Google Analytics provides useful website metrics and user behavior data which helps in developing an effective website strategy. But, you’d be surprised how many analytics profiles aren’t set up correctly and contain skewed data. Before you create any reports for the executive team, you want to make sure you’re providing them with the correct data. Business decisions made from skewed data can result in lost time and wasted money. Experienced web marketing professionals can connect Google Analytics to your website to start collecting data. In order to receive accurate data, there are some measures you should take in order to set up your analytics for success. Here, we’ll highlight a few Analytics features that have an impact on the data you collect and some best practices to follow when initially setting up your profile.

Analytics Views

Your first step after connecting Analytics should be setting up your property views. Views are essentially copies of your data and a way to organize your data for specific purposes. Ideally, you’ll want to have at least three different views for your data and each view will serve a different purpose.

First, you’ll need to have an unfiltered view, which is all of your raw data without any filters applied to it. A reason to have an unfiltered view is to have a basic data set that you can use to create other views later if needed. It’s essentially a blank slate that you can duplicate and build off of. Then, you’ll want to create your master view, which is where you’ll apply any filtering you need in order to have clean and correct data to share with clients or colleagues. This is the main data view you’ll use to make strategic decisions or recommendations for your business.

Next, is the test view, which will be helpful whenever you want to test any new filters, segments, event tracking, or goals. Some people are comfortable enough with Analytics to make changes in their master view, but it’s always good practice to have a testing environment in case you make any mistakes. Make sure to test filters to ensure they work before adding them into your master view.

Apply Filters

When setting up your analytics profile, you’ll want to make sure you apply IP filters to exclude any internal traffic and the IPs of any offsite agencies or developers you are working with. Internal traffic can greatly skew your numbers and over-inflate user behavior data.

You’ll also want to turn on bot filtering under the view settings in the Admin section. As you go through your referral data, you’ll notice some spam traffic in there which will also skew your data. Enabling bot filtering will help block most spam traffic. It won’t block all spam, but it will filter out the common URLs that Google has identified as spam. You may need to create custom filters if you’re still seeing spam or ghost traffic in your reports.

Use Annotations

Something that is typically underutilized, but can be very enlightening is the use of annotations. You can think of annotations as quick notes that you can use to document any important events or website changes that could affect the data on any particular day. For example, you may send out a promotional email that drove a massive amount of additional traffic to your website, causing the data to spike on that day. With annotations, you simply make note that a mass email was sent out on that day, which would then corroborate the traffic spike. Without context, the person looking at the data wouldn’t know what caused the traffic spike. Annotations only take a few seconds to add and they make it easy for anyone to dig into the data and understand any fluctuations or anomalies within the data.

Goals & Events

It’s very important to set up conversion goals for your website. Whether they are major or minor goals, it’s important to track them to be able to see whether or not visitors are converting on the site. They will also help give you additional insight into what is working on your website and what’s not. You can see what content was viewed before someone converted and whether you need to modify anything on your website to enhance the customer journey.

Events are similar to goals but are more of a supporting feature that can also be leveraged to see if people are engaging with certain elements on your website. For example, a website owner with product videos on their e-commerce site may want to see how many people are watching those videos. You are able to see that data by setting up events on your website through the code or Google Tag Manager. You may need some support from a developer to set this up for you, but if you’re familiar with Google Tag Manager, you can set them up yourself.

Audience Segments

Setting up audience segments in analytics is a way to quickly look up data for a specific set of parameters without having to filter out your data. Segments are created once and then can be applied whenever needed. For example, if you want to see how many people visited your website on a mobile device, you can simply apply the audience segment you created, “Mobile Visitors,” to quickly get data around those specific visitors. They are quick to set up and only need to be configured one time. After that, you can apply them whenever they are necessary to see specific data.

Google Analytics is a powerful marketing tool that website owners can use to evaluate website traffic and user behavior to help grow and run a successful business. It’ll give you an inside look into your audience and help you enhance their user experience. It’s great to take a look at your most popular content that people are engaging with and create more content based off of your findings.

There are many ways to use Google Analytics and it will take some practice to get the hang of all the different reports available to you. With these best practices, you’ll be in a great spot as you start collecting website analytics.

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