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With your upcoming redesign, you’ll be addressing new priorities and objectives. This will require you to rethink the ways in which you’re tracking various goals and events. You may even need to update to the latest GA tracking code type if you’re not already using it.
Google Analytics needs to be addressed from the earliest planning phase. If not, things could get ugly but quick. If you don’t have a sound Google Analytics plan in place before you re-launch, you may experience a tracking lapse and lose valuable data.
Even with the best planning, it can be easy to forget small but important details. And since I’d hate to see things go south on you, I’d like to share some tips to help ensure that your redesign goes off without data related hitch. So, here goes….
Tip #1: Assess your objectives and tracking needs.
There is no more important step than knowing what you need to track (and why). Without a tracking strategy, you can check off the rest of the items on your list and still end up with sub-par analytics. Relate website analytics to the business objectives, and allow that to drive the tracking strategy.
For many Higher Ed clients with whom we work, this means gaining a clear understanding of objectives per audience type. While prospective students are typically the most critical audience, you cannot forget to account for current students, alumni, etc.
In the world of eCommerce, the tracking strategy involves taking a look at what happens that might or might not lead to a purchase. Are the calls-to-action effective? Is the product page template driving people to add to cart and buy? The tracking must help answer such questions.
Tip #2: Create a reference of all potential tracking elements.
This is not just a simple list of what you wish to track. Rather, it is a helpful planning tool (which can also be utilized any time that tracking updates are needed). This document should help answer question such as:
- What should be tracked as an event? Virtual pageview? Goal?
- For which interactions will you need a custom dimension?
- What page elements are tied to each tracking element?
If there are multiple people involved in the project including web developers, this reference document helps get everyone on the same page.
Tip #3: Use Google Tag Manager for all tracking elements.
Anyone involved in a redesign knows that web developers never have enough available time. Google Tag Manager can greatly reduce the need for web development resources and make the digital analyst’s time more efficient. In a 2016 Beacon survey, we found that two-thirds of higher education institutions were using Google Tag Manager. Based on our projects over the past 12 months, that percentage is growing rapidly.
The best aspect of implementing Google Analytics for redesign through Google Tag Manager is the independence gained by not having to submit updates to the web development team. Sync up with the redesign launch’s timing so that you can make necessary changes for the live site.
Tip #4: Utilize goals, site search, etc.
Believe it or not, we have come across quite a few websites that under-utilize these features (or are not using them at all!). Imagine not having any site search data. How would you know which content is difficult for your users to find? And what if you had no goals and were guessing at your website’s effectiveness?
These all need to be configured when building out the tracking for the redesign test environment. That allows for time to test and validate these tracking features before the redesigned site goes live. Speaking of testing and validating…
Tip #5: Test and validate all of your tracking!
The live site is not meant for testing. You are dealing with a new site that has new tracking elements. While the designers and developers are putting the finishing touches on the redesigned site, utilize the reference document to test and validate all tracking that you have implemented in Google Tag Manager. This gives ample time for you to make any necessary updates and retest.
Once the website is launched, you will need to repeat the same exercises from the pre-launch testing and validation. During both pre and post-launch, the Real-Time reporting in Google Analytics can help with pageview, event, and goal tracking. Also, be sure to check for session continuity during your testing. For the rest of your tracking instances (and to double-check behind Real-Time reporting) utilize the many standard reports provided in your Google Analytics view.
A Final Tip
Start with a Google Analytics audit. I encourage you to reach out to a Beacon team member at 1.888.995.7672 with any inquiries. Please feel free to contact me with any questions regarding your website redesign and proper Google Analytics set up. And once your new site is live and information is flowing with no interruption, there is one thing you simply must do. Walk across the street to your nearest watering hole and have a congratulatory drink for a job well done.