Google Universal Analytics Account Setup checklist

 

How a Google analytics account is set up tells a lot about the consultant’s understanding of analytics at large.

For e.g. if custom reports are not set up in an account we can safely assume that whoever is in charge of Analytics is reporting squirrels (word borrowed from ‘Avinash Kaushik’) and not useful analytics insight.

Without any further delay I present to you my Google Universal Analytics Account Setup checklist. 

This checklist will help you greatly in configuring your Universal Analytics account.

 

{check the task when you have completed it}

1. Visit the client website 

Do this to understand what needs to be tracked and to understand client’s business. Without a deep understanding of the client’s business you will have a hard time setting up SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals in analytics and coming up with useful analytical insight.

 

2. Do a five second test

  • As soon as you visit the website, view it for five seconds, try to remember as much as you can and then go to Google or some other website.
  • Now ask yourself two questions: what the website is all about and what it is trying to sell.

Note down whatever you remember about the site. This five second test will later help you in coming up with the strategies to reduce the bounce rate of the website.

 

3. Browse the website thoroughly and note down what is important 

Again visit the website but this time browse the website thoroughly and note down following things on paper/word document as you browse:

i) Website Issues- Any issue you encounter regarding site design, navigation, usability, contents, images, videos etc.

ii) Website Sections- Sections of the website which should also be tracked separately (through filtered profiles) like blog, forum etc

iii) Traffic Sources that should also be tracked separately (through filtered profiles) like traffic coming through social media (facebook, twitter), email and other marketing campaigns.

iv) Visitor’s interactions- Interactions which should be tracked (through event tracking).

These users interactions can be:

  • clicking on the Sign-up button
  • Log-ins
  • downloads
  • clicking on twitter/facebook profile button
  • clicking on share button
  • clicking on video play button
  • other user’s interactions you think are important to track.

Please note: GA by default can’t track such type of user’s interactions.

v) Website Objective(s)

  • Determine all macro conversions
  • Determine all micro conversions

The major purpose(s) of setting up a website is known as macro conversion and other minor purpose(s) is known as the micro conversions.

Website objective (or conversion) is what the website is trying to achieve. There can be one or many purposes for which a website has been set up. These purposes can be something like selling products, generating leads, branding, selling advertising, building good relationship with the target audience, customer support etc.

 

vi) Navigational paths which can lead to macro and micro goals conversions

Navigational paths are made up of series of web pages which you can expect your visitors to follow to achieve website goals like making a purchase.

There can be ‘N’ ways of making a purchase on a website. For example, your visitor can start his shopping journey from the home page and then go to the product category page followed by product detail page, registration page, checkout page and ‘order confirmation’ page or he can directly go to the checkout page (few days after registering on the website and adding item to his basket) and then to the ‘order confirmation’ page.

  • You will have to determine the most efficient way of making a purchase on your website.

All this will later help you in setting up and optimizing the funnel pages in GA.

Please note: If you don’t have administrative access to the client’s site, then you will need to ask your client’s developer to give you a list of web pages which makes up the shopping cart process and URL of the order confirmation page.

 

vii) Visitor’s behavior which can lead to macro/micro goals conversions

If one of your micro goal is user engagement then how you will measure it?

You can measure it through visitor’s behavior on your site. But this behavior should be something which you can analyze through your analytics.

You certainly can’t analyze how many visitors got delighted when they landed on your page (unless GA can do face reading and report visitors emotions). So you need to use one of the available metrics which can help you in understanding visitor’s engagement.

One of the metrics you can use to measure engagement is ‘time spent on the site‘. Such type of metric is known as ‘key performance indicator‘ or KPI as it helps in understanding the performance of your goals. You need to set up such type of KPIs for all of your goals.

Related Post: Understanding Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – Complete Guide

 

4. Setup SMART Targets

Targets are numerical values through which you can measure the extent to which you have succeeded or failed in achieving a goal.

Without targets and deadlines no goal is unachievable.

For e.g increasing the traffic of the website is not a SMART target. Increasing the website traffic by 50% in the next 6 months can be a SMART target. Here i would like to point out one more thing.

Do not solely depend upon your clients to decide targets for you. Their targets are generally not SMART (like “we want to double our site revenue in the next 3 months”, sounds familiar?) and you may end up looking like an incompetent consultant to them if you follow their targets.

Do your own analysis and setup realistic targets. 

 

5. Get a written agreement from your client on the goals, goal values, funnel pages and Targets.
This will save you from any future dispute/ disagreement on conversion tracking.

 

6. Create an account in Google Analytics in case there is no account set up. Click here to create your account.

 

7. Add a new analytics account - If you already have an account in GA and you want to add another account using the same log-in and password then click here

 

8. Install the new (asynchronous) Google Analytics tracking code (GATC) to all the web pages on your website. You can get more details about the installation from here.

 

9. Switch to the new (asynchronous) GATC
If your site is using the the old urchin.js or traditional ga.js tracking code. The new code helps in reducing the page load time and retain visitor clicks that occur before the tracking code is loaded. 
You can get more details about migrating to the new code from here.

 

10. Verify tracking code installation
Verify that the tracking code is correctly installed on all of your web pages. You can use ‘screaming frog SEO spider‘ for that. If you want to verify manually, view the source code of the page and search for ‘ga.js’ or ‘analytics.js’ (if you are using Universal Analytics)

 

11. Verify that you are receiving the analytics data in your reports
Check the ‘Real time overview’ report in your Google Analytics view. If you don’t see any data then something is wrong with your tracking code installation.

 

12. Get Administrative privileges of the GA account
I always aim to get administrative privileges (Manage users, Edit, Collaborate, Read and Analyze) of my client’s GA account so that I can later create goals, set up funnel pages, setup filters and use all the features of GA.  
If the client doesn’t have any GA account then I setup an account for him and add myself as an account administrator.

 

13. Grant others users access to your analytics report
I may need to provide GA access to number of people like my client, senior management etc. I generally give them ‘Read and Analyze’ access so that they can’t accidentally make changes to the account. You can learn more about granting users access here.

 

14. Set up Goals and funnel pages in your account
 set up all the goals and funnel pages which you discovered during your site audit and on which your client/boss agreed upon in writing.
You can find more details about setting up goals and funnels from here.

 

15. Add Google Adwords account to Google Analytics account
Through such integration you can analyze the behavior of the visitors coming from your Adwords ads. This is something which is not possible through Google Adwords reporting interface. You can also import conversions from GA to adwords. 
You can find more details about GA and Adwords integration from this post: Complete Guide to Google Adwords Analytics

 

16. Make sure that auto-tagging is enabled in Google Adwords account
When you manually tag your Adwords ads URLs, the GA Adwords reports show results only by campaign and keywords. When you enable auto-tagging, GA Adwords report provide detailed information about Adwords campaign.

As soon as you link your Adwords account to your analytics account, auto tagging is enabled by default. But sometimes you may find the auto tagging disabled (may be someone in the past thought of manually tagging the Adwords ads URLs or didn’t know what he was playing with).

You can get more details about auto-tagging and how it affect your Adwords ad from here.

 

17. Make sure auto-tagging is working properly
There are many factors (like third party redirects, encoded URLs and server settings) which can prevent auto-tagging from working properly by dropping the GCLID parameter from the landing page URL. Dropped GCLID parameter cause GA to report Google Adwords traffic as organic traffic rather than paid search traffic.

  • Add ‘?gclid=test’ parameter to the end of the destination URL of your Adwords ad like http://www.yoursite.com/?gclid=test.
  • Copy paste the modified URL into the address bar of your browser window and press enter.
  • If URL of the resulting page doesn’t display ‘gclid=test’ then the auto-tagging is not working.

 

18. Make sure that Google Analytics can import cost data from Adwords
When you link your Adwords account to your analytics account the cost data (impressions, clicks, cost, CTR, CPC) from Adwords is automatically applied to all the website profiles of your GA account.  
But sometime it is not the case as someone in the past decided to disable the cost data import from Adwords. You can get more details about importing Adwords cost data from here.

 

19. Add Yahoo search marketing account to your analytics account
GA do not report cost data (impressions, clicks, cost, CTR, CPC) from Yahoo PPC ads and treat the traffic coming from it as direct traffic. There is no way to link your Yahoo account to your GA account. But I prefer to address this task as ‘Yahoo PPC integration’ to keep reminding myself how important it is.

In order to track Yahoo PPC campaigns from GA you need to put special tracking code to Yahoo ad URLs.

Say your Yahoo ad URL is http://www.abc.com/. Now to track the traffic coming from this URL you will have to add some variables (known as campaign variables) to this URL like http://www.abc.com/?utm_source=yahoo&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Yahoo_Ads.

I highly recommend you to watch this presentation from GA conversion university to know all about campaign tracking.

 

20. Add Bing Ads to your analytics account
Again there is no way to link your Bing PPC account to your GA account. But I prefer to address this task like this to keep reminding myself how important it is. Bing PPC campaigns are tracked just like Yahoo campaigns in GA through campaign tracking.

 

21. Make sure that you are tracking all the marketing campaigns 
Make sure that you are tracking not just search marketing campaigns. If you are running other online marketing campaigns like e-mail campaigns, banner ads, affiliate programs, social media campaigns etc then they should be tracked too through campaign variables.

 

22. Add Google Adsense account to your Google Analytics account
Through such type of integration you can get more information about your Adsense ads and you can use this insight to improve the ads performance. More details about Google Adsense and Google Adwords integration can be found here.

 

23. Enable E-Commerce Tracking
Through e-commerce reports in GA you can get detailed information about e-commerce activity on your website like total revenue generated by the website, number of orders placed, average order value, e-commerce conversion rate etc.

If you run an e-commerce website then not enabling e-commerce tracking is an analytics suicide. I highly recommend this post: Google Analytics E-commerce Tracking – Complete Guide to learn all about e-commerce tracking.

 

24. Enable internal site search tracking
Through internal site search you can determine how visitors search and what do they search for on your website. With this insight you can determine missing contents on your website i.e. the contents which should be there (as lot of visitors search for it) but are not there.

By analyzing internal search reports you can improve the quality of search results for key phrases and can develop better user experience. You can also identify new keywords for your search campaigns.

Click here to set up site search tracking for your website.

 

25. Apply filters to your website profile (view) /Exclude Internal Traffic
Through filters you can customize GA analytics reports and segment data. One of the most important filter is the filter to exclude internal traffic (i.e. traffic coming from your own company). 
Internal traffic can easily inflate your website usage metrics (visits, bounce rate, page views, time on site etc) and therefore should be filtered out by GA. So make sure that you use apply this filter. You can get more information about creating filters from here.

Note: You should also consider using Google Analytics Opt-Out browser Add-on to exclude internal traffic.

 

26. Create filtered profiles (also known as view filters)
Filtered profiles are simply profiles and filters used together. I am not a big fan of filtered profiles but sometimes I find them useful like when I need to track multiple sub domains through a single profile. This is something which is not possible through advanced segments.

Make sure that you always maintain one unfiltered website profile before you create filtered profiles.

This is because once the raw data has been processed by a filter, GA can’t re-process the raw data. So if you have accidentally applied a wrong filter to your main website profile then your lost data can’t be recovered.

You can get more details about filtered profiles from here.

 

27. Setup advanced segments
Advanced segments can be applied to historical data and to all analytics accounts and website profiles(views). This is their biggest advantage over filtered profiles and that’s why I like them.

You can use advanced segments to filter out social media traffic, traffic from referring sites or just to unleash the power of the long tail keywordsTo know more about setting up advanced segments click here.

 

28. Setup custom reports
Custom reports have same advantage as advanced segments but they provide more flexibility in terms of data retrieval and reporting. They can also be applied to historical data and to all analytics accounts and website profiles (views).

My whole analytics dashboard is full of custom reports. I don’t generally use standard reports.To learn more about setting up custom reports click here.

 

29. Create Custom Alerts using Google Analytics Intelligent Report
Through analytics intelligence you can monitor significant variations in your site traffic and other useful metrics like revenue and get automatic alerts when such variations occurs. 
You should download some important custom alerts from here. Click here to learn more about creating custom alerts.

 

30. Track important externals links (like downloads, sign-ups, login, etc) through event tracking
An event is a user interaction with a web page element like videos or external links. GA can’t track such events by default as they don’t generate pageviews when they occur.  
You should set up event tracking in GA to track such user interactions.  I wrote a post titled ‘event tracking Google analytics (simplified version)‘ which explains A to Z of event tracking and virtual page views in an easy to understand language. So check it out.

 

31. Schedule Google Analytics reports to be emailed automatically to you and others
You can instruct Google to send analytics reports to you and others daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly. You can find more details about scheduling emails here.

 

32. Switch to Universal Analytics
If you are a multi-channel retailers (those who do multi-channel marketing both online and offline) then you should consider running Universal Analytics in parallel to your standard GA account at least for the next 3 months and see how it goes.

You can learn about setting up universal analytics from this post: Beginners Guide to Universal Analytics – Creating Custom Dimensions & MetricsAlso make sure that you understand the Universal Analytics Mesaurement Protocol before you make the switch. 

 

 33. Use Google Analytics Cross Domain Tracking
If your website checkout process occurs on a different domain (quite common in case of affiliate websites) or your web session spans across multiple domains then you need to use cross domain tracking. Check out this post for more details: Google Analytics cross domain tracking complete guide

Note: You should also read this post on Google Analytics Cookies to get better understanding of how cross domain tracking works.

 

 34. Enable demographic and Psychographic data in Google Analytics

Through demographic data you can determine how your best customers’ behaviour varies by gender. For example, do men buy more from your website than women.

Through Psychographic data you can determine interest, personality, lifestyle, values, beliefs, liking, disliking etc of your target audience. You can find more details about enabling demographic data in Google Analytics from this article: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/2819948

Note: Once you have enabled the demographic data in your GA account, you can also view the psychographic data in your GA reports.

 

 35. Use Google Analytics Cross Domain Tracking
If your website checkout process occurs on a different domain (quite common in case of affiliate websites) or your web session spans across multiple domains then you need to use cross domain tracking. Check out this post for more details: Google Analytics cross domain tracking complete guide

Note: You should also read this post on Google Analytics Cookies to get better understanding of how cross domain tracking works.

 

 36. Add Google Analytics account to Google Webmaster Tools account
Through such integration you can view the Google Webmaster tools data (queries, impressions, clicks, CTR, landing pages etc) in ‘search Engine Optimization’ reports of your Google Analytics account. You can find more details about GA and GWT integration from this article: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/1120006?hl=en

 


 37. Check for Data Sampling Issues
Once you have set up your Google Analytics account and have got more than few days/weeks of data, you then need to look for data sampling issues in your reports. If you have got data sampling issues than your metrics from ‘conversion rate’, ‘revenue’ to ‘visits’ could be anywhere from 10% to 80% off the mark. To read more about data sampling in Google Analytics, read this article: Google Analytics Data Sampling – Complete Guide


 38. Importing Cost Data into Google Analytics
You need cost data in Google Analytics reports in order to calculate ROI of your non-adwords marketing campaigns. However in order to upload cost data you need to create a custom data source(s) first in your GA view(s). Without custom data source, you can’t upload cost data into Google Analytics. To learn more about creating custom data source, read this article: Creating custom data source to import cost data into Google Analytics.


 39. Enabling Enhanced Link Attribution for In-Page Analytics
By default through in-page analytics you can’t see seperate click through information for multiple links on a web page that all have the same destination URL. Similarly, by default you can’t see click through information for on page elements like buttons, menus and actions driven by JavaScript code. To use all of these features you need to enable Enhanced Link Attribution. Read this article for more details: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/2558867?hl=en

 

 40. Creating Profit Index report in your Google Analytics View
Profit Index report list profitable pages on your website. These are the pages which were most frequently viewed prior to conversions and/or transactions. So if you wish to improve the conversion rate of your website, you then need to determine such pages and make sure that they are indexed and get lot of visibility in search engines and on your website. To create a profit index report, read this blog post: Creating Profit Index reports in Google Analytics. 

 
 41. Create Content Groups
Through Google Analytics Content Grouping you can categorize your contents according to your needs and then analyse the content groups instead of individual pages/articles. For example if you sell clothes, you can create content groups for men and women. So the men content group can contain all those product pages which sell men shirts and trousers. Similarly, women content group can contain all those product pages which sell women shirts and trousers. You can then analyze the website usage and in-page analytics of these content groups. To create/edit content groups read this article: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/2853546?hl=en-GB

 

 42. Check for common Google Analytics Mistakes
In order to get optimum results from your analysis of Google Analytics reports you must aim to find and fix as many of the following issues as possible. Failing to do so will almost always result in inaccurate analysis, interpretation and reporting

  1. Directional Issues
  2. Data Collection Issues
  3. Data Integration issues
  4. Data Interpretation Issues
  5. Data Reporting Issues

You can find more details about these issues from the post: Common Google Analytics Mistakes that kill your Analysis, Reporting and Conversions.

 

 

Tools for advanced Analytics Users

 1. Enable first touch attribution
Overide GA default campaign attribution by tagging utm_nooverride=1 at the end of the destination URL of all the marketing campaigns like Google PPC, Yahoo PPC, Bing PPC, email marketing campaigns, etc.

For e.g. http://www.site.com/index.php?utm_nooverride=1

You can get more details about first touch attribution from this post: Google Analytics Attribution Modeling – Begineers Guide

 

 2. Exclude certain query parameters from the GA report like session IDS, sorting parameters etc. Click here for more details.

 

3. Use custom variables to segment your data further
For e.g you may be interested in knowing how many non-signed visitors abandon your shopping cart or which category of blog posts are more popular among your visitors. 
To get the most out of custom variables you need to understand your visitors’ interaction with the website. Click here to know learn about setting up custom variables.

 

 4. Use custom dimensions and custom metrics to collect additional data
If you are using Universal Analytics and you want to collect the type of data which Google Analytics does not automatically collect (like phone call data, CRM data etc) then you need to create custom dimensions and metrics.

 

 5. Measure the effectiveness of your branding campaigns.
Following are some excellent resources worth checking out:

 

6. Track multiple sub –domains through a single profile/view
You can do this by using following advanced filter:

Filter name: Append hostname to request URI):
Advanced Filter:
Filter A ==> Extract A Hostname (.*)
Filter B ==> Extract B Request URI (.*)
Output to ==> Constructor Request URI $A1$B1
Field A required Yes
Filed B required Yes
Override Output field Yes
Case Sensitive No

 

 7. Make sure that the cost data is separated among several website profiles/views
Apply custom include filter to each website profile/view for which you are running a campaign in Adwords:

Filter type: include
Filter field: Campaign Target URL
Filter Patter: (Enter the domain for which you are running an adwords campaign like optimizesmart.com)

 

 8. Set up video tracking in Google Analytics
Video tracking setup is not easy. In order to track say product videos of a website in Google Analytics, your developers need to work in the flash video source file and create some action script which can do following tasks:

Step-1: When a Video Play button is clicked -> It calls the _gaq.push ([‘_trackEvent’,’Videos’,’Play’,’Video_title’]); module and pass the title of the video as the value to the ‘video_title’ variable.

So for example if title of the video is ‘Women’s Remix Cardi’, then value of the ‘video_title’ variable will be ‘women’s Remix Cardi’. Similarly if title of the video is ‘Women’s Remix Dress’, then value of the ‘video_title’ variable will be ‘Women’s Remix Dress’. 



Step-2: When a Video stop button is clicked -> It calls the _gaq.push ([‘_trackEvent’,’Videos’,’stop’,’Video_title’,Video_length]); module and pass the title of the video to the ‘video_title’ variable and length of the video played to the ‘video_length’ variable.

So for example if length of the video played is 118 seconds, then value of the video_length variable will be 118.

 

 9. Use a hash (#) instead of a ? in your campaign tracking URLs using _setAllowAnchor method to prevent your pages with tracking code from being indexed by Google. Remember Google doesn’t index anything after the # sign.

You can find more details about _setAllowAnchor method from here.

 

There are lot more things you can add to your Google Analytics Tool depending upon your situation. But I won’t talk about them as they are not very often required.

If you want to know what else may benefit you then you should check out this list of all the methods available in GA.

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