Google Analytics Tips + Best Practices Pt 1: Configuration

By Vadim Tchernine,
Abstract image of a configuration panel

 

What can’t be measured can’t be managed. Now, you don't need to be a data scientist to make decisions based on your users’ activity, but it’s crucial that your configuration is top-notch. As they say, garbage in, garbage out. Google Analytics provides an easy-to-use platform that’s able to go very granular with the data we need to collect. In this series, I will discuss how to configure Google Analytics, how to make sure the data you receive is actionable, and some common misconceptions about the platform.

Set up 3 default views

To protect yourself from potential data loss from a misconfiguration, maintain a “Raw Data” view of unfiltered data as a baseline, a “Master View” for all your reporting, and a “Test View” to try out new filters and configurations without compromising the integrity of your vital data.

Screenshot of Google Analytics' three default views
Screenshot of our three recommended default views

 

Use Filters to normalize your data

Google Analytics does not understand that yoursite.com/contactus and yoursite.com/CONTACTUS are the same page. Filters will normalize your data. These can be setup on an account level and be applied to every view, saving you hours re-creating filters from view to view. [Reference]

 

“Dirty data.” Notice various filters counted as separate URLs
Notice various filters counted as separate URLs in this dirty data set.
Text
Normalized

Use Goals to manage campaigns

Your annual fundraising campaign got 150,000 sessions – 25% more than last year. But, did as many people donate? Did you raise more money? How much money did you spend on each campaign? Sessions only demonstrate traffic to your site, but not user intent once they’ve reached it. Goals in GA help measure campaign success. You can either create them yourself or import them from the Solutions Gallery. Once you have a list of Goals you like, share them with your other property/views.

Goals in Google Analytics
Example Goals in Google Analytics
Sharing Goals in Google Analytics
Sharing Goals in Google Analytics

 

Filter out bots in your views

When creating new Views, ensure to check the “Block known bots” to instantly remove between 70-80% of fake traffic that could potentially come to your site. Do not turn this on in your Raw View. [Reference.]

Filtering out bots
Filtering out bots

 

Trigger instant notifications with custom alerts

Don’t wait a month to get your report. Create a custom alert within Google Analytics to instantly get a notification when something happens. Not sure what to create? Here are 55 to get you started.

Customize notifications you want to receive from Google Analytics
Customize notifications you want to receive from Google Analytics

 

Track your site’s search feature

Enable site search for each View to get the most reliable data when it comes to user intent. [Reference]

Enable site search
Track site search to understand user intent.

 

Apply secondary dimensions to reports to dig deeper

Dimensions are qualitative attributes about your data. Think of them as categories that identify a user, such as the type of device someone is using when they visit your site. In addition to looking at the source/medium of your traffic, you can, for example, also add the device they used to compare their relative performance. [Reference.]

 

How to apply a secondary dimension to a report
How to apply a secondary dimension to a report

 

Enable Search Console for SEO insights

Explicitly connect Search Console (previously Webmaster Tools) to Google Analytics to understand Organic Search performance, improve SEO, and identify broken links. [Reference.]

Enable Search Console, Step 1
Enable Search Console, Step 1
Enable Search Console, Step 2
Enable Search Console, Step 2

 

Use existing solutions from the community

Google has its own Solutions Gallery to help the community share what they have created with others. This includes free templates for Dashboards, Custom Reports, Segments, Goals and much more.

Some resources in the Solutions Gallery
Example resources in the Solutions Gallery

 

Leverage Regular Expressions to ask the right question

Regular Expressions (otherwise referred to as “regex”) can help you narrow in on parameters like date ranges, or other variables such as page contents. Apply them to create more specific Goals, Filters and search parameters.

Leveraging regular expressions
Leveraging regular expressions

 

And that's it! I hope you find these tips helpful. Coming soon: part 2 of this series: Google Analytics Tips + Best Practices: Quality Assurance & Data Integrity. Stay tuned.

Vadim Tchernine

Vadim is our resident data artist, uncovering truths hidden within metrics and displaying them in surprising, actionable ways. With his 10+ years of experience working in analytics, Vadim can tame the most behemoth of datasets to tell the real story about how your digital concern lives in the world, giving you the insights you need to make sound strategic decisions.