Google Analytics is a monster tool. It’s so powerful and offers a wealth of insight, but it can be terrifying to use. Admit it, you’re at least a little intimidated when you think about setting up goals and tracking conversions.
But if you know how to get the metrics you need, Google Analytics will become your ally. In this post, we’ll walk through how to track specific metrics and dimensions so you can focus your time on driving growth instead of wrangling data.
“If you measure the wrong thing, you set the wrong targets and if you aim at the wrong target you arrive in the wrong place. Even tiny mistakes in how we measure can lead to terrible outcomes.” Kenny Fraser, Web Analytics World
A quick introduction to Google Analytics
Google Analytics is a free analytics platform that enables a wide range of metrics and user behaviors to be tracked and monitored on your website. Once installed on your site, you can use GA to track your visitors’ journey as they navigate the pages of your website. This allows you to build a holistic view of where they’re coming from (acquisition sources), their browsing patterns (what pages they’re visiting), and eventually how they arrive at a specified goal (where they converted from).
For any website owner or marketer, Google Analytics will answer most questions related to the performance of your website. If you use Geckoboard, our integration makes it possible to monitor this data in real-time on your own Google Analytics TV dashboard.
Google Analytics can be used to track a wide range of behaviors on a website, which can be overwhelming. To help paint a simpler picture, Geckoboard’s integration can be configured in a variety of ways making it easy to visualize your website data. Some of the more popular use cases for using Google Analytics data include:
- Tracking the number of visitors coming to your website over time to measure the general health of your marketing efforts
- Monitoring which traffic sources are referring the most traffic to your site today
- Tracking revenue generated by your website and seeing whether this has increased or decreased compared to the previous time period
- Visualizing engagement metrics, such as number of content shares, number of products added to a shopping basket or clicks on a specific button on your website
Each business and website is different, and the metrics you choose to monitor should reflect your most pressing goals. If you want a little inspiration, you can take a look at the metrics our marketing team tracks and see their live dashboard (containing dummy data for example purposes). For more information on how to choose metrics that matter, check out our interview with Brad Feld, Managing Director at Foundry Group.
Image source: online-behavior
Gathering visitor data and viewing it on Geckoboard is straightforward. Note: You will need a live website and the ability to make edits to its template code in order to start tracking data. If you don’t have a Geckoboard account, you can try Geckoboard for free for 30 days - no credit card required.
Sign up up for a Google Analytics account or sign in to an existing Google account if you have one. If you have a Google Apps for Business account and you are tracking your business’s website data, you will want to use this.
Grab your unique tracker code and add it to your website. Verify data is being pushed through to Google Analytics by visiting your website and loading up your Google Analytics dashboard. You should begin to see data being logged within a few seconds. Read more about how to set up your tracking code here.
Log in to Geckoboard and authorize your Google Analytics account by clicking ‘Add Widget’ and selecting Google Analytics from the list of integrations. You’ll be prompted to log in to your Google Analytics account and grant Geckoboard access to your data via a popup window.
Once you have your tracking code set up and your Google Analytics account connected to Geckoboard, you’ll be able to build widgets and manipulate your data for monitoring going forward.
In all Google Analytics widgets you’ll be prompted to configure a combination of the following:
- Title - Describe what it is your widget is displaying.
- Size - Select the size of your widget.
- Account - Select or connect a Google Analytics account to pull data from. You can connect multiple Google Analytics accounts to Geckoboard.
- Website - Select the website you wish to display data for. See here for more information on setting up multiple websites and profiles.
- Profile - Select the website profile you wish to display data for. See here for more information on setting up multiple websites and profiles.
- Metric - Each widget has a range of metrics it can display. Select the metric you wish to track here.
- Segment - View data for a particular visitor segment, e.g Returning users.
- Filter By Device - Restrict your data to visitors from a specific category of device
- Filters - Apply a filter to further define the data you want to view. See the ‘Filters’ section later in this guide for more information and examples.
- Period - Define the time period you wish to view data for.
- Secondary Output - Add a secondary visualization to your widget to give added context to your metric, for example how the metric has changed over the time period relative to the previous time period.
- Secondary Output Period - Define the time period your (optional) secondary output reports on.
Standard Widgets vs Real-Time
Geckoboard connects to both standard and real-time Google Analytics data. Widgets that contain the word ‘Current’ in their descriptions (e.g Current Sources List) will show the most recent data available to Geckoboard, and update approximately every three and a half minutes. Standard widgets will refresh every 15-30 minutes and display data for the period you have defined when setting them up.
The ability to filter the data you visualize on your dashboard is a useful feature built into most of Geckoboard’s Google Analytics visualizations (sometimes called widgets) using Google’s own powerful Filter API. Filters are short statements that you can apply within a Google Analytics widget that give you added flexibility to refine the data to display exactly the metric you want.
For example, let’s say you’re interested in building a Current Visitors Count visualization that displays the number of visitors currently on the contact page on your website. By default, the widget will pull through the total number of visitors across the whole of the website you’re tracking with Google Analytics.
However, applying the filter ga:pageTitle==Contact would allow you to refine the data to only display the visitors currently on your page titled ‘Contact.’ Where available, filters can be applied from within your widget’s setup screen by adding a filter statement to the ‘Filters’ field when editing a visualization in Geckoboard.
“Just because Google Analytics doesn’t have a built-in feature for tracking what you want, don’t settle for something less at the cost of the quality of your metrics. Instead, use GA’s vast capabilities in the form of custom metrics, custom dimensions, and more.” – Joe Christopher, Blast Analytics & Marketing
BUILDING A FILTER STATEMENT: DIMENSIONS AND METRICS
A filter statement consists of several elements that tell the widget exactly what data needs to be displayed. The cornerstone of this statement is the dimension or metric that the widget is supposed to filter, such as the source of traffic or the URL of a specific page.
A full range of metrics and dimensions can be found here. Almost all of these can be added and even combined within a filter statement to create a very specific set of data within a visualization.
Popular dimensions and metrics include:
BUILDING A FILTER STATEMENT: OPERATORS
Operators work with metrics and dimensions to allow you to specify how your data should be manipulated. For example, if you’ve selected ‘city’ as the dimension you’re interested in, do you want to include only data from a specific city, exclude data from a specific city, include only data from a specific list of cities, or display data from cities that contain a specific word? Operators let you take the basic ‘city’ data and do much more with it than simply showing it.
BUILDING A FILTER STATEMENT: STRINGS AND VALUES
The final part of a filter statement is the string or value. Set at the end, the string or value lets you define a specific value for the metric you’re basing your filter on, for example an individual city, date, page title or traffic source. The string or value should match those available for the metric you’ve defined in the first part of the statement, i.e if your metric is ‘city’ you must choose the name of a city to filter or else you will trigger an error.
Filters can also be combined using AND as well as OR logic to create a powerful tool for monitoring very specific elements of your website.
Example: Visitors using either Windows OR Macintosh operating systems: ga:operatingSystem== Windows,ga:operatingSystem== Macintosh
The OR operator is defined using a comma (,). It takes precedence over the AND operator and may NOT be used to combine dimensions and metrics in the same expression.
Example: Country is United Kingdom AND the source is Facebook: ga:country==United%20 Kingdom;ga:browser==Facebook
The AND operator is defined using a semi-colon (;). It is preceded by the OR operator and CAN be used to combine dimensions and metrics in the same expression. (Source)
Here are some example filters to get you started.
|ga:source==twitter||Traffic source is Twitter|
|ga:keyword==geckoboard||Referring keyword is ‘geckoboard’|
|ga:pageTitle==Contact||Title of page is ‘Contact’ (exact match)|
|ga:pagePath=~contact||URL of page contains ‘contact’ anywhere|
|ga:country==United Kingdom||Country is United Kingdom|
|ga:country==United Kingdom;ga:city!=London||Country is United Kingdom and City is not London|
|ga:eventCategory==DownloadReport,ga:eventCategory==DownloadCaseStudy||Show all events with the category DownloadReport or DownloadCaseStudy|
|ga:eventCategory==DownloadReport,ga:eventLabel!=ShareCaseStudy||Show all events with the category Download but not Label ShareCaseStudy|
Visualizing Your Google Analytics Data
Having access to loads of data is pointless if you don’t track it and act on it regularly. Visualizing your key Google Analytics metrics on a live TV dashboard encourages data-based decisions and helps you react to opportunities and problems in real-time.
We’ve put together a variety of dashboards as examples for what you might want to create. Take a look and get inspiration for your own dashboard!
- Web Analytics Dashboard
- Marketing Overview Dashboard
- Digital Marketing Dashboard
- Social Media Monitoring Dashboard
- Adwords Marketing Dashboard
- SEO Dashboard
- SaaS Dashboard
PS. Ready to take your learning further? There’s a number of useful resources to help explain the hundreds of other ways to get the most out of Google Analytics. As always, send an email to email@example.com if you have any questions.