic sources report.
  • If you've got an AdWords account, link it to GA via your Google Analytics property settings.

Now that you've read all our advice, how about a little payback?

A problem we'd like you to fix

We haven't yet figured out how to set up event tracking on embedded third-party code such as Vimeo, SoundCloud and Slideshare. If you know a good solution, get in touch with me on Twitter @domeheid.

Torchbox University sessions are held weekly (normally on Wednesdays). They last for up to an hour including Q & A and clients and friends are welcome to attend. Follow us on Twitter for notifications of upcoming sessions.

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Author information: Christopher Whalen , Search and Analytics Consultant , Post information: 23 Nov 2012 , x min read ,
Related post categories: Digital Marketing , Data ,