5 Best Practices for Google Analytics

If your developer set up your Google Analytics account, you need to make sure — now — that it was done properly.
Best practices for Google Analytics
Is your Google Analytics set up properly?

I often have new clients come to me asking for help increasing their website traffic or improving their social media strategy. Without Google Analytics, it’s very difficult to see what has worked for them in the past, such as what sites are sending the most traffic (Facebook? Yelp?), which of their website’s pages are most popular, and which pages are seeing the most users bounce.

Of course, when launching a new website, you have no choice but to work without this information, but it’s much easier to develop a strategy and then track ROI (you are tracking ROI, aren’t you?) with Google Analytics enabled and optimized, per the points below.

So set aside two hours this month to get all these digital ducks in a row, or give us a jingle and we’ll wrangle those ducks for you.

1. Make sure the master account is set up on your email.

(Time required: 15-60 minutes)

I’ve seen this happen way too many times: A company hires a developer to build its website, and the developer installs Google Analytics — on his account. If the company ever parts ways with the developer, the company has to recreate the GA account from scratch, which means it loses all their data. This also happens when an employee sets up the GA account with her email address and then leaves the company. The loss of this data is irreversible and worthy of mourning. (Well, for us data nerds, anyway.)As of the writing of this blog post, there is no way to move your website’s GA profile from one account to another. Not only does this mean you may lose control of your data if you have a disgruntled developer or ex-employee, but you also won’t be able to take advantage of other Google tools such as Google AdWords. So make sure that your email address has admin rights to your Google Analytics. If you do only one item on this list, make it this. Please.

2. Set up Google Search Console.

(Time required: 15-30 minutes)

If Google Analytics is like milk chocolate to us data nerds, Google Search Console is the dark chocolate Godiva truffle. GA is great and all, but for a deep dive into your data, you’ll want Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) set up. Even if you yourself don’t plan on becoming a Level 5 Data Nerd and poring through your site metrics, it’s best to set up GSC now in case someone — an outside contractor, an SEM consultant, me (ahem), etc. — wants to review this data down the line, as GSC tracks data from the time it is installed and can’t be added retroactively. Here’s a how-to guide for setting up Google Search Console.

3. Set up goals in Google Analytics.

(Time required: 15-30 minutes)

Your site may have boatloads of traffic, but that doesn’t mean you’ve earned yourself a cookie (the baked kind, not the digital one). You have to have goals for your site. Traffic alone does not equal success. Even with buttloads of traffic, your site could have huge bounce rates or your visitors may not be returning after their initial experience with your site.

One of the first questions I ask a client is, “What do you want your website to do?” Yes, most companies want their website to make money for them, but how? Or perhaps it’s not making money so much as saving money. For example, perhaps your website saves time by hosting important documents for download or forms that your clients can fill out online rather than having an administrative assistant type it all in. Or maybe your site acts as a digital brochure that answers questions you don’t want to have to repeat to each and every customer. Both of these goals can be tracked in GA, even though they may not have a specific dollar amount associated with them.

Other common goals are getting users to sign up for a newsletter so you can capture their email address (which is why I created The One Thing), getting potential customers to contact you (either by sending an email, filling out a contact form, or calling you), signing up for an event, or purchasing a ticket. Some of these goals have concrete monetary values associated with them, such as the price of an event ticket, while others might be more nebulous. But even without a dollar value, setting up goals gives you a way to evaluate how well your site is working and whether or not you need to make tweaks. Here’s Google’s guide to setting up Google Analytics goals, or you can use this one, which was written by actual humans.

4. Set up a dashboard for Google Analytics.

(Time requirement: 10-15 minutes)

There are so many data points in Google Analytics that it can be overwhelming. Give your brain a break and set up a dashboard with only those data points that you find most important. Personally, I like to see pageviews, bounce rates, top referring sites, top pages, goal completions (of course), most popular pages, and visits by country (because I’m also a geography nerd and like to see the pretty map among all the line graphs and pie charts). Here are some great shortcuts to setting up Google Analytics dashboards for different types of reporting.

5. Set up a regular Google Analytics report to be sent via email.

(Time requirement: 5 minutes)

Once you set up GA, you’re liable to forget about it — so don’t let that happen. Instead of setting up a reminder to visit GA each month, make GA come to you by setting up a regular email containing your dashboard data. Here’s how to set up a Google Analytics email report.

If you have all your passwords and login information, completing all five steps should take less than two hours. But if you don’t have the time or don’t feel the need to earn your Google merit badge, contact us and we’ll handle it for you.

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