Talking about the basics of Google Analytics
After a rigorous Part 4, part 5starts with the much awaited topics for me — Google Analytics. Since I have worked within this domain, I was particularly excited to have refresher course in the Basics of GA. My trainer for this topic was Chris “Mercer” Mercer.
We started off by understanding the importance of GA and where Google Tag manager (collecting data) and Google Studio (reporting the data) comes into play. These 3 tools combined are a powerhouse for a marketer. He then went on to explain regarding multiple reports:
- Overview reports — Provides an overview of a report type.
- Tabular reports — Heavy lifting in these type of reports. Lots of cool features to play with like secondary dimensions and filtering etc.
- Flow reports — A visual flow that doesn’t give much customization options but provides a clear view of a funnel.
After discussing the concept of dimensions (label to sort metrics) and metrics (numbers that define the dimensions) we moved to some cool features like adding a filter to the tabular report from the table search bar, changing the primary source, date ranges and sampling data. Since, GA is more practical as compared to theoretical, I have tried to capture the basic points discussed by Mercer in this course with little tips and interesting details in between.
Tip: If you go in Behavior>Site Content>All Pages — Will lead to a view of every single page that all of your visitors are seeing. If a page is not in here then it is not tracking.
- Getting to know GA —Once you enter GA dashboard, you can view the Admin section . This takes us to three 3 key points — Account, property and View.
What are these and why are they important?
- Every account will have a property. Under properties you will have atleast one view, while you can have multiple views which is largely suggested.
- Properties are like buckets of data and view will actually help sort through that bucket of data. There can be multiple properties and views within an account.
- GA doesn’t have a super admin, you can add individuals and assign authorities.
How to set it up?
- Admin>Create Account>Account name, Account type>Website name, Category, address, reporting time zone (where the cart/servers are)>Create
- The tracking code is generated after this and provides you with the connecting code
- A property is created though you can create more and then can also create more views.
- The only thing you cannot change in a property are the actual UA numbers.
Tip: Create a backup view where you apply no filters. This view will help you in creating other test views where you can play with the data without the fear of losing your data. Every view can provide an in-depth analysis related to a part of the overall offering.
2. Main reports — Real time, Audience, Acquisition, Behaviour, Conversions, E-commerce. There are multiple reports that answer very specific questions and help us gain a picture or complete our story through analytics.
a) The Realtime report: An overall view
- The real time report throws all the activity in real time which is best to test anything. The TBV (Trust but Validate) can be done through this report.
- The most useful view within this is Real time>Content as it lights up all the content currently being viewed on the site.
- The other views are — Locations to provide who is viewing the site from which country and city, Traffic sources to give a view of the sources from where users are currently on the site, Events reflect the events triggered (as per the mapping) through current user interaction with the site, Conversions to track the goal achievements (as per the mapping).
- The real time reports also provide segmentation based on one the above mentioned views and data can be seen accordingly.
b) The Audience report: Who is my user
- There are some great features of this tabular format report.
- One can dwell into the details about a specific set of users coming from desktop or mobile on safari or chrome. This can be done through advanced table filters Audience>Mobile>Overview>Secondary dimension as browser>Advanced filter — browser type and device category.
- You can get very specific answers on anything from where they live, languages they speak, age and gender, Lifetime value, returning or new user, technology used.
- Google Signals is the new version where Google’s starting to track through an actual account, a Google account level versus individual client IDs for certain reports, specifically those cross device reports that are starting to pull through now.
Tip: Users in GA are not actual individual distinct human beings. A user in GA is a client ID. This is assigned through dropping a cookie when you first visit a website. If you visit the same site from other devices, Google will assign a new client ID. In this case, you are the same individual with different client ID’s. So don’t take users as individual distinct human beings.
Tip: Create segments that will help you provide a single view for a particular type of users or sessions. They are immensely helpful in providing a better view to understand the story clearer.
c) The Acquisition reports: Where are my users coming from?
- This report tells us from where the users are landing on the site.
- The most important view in this report is Source/Medium view as it throws all the sources (brand) and medium (type) of traffic.
- It also shows how much it’s engaging and actually the quality of the traffic then ultimately what the results of those traffic sources are.
- This report also brings in the Google search console data of landing pages and explaining how the website search queries are fired by users, and Google Ads.
- It also shows all the data through the campaigns that we are running bifurcated into paid and organic.
d) The Behaviour Report: What are my users doing?
- The behaviour flow represents the flow of users from different pages within the site. This makes it visually easy to understand how the traffic is flowing and if there are any friction areas.
- The Site content>All sources view provides metrics on page views and unique page views. This is generally in a ratio of 2:1. It also defines the exit% and bounce rate.
- We can understand bounce rate as the number of sessions that were terminated after 1 page view.
- Entrances says that out of all the time a page shows up 737 times it was the landing page and the rest of the times it was somewhere else in the journey.
- Bounce rate showcases that out of those landing pages 36.01% bounced or did not move on to a second page.
- % Exit is focussed overall. So 31.36% is out of 6,798 page views. You can get this if you go into the Exit pages report. So 31.36% of the time /basket.html is the last page in a user journey.
- Events have to be force fed into GA. They are used to track specific behaviours that are not tracked by default in GA.
Tip: The numbers don’t matter that much in GA. What matters is the correlation and the story they are stitching.
e) The conversion report: What is the value of the actions taken by the customer?
- The Goals report will tell us about an achievement of a goal that we set in GA. There are many different type of goals that we can set (explained later on).
- In the Goal URL it shows which page users were on when a goal was completed.
- The reverse goal path tells us which page they were on when the goal was completed and also what pages they were on before that, so a complete journey is shown.
- The funnel visualisation report make it much much easier to understand the user flow.
- The E-commerce report shows the transactional value and metrics recorded at different steps in the e-commerce journey.
- The product performance report is the one where as a beginner one can go and understand the sales and shopping behaviour of the customers.
- The multi funnel reports helps in showing the last and final source of click and ultimately conversion. Though this is interesting to figure out how channels are contributing to conversions but it can turn into a rabbit hole early on.
Tip: You can chose to show more connections in the goal flow report that also shows users flowing back to a particular step.
Segments are really powerful within the e-commerce report.
3. Mercer then covered the settings part through account, property and view settings. This was amazing to know as some important concepts related to Google signals, data retention, session settings, organic search sources, referral exclusion list and search term exclusion list. He also explained about the site search tracking and bot filtering.
4. We then moved to an important part — Understanding Filters.
- Filters do not retro back in time and hence will show the data once they are created for the future.
- Filters are very dangerous but very powerful. Filter is associated to a view.
- Host name: subdomain, root domain and host domain
- URI: everything after the domain name.
- They way this is done is through Regex. You can read more about Regex here
- There are many filter views that one can explore: Exclude, Include, Lowercase / Uppercase, Search & Replace and Advanced filters.
Tip: Adjust your properties alphabetically to maintain a clear view.
5. Understanding traffic — The Acquisition reports will tell us about the traffic details. Some of the interesting points here were:
- The referral report can help in identifying traffic sources where we can dig deep and understand more. For eg: Which questions are getting the most traffic from Quora.
- We should add domains that need to be in the referral exclusion list. For eg — Paypal referring back to our domain after a successful transaction shouldn’t be counted as a referral traffic.
- Traffic sources should be customized to be easily understood. This can be done with the help of UTM parameters.
- We can further drill down if the UTM params are correct into the source for a particular medium. Like which podcast got traffic.
- UTM is easy to create and there are 5 categories that have to be filled in to create a working UTM: Utmsource_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign, utm_term, utm_content.
- The tagging and structure is important so that all the data is stored and showcased correctly.
- Fractured data has to be rectified in order to showcase data in a much easier to understand story. Search and Replace filters can help here.
Tip: Filters are created for a view only. However, they can be managed at the account level.
6. Understanding results — There are multiple goals that can be set. Goals tell GA to fire a result once the user achieves what is set out in the goal logic. There are multiple types of custom goals:
- Funnel — fired when a funnel is completed by the customer,
- Duration — fired when a particular duration on webpage is achieved.
- Pages per session — fired when the pages per session is greater than a desired number. This goal can be set up in the Admin>Goals>New Goal>Custom>Pages per screen/session>Enter the number of pages when you want this to be triggered>Save. After this you can trust but verify the results by firing the homepage with UTM params and then completing the required page views. The recording will take sometime in GA but can be verified.
- Event Goals: GA has to be told to store events. There is event category>Actions>Labels this is hierarchy of events in GA. For this one needs to be in Behaviour>Events and analyse top events under different categories. You can analyse multiple events with the help tag manager (to set it up). This helps to nail down everything within your product.
- E-commerce: There are two different types of E-commerce reporting — Standard and Enhanced. The standard E-commerce reporting system is a basic system that contains product and sales tracking. This is more suitable for a simple checkout system. The enhanced E-commerce reporting system is much more in-depth and allows you to track not only the standard ones but provide multiple stage tracking within the e-commerce journey. One should implement this only when the checkout journey is multiple steps.
- The destination contains the web page URL that marks the beginning of firing of the goal. This can be changed to equals to or regular expression too.
Tip: Goals can be triggered once per session.
How to find the story with GA?
The QIA framework helps in this- Question, Information and Action to be followed in this hierarchy. So what is the question that GA can answer, what Information would we need to answer this question, what Action am I going to take based on that answers. Many times people miss out on the Action part and dive straight in to GA just to find the answers.
Tip: The concept of time in GA begins with a timestamp once you land on a webpage. In case there is no next webpage that one moves to the time spent on page is counted as ‘0’, however, if you move from one page to the next page in 40 sec but stay on page 2 for 45 mins, the session duration will be ’40 secs’.
Thoughts: This course laid the foundation bricks of GA and set up the wiring behind the machinery. It was interesting to know why the data flows the way it does in GA and the real meaning and concepts of users, time, sessions, exit, bounce and many other concepts in GA. Also, I got to understand that it is not that much about the numbers but about the story and the ease of analysing the data that matters in GA. I am now on to the intermediate level of understanding Google Analytics.