GA Setup: The Basics
The tracking code automatically generated by Google Analytics only gives websites the bare bones of data tracking. This includes data elements such as:
- User and session totals
- Pageview information
- Bounce rate and session duration data
- New / Returning User breakdowns
- Geographic reporting
- Browsing device information
- Traffic source identification
In our experience with websites across numerous industries, the out-of-the-box tracking simply does not provide enough user experience data to make meaningful business decisions. Every business should expect to complete additional configurations and code setup. The beginnings of those additional configurations are present in what we refer to as a basic Google Analytics setup.
Each of your Properties in Google Analytics should have multiple reporting Views. Some of the reporting Views that Beacon frequently utilizes across many client accounts are:
- Default – All primary filters are in place; The bulk of the company’s analysis and reporting is conducted with this data
- Raw Data – No exclusion filters in place; Serves as a backup to the Default View
- Sandbox – Different set of filters than the Default View; Allows for internal testing on the live website
- Test Environment – Allows for testing and validation on the Test version of the website, before changes are published
There are additional Views that make sense for certain websites. Higher education institutions may use a View that isolates off-campus website traffic. Lead generation websites may benefit from a separate View for each device category. eCommerce websites can have a reporting View that combines offline transactions with the eCommerce transactions.
Other than filters, general settings and goal configurations should be consistent across all Views. Too often, we come across Analytics Views that do not have site search tracking properly configured. Missing this setting keeps you from leveraging a whole set of important reports.
Google Analytics and Google Search Console should both be configured for your website, and should be linked in your GA account. If you are running paid ads on Google AdWords, linking that data with Google Analytics is vital. The result of both of these account linking instances is an additional series of reports and a boost in connections between many data metrics.
Goals & Funnels
What action(s) do you ultimately want your website visitors to take? The answer to that question always needs to be represented by a website’s goal configurations. Perhaps it is one or more of these mirco conversions:
- Submitting a contact form
- Viewing an important video
- Downloading a document
- Placing a phone call
- Registering for an email list
You might have the need to configure a macro conversion, such as a purchase confirmation. Regardless of the goal conversion points on your website, they are vital to your reporting. Simply knowing average pageviews and time on site of your visitors is not a strong enough set of data points needed to make business decisions.
Event Tracking and Virtual Pageviews
While some people may consider event tracking and virtual pageviews to be advanced features of Google Analytics, we at Beacon believe that you are not using Google Analytics if you are not going beyond out-of-the-box pageview tracking. Additionally, some of the goals mentioned above might require an event or virtual pageview configuration.
Event tracking can help businesses better understand user navigation, call-to-action response, and non-pageview interactions like video views and document downloads.