Google Analytics is a powerful tool for startups, early-stage businesses and large corporations.
The tool allows you to determine the amount of traffic on your site, track where users are coming from anywhere in the world, measure the effectiveness of your online campaigns, identify how to improve under-performing pages and determine how customers interact with your site from initial landing to purchase.
If you’re still unsure of GA or only scratching the surface, it’s important to start using GA as a core engine in your decision making for your inbound marketing efforts.
These nine tricks are a great start to take your GA skills to the next level.
1. Goal setting
Goal setting is a favourite for many growth hackers and is the easiest to set up. You can create many variations with goals. Goals can become more complex, particularly when building funnels, but there are four main ones you must track when starting with GA:
- URL destination (pages users land on)
- Visit duration goals
- Pages/visit goals
- Event tracking goals (signups, downloads, video plays, etc)
It’s encouraged to create goals for each of these four main metrics. To set up goals, head to:
Admin > Goals > New Goal. Then choose the goal type you want to set up.
2. Segmenting for quality analysis
Segmenting is one of the best features for GA in isolating specific traffic which you want to know. You can create custom segments, or use predefined (default) segments to analyse data which you want to view. You can set up segmenting for:
- Specific geographics
- Channels (e.g. social media)
- Specific e-commerce transactions
While predefined segments are easier to filter your data, setting up custom segments can be a little tricky. For beginners, read this guide to setting up your first custom segment.
3. Spam filters and eliminate tracking yourself
Have you noticed those odd traffic sources in your “referrals” tab that have names such as, “free-social-buttons.xyz” or “free-traffic.xyz”? This is referral spam. Funnily enough, these sites or bots are actually advertisers who use the tactic of clicking your site multiple times to come up in your analytics.
Stopping them can be hard but you can filter them out of your analytics to view your real traffic metrics without the spam bots. You can read this guide here to filter out the spam. It’s an easy process to follow.
Another quick note that many people tend to do, including myself when I first started with GA a few years ago, is having traffic data from your own IP address. Why does this matter? I love viewing my website and I’m constantly editing it. Hence, being on the website and visiting every day, GA takes into account each session, including the time. It’s great to visit your website often, but your visits may be skewing your data, giving you a false representation of your data. It’s a quick fix, head to:
All Filters > Add New Filter, and set a Predefined Filter to Exclude traffic from your given IP address.
4. Connecting Google Analytics with Google Search Console
Google search console (previously webmaster tools) is an underutilised tool, that even many marketers don’t use themselves. The Google Search Console gives you more that GA can’t offer. There is information about the links pointing to your site, impression data, index issues, manual spam actions, and even organic search keyword impression and click data. Two more important features include:
- The ability to set up email notifications in relation to site issues or if you’re in danger of being penalised by google
- Identifying broken pages on your site
There are many great guides out there (like this article) about setting up google search console and its benefits.
5. Setting up custom alerts
Another feature which is often underutilised. Most growth marketers like myself check GA each day, however, some of us don’t need to check it everyday. With custom alerts, you have the option to not check GA each day and have the confidence that healthy traffic is still coming to the site. Custom alerts are for the purpose of identifying unusual activity, such as a spike in traffic for any segment/metric that is most important to your business. For example, if your traffic in Australia for a day drops less than 30% from the previous day, something may potentially be wrong. You can set up email notifications identifying any drops in traffic like this:
Admin > Custom Alerts, and you’ll be able to “Create New Alert” for one of several different actions or behaviours.
6. Tracking custom campaigns through tagging
Creating campaigns is pivotal for business success, but how do we measure the impact of these campaigns? Did they help convert customers? How many people landed on the site? Creating special tags, called UTM tags, we can use these tags to accustom to various campaigns. Goals for doing this would include A/B split testing campaigns, and measuring ROI of campaigns. Google has a free tool, called the URL builder. You can identify five parameters: your source, medium, term, content, and campaign name. Once you click generate URL, you will receive a large URL which will look something like this;
In this hypothetical campaign, I created a campaign for this blog to be posted onto Facebook. I wanted to measure exactly what the CTR was, specifically for this post within this campaign. To break it down quickly alongside the parameters:
- URL Destination: http://www.businessinsider.com.au/11-must-have-growth-hacking-strategies-for-your-startup-2015-11
- Source: facebook (that’s the channel where we’ve posted it)
- Medium: social (because it’s posted on social media)
- Term: growthhacking (we want to collate the keywords around “growthhacking” in GA)
- Content: growth (the blog post is related to growth)
- Campaign: blog (this is very generic, but would be more specific for your campaign)
Quick tip: As you can see, the link is very long and can be a little messy, so head to bit.ly and shorten the link to make it more neat.
7. User behaviour flows
This option within GA is fantastic. It’s a great overview of how users are interacting with your site, particularly which page they click onto next after their initial hit, and also where they eventually drop off (fingers crossed after a purchase). It does seem a little complex at first, however, once you understand this feature, you can identify various paths of users using various segmentation and variables, depending on the target users you most desire. To view the user flows, head to;
Reporting > Behaviour > Behaviour Flow to see a map of your users’ behaviors.
8. In-page analytic hotspots
A neat feature GA has to offer is in-page analytics. It’s actually Google’s own “hotspots”, which shows how users have been interacting with various pages of your site through a visual medium.
This is a great, free method as a heatmap to see the percentage of users interacting with your site. For many marketers out there, they may use heatmap tools such as Crazy Egg or Inspectlet for deeper insights (and they look more visually appealing), however, for beginners, this tool will certainly give a helpful insight into moving headings, links and content to optimise the areas where you want users to click most. To view in-page analytics, head to:
Reporting > Behaviour > In-page analytics. (There is also a free chrome extension which you can download).
9. Custom dashboard reporting
In GA, you will receive default dashboards to view the various metrics that Google Analytics has to offer. What happens when you don’t need to necessarily view all the data? What about a way to view data that you’ve customised? Creating custom dashboards is a great way to do view this data. It’s also very easy to do. Head to:
Reporting > Dashboards > New Dashboard to create your first dashboard—you can have up to 20 at any given time. Drag and drop widgets.
This is simply a taste of what GA can do for your startup or business for data-driven marketing. There are other, paid alternatives out there, however, when starting out, GA is your best option.
Dan Siepen is the director of growth & product strategy at Titan Vine. He is also the co-founder of Coder Factory, a coding school based Sydney. He loves everything growth hacking and you can tweet Dan @dansiepen