How to Make The Most Out of Google Analytics – Part 1

At our recent Forum event I gave a presentation on how to make the most out of Google Analytics. For those who missed it or would like a recap, I’ve written a two-part blog on the same topic. 

Google Analytics can be a scary thing when you first start using your account.  There are numbers everywhere, with no real explanation of what data means what.  By default, Google Analytics grabs as much data about people using your site as it can, and it just lays it out there for you to fiddle with.  Read on and I’ll let you know how to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty with it.

First of all, Don’t Be Afraid

Google Analytics - they’re just numbers! Remember that - and once you have a raw data view (referenced a bit later in this post) you should feel free to experiment because you cannot break it. 

Google works a bit backward than what you would think…It actually sifts data coming in from the front, only allowing data in based on your filters, and then finally processing into your views.

Unfortunately, this means that any filters or alterations made are permanent, since Google Analytics does not retain any data that is filtered out after processing.

Making Sure You Have the Right Data

The first priority on the road to making sure you are getting the right data is to make sure that the Google Analytics code is added to your site. 

You can get this code from the admin section under the middle property column under tracking code.

Is Data Coming In?
There are two really easy ways to find out if data is coming in after the code is installed on your site. 

In the same admin area shown above, Google Analytics will show your tracking status.

Additionally, you should be able to see current users in the Real Time report.  This report shows you what the analytics code is sending to analytics for current activity on your site.

Is the Data Correct?
To verify if your data is correct, I usually go to pages throughout the site and verify that each page is coming through correctly real time.  These pageviews can also be triggered from a crawler to save time. 

To be extra nerdy, you can download the Tag Assistant and Google Analytics debugger in Google Chrome.

Tag Assistant will show you all tags that are on the page, so you can verify that any analytics code is phoning home correctly. You can even use it to record and analyze a flow, meaning it will show you all the pageviews in your session.

Analytics Debugger will actually show you the specific code that is sent out and received by google by looking at the console within your browser.

Is Ecommerce turned on? (If you have ecommerce)
I’ve seen this issue often. While just adding the code to each page will give you pageviews, you indeed have to turn on ecommerce and add the ecommerce code to a confirmation page to get ecommerce data to be sent to analytics.

This can be found in the Admin Section under “Ecommerce Settings”.

Making Sure You Have Clean Data

Once we know that our site is reporting data correctly, we next have to focus on having clean data.  What do we mean by clean data? With a new account, we are allowing all data to be retained, and we don’t really want this.  There are visits from website crawlers, spammy fake pageviews, and internal company traffic to get rid of.  How do we do this?  By creating a filtered view.

What Are Views?
Views are a subset of account data in analytics

For each login in Google Analytics, you can have multiple accounts (100 max), multiple properties (50 max), and multiple views (25 max).

Create Your Views
We will focus on creating 3 distinctive views

Raw data view is just that… untouched data that is coming in to analytics.  We treat this as our backup data.

Test data view is our view that is used to test all new changes, be it settings, filters or any other modification of data.

Filtered view is our main view.  This view is set up once with the filters and settings we are 100% sure are viable (copied from the test view once tested), and then we use the test view for any other changes.  Make sure to seldom change this since it holds our viable data.

At, we do this for every client when we create new sites – and we can do it for your site also.  Contact your account manager for details.

Don’t forget to return for part two of this blog post, where we will discuss how to maintain your data, analyze it and learn what to look out for!

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