The next five tips are about how to optimize your campaign tracking and reporting efforts to save time for data analysis and website optimization.
Automate Google Analytics Campaign Tracking
Your data doesn’t have any meaning if you haven’t implemented campaign tracking in the correct way.
By default, Google Analytics recognizes three channels. On the medium level, those are:
- (None): direct traffic via bookmarks or directly typing in a URL
- Referral: incoming (untagged) links from other domains
- Organic: organic traffic via search engines
A fourth could be Google AdWords. This one is easy to set up if you link your AdWords to your Google Analytics account.
But, what about email, affiliate campaigns, or paid banners on other domains? This is where campaign tracking is crucial for getting your numbers right.
Very often, websites tend to have large buckets of direct traffic. And, do you know why? It’s because of untagged campaigns… And, it’s a disaster!
There is a huge chance that you will make the wrong decisions in your website optimization efforts. Happily, it’s easy to prevent this from happening.
Google Analytics distinguishes among five parameters for campaign tracking purposes:
- Campaign Source (utm_source)
- Campaign Medium (utm_medium)
- Campaign Term (utm_term)
- Campaign Content (utm_content)
- Campaign Name (utm_campaign)
Google Analytics likes for you to always use Campaign Source, Medium, and Name when tracking “unknown” links.
Every link that does not fall into one of the four default categories needs to be tracked separately.
How to Track Campaigns
If you have just a few links you need to track, I recommend that you use the Google URL builder.
It’s a completely different story if you need to track dozens or maybe even hundreds of different campaign links.
In this case, you will want to use a spreadsheet.
A good option is to use Google Docs.
Here is an example (click on image to navigate to Google Sheet):
My advice is to read the “Instructions” tab first.
After that, you can start experimenting with the “Link Tag Generator.”
If you have some experience, you should design a format that works for you.
I recommend that you add a few extra fields to your spreadsheet:
- Campaign period (when does your campaign run?)
- Campaign owner (who is end responsible for the campaign?)
- Naming conventions (it is a must to create a naming structure for your campaigns)
There is one more thing you should know. I recommend that you test every link you want to track, especially if you are just starting out with campaign tracking.
It’s easy to do if you set up a view with an include filter on your IP address. If your website receives a lot of traffic, this is definitely a must to test your campaigns without effort.
And, the good thing is, you can even test in real-time. There is no need to wait until the actual data is coming in.
It’s a huge time-saver if you set this up in an efficient way! And, it makes your analysis a lot more easy and accurate.
Make sure campaign tracking is on your to-do list!
Automate Google Analytics Reporting
It’s important to report on the main KPIs of your business. However, it shouldn’t eat up all your time!
From experience, I can say that automating your reporting efforts will save a huge amount of time.
A lot of companies still need to switch from 80/20 to 20/80 in terms of reporting vs. analysis.
Automation via Google Analytics Spreadsheets Add-on
The Google Sheets Add-on helps you automatically export complex data queries. It’s a great option if you are looking for a free solution.
Make sure to check these links:
How it Works
Add the Google Analytics Add-on to Google Sheets (in my case, it is already installed).
Create your first report.
- Fill in some basic information, including metrics and dimensions you like to work with.
Fill in the required fields/information:
- Report name
- Google Analytics Account name
- Google Analytics Property name
- Google Analytics View name
- One or more metrics
- One or more dimensions
Add a report name and hit Run reports on the next screen.
And, your report is right here!
As a final step, you can schedule your report for updates.
By now, you have learned how to build a basic report via the Google Analytics application programming interface (API) and Google Sheets.
I recommend that you start with simple queries.
The Google Analytics Reference Guide shows you what functions to put in the corresponding fields.
Further, I recommend that you check out the metrics and dimensions guide. It contains all the metrics and dimensions that are available in Google Analytics.
There is a huge win in automating your data export (and dashboards), and it saves time for data analysis and website optimization.
Build Powerful Custom Reports
Another Google Analytics shortcut worth mentioning is custom reports.
You very often need to combine the information of different reports to get a clear picture of what’s going on. There are 80+ standard reports in Google Analytics, and the list is growing.
But, there is a better way: custom reports.
Custom reports help you to see your most important metrics and dimensions in one report.
Turn Standard Reports into Custom Reports
This is a great trick, especially if you are new to custom reports.
Most standard reports can function as a template for customized reports.
Click on the customize button of a standard report.
Review the metrics and dimensions of the report.
Finally, name your new custom report and click “save.”
It’s a quick way to build custom reports based on already available reports in Google Analytics.
After a while, you might want to build them from scratch as well.
Share Your Reports with Your Team
Would you like to share your reports with your team?
Great! This is very easy in Google Analytics.
Click on the Customization tab.
On the right of your screen, there is a link named Actions; click on Share.. Then select Share template link, and click Share.
This is it! By following the link, your colleagues have access to the same report. They can save it in their account.
Use Pre-Built Dashboards for Generating Ideas
Some people prefer to work with Google Analytics dashboards.
If you would like to set up your dashboard in Google Analytics, there are two resources you don’t want to miss:
- Google Analytics Solution Gallery (you can also find custom reports and segments here)
- Dashboard Junkie
Once again, you can save a lot of time that you can invest in data analysis and website optimization instead.
Copy Your Reporting Screen URL
Imagine you are working in your report and suddenly you hit the wrong button and your report and settings are lost.
Here is what I suggest to overcome this issue:
- Copy the URL of your report.
- Open another tab, screen, or notepad.
- Paste the URL.
This is especially helpful when conducting deeper analysis with advanced table filters or regular expressions.
You can also use this if you would like to perform another type of analysis for the same data set so that you can compare them.
This is another timesaver that might come in handy!
Features in Google Analytics
Google Analytics contains a lot of hidden features. The next five tips describe features that should be on your list if you want to “create” more time.
Enlarge Your Screen
This is a great tip if you want some more space to work in or if you want to avoid distractions.
Here is the default reporting view:
The left sidebar (where you can choose your favorite report) is still visible here.
If you want to minimize distractions and maximize your view, click the small arrow shown above (in red).
As you can see, your reporting screen becomes much wider.
I find it very helpful in two situations:
- When I’m working in a large report and want to have enough space to analyze all the data; e.g., I’ve built a custom flat table with 3+ dimensions and quite a few metrics.
- When I’m presenting / giving a Google Analytics workshop and want to avoid any distractions.
Memorize Basic Keyboard Shortcuts
Navigate to the reporting interface and hit question mark (?).
The following screen pops up:
I find the date range shortcuts to be very useful. You can quickly select the desired data set without touching your mouse.
Most analysts could save quite some time by using these hidden keyboard shortcuts.
In my experience, it is also great if you quickly jump around and present useful data to your audience.
Save Report Shortcuts
The Google Analytics Shortcuts feature is very powerful.
It allows you to save your favorite reports with all settings included.
Here is how it works:
Step 1. Select the report and all settings you would like to save.
Step 2. Click Shortcut and add a unique shortcut name.
Step 3. Click on the Shortcut name in the report view to access it.
It’s easy, fast, and very handy; really useful for everyone who works with Google Analytics.
Also, this is a must have for consultants who are working with many websites. You can save your favorite reports and settings for each of your clients in their specific accounts.
Use “Find Reports & More” Module
Do you sometimes struggle with finding the report you need? You know its name but have forgotten exactly where it’s located.
No need to worry, the find reports & more function comes in handy here!
Take a look at the screenshot below:
This feature applies to three different reports/features:
- Standard reports
- Custom reports
- Shortcuts (to favorite reporting settings)
Type in the first few characters, and you should be able to find your report.
It’s another smart way to quickly navigate through Google Analytics.
Always Start with a Question in Mind
I strongly recommend that you come up with a business question first before diving into Google Analytics or any other web analytics tool.
Your business question should be connected to one or more of your micro or macro goals (discussed in the first tip).
If you don’t know what you need to solve, how can you decide where to start? It’s simply impossible.
You can literally lose days of time if you don’t take a structured approach in your data analysis and website optimization efforts.