A learning journey with CXL Institute, in Digital Analytics
Welcome to my 1st Review of CXL Institute Minidegree for Digital Analytics. This is my first week of learning into the CXL Institute Scholarship program and I will keep you company for the next 11 weeks.
Let me introduce myself: My name is Alexandra and for the past couple of years, I work as a Digital Analyst for agencies that help Clients excel their businesses. I was browsing for a solid Digital Analytics course — because in digital analytics, you are never too good to stop learning — and I discovered the Digital Analytics Minidegree program of CXL Institute. I instantly wanted to join this program and so I did.
As you will see in this post and the others to come, the course covers every little aspect of the digital analytics world and I am very excited with its content so far. But I won’t say more, I’ll let you see for yourself. Enjoy…
As you may have already guessed from the title of this week’s post, we will cover some basic parts of — the most popular — digital analytics platform, going by the name: Google Analytics, otherwise known as GA.
The main contents of this post will include:
1. Getting to know Google Analytics
How Google Analytics’ workspace looks like, what is the main purpose of each section of the platform and how the basic reports are structured.
2. Google Analytics setup
How to install Google Analytics and the different ways you can customize the settings, in order to get all the information that is valuable for you.
1. Getting to know Google Analytics
In this section, we’re going to cover the different types of reports that are available in Google Analytics, and we’ll see why we want to use each one and which specific questions are meant to be answering.
Before we begin, you need to know that Google has provided us with the ability to experiment with real data coming from Google Merchandise Store. The Google Analytics demo account is a fully functional Google Analytics account that any Google user can access. It’s a great way to look at real business data and experiment with Google Analytics features.
Differences between Dimensions & Metrics
The journey in Google Analytics starts with some basic knowledge: what is a metric and what is a dimension?
The way to think about metrics versus dimensions, is that metrics are the numbers. So, each number within GA, is a metric: 12.542 sessions, 654 users, 0.65% conversion rate. Each metric is described and, usually, broken down by a label: page title, source, product. Those are, basically, the dimensions.
Different Types of Reports
Google Analytics consists of 5 different categories of reports. Each one is structured to tell its own story and answer to specific questions. The reports are visualized mainly in tables and line-charts.
Real-Time reports: Is this thing working?
Real-Time allows you to monitor activity as it happens on your site. The reports are updated continuously and each hit is reported seconds after it occurs. For example, you can see how many people are on your site right now, how they ended up there, which pages or events they’re interacting with, and which goal conversions have occurred.
Like all the other categories, Real-Time consists of six different reports, each one designed to provide different information. You can use Real-Time reports to:
- verify that the tracking code is working on your site
- ensure proper recording of your traffic sources
- monitor goal completions as you test changes to your site
- segment your traffic to ensure data quality
Audience reports: Who are my users?
Audience reports provide you with insights about characteristics of your users. For example, you can extract information about your audience demographics (age, gender), interests, geolocation and device of preference (mobile, tablet, desktop). You can also have access into the browser & OS your users are using and prevent malfunctions of your site.
Acquisition reports: Where are my users coming from?
Acquisition reports are used to compare the performance of different marketing channels and discover which sources send you the highest quality traffic and conversions. This can help you make better decisions about where to focus your marketing efforts.
Behavior reports: What actions are my users taking?
The Behavior section in GA reveals what are the actions of your visitors on your site. Specifically, the reports tell you what pages people visit and what actions they take while visiting. You can also monitor the speed of your site, the use of your internal site-search (if applicable to your site) and the actual events occurred within your website’s content (requires additional implementation).
Conversions reports: What are the results of my users’ actions?
Conversion reports provide metrics to evaluate the results of all actions on your business, whether it is revenue or other valuable events, such as sign-ups, leads or subscribers. Unlike other GA reports, Conversion reports needs to be set up before you can start using them.
2. Google Analytics setup
Now that we took a good tour into GA’s workspace, let’s talk of how to install Google Analytics to your site and also how to properly manage the settings into the platform.
Google Analytics Structure
Before we deep into GA’s settings and code snippets, we need to first understand the structure and hierarchy of the platform.
Organization: An organization represents a company, and lets you access your company’s product accounts, and manage product users, permissions, and cross-product integrations. Organizations are optional when you start with GA.
Accounts: An account is your access point for Analytics. One or more Analytics accounts can belong to an organization. You need at least one account so you can have access to Analytics, and so you can identify the properties you want to track.
Properties: A property is a website, mobile application, or device. An account can contain one or more properties.
Views: A view is your access point for reports; a defined view of data from a property. You give users access to a view so they can see the reports based on that view’s data. A property can contain one or more views.
Create an Account
Let’s start by creating a new account in GA and take it from there to discuss the different levels of settings.
- If this is your first time, you need to Sign in to Google Analytics. Otherwise, for those of you have access to Google’s Demo account, you can click on Create New Account in your Admin section.
- Give your account a Name, select the features you want to include in your account and click Next. (I recommend to keep all the boxes selected)
- Give your Property a Name and select your reporting Time zone, your reporting currency and click Next.
- Select the information responding to your business and then click Create.
- Accept the Terms & Conditions.
…aaaaaaand… You’re done! Congratulations, you have your new GA account set.
Into your account settings your can have access to your account ID, manage the users and the level of access and monitor the history changes made and by whom.
Property settings include the most important parts of your installation process. I’ll start a bit backwards and I will show you the Tracking Info settings first, and you will understand in a minute why.
By setting up our new account, it is obvious that GA is not starting to collect data by magic. We need to get our tracking snippet and include it into our website’s source code. So,
- Select Tracking Info, under Property settings.
- Find your Global Site Tag (gtag.js)
- Copy and Paste this code as close as possible to the <HEAD> of every web page that you want to track.
- If you already have a Global Site Tag on your page, simply add the config line from the snippet below to your existing Global Site Tag.
Now you should have it. Google Analytics will now start collect data of your site’s traffic which you will be able to see them into your reports in the next few hours.
You may have noticed the tracking ID on the top of your Tracking Info page. This is the ID you will use, every time someone asks you “Which is the ID of your Analytics?”. Not the Account ID, neither your Views ID. You will need to search and find this specific number.
Moving on to your Property Settings.
Let’s see the settings that are hiding under the Property Settings selection. In this area, you need to define which is the site you want to monitor through the reports of this Property. Also, you can enable the demographics and interests reports and users metric in reporting.
Under Tracking Info, select the Data Collection option that appears. In here, you can enable Remarketing and Advertising features for the respective promoting actions. In addition, by enabling these features, you will be able to have access to Google Signals reports, where you can monitor device overlaps and other data.
Another interesting part of your Property settings is the Referral Exclusion List. When you create your account and insert your website URL, Google Analytics automatically fills in this list with your domain. Every domain you include in this list will be excluded from your referral reporting. You asking yourself why? In many cases, within our website, you have multiple redirects that contain domains that we do not want to be reported as referral. For example, if you have an e-store and you have the option of paypal payment, this redirect will mess up the attribution of your traffic. So, you want to exclude paypal domain from your referrals list.
Another fun part of the Property settings is that you can Link some external tools, in order to include them into your GA reports. Among those tools are: Google Ads, Google Search Console, AdSense, etc. The process is pretty straight forward, so I won’t stay here much.
Last but not least, Custom Definitions. Custom dimensions and custom metrics are like default dimensions and metrics in your Analytics account, except you create them yourself. You can use them to collect and analyze data that Analytics doesn’t automatically track.
As we described before, a View is the access point of your reports. In the View settings, you can customize the data you will then monitor within the reports. So, you need to be extra careful because your choices here, will affect your decisions later.
From Google’s (and my majesty’s) perspective you need to have 3 mandatory Views: 1. Master View, 2. Test View, 3. RAW Data View.
Why you need all of those?
- Master View: In here you have all the data you are going to advise, appropriately transformed in order to take your business decisions and actions.
- Test View: You don’t want to test new implementations or Filters or anything you have in mind, in your master view and mess up data. This is why you need this view. You will never, ever, ever report data from this view. In here you come to test a new filter, a new goal, a new setting you are planning to use in your master view. If things go as planned, you are then going to apply this setting to your reporting view.
- RAW Data: If everything is messed up, you need your back-up. This is this view’s purpose. A view with no filter applied, no specific setting, just a raw data view to use when everything went wrong.
Now, before we go further into View Settings, I feel the urge to define something important. Every setting you apply in GA, every Goal you set (we will discuss later about Goals), with every new view creation, GA does not work retroactively. When you create something new, it starts being true from the minute of creation and so on.
Starting with the View Settings, I will show you which of those you need to apply, as I did with the Property Settings, as you may have noticed. The other options you are free to discover them by your self if they are suited with your site’s requirements.
So, having said that, under View Settings you have to define your View’s Name, insert your website’s URL and select the option of excluding all hits from known bots and spiders (spam traffic).
You can also enable Site Search (if it is applicable to your site) and define your search query appearing to your URL parameters.
All the other fields are optional and they are not required to be filled, in order for your View to work properly.
Next stop: Goals. Goals measure how well your site or app fulfills your target objectives. A goal represents a completed activity, called a conversion, that contributes to the success of your business. There are 4 types of goals:
- Destination: A specific location loads.
- Duration: Sessions that lasts a specific amount of time or longer.
- Pages/Screens per session: A user views a specific number of pages.
- Events: An action defined as an Event is triggered (needs extra implementation).
Before you start adding goals to your view, you should know that there is a limit of 20 goals per reporting View for non-paid version of GA. Also, once you set up a goal, it can’t be deleted, but you can stop recording data for a goal and overwrite them if needed.
Now, let’s talk about Filters. Filters are made to personalize the data collected in each reporting view. You can create filters at the view level that apply only to that view, and you can manage account-level filters that have been applied to the view. Filters have a lot of options and you can manage almost anything you can thing. But they need to be used with caution.
Some things you need to know about Filters:
- Filters are applied in order.
- Include filters are Include Only, so they exclude every data that are not part of the specific filter.
- Once you apply a filter, your data change for life. You can remove one filter but you cannot recover previous data.
- Always test a filter to your Test View, before you apply to your Master View.
There is a lot of material in the internet about GA filters, but I prefer this one here.
Finally, you have the Ecommerce Settings, which are applied in case you have an e-store you want to track. There are two kinds of Ecommerce in Google Analytics: 1. Simple Ecommerce and 2. Enhanced Ecommerce. Enhanced Ecommerce comes with more features compared to the simple version, but requires a ton of additional implementation.
By the completion of “Google Analytics for beginners” course of CXL Institute, you should feel ready to set up a Google Analytics account from scratch using all the tips and methods presented in its content. Also, you will feel comfortable to browse through Google Analytics reports and extract the information needed, each time you have a question to answer in order to take action for your business.