Getting Google Analytics accounts into tip-top shape
Tracking, data collection and analysis is an important part of what we do at Home, whether that’s monitoring our clients’ campaign performance or uncovering valuable insight for a UX project.
But to ensure data integrity from day one, our Data team has created a bespoke Google Analytics (GA) audit so we can be certain our clients’ GA accounts are in tip top condition and good working order before we start collecting data – and because this process is so important, we even do it for free.
Our theory is that if we don’t configure our GA accounts properly, we might as well pluck numbers from the sky – and no one implemented a solid digital marketing strategy by taking that approach!
Here we’ll share best practice GA configurations and unveil the golden nuggets from our auditing process, so you can uncover any problems in your Analytics account and find solutions swiftly. That way, you’ll be sure the data you’re working with is sound.
Our audit is a combination of accepted best practices within the industry, and solutions from issues that we’ve found to consistently crop up when working with Analytics. Our full audit has over 30 criteria which we use to drill down into our clients’ GA accounts, but here we’ll focus on the most important 5. Complete these checks, and you’ll be well on your way to configuring your account.
Campaign parameters are designed to identify referral source traffic (aka where your users are coming from). This works by appending a campaign parameter to a destination URL in an ad campaign, allowing you to really understand the effectiveness of your campaign.
If you tend to have several ad campaigns running at the same time this is useful to find out which campaigns are generating the highest ROI. For those that are working effectively, you can unearth insight to optimise them further, and for the campaigns that are not working so well, it’ll help you figure out how to make them work that little bit better.
The main benefit of filters is to exclude irrelevant traffic. Here are 3 filters that are useful in ensuring accurate data capture:
- Internal IP address
Often our clients will visit their own website, disguising true users and making it more difficult to draw valid insight, so you may want to look at excluding these users. Top tip: consider excluding your agency’s IP address too!
- Google Bots and Referral spam
Google Bots crawl sites to discover new content and sites that tend to be hit by referral spam. These interactions are not from genuine site users, however you’ll find that they’ll still be recorded in GA, so exclude this to ensure your data is accurate. These traffic sources can be found by navigating to the Referrals report and toggling Bounce Rate to show the sources with a 100% Bounce Rate. If the source also has an average session duration of 0, particularly low session numbers or doesn’t look like a reliable or realistic source, it’s likely to be from referral spam.
Implement lower case filtering to prevent identical URLs containing upper and lower-case letters featuring separately in reports. For example, ‘/thankyou’ and ‘ThankYou’ would be included as two different sources without this filter in place, and for sites with many pages, this can quickly make reports look cluttered and can hides insights.
Events record how users interact with web page content, such as measuring video plays, the opening/closing of documents or form submissions. This can give valuable info in understanding the user journey for visits to the site. Knowing how users interact with onsite content is vital for improving user experience (UX) and helping to optimise conversion rates (CRO).
Events can be tracked using tags which are pushed to a site through Google Tag Manager. Top tip: By doing it through Tag Manager, you don’t need to get a Developer involved!
Goals and Ecommerce tracking
Macro conversion points such as a sale or enquiry should be tracked as goals. Like events, these also help to understand the user journey. Drop-offs can be calculated and goal flow implemented to better understand where users are exiting the conversion process, which again helps to improve UX and is useful for CRO.
If you use Ecommerce, we really recommend configuring Ecommerce tracking. Getting this set up allows GA to report on metrics such as transactions, revenue, product performance and time to purchase, and it’s worth considering if you want to see the performance of individual products.
Sites can often experience large spikes or dips in traffic, but without custom alerts these can often go unnoticed. Use custom alerts to get notifications when changes are detected. Because alerts can be applied to almost any metric, most fluctuations can be monitored.
One alert that could be particularly useful with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) coming into play in May 2018, is an alert that recognises signs of personally identifiable information (PII). Any organisations which are in breach of the legislation could face heavy fines and risk losing all their GA data (ouch!), so it’s definitely one alert to make note of.
In reality no two audits are ever the same. Since all of our clients have different site architectures, campaign objectives and marketing goals, we always adapt our audits to ensure the right data is being captured (and reliably) to help inform our clients. With the changing nature of Google and legislation, you’ll find we’re always adapting our process to make sure we’re on top of our game and helping clients in the best way we can.
Written by:Barry Bell
Category:What we think
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