Google Analytics is a bit like my Uncle Brian - full of interesting facts and stats, changes his ‘look’ every six months and has a penchant for ‘bending’ the truth.

To take this somewhat strange analogy one step further, life just wouldn’t be the same without good ol’ Google Analytics - or GA as his nickname goes.

When you’re relying on its data, however, to benchmark progress and inform critical business decisions, you’ll want to be sure that:

- You can quickly and easily access the data that matters to you;
- You understand what this data (and it’s certain limitations) is telling you

With that in mind, here are five of the simplest ways in which to keep your GA house in order and get the most out of your data.

Set up custom alerts

You probably don’t need me to tell you how important it is to monitor your site’s performance on a regular basis. But sometimes it’s very difficult to spot huge deviations from one day to the next.

That’s where custom alerts come into play. Custom alerts allow you to set-up custom parameters to flag up any unusual site activity such as huge spikes, or drops, in traffic and send you an email alert.

For example, a 300% increase in traffic on a given day would be considered unusual, and as such Google Analytics would record the data surrounding this event and alert you to it.

In addition to monitoring spikes or drops in traffic, the following custom alerts are great for e-commerce sites:

- Transactions dropped
- Revenue dropped
- Goal conversions dropped
- Traffic from social increased
- Average page load time increased

For full instructions on how to setup your custom alerts, follow Google’s simple instructions.

2. Filtering internal traffic

Internal traffic skewing GA data is an age-old issue, but one that I still see many businesses forget to deal with.

To clarify, we’re referring to traffic generated by you or any member of the team working on or browsing your company website. The problem being of course that employees don’t act like typical visitors to your website, they are skewing your metrics that you report on - sessions, page views, average time on site etc and more crucially impact your conversion rates and attribution reporting.

The good news is that it’s relatively easy to filter out employee traffic by public IP address - the number that uniquely identifies networks, computers and other devices.

To find your public IP address, just search ‘what is my IP’ in Google and it will return your 10 digit number.

If you work for a larger company, you may need to go a step further to filter out your Network Domain.

Check out Google’s detailed instructions on 'Creating an IP Address IP Filter'.

3. Customise your dashboard

Google Analytics provides A LOT of data and sometimes it can be hard to cut out the noise and focus on the metrics that matter.

The best way to get round this is by making use of the custom dashboard feature - think of this as your go-to place to view all your custom reports in a few simple clicks.

You can either choose to create one from scratch or take advantage of the many free templates - a good option if you’re new to custom dashboards or just short on time. Fortunately, there’s already plenty of great templates to choose from:

Google Analytics Solutions Gallery (choose Dashboard from the dropdown)
- 7 Google Analytics Custom Dashboard Examples - Segment SEO, Social Media, Mobile, And Other Metrics
- e-commerce Dashboard - great for monitoring sales, revenue and overall performance

You can have up to 20 dashboards per account, which should be plenty! 

4. Filtering branded keyword traffic

Let’s take Brand Outlet as an example. If someone types ‘Brand Outlet’ into a search engine, they’re doing so because they already know where they want to go, using it as a way of navigating to your website.

So, in this case, we shouldn’t really count this is as 'organic' traffic. Instead, we should think of it as 'direct' traffic.

The good news is Google Analytics will let us customise what we class as organic traffic by allowing us to exclude certain keywords. So, by excluding all ‘branded’ keywords containing ‘Brand Outlet’ we will instead count all traffic generated from these keywords as direct.

Follow Google’s guide to setting up Search Term Exclusions.

5. Linking Google Search Console to Google Analytics

This is nice and easy but also one many people neglect to take advantage of.

By viewing Search Console and Google Analytics data side-by-side, we get oodles of extra useful SEO data and filters which gives visibility into what keywords are leading to what behaviour on a website.

It’s also a great way of helping us create new long-tail keyword combinations which we can factor into our content marketing plans.

To get up and running you’ll need to verify your site in Google Search Console and associate it with your GA account to get access to the Search Console data.

If you need any help setting this up, follow Google’s instructions.

 

By Joe Turner, digital marketing manager at iWeb


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