Analytics is an incredibly powerful tool, but sadly one that often gets pushed to the side in many SMEs. Entrepreneurs tend to either go with their gut feelings, or do not have the time to set up and look at their data correctly.
But are they making a big mistake? At Harvest, data is at the heart of everything that we do. So we often wonder, why do so many businesses not use the data that is available to them?
Often it’s because that data wasn’t set up correctly in the first place. So, here’s how you can set up your analytics, single handedly but also, correctly.
First thing’s first.
You should be using Google Tag Manager, not Google Analytics
I know, you’re thinking ‘what is this guy talking about’? But bear with me for a second.
What I mean by this is, you should be using Google Tag Manager (GTM) as a container for all your other code.
Google Analytics is incredibly powerful, but when you’re making changes to your site, it can be hard to keep track of what code is implemented across which pages. Updating your header section can be costly, and time consuming.
Instead, Google Tag Manager lets you update not just Google Analytics, but also any other tracking codes you might want to use (Quantcast Measure, Facebook Pixels, AdWords Conversion Tracking, remarketing pixels, Doubleclick Floodlight etc. The list is endless)
What you should be doing is having the GTM code on every page, and then using the Google Analytics tag inside your GTM. Make sense?
Okay so what’s next? Oh.
Set up your goals correctly
There are many different ways that you can track goals in Google Analytics. Unfortunately, this often means that goals are set up incorrectly, with many business owners not knowing which type of goal to use for a specific conversion.
Let’s start with the basic goal and work up to the more complex ones.
URL destination goal
This is the simplest goal, and is often used on ecommerce sites. URL destination goals keep track of the number of times a specific URL is visited. Each time a page is visited, the goal is triggered.
Typically, this type of goal is perfect for confirmation pages, thank you page and PDFs.
Be careful when setting this up, as certain checkboxes can render this goal value useless. For example, pay attention to the case sensitive box and the match type box.
You should only need to tick the case sensitive box if your uppercase and lowercase URLs go to more than one page. Most people will need to leave this unchecked. As for match type, this is where it becomes trickier. Exact match will match that exact URL and nothing else. This means that if you’re adding utm codes, unique IDs, or query strings, this goal will not trigger.
However, head match will track any visit to a URL regardless of what comes after the URL. This means it will ignore utm codes, unique IDs and the like. Make sure you are using this type of match type if you use a lot of query parameters or session IDs.
The final match type is Regular Expression (RegEx), which is for analytics pros. If you haven’t got anyone that can help you with analytics set up, there is a great online course that you can use to learn RegEx here.
You can also get more information on the match types here.
The other type of goal that you’ll probably use is Event Goals. These are usually slightly more complicated to set up, because you’ll need to set up the events first. However, once the events are set up, you can easily select any event as a goal.
If you’re not sure how to set up an event, Google Analytics have their own Event Tracking Guide here.
Event tracking can be used for almost anything, including tracking external links, downloads, time spent watching videos, social media buttons and widget usage.
However, you can’t use event goals in a funnel, as every step of the funnel needs to be a URL.
There are other types of goals as well, but these will come at a later stage once you’ve mastered the first two types. However, once you’ve set your goals set up, you need to move onto the next step.
Make sure you track the right metrics
Once you’ve done all of this, you should be ready to draw insights from your data. However, this only works if you know what to look out for.
So what metrics should you be tracking, and how can you draw insight from them? Well, let’s take a look.
Conversions are the most important metric on your site. If you’re not selling your product or service, you won’t be in business for very long.
Whilst the total number of conversions is important, don’t forget to also take a look at your conversion rate as well. This will give you an indication of the overall success rate of converting visitors on your site.
In order to have conversions, you need to have goals set up. But luckily, if you’ve been following this article, you should have done that already.
For ecommerce sites, your primary conversion will be sales. However, you can have secondary goals, such as newsletter signups and enquiries. Obviously, the higher conversion rate the better.
If you find that your site has a low conversion rate compared to the industry average, you might want to have better calls to action, or stronger content.
If you’re happy with the level of conversions you’re getting, it’s time to widen your metric net, so to speak. Next up, try looking at your traffic sources. You should be evaluating where your traffic is coming from so that you know where to focus your efforts. Traffic sources are found under the Acquisition tab in Google Analytics. Google breaks this down into six sources for most accounts. Organic search, Direct, Referral, Social and Paid Search.
You can learn more about the channel types here.
In an ideal world, these channels will all be balanced. However, that rarely works out. Instead, look at what isn’t working and try to fix that. For example, if your organic search traffic isn’t converting, you may need to try and optimise your landing pages a bit more.
Exit pages are incredibly important and often overlooked. An exit page does what it says on the tin, and is the page that people exit your site from.
Exit pages can be found in Behaviour > Site Content > Exit Pages.
Constantly monitoring your exit pages is a great way to check for bugs in your site. For example, if you see that a lot of people are exiting your site during the checkout process, you may find that the checkout process is broken, frustrating users and causing them to leave. Once you’ve done all this, you should have your analytics all set up correctly. Make sure that you routinely check your data to see what is working for you and what is not.
Billy Leonard is a Senior Content and Outreach Executive at Harvest Digital. When he’s not working on client work, he sings loudly in the middle of the office.