Getting started with Google Analytics

03 Dec

Getting started with Google Analytics
I’m certainly no expert at Google Analytics, but recognize that many people and businesses use it as their tool of choice for reporting. I also happen to be friends with one of the best kept secrets of someone who really knows their stuff when it comes to all things GA.

Recently, with so many clients choosing to commit fully to GA, I thought it would be a good move on my part to make sure I can stay on top of all the things I needed to know. I dropped Alex an email asking him four simple questions, but what I got back was a plethora of information that I feel is great stuff that everyone should know at a basic level.

So here goes:

QUESTION ONE: Are there any blogs/sites that I should read on a regular basis?

Ours of course! Luna Metrics Blog
Official blog: Google Analytics Blog
Two major thought leaders (who now work for Google):

Big blogs in industry:

QUESTION TWO: Are there any pre-built reports that I should always have?

There is now a whole new gallery of reports that other people have built for the “Customization” section of GA.
You’ll find this gallery here: GA Report Gallery

I would go and create a bunch of custom Advanced Segments that you know you’re always going to use. Always create a segment for your branded/non-branded Paid keywords. (Make sure that AdWords is connected properly between GA and AdWords.)
Also, create segments for specific referrals that you care about, or specific host names if there are more than one website tracking into the same property.

QUESTION THREE: Are there certain things I should always look for in GA?

As mentioned, make sure that AdWords is connected and sharing the right data. Make sure that you have a “view” (profile) that is just for unfiltered data, and I always create a view for testing. This way you can experiment with advanced filters without breaking anything in your historic data.

Also, you’ll want to make sure that at least some Goals are turned on! So many people use GA without having Goals setup. And Goals can have values… if you don’t have an actual value, just make one up! It enables a few more metrics in the reports like “Page Value”, which can be a great comparison metric.

Make sure site search is turned on for your website and that you don’t have self-refferals going on.
Make sure that if you have multiple domains tracking into the same property, that you prepend the host name to the page paths, using an advanced filter. You’ll find plenty of information about how to do that if you Google “prepend host name advanced filter GA”, or something similar.

You might not have to do it though, so ONLY do it if you have multiple page paths showing up as “/“, for example, when you have the host name secondary dimension applied in the page path report.

Make sure that you’re properly filtering out your internal traffic, and that you are lower casing all your page paths and (probably) campaign information.

Test out your filters in the test view before you take the dive with the main view.

QUESTION FOUR: Are there certain nuances about GA that I need to know about that only experience can tell?

Sure there are! A big one is to understand the conceptual difference between the Audience/Acquisition reports, which are based on visits/sessions, and the Behavior reports, which are based on page views. Also, understand that Advanced Segments are based on sessions, which means that when you create an advanced segment that says, traffic only to this page, you’ll actually be seeing visits that included traffic to that page. It’s an important distinction a lot of people get wrong.

Finally, you need to understand sampling, especially since you’re dealing with large websites. Understand what it is, how it changes your data, and techniques to avoid seeing sampling in your reports.

Check here for more info: Solutions to Google Analytics Sampling Problems

Thanks again to Alex for providing this great insight on how a someone can quickly ramp up, know where to go in order to stay current with what is going on in GA Land, and know what to look for when creating a report – GREAT STUFF!

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Get his thoughts at his blog ( or follow him on Twitter (@semconsulting) G+ (

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