1. Set up Your Reporting Suites Correctly
This is often the first thing that is NOT done correctly, especially if you use subdomains. How your site configuration is set up is critical to getting the best data possible. If you have multiple sites that live at subdomains you may be tracking them in different reporting suites. It is my opinion that you want to track all of this under one roof and then set up sub-profiles to track different areas of your site and subdomains. The benefit of having this all under one reporting suite is that you can have one giant roll-up report. This comes in handy if you are looking at overall metrics or traffic for advertising purposes.
To fix this go into your Google Analytics settings for the main domain you want the have the profiles under and click on the Tracking Info tab. Then under Website Tracking switch the toggle for Subdomains of Your Website to On. You will notice that the tracking code listed below will update to add a line that looks like
_gaq.push(['_setDomainName', 'yourdomain.com']);. You can now take that tracking script and put that on ALL of your web properties that use a subdomain of your main URL. You can then go into that report and build new profiles for each sub-domain, and even areas of your site based on top level folders. This will allow you to have one main report to see all the traffic to your website with the ability to see just portions as necessary.
Bonus Tip: You can even then permission other users to just certain profiles. So your events group may only have access to meeting subdomain, but not the entire site.
WARNING: If you do this, the data will not import from the other reports. So don’t delete the other reporting suites after you update your tracking script. You will have some period of time where you will be referencing the old reporting suite as you look at performance month over month or year over year.
2. Collect Site Search Terms
Google Analytics already collects the search terms visitors use to GET to your website. This is about collecting the terms people use when searching on your website. If your website has a search box you should be collecting the terms that visitors are using to find content on your website. To enable this you need to change a setting and know the search query parameter used on your website.
First, type a search query into the search box on your website and execute it. Look at the URL of the search results page and you will see a parameter after the search results page. Often this something like search.html/?q=my+search+term. You will want to remember the “q” in this example. Your query parameter may be different.
Second, log into Google Analytics and go to your website profile. Click on the profile you want to enable the search tracking on. Then click on the Profile Settings tab. Scroll down until you see the section for Site Search Settings. Click the radio button to Do Track Site Search. A Query parameter field will appear. Type the query parameter in that field and click Save. In our example it was the letter “q”.
3. Enable In-Page Analytics – Enhanced Version
This is a great new enhancement that Google Analytics has recently added. Today websites often have multiple links to the same page on a single webpage. An example of this is redundant navigation like an About Us, or Contact Us link in your header and footer of your website. Looking at In-Page Analytics reports previously would show the same metric for the same link in the header and footer. You couldn’t tell if it was the link in the header driving more clicks or the one in the footer. With the enhanced version of In-Page Analytics you can now separate that out. This requires a small change to your analytics code and you have to enable it in the Property Settings in the Admin area.
Follow these instructions for modifying your tracking code.
Once implemented you will be able to have a better understanding of click traffic on a particular page and on each individual link.
4. Filter Your Internal IP Address
A best practice for Google Analytics is to have one master profile that captures all the data possible. You then set up other profiles based on filters to segment part of your site into more detailed reports or to share access to specific people or departments. One of those filters you want to set up is to exclude your internal traffic from your office. While your internal traffic my not skew the data too much by counting your traffic on the site with all external visitors, it is a best practice to exclude your behavior. To do this you can set up a new profile under your website reporting suite and use the Filter feature to exclude data from your IP address or IP address range using a regular expression. Sound complicated? Use this tool to get the expression correct. If you are a small business and work out of your house you may not be able to filter this out.
WARNING: Filters are tricky because they can include or exclude data into a profile. Unlike Advanced Segments which can filter data based on criteria to view set up and can be turned on and off, Filters only collect the data determined by the set up process. In simple terms if you set up a filter you can’t “undo” it and see the rest of the data again. It is either collected or not. Period.
5. Connect Google Webmaster Tools
There are several other Google tools you can connect into Google Analytics to track performance of your marketing efforts. While you want to see what people are looking for on your site, you also want to know how your site is performing in the search results. Google Webmaster Tools collects data that tells you exactly that. Examples are how many times does your site come up in search results, at what rank, and on what keywords. If you don’t already have a Google Webmaster Tools account, sign up for one using the same Google Account information you have for Google Analytics. You will need to verify the website you want to track, so be sure to follow the directions on how to do that.
Once you have an account set up and have verified your website, you can connect your Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools account by going to Traffic Sources > Search Engine Optimization > Queries. This will prompt you to connect your accounts. After they are connected the key data from Google Webmaster Tools regarding how your site is seen on the Web will be pulled into Google Analytics.
If you follow these tips you will have better data to analyze and track the performance of your website. Analytics can be intimidating and it is easy to not trust the numbers. If you know you are gathering the best data to start with you can trust the reports and make the best business decisions possible. Happy analyzing.