Google Analytics is an important analytics tool to efficiently monitor your online performance and outline consistent strategies for your business
Google Analytics is the most used website monitoring and analysis tool in the world. It integrates with other Google services like Ads and Searches Console. With it, it is possible to monitor the profile of those who access your site, the most accessed pages, conversions, devices, cities, and other data.
If you’ve come to this article, it’s probably because you already have a website and maybe you already have Google Analytics installed on your pages. But, if you don’t know this tool yet, it’s the time!
Although it is almost a rule today to have Google Analytics configured, it is still possible to find many companies that do not exploit the potential of this tool.
In this article, Blue World City will make you check the importance of a periodic analysis and how to start this practice.
What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is the most used website and application monitoring and analysis tool in the world. Some of its advantages are: easy to configure, integration with other Google services such as Ads and Search Console, and a very complete free version.
With the tool installed correctly, it is possible to monitor the profile of those who access your website, the most accessed pages, conversions, devices, cities, and many other data. Here are some reasons to start using the tool.
3 reasons to use Google Analytics
There are definitely a thousand and one questions you ask yourself every day about your business or your blog. Many of them can be easily answered by simply opening Google Analytics.
Data about your page’s traffic, location of your visitors, origin channels and real-time information about what’s happening on your website are a fraction of what can be seen in the tool.
Tracking your target audience’s behavior is important on several levels, but here are some examples that are relevant to any business:
1. Understand the best time for your actions
Know the days of the month, the week or even the hours that your visitors are most engaged with the site.
With this data in hand, in addition to being able to program actions, it is also possible to know what not to do at peak times, such as a website update that will reach a large part of its users.
2. Discover causes for abandoning your site
Analyze the bounce rate. In other words, how many of your visitors leave your site without even interacting with it.
If you sell a service and your website is not generating sales, you already know that something is wrong, but analyzing this data, it is easier to understand if the problem is in the page or in the product itself.
3. Understand which devices your visitors use
Today it is essential that your pages are optimized for mobile devices. This is even one of the issues that can harm you in search results if it doesn’t comply with Google’s guidelines.
But, beyond that, it’s possible that you need to invest more in mobile over time, or even that, for your business, it makes more sense to develop applications or actions for mobile and not for desktop.
Analyzing your traffic through Analytics it is possible to know which device has been most used by your visitors to access your website.
How to Use Google Analytics: The Basic Settings
First, you’ll need a Google account. Give preference to one that only you have access to and that is for professional use, as you will have to use it while the site exists.
Then, just go to the Google Analytics homepage and click on create an account.
The system itself will indicate the next steps. After clicking the “Sign Up” button and filling in the requested details, you will receive a tracking code.
The code must be inserted on every page of your website. Usually, on HTML pages the code is added before the closing </head> tag.
Insertion location may vary. If your site was made in WordPress, for example, you can look for an option to put the code in the header, or even install a plugin to make the process easier.
Ready! Now you have to wait 24 hours for your data to start collecting.
If you want other people to use Analytics, no problem: you can grant this access later. To give access to other users, go to “Administrator”, select the desired account and click on “User management”.
In “Add permissions for” enter the email of the Google user you want to add and choose the permission that will be granted. Click “Add”.
It is worth remembering that the tool has countless possibilities and, the better configured it is, the more structured data it will be able to collect.
So, a great idea is to delve into both the configuration and the analysis and the reports it is capable of generating.
Google itself provides a YouTube channel and a specific page for learning with tips and courses about the service they offer.
Have fun with Analytics
This is the time to get to know and familiarize yourself with the tool’s interface. Even with the basic configuration the possibilities are huge.
Flip through all the sections, check out the side menu from top to bottom and, if possible, study about advanced settings and custom reports. They will make your life much more practical—and complete.
Oh, of course, take the opportunity to gather cool information about your business and get ready for action.
A nice tip is to pay attention to the dimensions—major and minor—of the reports. They allow for countless combinations and can bring you exactly the information you need.
Give insights a chance to recur in your daily life. If you are not aware of a problem and its cause, how do you come up with a solution?
Data is a reliable basis for decision making when, in addition to being well analyzed, it is consistent — and consistency takes time.
You may see some mixed results when analyzing your information over short periods of time, but suddenly you recognize a pattern and can see off-the-curve points and insights.
Consider this analysis tool as another ally to come up with new ideas and solutions. Even when things go well we can find different niches and optimization opportunities.
As research material, it’s worth keeping an eye on Occam’s Razor, a super-specialized web data blog written by Google’s Digital Marketing evangelist, Avinash Kaushik.
tips to get more out of Google Analytics
1 – Secondary dimensions
The first essential tip is the secondary dimensions. It’s relatively simple and already delivers a lot of value to those who are analyzing. Although simple, most people do not know how to use it properly or do not even know that this feature exists.
Before talking about the secondaries, let’s talk about the primaries first. This is the part most people are most familiar with. Roughly speaking, it is the main parameter you want to analyze, such as “pages”, “source” and “campaign”. When selecting some primary dimensions (such as “pages”), I will see the performance in numbers for all my pages, such as the number of visitors, average time, bounce rate, etc.
Secondary dimensions allow for further analysis in the primary dimensions. When selecting a certain primary property (for example the ‘/blog’ page), it is possible to use the secondary dimensions, which open up various possibilities for analysis.
Primary dimension: Page -> shows a list of pages and performance per page
Clicking on the ‘/blog’ page and selecting the secondary dimension “traffic type” -> shows the distribution of visits to the blog according to the type of traffic source (organic, direct, referral, social, etc).
2 – Goals
Google Analytics also provides a fantastic way to measure the results of your company’s Marketing actions: setting goals ( goals ). For each objective (downloading material, visiting a specific page, etc.) you can set a goal and then gain important insights for decision making.
The target options provided by the GA are:
- Destination – This means that the goal will be reached with each visit to the page you defined. For example, you can define that the goal will be reached when someone visits a purchase confirmation page, or a material thank you page.
- Duration – The goal will be reached when the time spent on a given page was longer than the defined time. For example, if you have a page with a video telling a case study and that video is 3 minutes long, you can target a dwell time that matches the duration time.
- Pages / Screens per Session – In this case, the target will be reached when a visitor goes through more than X screens. For example, if one of your company’s website or blog goals is to engage with content and that content is paginated, you can choose to measure that way.
- Event – We’ll explain a little more about GA events in the next topic, but it’s basically “something that happens” on the website. The possibilities here are many. For example, clicking a specific call-to-action, filling out a form, clicking a video play, clicking a button to download, etc.
Why set goals in Google Analytics
The great advantage of defining these goals is that you can cross them with virtually any other information brought by Google Analytics. A practical example of a goal that we use very often here at Digital Results is filling out a form on some Landing Page. Every time a Landing Page is filled, we reach a conversion, a goal we set in GA.
With that, we follow some reports like:
- How many conversions a given email campaign brought – so we measure the effectiveness of each material sent to the Leads base;
- How many conversions we’ve had from visitors coming from Google – so we see which pages are bringing the most organic visitors and how many conversions they’re generating;
- How many conversions we’ve had from visitors coming from paid media – that way we see how much conversion is costing for each material and each campaign.
To create a goal, go to the Admin tab and then choose the account, property, and property view for which you want to set a goal, click Goals, and then New Goal.
Choose the type of goal you want to create and follow the steps indicated by GA. In the example below, let’s create a conversion goal on Landing Pages created by RD Station Marketing.
Give the goal a name, choose the Destination option and click Next Step. On the next screen, choose the Regular expression option and, in the text box, enter /conversation
Create the goal and start collecting data for analysis.
Just to be clear, the Regular expression option refers to an expression that can appear in several different URLs. That way you don’t need to create multiple goals to measure multiple pages.
In the case of RD Station’s Landing Pages, each conversion generates a view in the “lp-address/conversation”. In practice this means that all Leads go through this “invisible” page right after converting and this generates the conversion in Analytics.
Do you want to visualize the goal in practice? View the conversion report for each page on your site by going to the Reports tab and then Behavior > Site Content > Landing Pages. Right above the table, on the right side, the option to choose the goal you defined should already appear (if it’s not already there).
This report shows, for each page on the site, how many people have accessed that page and, from there, how many have made a conversion.
3 – Monitor campaigns
One of the great advantages of Digital Marketing is the possibility to measure the return on investment of marketing actions. To help with this, it is very common to separate these actions by campaigns. And it’s this tracking of actions and campaigns that Google Analytics can help you measure.
Imagine you are running a specific Christmas campaign. In this campaign, you do some Email Marketing submissions, buy ads on Ads and Facebook Ads, buy banner space on a website and make a series of guest posts on blogs. The big goal with all these actions is to bring traffic and convert those visitors into Leads.
Through the traceable URLs that we explained in the post What is UTM and how to create parameters for your URLs with a UTM Generator (URL Builder) , you can group all these specific actions in a campaign and see how many visits and conversions it generated.
4 – Create a dashboard
We can translate Dashboards as a dashboard, that is, a compilation of the main information and metrics of your business. They are essential for anyone working with quantitative data, making it easy to track key metrics and get a big picture.
At GA we find a multitude of metrics, but some are much more strategic for your business than others. Therefore, Google allows you to choose for yourself what will be the first information you will see when logging into your account.
Building the Dashboard in GA basically boils down to adding widgets, which are interfaces created by Google itself for tracking numbers. You just need to know what to track and assemble the widgets according to your needs.
GA also provides the ability to import Dashboards built by other people, as long as they have been made publicly available.
Some possible examples are new user schedules, session geo maps, and bar graphs for page bounce rate.
An alternative solution for those looking for practicality and even deeper analysis is the use of specialized software, such as Marketing BI, an integral part of RD Station Marketing. In it, you will find all the main metrics related to your business, acquisition channels and campaigns.
5 – Monitoring Events
This tip is a little more advanced, as it needs help from a developer or someone who has a sense of code.
In addition to being aware of the pages your users visit, it is very important to understand how these users interact with your site, which buttons are clicked, which menus are opened, and under what circumstances these events occur. This will bring a much greater wealth of information for analysis.
To discover this information, GA allows you to configure in detail what will be collected through events. These events are monitored by Google Analytics and organized according to the parameters that have been configured.
Some event applications
- Buttons and menus – monitor clicks on the content offered by your site, understanding which buttons and features are best for optimizing conversions, and measuring the click-to-open rate of the menu.
- Video viewing – video start, end and pause events, understanding which moments of the video cause more outputs.
- Maps – in the case of local businesses, when the user searches for a route to your company, an event is sent with the position of the start of the route, so you understand which regions of your city your customers are from without asking for the address in forms.
- Interactions with popups – Likewise, it is important to know how the popups are bringing results, and with that determine the exact moment that it should appear, understand reasons that make visitors click or not.
- Form errors – when a user tries to submit form results, an event is sent with the problematic fields, understanding which fields generate more friction for the conversion.
To configure, define which events you want to measure and pass the following link to your programmer (or company that takes care of your website): https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1033068?hl=pt- BR .
Viewing Events in Google Analytics
To view the events sent, go to ‘Behavior’ -> ‘Events’ -> ‘Overview’
In this way, we can analyze events organized into categories, actions or captions. In the following figure we show the case listing the events by action:
When clicking on one of these events, the elements are listed, as well as in other Google Analytics tables, with possibilities to export tables in .csv, secondary dimensions, etc.
How to Automate Google Analytics Reports
We have a tool that offers several analyzes of these metrics, allowing studies with combinations of views, goals, campaigns, events and others. And, with all this information, we need to carry out studies that support your business decisions.
But the problem is: is this data enough to support Digital Marketing decisions?
In many cases, we need to correlate visits with campaigns run by third-party platforms such as Facebook. Or even relate some behavior to data that exists only inside another platform, such as differentiating visits by the stage of the purchase journey of the visiting Leads.
So the new question is: what do we do if we want to analyze Google Analytics data in conjunction with external data automatically?
One solution is to create an automated report that pulls the necessary information into a spreadsheet using Google Apps Script and Google Spreadsheets.
If you’ve been reading this carefully, have a Google Analytics account and a Drive account, then take advantage of this walkthrough and create your first report now.
Creating the report
In this step we will configure the tools needed to develop the report.
The first step is to create a folder for the project (I created the GA Report folder).
In that folder, create a new sheet in Drive and save this report in the created folder.
Now we must enable Google Apps Scripts in Drive.
For this we must click on the gear in the upper right corner and then on Settings (or Settings, if the Drive is in Portuguese).
In the window that opens, go to Manage Apps and at the top click connect more apps.
In the search window, type “script” and click “connect” for Google Apps Script.
Then, just as the spreadsheet was created, create a new script in the same folder.
Enabling the Google Analytics API
With the file created, we should now enable the Google Analytics API for the script.
To do this, in the script created, go to “Resources” -> “Advanced Google Services”:
And, in the opened window, activate the Google Analytics API.
As we see in the message, we still need to enable the service in Google Developers Console. Click on the link to that notice and in the search field on the source page type “analytics”.
Then select the Analytics API and click “enable”
With that, we have already properly configured everything that will be necessary to run the script.
Developing the report
Before we start developing, let’s understand the steps performed by the script to assemble the report.
In this step-by-step guide, we will search for the 5 most accessed pages in the last 30 days, list them in a table and search the traffic of each one of them in the previous 30 days, comparing the variation in a third column.
The report will be assembled in a few steps:
- Access the GA API and extract the most accessed blog pages;
- Detect the 5 most accessed pages;
- Search accesses to these pages in the previous 30 days;
- Calculate the variation in traffic;
- Insert data into the spreadsheet;
- Set up a trigger to run code periodically.
The next step is to write the code that will assemble the report. In the script file, delete the existing code to start developing the script.
So let’s start using the GA API. The documentation for this API can be accessed at this link, where we can find all the references for using this service.
To extract data, we use the function:
- tableId: value referring to the account’s access profile
- startDate: start date of the period of collected data
- endDate: period end date
- metric: values referring to the metrics we want to analyze
- options: object with some search options like a filter or extra dimensions
To help fill in these fields, we have the Query Explorer, a tool that allows you to experiment and visualize combinations of these parameters.
In the example above, we list for our account (the value of the id is automatically populated after selecting the top), for the period dates, and for the pageviews (views) metric.
The dimension (pagePath), listing order and filter (pagePath contains /blog) were also configured as optional.
So let’s start entering the first codes, setting the search period:
Since the Analytics function uses yyyy-MM-dd formatting, we will use a native AppsCripts function to adjust the date we want for this format.
To configure the code so that it runs periodically, click on the clock in the Apps Scripts menu, shown in the image below.
Then click on add new trigger and select which function and how often it should be executed.
That’s it, now you have a customized, automated report.
You can now experiment with queries and adapt the code to a specific need that you need to report on over and over again.
How to Spam Your Data in Google Analytics Referrals
In many companies, the occurrence of “referral spam” has been increasing and more recurrent. In other words, companies have been victims of automated programs that generate visits through robots. Result: some strange domains end up standing out for bringing a lot of traffic to the site. As these are not real organic visits, the data in the Referrals part of Google Analytics becomes false or poorly measured.
Thus, measuring your website’s success data, from the number of visitors to a calculation of profitability and conversion, is compromised. With a large volume of false data you can make wrong decisions based on wrong data.
Why worry about blocking and filtering these sites?
These fake visits are a kind of scam to get you to click on the page link in your GA and go to the indicated website. The purpose of this action is to make you click on any link on the site, especially on ads or keywords with links, so that they earn money with your click.
If your site has a high volume (more than 150,000 visits/month), these links won’t be a problem. But if your site doesn’t have this volume, it’s very likely that this scam will create a lot of noise in your GA and, consequently, will affect your calculation of goals, negatively influencing your conversion rates in the sales funnel.
How to filter Spam Bots?
Today there is no 100% effective way to prevent this type of scam, as it is something that must be resolved by Google. But, we indicate two ways that can help you solve this problem.
1 – Configure your Google Analytics (basic method)
It’s important to set up analytics filters to remove historical data, as well as to help filter out any other links we might find from certain countries in the future. Follow the steps below to configure the filters.
1 – Access your Google Analytics.
2 – In the menu of your account, go to “Administrator”.
3 – You will find three columns. In the column “VIEW” search and click on “Filters”
4 – Click on + New filter.
5 – Enter a name for the filter.
6 – Select “Preset” Filter Type.
7 – In the field below the Filter Type you will find three options. In them you must enter the following setting: Exclude > traffic to hostname > containing”
8 – After the settings of step 7, go to “Host name” and enter the domain that appears in your GA and does not belong to you. Upon reaching this step, the settings should be similar to the image below:
9 – Save and repeat the process from step 4 on for each domain you find that does not belong to you.
It might take a few hours for the filter to take effect in your Analytics account.
2 – Blocking via .htaccess (advanced method)
This is a more advanced form of blocking and usually requires the help of a programmer/developer. For this method, the best way to block these accesses to your website, in general, is to block them in your .htaccess file in the root of your domain directory.
You can copy and paste the following code into your .htaccess file, assuming you are on an Apache server. This is a good method as it is better than just locking the domain under analysis. See the example below presented by Moz :
But beware: .htaccess is an important file as it tells you how your server behaves. If you load a .htaccess file with a misplaced character, you could crash your entire site. Before making any changes to the file, it is important to create a backup copy. If you don’t feel confident making these edits, see the WordPress plugin below.
Using WordPress and don’t want to edit your .htaccess file?
For these cases, you can use the WP-Ban plugin to facilitate blocking unwanted visitors. Wp -ban gives you the ability to ban users by IP, IP range, hostname, user agent and referring URL from visits to your blog, all from the WordPress admin panel. This is a great option for people who don’t want to edit their .htaccess file or don’t feel safe doing so.
How to link Google Analytics and Google Ads
The first requirement is that the user logs into Google Analytics and uses a single email account with administrator permission also on Google Ads. Once that’s done, let’s go to the following steps:
- Click Administrator and navigate to the property you want to associate.
- In the Property column, click Google Ads Linking.
- Click + New Linked Account Group.
- Select the Google Ads accounts you want to link and click Continue.
- Enter a title for the linked account group.
- Turn on linking for each view on the property you want Google Ads data for.
- Optionally, select Enable Google Display Network Impression Reporting to include this data in each view as well.
- If you’ve already turned on auto-tagging in your Google Ads accounts, or if you want to allow the linking process to automatically enable this feature for your Google Ads accounts, skip to the next step. However, if you’d like to manually tag your Ads accounts your Google Ads bindings, click Advanced settings > Leave my auto-tagging settings as they are.
- Click Link Accounts.
Binding must take place within 24 hours. When everything is working, just check the data of your campaigns in Analytics in the list where the pages you manage appear. The linked account will display as Google/CPC.
Bonus: The 4 Most Common Mistakes in Web Analytics
After setting up your Google Analytics account and exploring the tool’s various features, be careful not to fall into common Web Analytics mistakes and stay focused on the data that really matters.
So, see the main pitfalls for those who are starting to measure results and analyze improvements. Check out:
1. Focus on vanity metrics
Many people are impressed by some common numbers on the Internet: number of pageviews, likes on Instagram, number of “likes” on Facebook, views on Youtube, etc.
This kind of metric is usually very good for the ego. The Marketing person gets credit and admiration in the company and everything looks perfect. However, one essential point is missing: how much does this contribute to sales? After all, selling is the only activity that brings money into the company, everything else is an expense.
Vanity metrics say nothing because, in addition to not indicating how Digital Marketing effectively contributes to generating business opportunities, they also do not show how the company should optimize its actions.
60,000 pageviews don’t say whether the site was viewed by 100 or 60,000 people, two very different cases that would require different types of improvement (increasing reach vs. making content more engaging, for example). More importantly, the number doesn’t say how many of those people became Leads or customers, which are real results for the company.
Likewise, a large follower base on Instagram doesn’t mean that all of these people actually read and access the content your company publishes. Even less that they become customers after that.
Of course, overall it’s good to have a large audience, but you have to be careful. Your company’s goal is not to speak to a large number of people, but to sell and have customers. If your actions are not leading this way, they are of no use.
2. Make hasty decisions due to incomplete metrics
Yes, the idea of a good metrics system is to allow your company to make decisions based on that and achieve performance improvements. The only problem is that metrics aren’t always what they seem and can become a big trap if your company makes rash decisions.
An example where this is clear is to be too rigid and only consider as important traffic sources that generate good conversion per visit.
If a potential customer discovers the company through an ad and, after several visits on different days, converts from a direct access (typing the address in the browser), it would not be 100% correct to count this conversion in the “bucket” of the direct traffic.
In this case, the number of visits is also important, since many times the conversion of a Lead only comes after several visits to the website.
3. Focus on optimization ahead of time
Optimization in general, whether in Ads, SEO, Landing Pages, post titles, Call-to-action, etc., only bring results when there is a significant volume for that particular item.
For example: what is the use of spending 10 hours to optimize a Landing Page that has only 50 monthly hits? If the conversion rate is 6% and you can go to 12% (which is not easy…), the number of Leads generated by that page would go from 3 to 6 monthly Leads. It certainly wouldn’t make up for the investment made.
So, focus first on increasing the volume of channels and then thinking about optimizations.
4. Not acting on metrics
Although we preach caution before making decisions, it’s no use measuring all this if your company is not going to act. If your keywords are not well positioned on Google, you need to act on optimizations and content production. If your LinkedIn profile isn’t growing and attracting your customers, you need to change your usage policy.
The process of analyzing and measuring Digital Marketing efforts is laborious. It’s not worth doing if your company isn’t willing to work on fixes and opportunities.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is Google Analytics?
Google Analytics is the most used website monitoring and analysis tool in the world. It integrates with other Google services like Ads and Search Console. With it, it is possible to monitor the profile of those who access your site, the most accessed pages, conversions, devices, cities and other data.
Why use Google Analytics?
With Google Analytics you can understand the best times for your actions, discover the causes of website abandonment, understand which are the main devices used by visitors and much more. This series of information will help you gain insights and think of strategic actions for your website.
How to use Google Analytics on the website?
To access Google Analytics, you must:
1- Create a counter through the website https://www.google.com/analytics/;
2- After filling in the data requested to create the account, you will receive a tracking code;
3- Insert the code received on every page of the site.
4- Configure a property, and a report view on the property.
How to integrate Google Analytics with Google Ads?
To do this integration, log in to Google Analytics and Google Ads with an administrator account, click Admin and navigate to the property you want to associate. In the Property column, click Google Ads Linking, click + New Linked Account Group, select the Google Ads accounts you want to link and click Continue, enter a title for the linked account group, enable linking for each view the property you want Google Ads data for and click Link Accounts.