Setting up a Google Analytics account so that it produces reliable data that is also actionable requires a series of customizations rather than just using it out of the box. When installing Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager or any analytics tool it is critical to configure the tool to meet your business objectives. These steps will get you 90% there!
Best steps to setup a Google Analytics Property
Creating a new Google Analytics Property
- Sign in to Google Analytics..
- Click Admin.
- Note you need Edit permission on the account to add properties.
- In the ACCOUNT column, use the menu to select the account to which you want to add the property.
If you are an agency and have a lot of accounts, use the search box to help you find the right one.*
- In the PROPERTY column, select +Create Property from the menu.
If you don’t have Edit permission on the account, you won’t see the +Create Property option. You can also +Create Account and name it TEST ACCOUNT or something understood by your entire team.
- Select Website [These instructions will be updated with the newMobile + App property settings shortly].
- Enter “TEST – Website”.
- Enter the Web Site URL.
You cannot create a property if your URL isn’t formatted correctly.
- Select an Industry Category.
- Select the Reporting Time Zone.
This will be used as the day boundary for your reports, regardless of where the data originates.
- Click Get Tracking ID.
Your property is created after you click this button, but you must set up the tracking code to collect data.
- Write down your Tracking ID
- Go View Settings and change the name to RAW – All Website Data
- Still within View Settings Copy View, name this one TEST – Customized Data
Configure Best Practice Google Analytics Settings
- Make sure the Default URL is correct. Often if a website switches from http to https this field will mistakenly still be set to http.
- Enable the “Demographics and Interest Reports” so that we get that additional data added to our account
Configure Basic View Settings
- For view settings the first step is to make sure your Website URL, timezone and currency are correct. This is a simple step but often there is a mistake in one of these spots.
- Check off the “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders” box.
- Set up site search [if the function exists on the website]. All you need to do is perform a site search on the website and look for a single letter (typically either “q” or “s”) right after the “?” and before the “=” and then input that into the field in Google Analytics.
Advanced Google Analytics Setup Steps
Standard Filters to protect from PII, duplicate data, and more
Through the years we have maintained a list of key filters we install (or wish we had) upon the start of every Google Analytics install we conduct. These filters, while many, are the best means to assure your data is clean and accurate.
- INTERNAL – These filters assure internal traffic does not make it into your profile. We also recommend adding INTERNAL – IP Filters. Find your IP Address here, or ask your admin for help. For more on how to create these filters go here.
- ISSUE – Starting with the fact that Facebook causes a few issues with Form Submits, these solve data collection issues and various nuances we run into.
- CASE – Pushes events, campaign, and other dimensions to lowercase in order to decrease duplicated traffic
- URL – Cleans up your URL into something you can show your boss
- PII – Removes various information such as emails, names and more so your account doesn’t get suspended (this is NOT a guarentee)
- SPAM – Argh, Google Analytics Spam, who would have thought?! This helps, so does the setting above. This however can be a constant unwon battle
We also have filters to clean up your some of your channel data. Particularly, social media and email traffic as often social or email traffic gets lumped into referral or direct in the channel reports. Filters also help prevent spam traffic which can be problem in a lot of the accounts that we audit. It is important to keep spam filters up to date as new forms of spam traffic are being developed as time goes by.
Another important series of filters is the force lowercase filters. We set these up for the request URI, hostname, campaign, source, medium, content, and term. These reports often get messy if this step is skipped and by forcing these fields all to lowercase we don’t have to worry about seeing the sources “google” and “Google” as separate sources with separate data. This is a common issue that happens over time, especially with campaign names, so it is important to set these filters up as early as you can
15 Preconfigured Google Analytics Goals
We setup a standard series of 15 goals for our clients accounts. Our goals are set to capture data on top funnel engagement metrics like scroll depth rate, video view percentage, time on site, and pages per visit. Then we also have middle funnel goals setup to capture metrics regarding content downloads and all form submissions.
The next step with goal setup is to think about what valuable actions users could take lower down the funnel that will be important to track. Typically here we would set up eCommerce tracking where applicable or create goals for a specific lead generation form that represents the most valuable website action.
The next step is to start creating custom segments & reports so that you can better analyze your data. This will also help you get the key insights you need faster when the out of the box Google Analytics reports aren’t enough. We suggest in addition to the steps above (and below) you also create:
- Calculated Metrics
- Custom Dimensions
Custom audiences allow you to be able to do remarketing to users in Google Ads based on your Google Analytics data. We like to setup audiences based on highly engaged users who did not submit a form but the options here are endless.
We have a series of custom dimensions that we install for clients and we use the Custom Dimension Manager For Google Analytics Add-on in Google Sheets to manage this process more efficiently. These custom dimensions allow us to get additional data into our analytics accounts that we wouldn’t have access to otherwise and by using the Google Sheets add-on we can streamline this process and be consistent every time we do this.
Summary of Google Analytics Setup
The purpose of all this is to make for CERTAIN that all changes that we make from here on out do not effect the way your current analytics property collects and therefor reports data. Once you are confident with the new settings you can transfer over to your historical data.
*NOTE: If you are a large agency with many accounts and perhaps even Properties you may want to schedule some time with a specialist instead of moving forward with these generic steps
Other Bonus Points are to Link your AdWords as well as Google Search Console
Step 2) Setup Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager is a great way to scale managing tracking pixels as your marketing needs and sophistication evolve over time. Google Tag Manager also excels when doing a Google Analytics install because it allows you to add custom event tracking consistently. We have built a custom GTM container that has all of our event tracking loaded in it so that we can get our clients consistent event tracking extremely efficiently.