June 3, 2013

Better Google Analytics

Jay Buys • Chief Executive Officer

Every site we build these days has a Google Analytics tracking code.  You setup the account, drop the JavaScript into the page template and you’re good to go, right?  Well, sort of.  The baseline setup will get you some great stats but with all of the features that Google Analytics has, shouldn’t we be doing more for our clients?  The answer is of course yes… so here are a few quick tips and tricks you can use to do a better job at analytics.


When viewing any report in Google Analytics, just double-click on a date and you’ll be allowed to enter an annotation.  These notes can be anything, such as “landing page redesign”, “monthly email blast sent”, or “AdWords campaign launched”.  You can then use these while reviewing your analytics data to see whether or not certain events affected your traffic.


The Intelligence Events section of Google Analytics will allow you to setup custom alerts that will trigger an email (and/or a text message to your mobile phone) when certain criteria are met.  This can easily help you monitor traffic spikes (or drop-offs), expected traffic sources, conversion goals, or even revenue increases on e-commerce sites.  Just click “Intelligence Events” from the sidebar navigation to see the automatic alerts already built in along with a “Custom Alerts” tab for setting up your own.

Event Tracking

Google Analytics has a lot of built in tracking but there are times when you may need to track something specific and custom to your site.  For example, Google will automatically track page views for a quiz page but if you want to track how many visitors passed the quiz vs. how many failed you could do that via custom event tracking.  Other common scenarios include tracking video players, external links and file downloads.  See Google’s Event Tracker Guide for technical setup information.  You can also use JavaScript to automate the addition of custom tracking items for things like email links and file downloads.

Custom Variables

Being able to segment your data is an incredibly valuable tool and while Google gives you a lot of great options out of the box there are often times when you might want to segment your data by a custom value.  On a blog for example, you may wish to see which author(s) posts get the most traffic or which categories/tags are viewed most.  By adding some simple custom variables into your tracking code you can easily capture this data for using in your reports.

Google’s own Custom Variable page has all the technical details you need but it’s really just as simple as adding a line of code like the one below to your page.

_gaq.push([‘_setCustomVar’,1,’Author’,’Jay Buys’,3]);

You can create variables for pretty much anything…

  • Tracking whether or not a user is logged in
  • Tracking product codes or SKUs on an e-commerce site
  • Tracking customer loyalty (based on unique visits, number of purchases, number of comments, etc.)

Use your imagination and figure out what data will be most valuable for you and your clients.

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