My digital marketing fellows would agree with me or not; without Google Analytics, you can’t talk about Digital Marketing. If you are involved in digital marketing, SEO, or social media, or if you are a website owner or developer, you must have heard Google Analytics and its functions.
I don’t think I’m the only one who starts the working day with G.A. and gets lost in between different analytics accounts, properties, and views! In this article, I aim to give you the overall understanding and a few handy tips about this tool without diving too deep.
What is Google Analytics & How it Works?
Google Analytics is a free web and mobile app tracking service to measure digital marketing KPIs. After creating your Google Analytics account and placing a small script code on your website, you can start gathering your website or app’s big data. Once you receive data from your tracking code, you can decide on how to report it for your uses. You can do that by implementing different views and filters and streamline your digital marketing analytics.
Remember my Google Search Console Functions & Uses article? We mentioned that GSC allows you to monitor & optimize your Google Search Results. The use of Google Analytics expands beyond Google Search and shows your website traffic from all of your channels. G.A. also shows you audience info such as demographics or interests and data from third-party Google tools like Google Ads and Google Search Console. So we could call it a superior platform to all other Google products.
By implementing a well-thought-out web analytics measurement plan, you can reach your digital marketing goals, commonly called as KPIs. Monitoring and reporting these metrics are crucial if your organization or your brand is following a performance marketing strategy. Google Analytics allows you to see these KPIs in five main categories; real-time, audience, acquisition, behavior, conversions.
Briefly, G.A. will show you valuable data that relates to your visitors, third party tools, and your website.
Examples of Google Analytics Data:
- Age & gender,
- Language & location,
- New & returning users,
- Browser & O.S.,
- Mobile, tablet and desktop devices,
- Traffic sources,
- Google ads data,
- Google search console data,
- Social Media & Campaign data
- Site Content, Site Speed, Site Search,
- Conversions such as goals and e-commerce.
Google Analytics also allows advanced users to create different views, apply filters and implement goals, events, and even e-commerce. You can almost call it Google Analytics development as you can go pretty far with the advanced features of G.A.
I prefer implementing the basics and focus on the data rather than the tool itself. That being said, bare with me, and I will show you how to get the most out of Google Analytics without getting overwhelmed.
Let’s check out a few Google Analytics Terms, though, which will simplify the whole process for you when using G.A.
Google Analytics Essential Terms
Global Site Tag (gtag.js): The latest version of the G.A. tracking code.
Tracking ID: Each Google Analytics Property gets an I.D. number that looks like this: UA-130941683-1
Hit: A hit is a raw data that the G.A. tracking code sends from your website to Analytics for processing.
Users: Total number of users for a given time, including new and returning visits.
New Users: Number of first-time visitors to your website.
Sessions: Each time a user interacts with your site, this starts a session. It’s limited by a default 30 minutes mark.
Bounce Rate: A user lands of a page on your site and then leaves without doing anything else.
Exit: Refers to the last page a user interacted on your site.
Pages Per Session: The number of pages on average a user navigates throughout her session on your site.
Average Session Duration: How long a user’s session last on your site on average.
Goal Completion: Shows how many times a particular Google Analytics goal is completed.
Pageviews: How many times a page is viewed in total, multiple views of the same user count as well.
Unique Pageviews: Total number of one time views of a page.
Direct / None Traffic: This type of traffic mostly comes from people typing a site on a browsers address bar.
Organic Traffic: Search Engine Traffic caused by a user searching for a term and clicking on your site in search results.
Referral Traffic: Traffic that originated from a click on a link on another website.
Keyword: User’s search terms typed in search engines to find your site.
Keyword (not provided): If a user search for a term logged into a Google account, you can’t see that keyword as a security measure from Google. You can read the original blog article published in 2011 by Google: Making search more secure.
CPC: Cost per click is a digital advertising term that usually refers to how much you pay for a click on an ad in Google Ads.
Landing Page: The page that a user lands on is called the landing page. This could be your main page or a blog page.
Events: Interactions such as button clicks, form submits, or mouse scrolling can be defined and tracked as events.
Goals: You can define goals and track them in Analytics, such as page views, average time spent, etc.
Conversion: Conversion means your users are taking your desired actions such as add to cart or purchase.
5 Unique Google Analytics Functions & Uses
As we have established some background, we can proceed with the more practical side of things such as functions & uses of Google Analytics. We won’t be discussing micro Google Analytics implementations and how to’s in this article. Instead, I wanted to share with you a few experience-based unique tips so you will get the big picture and strategize for your individual needs.
So here are the 5 unique Google Analytics tips:
1- Use Google Tag Manager for a Better Google Analytics Implementation
Do you want to know what the most efficient way to start your Google Analytics journey is? As you already know, you can begin seeing user interactions in your GA dashboard after successfully implementing your tracking code. Also, you can start tracking your website conversions by defining goals & events.
Thanks to another great tool by Google, Google Tag Manager, you can do all this without too much hustle. I strongly recommend you first to implement GTM to your site and add your GA code through GTM. After doing that, it’s easy to go even further and track things like button clicks, add to carts or form submits, etc.
Besides, if you follow this path, you will never face a problem where your GA tracking code goes missing on a few pages, or you temporarily lose hits due to technical issues. Think of GTM is like remote control of your website, and in this case, you don’t even need a web developer to implement your digital marketing plan.
2- Connect Your Google Search Console and Google Analytics Accounts
Here we go again! I’m going to suggest you link another Google product to your Google Analytics: Google Search Console. I’m not a Google advocate or anything; it’s just that these products work like a charm when linked together. But, Why connecting Google Analytics & Google Search Console is vital? Let me enlighten you.
Back in the day, GA used to show you the keywords your visitors typed into Google Search to land on your pages. But in 2011, due to privacy concerns, this became an issue, and we started to see the keywords as a keyword – not provided. So Google stopped showing the keyword data. This happens if your users logged into their Google account and initiate a Google search to land on your site. Google still has the keyword info but doesn’t allow us to see it to protect users’ privacy. Which I think is fair and ethical.
But as digital marketers, we work with data, and this one is crucial, right? If we know the key terms that bring good traffic to our sites, we can streamline our SEO efforts. Thank god, there is Google Search Console, which is a great tool to monitor your site’s Google Search performance. You can see search terms in detail in GSC, so wouldn’t that be great if you were to see them in Analytics? You can do that by linking your search console and analytics and check out the acquisition report and search console in GA. Problem solved.
I also got one lifesaver warning to share! If you started to use domain property in GSC and removed all the URL prefix properties when your accounts are already linked, your data flow stops working. This happened to me, and it took two months for me to realize it, so even if you implement the new domain property feature in GSC, leave a URL prefix version as well so that your GA & GSC can work together. Maybe Google is already aware of this problem, and this would be unnecessary in the future, but for now, we got this kind of a workaround.
3- Start Using UTM Tags To Pinpoint Your Traffic Sources
At the beginning of my article, I made a statement: No digital marketing without Google Analytics! Are you ready for a second one? Here it is: You can’t talk about Google Analytics without UTM tags! Let me explain this.
In theory, one of the best uses of Google Analytics is to see your traffic sources from different channels. However, I don’t think this feature works like a charm, and it needs a bit of manual help. Yes, GA detects some traffic sources correctly, but as digital marketers, we want to know exactly how our visitors land on our pages! And this is when UTM tagging comes into play, and it’s enormous practicality to sort out where your traffic is originated.
By using a tool like Google – Campaign URL Builder, you can start tagging links pointing to your site in a more systematic way. This would allow you to see your traffic sources better. If you have naked links in channels like social media or even Google My Business, you can’t be 100% sure that you will see that traffic as it’s supposed to be. In fact, for one project I was consulting, I ran a big UTM tagging campaign because the direct/none channel looked so big, and the social media was such a small percentage of the traffic.
By tagging all those links in social media, even for posts and Instagram stories, you can start seeing what’s the real case scenario with your website. Also, you have to research where those direct traffic might be originating and tag them. If you see, for instance, a %25 direct traffic in your Google Analytics, that’s too big. The reason is probably due to the high number of naked links towards your site.
Let’s wrap this part up with a pro-tip. Naked links are not always the problem. Redirections are! Let’s say that site A has a direct (naked) link to my site, and it looks like this: https://www.caglarugur.com. It seems pretty reasonable to an everyday user, and you would expect that Google Analytics would show this to you as referral traffic, right? Well, I’m not so sure since I re-directed my www version to my non-www version, which is https://caglarugur.com.
So when a user clicks to my link in Site A, technically speaking, they don’t land on my site right away and are re-directed to my website. I believe in this kind of scenario, GA shows this as direct traffic instead of a referral. The same thing happens when you have an HTTP link, but your site is HTTPS. Also, if you moved your content to another page or permanently deleted the content. So by using UTM tagging, you can avoid all these troubles and lower your direct traffic as well. Here is an article if you don’t know how to do UTM tagging just yet!
4- Setup KPIs: Goals, Conversions, Events, and E-Commerce
I’m a result-oriented person in life and digital marketing. So I have no purpose of becoming a Google Analytics expert or anything, and I like to keep it very simple. Nevertheless, without setting up at least a couple of GA goals or conversions, you can’t say you measure your digital marketing efforts. This is an important topic but unfortunately often overlooked.
If you are a digital marketer, you have to know why you are doing it! What are your business goals to start with? So it’s a perfect idea to sit down with your peers and have a good old discussion about your business goals and your persona. From there, transform them into an actionable digital plan and decide on your key performance indicators.
Once that’s done, you can measure them in Google Analytics. You can set up a bunch of goals, such as page visit goals or a duration goal for a page. You can go a little bit more advanced and start tracking button clicks or form submits. If you are involved in e-commerce with the help of a developer and Google Tag Manager, you can start seeing add to cart info, transactions, revenues, etc.
Digital marketing is all about measuring the most critical metrics for your business and optimizing your efforts accordingly. Therefore, don’t just use Google Analytics to check out the real-time reports all day long! Instead of that measure, invest your time on measuring KPIs.
5- Start Using the “Secondary Dimension” Tab in Your Analytics Reporting
You heard that, right! After that much of dense information, we are finishing with a light one! I wanted to point this out because it took me years to find out the use of secondary dimensions feature. I have received numerous courses and practiced GA myself, but I must have missed it. When I understood the use of this function, things became so much easier.
So here is the deal, throughout Google Analytics reports, whether it’s an audience report showing you age & gender or it’s an acquisition report that shows source & medium, you will see a drop-down style button called “secondary dimension.” As we are working with data with lots of layers, this is a simple and underestimated function that can be very useful.
Let’s say that you want to check the google/organic traffic from your top markets. Or, you want to see in your referral traffic, which cities bring you the most amount of form submits. These are common questions that a marketer asks every day, but it can get tricky in Google Analytics if you haven’t yet discovered the use of adding the secondary dimension. Along with that, if you can also use the advanced filtering feature, you can pull any info out of your big website data!
Google Analytics is a great tool to measure and report digital marketing analytics. It’s a browser-based tool that starts sending data to your Analytics account after placing the global tracking code on your website. You can then adjust your big data and report it the way it works the best for you.
If you are involved in digital marketing or SEO, this is a must-have tool, and you will probably need more than basics. This includes implementing complex tasks such as filters, goals, conversions, events, e-commerce, etc. If you are an everyday user, though, you can get away with essential skills like checking your traffic sources and understanding your user demographics.
Google Analytics is so much more than an article, but I have given you unique tips that you may not found elsewhere. Let’s finish remembering these, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you would have any questions regarding the topic.
Here are the five unique tips for GA functions & uses:
- Use Google Tag Manager for a Better Google Analytics Implementation
- Connect Your Google Search Console and Google Analytics Accounts
- Start Using UTM Tags To Pinpoint Your Traffic Sources
- Setup KPIs: Goals, Conversions, Events, and E-Commerce
- Start Using the “Secondary Dimension” Tab in Your Analytics Reporting