I wish somebody would have told me when I started marketing that Google Analytics is made for everybody. That means, that it is a hyper-flexible solution that comes completely unconfigured when you initially open an account. The “real” power of Google Analytics is hidden at the first eye’s glance and achieves its maximum potential only after configuration.
It took me almost 5 years to fully understand that Google Analytics must be customized specifically for every business individually. After providing consulting to one of Israel’s “Unicorn” Hi-tech companies I became aware that a majority of people, who work in the industry do not know how to properly use Google Analytics.
In the following article I attempted to provide a solution for marketing employees wanting to learn how to master Google Analytics, I wanted to create an article that will explain how to fully utilize a Google Analytics account, (entirely for your unique business needs). It is important to state, that I did not include all the information needed to fully master Google Analytics, all though reading this article will definitely improve your knowledge about Google Analytics and will assist you to monitor your website metrics like a pro! I promise to write an additional chapter dealing with the information I left out, in the future.
In addition to the knowledge provided, I will share some great dashboards within this article – and even more importantly, I will show a clear scope of a Google Analytics account and explain how to create the best Google Analytics dashboard. Let’s get started!
Configure your Google Analytics account for your needs
To create a great analytic dashboard, you will need to properly configure the structure of your account. This is important to execute while dedicating extra thought, messing up configuration on the beginning has serious impacts at later stages and will require you to redo your entire setup. To create the ultimate dashboard we will need to figure out what configuration set-up your account needs and what business KPI’s we need to track.
Before we learn about creating dashboards, I want to take the time to notice the differences between each section of depth, within your Google Analytics account :
- Account – This should always be the main (and only) folder of your entire Project. This level, should contain all your project’s websites and other virtual web assets included within your organization (e.g. Landing Pages, Forums, Product Platforms, Niche websites and etc…).
- Property – The property includes everything you want to track on the entire domain of a specific website. For every property that you create you will receive a unique JS tracking script and Identifier (e.g. UA-XXXXXXXX-X) For each website, you will need a unique Property.
- View – Within the view you apply “Filters” to create separate scopes of your website. Within this depth it is the right place to separate your website by sub-domains and private connections. With filters you can AB test production environments, also the Filters can help your company track metrics on a staging environment connected to your live product.
Here are the 4 parameters associated with the predefined “Filters”, I included a link on the bottom of the article to view all the parameters you can choose from when selecting Custom filter fields.
- traffic from the ISP domain
- traffic from the IP addresses
- traffic to the subdirectories
- traffic to the hostname
What do you need to track in Google Analytics?
One of my favorite quotes that should become a standard in the world of Analytics is: “If you do not know how to ask the right question you discover nothing” by W.Edwards Deming. Although Deming’s said the famous phrase before the days of the Internet, his career as a engineer, statistician, professor, author, lecturer, and management consultant strongly strongly indicates that this fine Gentleman knew his numbers.
So, let’s start asking questions in order to figure out your Marketing and Operation funnels. The answers you provide will serve as ground-zero for the decision making part of the dashboards.
Let’s start on the Business level and then drill down to what metrics we are looking for, It all starts with an obvious yet very relevant question –
Why do we need a website? Are we looking to sell specific products or services? Are we trying to fund-raise for charity? What is your point in investing efforts to create a website?
– List at least 2 different reasons why your operation needs a website.
What is your Professional Objective? – Now, we want to Break down the reasons we listed above and find what we require, to execute such a task.
For this example let’s say we are promoting a Locksmith business, the reason we “need” a website is to generate potential leads hence we decide to use SEO and AdWords to reach our “needs”. Our professional objective in this example is to excel in SEO and Adwords marketing. (Because doing so will contribute directly to the reason we need a website.)
– Explain in a short sentence what is your Professional Objective within the operation?
What means that we succeed at our work? – Now we will brainstorm about all the different criterions for success for the professional objectives you stated.
If we are talking about Adwords marketing, we probably want to convert as much traffic, as we can handle, for the lowest price.
In SEO, we will strive to rank on competitive SERP’s and generate quality backlinks to increase Organic and Referral traffic.
A digital PR specialist or content writer will want to write interesting and productive articles that are appreciated within his industry, every profession has its own way to define success
– Write down at least 4 bullet points that define your success within each objective.
What Metrics do I need to collect to know if I succeeded? – If you have followed the methodological steps I have presented to understand your KPI’s, this step will be very easy to complete. To identify the metrics needed to analyze your success, look at the bullet points you listed from the previous step and with an “algorithmical” approach.
If we want to extract KPI’s for a content writer you will want high reading time (to see that people are reading the articles) and high Engagement (events that are triggered when users comment or share the article).
List down all the parameters you need to identify, in order to understand if you are doing a good job. Write as many as you can think of, be generous, the more “Indicators” you manage to extract, will result in the quality of your diagnostics efforts.
Setting up Funnels and Goals on your Google Analytics account
We have one final step before the creation of our dashboards, all that is left, is to figure out our Conversion and Operation Funnels. The more complex your Website’s Information Architecture is, the more views and segments you need to control and sterilize data. In order to explain how to utilize Custom Segments for your Funnels, I want to direct your attention to the difference between Filters and Segments.
What is the difference between filters and segments?
A filter is a permanent option we define to our view, that removes (or includes) specific sections of your domain. A Segment is a portion of your overall audience, we can temporarily define segments out of any parameter that Google can track. As you can see in the image bellow, Segments involve properties regarding Audience.
The difference between these 2 terms, are that Filters affect the entire view, where Segments, visually separate portions of your Audience, by custom properties. With Segments you will be able to locate any audience that has visit your website and observe their actions within your dashboard. You should know that Segments can be saved and shared with colleagues and friends.
Setting up Goals in Google Analytics
Using Goals are mandatory in every Google Analytics account. For every business obviously the Goals are different, goals in Google Analytics are based on triggered events that you define within the Admin Tab. The “Goals” tab in Google Analytics has 2 options, “Templated” and “Custom”.
I recommend only using the “Custom” option, this is because the “Templated” option functions exactly like the “Custom” option, and it requires the exact same amount of work – the difference is that you will have less places to make errors with the “Custom” option after you understand how Goals work.
Goals are triggered by events like I mentioned above, these events are based on 4 parameters:
- Pages/Screens per session (e.g. 4 pages)
- Duration (e.g. 5 minutes)
- Destination Page (e.g. thankyou.html)
I can not find the words to express how important using Goals in every Google Analytics account is, this is your only way to fully understand if your marketing and operation efforts are paying off.
If you do not have any ideas for Goals then use all of the following:
- Set up a Duration goal for 3 minutes on your blog and pages.
- Use a 3-page Depth session as a goal
- sSet up a Goal in the form of a JS Event on your Contact page
Setting up funnels in Google Analytics
A funnel is the entire journey of a customer, starting from the point of entrance and ending at the point of conversion. In order to create meaningful analysis we should observe primary funnels that we plan within our overall customer experience. Creating funnels assists us – the Online marketers, to understand if our desired course of action is being reached and at what rate.
To further explain funnels I will present 2 different situations and will state possible primary funnels that should be observed, if you need assistance understand your primary funnels, don’t hesitate to contact me.
The first example is an affiliate website, that reviews different products from the Cosmetics industry.
The funnel will end at the POC (Point of conversion), which in this case will be clicking the referral link in each product that leads to the affiliated website. In this website I have 2 main points of entrance, they are the pages and posts. Each POE – (Point of Entrance) has different traffic sources – like the SERP’s, the monthly newsletter, the Facebook and Twitter account and etc..
After I understand the POE and the possible sources (that we can promote our POE’s on), I will map down the primary funnels that seem most relevant to me. In the image bellow you can see how my funnel is not affected by my source of traffic, I planned the chart while only considering my optimal user flow.
Now that you understand what a primary funnel looks like you can perform an experience analysis, from every distinctful source of traffic separately. In this fashion, you will be able to extract meaningful data, that will most definitely improve your performance on every analysis.
Target your main sources of traffic and look at the “Behavior” section within the Reporting Tab to understand where your drop-off’s happen and why do they happen. Specifically, the “Behavior Flow” section will shed light on your funnel activity.
With the help of a visual tracking tool (like LuckyOrange) that can record form submissions and heat maps you will be able to complete the full analysis cycle and further improve your funnels.
Why to Group content in Google Analytics?
The answer is very simple, In order to create a clean and sterile work environment within your Google Analytics account.
Most websites that I have worked on do not use the Group content option and truthfully, most of them really need it!
This is your only way to fully separate your assets while leaving it all under the same tracking Account. Grouping content is very useful for separating Sub-domains while still connecting the data needed to create a multi-funnel attribution model. If you have a eCommerce website or your company is SAAS orientated I deeply recommend using Content grouping to separate between assets.
How to set up the Best Google Analytics dashboard?
Depending on the size of the marketing and business operations you are running, your dashboards will be your diagnostics entry point and main source for useful metrics. Your worst enemy while configuring the dashboards is data that you will never use. To prevent this situation I constantly remind myself that “the only type of good data, is useful data” and question myself what exact form of data will I need, to improve my results.
I do have a primary build-up that I first import into every account, afterwards I add more widgets in according to my needs. Before we decide what widgets will be in each dashboard, we need to create separate Dashboards for each section. Note that you can only add 12 widgets to each Dashboard, this forces you to divide your dashboards into sections.
According to your operations, divide the names, of the dashboards you will use, by sections or verticals. I often divide the dashboards into the something similar to this:
- General Overview
- Campaigns Overview
- Engagement & Loyalty
- SERP Results
- Google Adwords Campaigns
- I.T. – Server Performance
- Social Media Overview
- Targeted Social media dashboards (one for Facebook, one for Twitter and etc..)
I tend to keep a visual hierarchical structure in almost every project I work on, therefore I rename the campaigns to start with a number before the title. This way, I can put the dashboards I check daily, up at the top of my list.
The dashboards should serve as a portal for your metrics, for instance If you are a eCommerce website you should create an additional Dashboard specifically for Goals and Mobile based funnels. – To fully maximize the dashboards, on each widget you can click “Widget settings” and then use the “Link to Report or URL” field to automatically take you, to a pre-defined report page within Google analytics.
What widget should you create for each dashboard?
In the following section I will explain the method to decide which widget you should create for each dashboard. In the beginning of the article I showed a methodological system to extract your KPI’s – Now that we know what our Key Performance Indicators are, it is relevantly easy to understand how to measure them.
Depending on your Product and Operation, you will have to change the variables within your widget filters, to fit your needs. If you are working on a Global Marketing level, then logically for Geo filters use Country instead of City.
For this example we will talk about a Dashboard made to understand the quality of the Blog posts on your website. I will start by brainstorming with myself what is the definition of success for the content writing efforts I have invested.
- I want people to read the Article till the end
- I want people to share the Article with Friends
- I want people to leave a comment on the Bottom
Now that I clearly understand what qualifies as a great article I will attempt to identify the metrics needed to recognize areas of success and failure.
- I want people to read the Article till the end – 1000 words will take over 3 minutes of reading time, we will define “Avg. Time on Page” as the first KPI.
- I want people to share the Article with Friends – Create an JS event for the Social Share buttons on your Blog, connect it with Google Analytics and define it as a Goal. This way we can measure the event on each post.
- I want people to leave a comment on the Bottom – Same thing as above, with a JS event and Google Analytics Goal we can track this KPI.
Now that I know what metrics I am looking for, creating widgets for my “Blog Post Dashboard” is easy work. When selecting widgets I prefer using mainly numeric metrics over graphs and pies, this way I can get the Primary data I am looking for quickly. As you can see in the image below, now that we have simple widgets we can obtain our data – very simply.
I uploaded my personal demo dashboards for everybody to publicly enjoy. Feel free to use them, you can download them from the Official Solution gallery by clicking this link – Download my Google Analytics dashboard.
If you also have assets you would like to share, you can group them in a bundle by going to the Admin tab within your Google Analytics account and on the far right bottom corner you will see “Share Assets”. Now, just group your favorite assets and share it with the world.
In order to efficiently monitor my campaigns I use a combination of Scheduled reports and Custom Alerts. On the contrary, when I want to optimize a website’s performance I will set a bi-weekly data crunch. The difference between both of these fundamental processes are that one monitors that nothing bad is happening to your website and the other one will help you improve your website and marketing funnel.
The combination of the Scheduled reports and custom alerts provides a complete “security parameter” for our operations.
If you need help remembering the metric meanings in Google Analytics you can find a short Glossary of Metrics on Google Analytics that can be handy. My next article will talk about configuring UTM links for your marketing plan, be sure to stay tuned and check back soon.
Custom Filter View: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1034380