10 Vital Customizations to Make in Google Analytics

10 Vital Customizations to Make in Google Analytics

Connect Google Analytics to Google Search Console Way back, Google Analytics used to have keyword data in all its standard reports. So, instead of amazing keyword data, everything got lumped into the dreaded “not provided” group. Once data makes it into your Google Analytics reports, it’s permanent. Your Google Analytics views should look like this: Set Up Events Google Analytics tracks a ton of stuff without any customization which is why it’s so popular. URL Goal If your site is set up in a way that users always hit the same URL after completing one of these key actions, you can tell Google Analytics to trigger a goal every time someone lands on that URL. Clean Up Parameters It’s pretty common to run into pages like this in your Google Analytics reports: Anything after a “?” in a URL is a parameter. Install Google Analytics via Google Tag Manager In our post on setting up Google Analytics, I advocated for skipping Google Tag Manager when setting up Google Analytics for the first time. Once you’ve removed Google Analytics JavaScript from your site, follow these steps: Create a Google Tag Manager account and set up a workspace for your site. Your tag will look like this when you’re done: To make sure that Google Analytics is working through Google Tag Manager, check your real-time reports in Google Analytics to see if it’s successfully recording data. Someone was making a few changes to the site and accidentally removed Google Analytics from the entire site.

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Unlock the full power of Google Analytics

Google Analytics can do just about whatever you want it to. It has a ton of depth.

It can also feel a bit overwhelming once you get into it.

After consulting on Google Analytics for years, both independently and as the head of marketing at an analytics startup, I have 10 customizations I consider vital for every site I run.

Once they’re in place, you’ll have:

  • Keyword data in Google Analytics. Yes, I’m completely serious. Keyword data is back.
  • An account structure that will save you if you ever accidentally nuke your Google Analytics data.
  • Metrics to help you drive your business.
  • A roadmap to clean up your URLs to make your reports accurate. (They’re not as accurate as you think they are.)
  • Alerts to help you catch catastrophic data failures within 25 hours.
  • The Google Analytics tracking script installed like the pros.
  • A method to filter out data from your office IP so your company doesn’t accidentally skew the reports.

Let’s dive in.

Connect Google Analytics to Google Search Console

Way back, Google Analytics used to have keyword data in all its standard reports. You were able to see which keywords sent traffic to which pages. And if you had ecommerce tracking or goals set up, you could see how much revenue each keyword produced for you.

It was amazing.

Then Google decided to remove the keyword data from Google Analytics.

So, instead of amazing keyword data, everything got lumped into the dreaded “not provided” group.

Google killed the keyword data in Google Analytics.

I thought the keyword data was done forever — I never expected to see it again. I resigned my fate to needing tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs for keywords.

Then a funny thing happened.

Google started investing a lot of time into improving Google Search Console. In the last few years, it’s gotten incredibly good. The data is a goldmine. Google also improved the integration between Google Search Console and Google Analytics so it’s now possible to get a lot of that missing keyword data back.

That’s right, keywords are back in Google Analytics. All you have to do is sign up for a free Google Search Console account and connect it to your Google Analytics account.

It’s pretty easy. There are only two steps:

  1. Create a free Google Search Console account and verify that you have access to your site. The easiest way to verify is if you already have Google Analytics installed.
  2. In your Property settings in Google Analytics, connect to your Google Search Console.

Here’s where to find the settings in Google Analytics to turn on Google Search Console:

Google Search Console Settings

After the accounts are connected, all the reports under Acquisition – Search Console will start populating. Keep in mind that they have a 48 hour delay so give it a few extra days before checking for data.

Create Multiple Views

I consider this a mandatory customization for Google Analytics.

Once data makes it into your Google Analytics reports, it’s permanent. Nothing can change it. Google has an entire processing pipeline for all the data it collects. Once data has been processed, there’s no going back.

So what happens if you use one of these Google Analytics customizations and accidentally nuke your whole account?

That data is permanently gone. When you fix the setting in your account, you won’t get any of your old data back. Only data from that moment onward will be clean.

Even if you just make your reports a bit messier with the wrong setting, there’s no going back.

In other words, the stakes are high.

We all make mistakes. And it’s a good idea to create two extra views for your Google Analytics profile as a backup.

On every one of my Google Analytics properties, I create three views:

  1. Master View = This is the main view you’ll do all your analysis with.
  2. Test View = Before adding a new setting to your Master view, add it here first. This allows you to test it out before impacting your real data.
  3. Raw Data View = Leave this view completely untouched without any settings configured. If something goes horribly wrong, you always have this base data to work with.

Your Google Analytics views should look like this:

Customizations Views

Set Up Events

Google Analytics tracks a ton of stuff without any customization which is why it’s so popular. There’s a ton of value right out of the box.

Sometimes, there are other actions that are also worth tracking beyond the standard sessions, pageviews, bounce rates, and time on site. You might want to track:

  • Account creations
  • Email signups
  • PDF downloads
  • Video plays
  • Calculator or other tool usage
  • Contact form submissions
  • Webinar registrations
  • Clicks on important links

Anything that’s important to your site can be turned into a Google Analytics event so you can track how often it’s happening.

To trigger events, you will have to add some code to your site that sends the event data whenever the action occurs. Most likely, you’ll need a developer to help you set this up. All the event documentation is here.

Define Goals

In my experience, folks go overboard with goals. Hitting 10 pageviews per visit is a goal, signups are goals, PDF downloads get goals, random events are goals, goals goals goals everywhere.

Usually when I start working on a new site, I end up having to delete a bunch of goals that don’t matter.

My rule: only 1 or 2 goals per site. And they should be goals that closely track to revenue. So if the goal goes up, I expect revenue to also go up. If the correlation to revenue is weak, use an event instead of a goal.

Some examples of good goals:

  • Free trial sign up for your software
  • New email subscription
  • Demo request
  • Consultation request
  • Affiliate link click
  • Webinar registration if this leads to a sales funnel. If it’s a normal content-based webinar, I prefer not to set it up as a goal.

Any event that leads to a sales funnel is a good candidate for a goal. There are really two ways to set up goals like these.

URL Goal

If your site is set up in a way that users always hit the same URL after completing one of these key actions, you can tell Google Analytics to trigger a goal every time someone lands on that URL. This works great for “thank you” pages.

No code is needed for these, you can set it up right away.

Event Goals

It’s also possible to have Google Analytics trigger a goal any time an event fires. This gives you the flexibility to trigger a goal whenever you like since it’s possible to trigger events whenever you like.

You most likely need a developer to help you set these up. Ask them to create a Google Analytics event for you. Once you see the event tracking correctly in the Google Analytics event reports, then go set up a Goal using the values of your event.

Why go through the trouble of turning an event into a goal? Why not just look at the event reports? It makes getting conversions data in your reports a lot easier. Many of the reports are pre-configured to show conversions based on goals. It’s trickier to get the same reports based on just events.

Implement Ecommerce Tracking

If you have an ecommerce store, Google Analytics ecommerce tracking gets all your revenue data into your reports. It’s amazing.

You’ll be able to see:

  • Which traffic sources produce the most revenue
  • Traffic sources that produce a lot of traffic but no revenue
  • The pages that bring in new visitors who end up purchasing
  • The user flows on your site that lead to revenue
  • How users go through multiple traffic sources before they end up purchasing

Google Analytics doesn’t track any of your ecommerce purchases out of the box. You will need to set up some extra stuff.

There are only two ways to get this set up:

  • If you can edit the code of your checkout flow, there’s extra JavaScript tracking that will send purchase data to your Google Analytics account.
  • Some ecommerce tools have ecommerce tracking built in….

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