Google Analytics: 7 things to do when you first start
If you are starting out with Google Analytics for a site (or sites), then there are a few first steps you should follow. Here are 7 tips to get you up and running…
1. Create an account
Make sure you sign up using a company email address, Preferably a non-personal one such as firstname.lastname@example.org. This will make things much easier in the future, such as when you change roll, change your digital agency, or leave the company.
2. Think about your account/profile structure
Put some time into thinking how you are going to structure your Google Analytics account. There are accounts and profiles. This will be confusing at first. Without a bit of thought when getting started you run the risk of having a structure that further down the road you realise just isn’t right for you.
Google uses the analogy of a House with a number of rooms. An account should be a collection of related things – could be a brand, or a company. Profiles are the things; a particular blog, website, filter of another thing.
3. Insert the tracking snippet into your site
Make sure it’s the right version and in the right place – and working! It might be the case that an agency or a consultant has helped get you this far – double check and make sure they’ve used the latest version of the tracking snippet. The latest version at the time of writing is the asynchronous snippet.
Look at the source code of your site and compare the tracking snippet to the one shown on this page. If it looks more like this snippet, say thank you and goodbye. If they are putting the old snippet on new installations, they don’t know what they are doing.
4. Give your personal google account access
Yes Google are making it easier to switch between accounts, but you can’t do that yet with GA – so make life a little easier and add the Google account you normally log in with as a user for each account.
The best place to add yourself is via the user manager. You can find a link to the user manager towards the bottom of the account start page. From there you can give yourself access to all profiles within an account. Make sure you add yourself as an administrator.
5. Turn on site search
If your site is more than just a handful of pages, then there’s a good chance you’ve got a search box – or site search as Google calls it.
Turning on the tracking of site searches means that Google Analytics will record the search queries your visitors enter into your on-site search box. This can give you vital information as to what is important to visitors (and what they struggle to locate it via your information architecture and design).
6. Filter internal traffic
Every website has a significant number of visits from employees (or the site owners). This is a very distinct set of visitors, with different visitor goals and behaviour to your other target groups.
For many companies excluding internal traffic is quite straight forward as all Internet browsing usually goes through a gateway or a proxy. This means that internal visits will come from a known and limited number of IP addresses.
You should exclude this traffic, but I recommend that you also create a new profile for internal visits – as this means you can analyse the traffic if you need to.
Add an additional profile to the existing profile for your site. Perhaps with the same name as the original profile but with (internal traffic) as a suffix. Then create a filter that excludes everything apart from internal traffic. This means selecting “include only” instead of “exclude” when setting up the filter.
7. Get to grips with the basics
Learn what various figures and data actually mean – not all the statistics are necessarily what you think they are. If you’re going to be making business decisions based on GA stats, at least take the time to get to know them a little better first.
Traffic sources, bounce rate, and time on site, are three examples of data that is commonly misunderstood within Google Analytics.