So you’ve started tracking your website visitors in Google Analytics. But how can you get the most out of the platform, and your new data? We share our top tips and best practices.
1. Create multiple views
Reporting views allow you to alter your data in different ways to gain a deeper understanding of your website performance.
When you first set up your Google Analytics account, you’ll see a view called ‘All website data’. Leave this view alone! Google advises that you should keep an unmodified view so you always have access to a raw version of your data. Once you make a change to a view (e.g. adding a filter), you cannot reverse the effect it has on your data. The unmodified view is a useful backup in case anything you do in other views messes up your data.
We advise that you always have at least 3 reporting views – an unmodified view, a master view, and a test view. The test view is where you can test setting changes before applying that change to your master view.
To set up a new view: Go to Admin> Select the View drop-down menu> Click ‘Create new view’.
Add a view name (keep the purpose of the view clear so that other users of your GA account will be able to identify what it is for) and click ‘Create view’ to save.
If you click on the View drop-down menu again, you should see all the views that have been added.
2. Add filters
You may want to create some custom filters after setting up your Google Analytics views. For example, many businesses create a filter to block out their office or home IP address so that when they visit their own site, they aren’t included as a visitor.
To set up a filter excluding an IP address: Go to Admin > Select the view you want to add the filter to (we recommend you use your test view first) > Filters > Add filter. Add a self-explanatory filter name, choose the type and add the IP you’d like to exclude.
A huge annoyance that your Google Analytics account may become victim to – spam. Referral or ghost spam can totally mess up your data as fake spam hits are included with your legitimate site traffic in GA. This can make it difficult for you to actually understand your site’s true performance. Unfortunately, you cannot prevent this spam from happening, but there are ways to minimise the effect it has on your data.
Setting up spam filters: Mike Sullivan has written a really helpful guide on setting up spam filters. We advise checking it out if you spot weird activity in your reports, such as strange referral sources or an unexplained, large spike in referral traffic.
3. Set up goals & site search tracking
A key benefit of using a tool like Google Analytics is understanding your website visitor’s behaviour better. However, it’s also important to understand how your site is contributing to your business’s objectives. You can set up various goals in GA to track how well your site is performing. There are four different types of goals that can be used to measure different actions or conversions. These are:
- Destination goals: can be used to track visitors landing at a specific page/URL.
- Duration goals: track how many people stay on your site for a certain amount of time.
- Pages per session: track how many pages a visitor sees before they leave your site.
- Event goals: can be used to track button clicks, video plays, form submissions or downloads.
You can read more about goals here.
It’s also possible to monitor what your site visitors are searching for, to build a picture of what they are looking for on your site. You can use this to infer what information or content might be missing and would be valuable to add.
If you have a Moonfruit site and have added the Google search app, you can learn how to set up site search tracking using our guide.
4. Add annotations
When looking at our historical data, we’ve often found ourselves seeing spikes in traffic but we weren’t able to easily recall what may have caused it (very frustrating). Making annotations on dates you make changes to your site or send out marketing comms can help identify trends in what causes changes to your visitor behaviour or traffic.
To add an annotation: Under the Reporting tab (for any report you are viewing), click on the arrow button under the graph > Click ‘Create new annotation’ on the left-hand side.
Next, select the date you want to add an annotation for and add the relevant note. You can choose whether this annotation is visible to everyone with access to the view or just yourself and then click save.
In the example above, there was a spike in traffic to a blog on the 13th January. The annotation added describes what event happened on that day that is likely to have caused this. If you get into the habit of adding annotations, you will always have access to a timeline of events/notes that will be visible when viewing any report in that view.
5. Use the solution gallery
There are many different reports automatically available in GA, but to gain deeper insights, sometimes you may want to create custom reports. The solution gallery allows people to share helpful reports, dashboards or segments they’ve created with other Google Analytics users. You can import them directly into your Analytics account in a few steps.
To import from the solution gallery: Browse through the gallery. You’ll be able to see a description of the different reports you can import and their rating by other users. When you find one you’d like to use, click ‘Import’.
Choose the view you want to import the custom reports into. You can also de-select any reports or dashboards that you don’t wish to include in the import. (You may find you don’t want everything that’s included in a ‘bundle’). Click ‘Create’ to complete the import.
You’ll then see a list of your shared assets under the Admin tab. You can click on your imported dashboard/report to view it directly in the Reporting area.
The solution gallery allows you to take advantage of Google Analytics experts and data enthusiasts and makes it easy for you to learn more about your website data.