Installing Google Analytics on your site is a can’t-miss step. Once you have Google Analytics (or GA) up and running, there are 5 things I like to do post-implementation to make reports easier and more accurate.
Build a Second Profile.
You should always leave one GA profile entirely unedited – this ensures you have a raw data set to compare to in case you accidentally mess up your tracking in another profile. All of the changes I’m suggesting in this post should be made in a second profile; you’ll mainly be using this second profile to look at data, but the raw data will be there as a safety measure. Many people also create a third profile to test out new filters before adding them to their main reporting profile.
To create a second profile:
- Go to the Analytics Settings page and click “Add Website Profile.”
- Select “Add a Profile for an existing domain.” The URL for your site should display under “Please provide the URL of the site you would like to track.”
- Add your Profile Name and click Finish.
Data from your new profile may take a day or so to start displaying, but then you’ll be good to go.
Exclude Your Internal IP Range.
Filtering out your internal IP address range will give you a much more accurate idea of what kind of traffic you’re driving to your site, since your employees’ activities on-site will be excluded. You can usually get your IP address range from your IT team or web services provider.
To filter out your Internal IP range, go to the Analytics Settings page and click “Edit” next to the Profile from which you’re excluding internal IP traffic.
- Under “Filters Applied to Profile,” click “+Add Filter.”
- Select “Add new filter for profile.” Name your profile something like “Exclude Internal IP” and select “Predefined filter.”
- Select “Exclude” “Traffic from the IP addresses” “that begin with” and then input the numbers that all IP addresses in your range have in common (typically all but the last 2)
- Repeat for as many addresses or address ranges as you have and Save Changes.
You have goals in mind for your site, right? (Right???) GA provides you with an easy way to track these goals. This is especially nice if you’re reporting on the same things regularly – rather than having to make multiple clicks to dig out the data once a week/month/etc, we can go to the Goals section and view all of our Goals’ performance instantly.
To set up Goals, go to the Analytics Settings page and click “Edit” next to the Profile for which you’re setting goals.
Under Goals, set up the metrics you’d like to track based on things like URL destination, time on site or pages per visit. You can set up to 20 goals in sets of up to 5 goals each. For more on this topic, read https://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?answer=55515&hl=en_US.
Force Lowercase in URLs.
Chances are you don’t much care if someone types in www.YourSite.com instead of www.yoursite.com. Guess what? GA does! If left in its default settings, it will display these as two different URLs in your Content reports, muddying your data. To change this, we need to force GA to display URLs in all lowercase letters, eliminating duplicates.
To force lowercase, go to the Analytics Settings page and click “Edit” next to the Profile for which you’re forcing lowercase.
- Under “Filters Applied to Profile” select “+add Filter.”
- Select “Add new filter for Profile.” Name your filter something like “force lowercase” and select “Custom filter.”
- Select “Lowercase.” Under “Filter Field,” select “Request URI” and Save Changes.
Display Full URLs in Referral Data.
When tracking referrals from other sites, Google Analytics aggregates referrals by domain. This can be useful, but sometimes you want an at-a-glance report of exactly what pages are sending traffic to your site so you can track link building and other efforts.
To get Google Analytics to display full Referral URLs, head back to the “add Filter” screen. Name your filter something like “full referrer URL.”
- Under “Filter Type” select “Custom filter” and then “Advanced.”
- Under “Field A -> Extract A” select Referral from the drop-down menu, and then enter (.*) in the box next to it. This will select all your referral data.
- Leave “Field B -> Extract B” blank.
- Under “Output To -> Constructor” select User Defined from the drop-down menu, and then enter “$A1” in the box next to it.
- Field A is required, Field B isn’t. Override Output Field: Yes. Case Sensitive: No.
When you’ve saved this filter, you can start viewing your full referral data by selecting “User Defined” under “Visitors” in the regular Google Analytics reporting navigation.
These second steps may take a bit to set up, but once you have them in place they can make your life a lot easier.