Would you like to achieve more in less time and with less effort?
The success of any online business depends on how quickly it can turn insights into action. This is true for data analysis as well.
The good news is that you are about to learn 15 actionable tips you can use with Google Analytics to speed up your data analysis and website optimization. Apply the tips to your business, and you will improve your chances of outperforming your competitors.
Google Analytics Settings
Here is a list of things you definitely need to set up or apply in Google Analytics first:
1. Goals and Goal Values
In my experience, goals are among the most important features to set up in Google Analytics. Unfortunately, there are many websites with insufficient or incorrect goal settings.
Goals are required in order to see your conversion reports. The reports include the absolute number of conversions, conversion rate per goal, and goal value (if applied).
Google Analytics reports contain an ABC structure: (A)cquisition, (B)ehavior, and (C)onversions. For the best view, I have included only two conversion metrics in the screenshot above.
An important concept to understand is the difference between micro and macro goals and why you need them both.
“The primary goal or conversion on a website is called a “macro goal” or “macro conversion.” This could be [a visitor] making a purchase, sending in a lead gen form, making a dealer appointment, etc. It’s all about your most important business goal.”
“The secondary goals of a website are called “micro goals.” Think about [a visitor] downloading a brochure, watching a demo, or asking for more information. Most often, there is a direct relationship between your micro goals and your macro goal.”
Three Benefits of Setting Both Micro and Macro Goals
- Your website optimization potential is greater than if you set up only a primary website goal.
- You can report, analyze, and optimize interesting numbers for different departments.
- You can more easily develop a multi-channel strategy that involves both macro and micro goals.
How to Set Up a Goal
There is one prerequisite here. You need to have “edit permission rights” in Google Analytics to set up a new goal.
Also, remember that you always define a goal on the View level.
Here is a four-step short guide on how to set up a new goal:
- Sign in to Google Analytics.
- Click Admin, and navigate to the desired view.
- In the VIEW column, click Goals.
- Click + NEW GOAL or Import from Gallery to create a new goal, or click an existing goal to edit its configuration.
2. Google Analytics Annotations
If you are like me, you not only care about the “what,” but even more about the “why” and “how” behind data analysis.
This is where annotations come in handy.
Annotations in Google Analytics help you answer questions like:
“Conversions were 50% below our 12-month average during the last weekend. Was there an issue with the technical performance of our website?”
“A 400% increase in overall website traffic; how could that happen? Wait, one of our blog posts was shared by the official Google Analytics Twitter and Google + accounts, and that caused an enormous spike in our traffic figures!”
Why You Should Care about Annotations
Annotations in Google Analytics will make your life as an analyst a bit easier.
There are offline campaigns that have an impact on overall traffic.
For example, competitors that temporarily lower their prices probably influence your conversion rate and many more e-commerce metrics at the same time.
I recommend that you take a structured approach to adding “big” events to your Google Analytics account in the form of annotations.
In small organizations, this can be done by one person.
However, if you work in a large corporate business, you definitely need another approach. You could use a Google doc that one or two people in each department have access to. Or, you may already have a standard procedure for logging everything.
The more information that is known to you and your team (and that is well documented), the better the analysis and advice can be.
Many analytics audits are a nightmare simply because of poor documentation.
How to Create Annotations
You can create and add annotations via the reporting or admin interface.
Annotations via Google Analytics Reporting Interface
As a first step, navigate to any of your Google Analytics overview reports. An example is shown below:
Select the small arrow in the middle and click on the “create new annotation” link on the right.
This is the screen you will see next:
A couple of things to note here:
- Click the “star” if you want to save this annotation as one of your favorite ones. It’s easier to find your most important annotations at a later time.
- Click the correct date for your annotation (it’s not possible to add annotations for future dates).
- Choose between shared and private; most often, you will want to select “shared.” Then, other people who have access to the same reporting view can see the annotation as well.
- You can use up to 160 characters (including spaces) for your annotation.
Annotations via Google Analytics Admin Interface
I prefer to add annotations via the admin interface, especially when I need to add a couple of annotations at once.
Navigate to the admin interface and click on “Annotations” (under the Personal Tools and Assets menu):
Click the new annotation link on the next screen.
Here, you can specify all the information for your annotation:
Now, it’s a vertical view compared to the horizontal view in the reporting interface. For the rest, it’s all the same.
Note: Via the admin interface, you can add annotations for future dates as well.
What to Annotate
I advise you to use annotations to keep track of everything that might impact your business.
The larger the company, the larger the number of annotations you might want to add. So, be a bit careful here not to add the tiny details to your account.
Here are five examples:
- Weather extremes
- Competitor promotions
- Offline campaigns that have a significant impact
- Industry developments
- Tracking issues
Note: Annotations set by a former employee, who no longer has access to your Google Analytics (GA) account, remain in your account.
Intelligence events are extremely useful for connecting the dots.
I like to describe intelligence events as:
“Data-driven advice by Google Analytics that helps you identify known unknowns and unknown unknowns within your data.”
I recommend that you check out these videos by Avinash Kaushik to learn more about this neat feature and terminology.
Intelligence events can be found through the reporting interface:
In Google Analytics, there are two types of intelligence events:
- Automatic alerts
- Custom alerts
Automatic alerts are created for you:
Custom alerts need to be created by you.
You need to set them up via the admin interface; it’s under the Personal Tools and Assets menu.
There are a number of things to set up:
- Alert name: an easy name to remember
- Apply to: select one or more reporting views
- Period: day, week, or month
- Email alert: you can include other people who have access to this view
- Mobile phone alert: only works if you live in the United States
- Applies to: the segment you like to apply the alert to
- Alert condition: specify when the alert needs to be triggered
I recommend that you set up at least three custom alerts:
- Traffic level
- (Macro) conversion level
- (Macro) conversion rate level
Do you need some inspiration for setting up powerful custom alerts? Check out this comprehensive list of 55+ custom alerts by LunaMetrics.
In my experience, this is one of the greatest Google Analytics shortcuts for boosting your analytics insights.
Unfortunately, it is still rarely used by most Google Analytics users.
Custom Segments to Enhance Your Insights
In the last 10, I have emphasized many times that averages lie.
Here is a simple example:
There are a few things to note:
- Overall, this website has a conversion rate (CR) of 3.0% (not that bad!).
- Affiliate and email are performing very badly, with CR’s of 0.1% and 0.4%.
- Paid campaigns and direct traffic boost the CR.
In this case, two channels are really ruining your conversion rate. That’s why you always need to segment your data, no matter what metric you are checking.
You could do much better by improving email and affiliate channels and/or adapting your online marketing strategy.
Google Analytics has a feature called segments (advanced segments in the past). There are default and custom segments.
By default, Google Analytics has installed 20+ segments, of which one equals all sessions.
By hovering over a segment with your mouse, you can see the details. For example:
- Made a Purchase = segment where, at the session level, there is at least one transaction. This segment includes sessions with a purchase.
This is a great start if you are new to segments, but sometimes you just need something different.
That’s when custom segments rock!
How to Set Up Custom Segments
You can set up segments via the admin interface and reporting interface.
Segments via Google Analytics Admin Interface
- Navigate to Admin Interface.
- Head over to Personal Tools and Assets and click on Segments.
- Click on the red New Segment button.
You can set up a segment on a huge range of requirements, which are shown on the left.
Further, you have three options for segment availability.
I recommend that you carefully read the instructions by clicking on the question marks (?).
Segments via Google Analytics Reporting Interface
There is another option, which is to build your segments directly via the reporting interface:
- Navigate to a report where you can create and apply segments (e.g., Acquisition Overview).
- Click on All Sessions.
- Click on the red New Segment button.
Within the reporting interface, you have the same choices as in the admin interface.
Here are three additional points:
- Segments are linked to your unique login account information.
- Segments can be shared with other people who have access to the same view.
- You can’t apply segments to your funnel reports (PadiTrack might come in handy here).
Useful Segments to Start With
Here are ten quick ideas for segmenting your Conversion Rate (CR) and improving your insights:
- Segment your CR by device (mobile, tablet, desktop).
- Segment your CR by traffic channel.
- Segment your CR by landing page.
- Segment your CR by type of visitor (new, returning).
- Segment your CR by browser type.
- Segment your CR by geographical region.
- Segment your channel CR by attribution model.
- Segment your CR by day of week.
- Segment your CR by time of day.
- Segment your CR by campaign.
Regular expressions are incredibly useful. Here is a short overview for those who are already familiar with them:
You can effectively use them for the following:
- When setting up report filters
- When setting up goals
- When defining funnel steps
- When setting up segments
- When filtering on and analyzing your data
It really helps you to build segments and analyze subsets of data in a much faster way!