Google Analytics – things that I think are essential

There are a couple of things that I would say are really, really important to set up if you’re using Google Analytics and want to properly measure campaign activity/effectiveness. The first thing is to include UTM tags in all your links and the second is to properly set up goal-tracking on your site.

UTM tags and Google’s URL Builder

Google are pretty good at providing you useful, free tools for getting the most out of their various products. Unfortunately they’re quite bad at putting these tools in an easy to find place, and they’re even worse at explaining how to use them! If you send out 3 email newsletters surely you want to be able to find out which of these sent traffic to your site and what these visitors did whilst they were on your site, similarly you want to be able to deliniate this traffic from traffic coming via a banner ad, or from social media, or from a blog you posted on another site. A good way to track all of this is by tagging links to your site/pages with Google’s URL builder tool, which lives here: http://support.google.com/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=55578. It’s pretty straight-forward to use and there are examples on the page so I don’t think it needs any further explanation – but shout if this assumption is misplaced and I’ll do a step-by-step walkthrough.

Advanced segments

Once you have tagged all your links you’ll then want to go into Analytics and set up some ‘advanced segments’. Now these segments allow you to break down traffic into everything coming from a specific campaign, source, site or whatever. Typically I will set up a segment for every campaign e.g. Spring-season-announcement and then also set up segments for each element of that campaign e.g. eflyer, twitter, banner ads etc. To set up a campaign-specific segment you simply click ‘New Custom Segment’ then choose to ‘include’ ‘campaign’ containing ‘whatever you entered into the campaign name field in the Google Url Builder‘ – call the segment something meaningful and then just click ‘save segment’, this will then show you the activity for all the traffic that came via a link tagged with that campaign name, you can use the usual breakdowns into traffic source, location, etc to delve further into this traffic.

If you want to create a segment that is just for, for example, all the traffic coming via a banner ad then – and this example assumes you are just running one banner ad – you set up the segment as above, however instead of saving it at the end you’d add another rule, so click ‘add AND statement’ then click ‘add dimension or metric’ then click ‘medium’ and in the field enter whatever you entered into the ‘campaign medium’ field in the URL builder. Then save that segment and it will show you the activity of all the traffic that has come from a link tagged with that campaign name and that campaign medium (in this case, a banner ad).

Hopefully you can start to see (as with building any query) that depending on what you want to find (and defining this first is essential) you can build custom segments to show you lots of different things – however you simply must start tagging all your links so that all your online activity starts to work together.

Goal tracking

To supplement this bit, here is a Google help article on exactly the same subject http://support.google.com/analytics/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1032415

Right, so you’re tagging your links, you’re starting to get an idea that your Spring campaign (or whatever) was really successful in driving traffic to your site and you can see that the eflyer was particularly successful within this campaign. Next thing you need to know is how much of that campaign traffic is actually resulting in…whatever it is that you have your website for, whether that’s selling a ticket or gaining a newsletter signup or whatever. You need to set up goals. There are lots of different ways of doing this, obviously as there are myriad different goals that any website might have.

In this example I’m going to assume that a goal is the clicking of a link that takes your visitor off to a 3rd party purchasing system over which you have no control – therefore the purpose of your website is to get a visitor to click the ‘purchase’ button, beyond that you have zero control so, as ever, concentrate on what you can do first – then you can worry about everything else.

The clicking of a link is an ‘event’, therefore you need to set things up so that Analytics sees it as such. First things first you need to add some code to the links you want to track the clicks of as goals:

onClick="_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'category', 'action', 'label']);"

so your link code would look something like this:

<a href=”http://someurl” class=”a link” onClick=”_gaq.push([‘_trackEvent’, ‘bookingLink’, ‘click’, ‘springSeason001′]);” >

in this example the category=bookingLink, the category=click and the label=springSeason001.

What this is doing (if you want a boring explanation) is adding some javascript to the link that catches that user interaction and labels it as something that is then read by the Analytics code you’ve already included if you are running Analytics on your site.

Right, so, you’ve done that for all the links you want to track clicks of as goals.

You then need to go into Analytics and set up your goals, click on ‘Admin’ in the top right, click on ‘goals’, call it whatever you want, for ‘goal type’ select ‘event’ (in this instance), the put whatever labels you included in your code in the relevant fields, you can also assigned a value to each goal (for example, if a ticket is £10) – I normally set this in the ‘goal value’ field rather than with the rest of the goal info, you need to select ‘use a constant value’ and then enter 10 (or whatever the value is) in this field.

Phew

Right, then click ‘save’ and you have set up a goal. Because Analytics still doesn’t do realtime very well you’ll have to wait a day to make sure everything is linking up and working properly (the usual reason, I find, for something not working is that you’ve included a typo somewhere along the way).

You can then track whether any of your goals are being met under the ‘conversions’ tab in Analytics.

Conversions and effectiveness

So, you’ve set up your url tagging so you know which links are sending you traffic, you’ve set up advanced segments so you can really divide up your traffic into meaningful groups and you’ve set up goals so you can track whether traffic is doing the thing you want it to do. Now you can start measuring the effectiveness of your digital activity, e.g. if you’re sending out an eflyer with the explicit aim of getting people to buy tickets for a specific show then create an advanced segment for all of the links in that eflyer, set up a goal as the clicking of that booking link on your site, send the eflyer and then measure.

The biggest advantage that digital activity has is that it is so measurable – you should be making the most of this wherever possible! Google Analytics is a very powerful, very free package – learn to use it – simply being able to tell your boss that you had 10,000 visitors last month doesn’t mean anything, it is almost devoid of any use as a piece of information, you need to be able to contextualise and connect up all the various metrics available to you so that you can understand what’s going on.

Disclaimer: I wrote this in my lunch hour, whilst eating, so chances are I’ve made a mistake or included typos somewhere along the way, however it is – in the main correct (I hope).

Further reading

Google’s own help articles are fairly labyrinthine, but there is a lot of useful info in there, and they seem to be forever adding new features and not quite telling everyone about them so it’s good to keep a regular eye on things http://support.google.com/analytics/?hl=en

 

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