If there is one section of web marketing that seems to be ignored over and over again, it's analytics. Even for people who pay attention to their site's statistics, it's very common for those users to leave everything on the default settings and just pay attention to what is in front of them without even thinking of how to delve into things that might suit them better, like Custom Reporting.
Five recent changes to Google Analytics can lead to a more effective and accurate use of the toolset and your metrics. They can save you time and headaches and make your data more meaningful.
1. Google Tag Manager
Are you in the position of having to ask your IT department or web developer to make changes to your site? Do you deal with Google Analytics, AdWords conversions, remarketing tags and more? Are you sick of having to wait for weeks for your requested changes to take effect only to find out that your developer didn't do something correctly?
If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then Google has been working on creating a tool to help you out.
This means you only have to have your developer (or IT department) put one piece of code onto your site and then you are free to create new tags and manage existing tags in one easy to use interface.
Only have Google Analytics now but thinking about doing AdWords or retargeting in the future? This is for you.
- SEW's own Thom Craver describes the Google Tag Manager in more detail
- Google Tag Manager Official Implementation Video and Description
2. Google Analytics Custom Dashboards
Google Analytics can be difficult. With so many reports and options, many people freeze up, unsure of what to do with all the data and what to look at.
With a few simple changes in the interface you can make even your executive dashboard glances much more meaningful. Although the Dashboards have long been customizable, there have been several changes recently that make that process even easier and the layouts more robust.
I would almost guarantee that if you were to spend 15-30 minutes dealing with these new functions, you would be able to come up with reports that meant more to people in your organization with only minimal knowledge.
You can now add a Custom Dashboard Layout to configure how reports will display on the screen:
And customize this further with easy to use analytics widgets:
If you're feeling more daring and want to dig deeper, Google has tapped into top Analytics users and is now providing downloadable Dashboards, Custom Reports, and Advanced Segments that can be plug and play according to your needs.
3. In-Page Analytics – Enhanced Link Attribution
If you've spent any time in Google Analytics at all, there's one complaint that comes up time and time again while trying understand traffic patterns. That complaint revolves around the fact that you might have two links on your page that lead to the same place but your not sure which gets the most clicks.
Before now, we've had to just rely on In-Page Analytics to show us a fancy overlay that only works based off of percentages to guide us. It looks something like this:
Enter Enhanced Link Attribution! By enabling Enhanced Link Attribution in your Analytics account and slightly altering the Google Analytics code that resides on your site you are now privvy to a wealth of more detailed statistics that can give you precise numbers around individual links on pages and how they performed.
Was the link more valuable in your navigation or in your content? This can give you the information you need to make your pages better.
To set this up, just go to Admin --> Property Settings. Then check the box next to Enhanced Link Attribution.
After you make a slight alteration to your Google Analytics Code, you're good to go!
4. Google Analytics Change History
For years the Change History menu in Google AdWords has been the first place that people should go to understand what has been done in their account. Match up actual changes with dates and those responsible for making those changes and you can really start to get a grasp on how your PPC dollars were spent and why.
The same can't be said for Google Analytics. Changes are made:
- Based off of data and conversations.
- To get more accurate results.
- As new options are rolled out.
- As goals and websites change.
- By various people.
Six months later you look back and your data appears differently than it did last year. But you can't remember who did what or why. Move that even further back and two years from now are you going to accurately remember why certain changes were made to your analytics account?
For most people, I doubt it.
So Google is in the process of rolling out Change History for their Analytics accounts. Fewer than 30 percent of sites I've encountered have this currently but it is coming to all accounts very soon! When it hits your account you should be able to view your complete account history by visitng your Settings and looking at the following tab:
5. Tie Google Webmaster Tools Data to Your Google Analytics
While this feature has been around for quite a while, it's somewhat shocking to log into account after account and not see these tied together. This happens all the time.
Tying these two accounts together gives you detailed statistical information that Google only gives to webmasters and make it actionable by combining this with your Analytics reporting. If your Google Webmaster Tools Account is already set up and verified then tying it to your Analytics account should take less than 30 seconds.
This gets set up in Traffic Sources --> Search Engine Optimization
You click the button and Google walks you through the process.. easy as can be.