Gus Kroustalis

About Gus Kroustalis

Gus has an MBA from Elon University and brings seven years of experience in sales and marketing analytics to the Beacon team. He is the lead Google Analytics Strategist, which includes implementation and setup of GA for clients as well as management of Beacon’s GAFUSION product. Outside of his work at Beacon, Gus has been cooking at the Winston-Salem Greek Festival for over a decade, coaches high school basketball, and still believes that the best movies were filmed in the 80s. Connect with Gus on Google+.
3 08, 2017

Redesign Tips: Make Sure Google Analytics is in Tip-Top Shape!

By | 2017-08-04T10:36:57+00:00 August 3rd, 2017|Categories: Google Analytics|Tags: , , |

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.

15 06, 2017

Going Into a Redesign: How Google Analytics Reports Can Help

By | 2020-01-29T16:18:35+00:00 June 15th, 2017|Categories: Google Analytics|Tags: , |

Would you read The Two Towers before The Fellowship of the Ring? Watch Godfather III before The Godfather? Of course not. You need context to get the most out of any sequel.

The same is true with a website redesign.

With a new redesign, you may hope to accomplish a number of important objectives including:

  • Improving compatibility with mobile devices
  • Updating styling strategy
  • Implementing a new content strategy
  • Providing more nimble page template capabilities

One things is for certain. Your website needs to accomplish its underlying goals at a more successful rate after the re-launch. You need to leverage all the information currently at your disposal including your website’s past performance. Your website’s analytics is a great source for this information. For websites undergoing a redesign, Google Analytics should be required reading.

Google Analytics offers a wealth of data related to website visitor activity. Tracking features beyond GA’s out-of-the-box solution takes that dataset to even greater heights. So, when considering analytics for a redesign, which Google Analytics reports can have the greatest impact?

Here are just a few of the options available:

Audience Device Category

Mobile browsing is quickly increasing its slice of the pie as a large user set compared to desktop and tablet categories. This report gives an indication of the device category trends and the current breakdown of each device category’s session total. While a responsive redesign is most likely already a known part of the strategy, there is more to it. Which device category is (or will soon be) the largest user set? Which device category delivers the best-converting visitors? Answers to questions like those can help determine which device category is favored in the overall design.

Audience Technology

Every website’s software has compatibility parameters, especially with different browsers and browser versions. From this report, the software development team can learn of the most popular browsers and browser versions.

We have had instances where this report greatly influenced technology decisions when designing client websites. For example, in the higher education arena, some institutions use certain browsers and browser versions in their computer labs. Updating those browsers may not be an option, due to various factors with other software. This report is flexible enough to also give an indication of most popular screen resolutions. Knowing this information can help with break point decisions for a responsive design.

Site Content – All Pages

Are you gearing up for a new site hierarchy? This is the type of report that will help inform your decisions. If your website caters to audience subcategories, such as college and university websites, then you will need to incorporate advanced segments and/or secondary dimensions with this report. Ultimately, you want to know which pages are most popular, and with which audiences. From there, you can begin to build recommendations for the website’s header, footer, sidebar(s), call-outs, etc. Site Search

No matter how much the website is updated, some users will always navigate via site search, rather than a hierarchy of links. This report indicates the searched topics that are most common. Perhaps your team has overlooked a few obvious pages that should be accentuated more in the website’s navigation. A review of site search data can prevent these oversights.

Goals / Ecommerce

Using this report combined with the goal data from the above reports will help paint a clear picture of the effectiveness of the current website. Normally, the goal and/or eCommerce analysis will not necessarily result in a perfect conversion strategy for the newly redesigned site. However, you will come away with changes that should be made to the conversion funnel and new ideas on how to make certain goal conversion opportunities more visible for your users. From there, you can determine a set of A/B tests that you wish to conduct once the new site is launched.

Make Your Website Redesign One for the Books

As one of the country’s longest standing Google Analytics partners, Beacon has been providing Google Analytics support for organizations of all kinds large and small. Additionally, our software development team has redesigned hundreds of websites, ranging from online storefronts to Higher Ed. We invite questions or comments regarding your redesign goals. Feel free to contact me or call one of our team members at 1.855.467.5447.

29 03, 2017

Google Analytics Event Tracking Tutorial

By | 2018-09-14T14:51:54+00:00 March 29th, 2017|Categories: Google Analytics|

Google Analytics, with its out-of-the-box tracking features, provides meaningful data about your website visitors and their activity. However, you are still required to configure goal conversion points, in order to track the overall success of your website. So, now you know where a user comes from, what pages they visit, and how many eventually reach a goal conversion point. But what about the rest of the user’s experience on your website?

Steps one and three of the conversion path are accounted for and can be analyzed. But what did the user do while on your pages? Why did some users reach conversion points while others did not? Event tracking is a feature in Google Analytics that can help fill in this critical middle step of conversion analysis.

Identify content elements that you would expect to influence the user experience. When setting up event tracking for those elements, you have a hierarchy of four data slots at your disposal: category, action, label, and value. It is best to assess your entire website for event tracking, so that the hierarchy of your setup is consistent and intentional. Event tracking can be configured by hard-coding the snippets on your website, or through Google Tag Manager. With this series of reports indicating your users’ content interactions, you are now able to bridge the gap between where your users come from and which ones reach conversion points. The most important question to answer when analyzing website user conversion trends is, “Why?”

Now, you are more equipped to provide that answer, which can lead to successful website updates.

GA Audit Request

23 03, 2017

Using Google Analytics to Identify Prospective Students with Custom Dimensions

By | 2017-07-20T09:20:24+00:00 March 23rd, 2017|Categories: Google Analytics|

When auditing higher ed Google Analytics accounts, we typically see that clients calculate admissions content stats and goal conversion rates against their global data. This is despite the fact that they know not all people who visit the website are prospective students.

Wouldn’t it be great to have Google Analytics reporting that focuses on prospective students? How about other reporting sets for other audiences, too? The custom dimension feature in Google Analytics is a great way to build audience segments, and we can start with prospective students. First, you need to identify pages, links, buttons, and other content elements with which you have a high level of confidence that only prospective students would interact. Some examples include clicking an Apply Online call-to-action or scheduling a campus visit. Simply landing on the admissions home page is probably not a specific enough indicator of a prospective student. In the Google Analytics admin, you will need to configure a new custom dimension, possibly naming it Visitor Type. Be sure to set it as a user-level dimension so that data spanning multiple website sessions will be collected. If your Google Analytics tracking is hard-coded on the website, you would apply the given code snippet to all pages and page elements that indicate a user is a prospective student. If you are using Google Tag Manager, you would update your tags to include the custom dimension variable, ensuring it is only triggered by any of the pages or page elements you identified earlier.

After testing the new tracking and taking it live, you can utilize the custom dimension in a number of ways, including custom reports, dashboards, or even a new reporting view dedicated to the audience. Be mindful that you should assess the viability of each page and page element that make up your prospective student audience, in order to continue to have confidence in the parameters that define the audience. Of course, you can add or remove any pages or page elements as you see fit, always striving to have the audience tagging as accurate as possible.


25 10, 2016

A Great Time at HighEdWeb 2016

By | 2017-07-20T09:18:40+00:00 October 25th, 2016|Categories: Beacon News|

Earlier this month I joined a couple of my Beacon colleagues at HighEdWeb 2016 in Memphis, TN. They told me many times leading up to it that HighEdWeb is a great conference. Having experienced the conference for the first time now, I wholeheartedly agree.

After helping set up the Beacon booth with our branding, free t-shirts, and YETI cooler giveaway drawing, I made my way to the first breakout session of the morning. I had the honor of presenting a session on how to avoid higher education website redesign pitfalls. The slides can be viewed below. There were a lot of other engaging sessions throughout the conference, some that I was able to attend, and others that attendees spoke about.

Throughout the conference, I met many higher education professionals, both on the marketing and web development/IT sides. The recent challenges and upcoming projects shared by many of them seemed to echo a clear sentiment in higher education: Providing a quality digital experience is critical to each institution’s well-being, as is the measurement and analysis of that experience.

The HighEdWeb conference staff, as well as the support staff at the convention center, made the entire event run smooth. During a little bit of downtime, we were able to experience a little bit of what makes Memphis a unique destination. At the top of the list were some of their famous pork ribs.

At the end of the last full day, the conference hosted a social outing at AutoZone Park, home of the Memphis Birds baseball team, AAA affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. A number of us joined together on the field for a marathon kickball game. With live music playing from the concession area, and the NLCS on the big screen, what a fun and unique experience it was.

The conference concluded with a high point, the keynote address by Levar Burton. He spoke so passionately about his mentors, and empowering the youth in our communities with literacy and the arts.

As a last time before heading home, our group made a point to briefly visit the National Civil Rights Museum, built at the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination.

We were thrilled to participate in HighEdWeb 2016, and excited to experience the great city of Memphis. We look forward to working with many higher education institutions over the next year, and then reuniting with many of them at HighEdWeb 2017 in Hartford, CT.

10 10, 2016

How to Avoid Common Pitfalls During a Redesign

By | 2016-11-23T11:22:03+00:00 October 10th, 2016|Categories: Higher Education|

When redesigning a website the focus tends to be centered on overhauling the aesthetic appearance. The goal tends to revolve around developing a modern-day look that delivers great user experience, and rightly so. However, while working with colleges and universities throughout the country, we have found that many client-defined project scopes routinely overlook important steps that are essential for great higher education websites. Theses misses can threaten 508 compliance, damage the institution’s hard-earned search rankings, cause Google Analytics errors and inaccuracies, and even lead to a poor user experience. If you are planning a redesign or have recently launched a new website, don’t miss this presentation! Gus will address seven of the most common redesign pitfalls, and how you can make sure your website is working on all cylinders.


  • Avoid Common Pitfalls during a redesign such as:
  • Incorrect tracking code transition
  • Skipping over tracking improvements
  • Improperly planned 301 redirects
  • Not managing site crawl ability
  • Cutting corners on device, browser & user testing
  • Inadequate ADA/Accessibility Testing
  • No benchmarking or follow-up


19 08, 2016

Benefits of Upgrading to Universal Analytics

By | 2017-08-08T08:15:58+00:00 August 19th, 2016|Categories: Google Analytics|Tags: , , , , |


Yes, Google Analytics announced their Universal version way back in 2012. It made sense to hold off on upgrading back then so that many eventual bugs could be worked through. I occasionally come across websites that have yet to upgrade. If your website is still using the Async version, it is time to upgrade to Universal Analytics. Here are some of the benefits that are waiting:

1) Report on users, not just website sessions

With User-ID implementation, you can connect a single user’s website activity across multiple devices. Subsequently, there is reporting that shows truer user totals. There are also reports focused on the user experience across multiple devices. If your website collects many email addresses, has log-in features, or is eCommerce, then this is a must-have feature.

2) Simplified configuration options

In the admin section of your Google Analytics account, you are given the ability to clean up organic traffic attribution. You can also change the session and campaign timeout times, which are which are 30 minutes and six months, respectively, by default. Referral exclusions is a great new tool available with the Universal Analytics tracking code. One of the frustrating aspects of the Async version is the issue of self-referrals that sometimes cannot seem to be solved. I have personally seen websites that upgrade their tracking to Universal, utilize the referral exclusions feature, and end up with far more accurate attribution reporting.

3) Custom dimensions and metrics

With the Async version of Google Analytics, you are limited to five custom variables. That feature is replaced with custom dimensions and metrics, and the limit is increased to 20 each. Using the dimensions to segment your website users, build funnel groups, and so on leads to more valuable data analysis and decision-making. Custom metrics can be used with data imports, combined with product information, or used to create additional helpful data related to the user experience.

4) Enhanced eCommerce

Enhanced eCommerce

Certainly, one of the biggest beneficiaries of Universal Analytics are eCommerce websites. The enhanced eCommerce feature opens the door to new data elements and reports. For example, you can use enhanced eCommerce to build a shopping funnel that goes from when a user views a product on the website, to the point of sale. Having funnel reporting during the shopping experience, and not just the checkout process, can help lead to user experience improvements.

Upgrade the Right Way

When beginning the process of upgrading to Universal Analytics, be sure to map out a project process. It is important to leave all current tracking in place until the new tracking is scoped, coded, installed, tested, and verified. A best practice would be to install your fully built-out Universal Analytics tracking alongside the current tracking, using a different UA-ID, so you can verify that the two tracking instances are delivering similar data.


5 08, 2016

Multiple Department Higher Ed Analytics Setup

By | 2017-07-20T09:25:14+00:00 August 5th, 2016|Categories: Higher Education|Tags: , , , |

Are you a Higher Education institution who is concerned about:

  1. What visitors are doing/looking for on your site?
  2. Looking at analytics by a department and/or field of study?
  3. Having multiple stakeholders view Analytics for one or more departments ONLY?
  4. How to better organize your Google Analytics account?

If you answered yes to one or all of the above questions, Beacon has a comprehensive overview of how to best setup your Google Analytics account to support multiple departments within your college/university. Our Google Analytics Strategist, Gus Kroustalis, walks you through a few steps to better organize your account into properties and profiles that will satisfy all groups on campus. Please view the video below.

Subscribe For More Tips

Beacon will release a series of Higher Education focused Youtube videos covering Common Questions About Higher Ed Analytics And How To Answer Them. Please subscribe to our channel for more content like what you watched above.

13 04, 2016

Four Ways that a Google Analytics Session Could Break

By | 2016-10-31T10:36:49+00:00 April 13th, 2016|Categories: Google Analytics|Tags: , , , |

Google Analytics provides great tools for data collection and reporting. One of the critical aspects of analytics for your business, though, is ensuring that you have clean data.

An issue that I come across occasionally is a lack of session continuity. This means that a visitor’s session on your website is split into two or more website sessions. When this happens, your website session totals, site usage metrics, and traffic source attribution are all filled with incorrect data.

Beyond those reporting metrics, eCommerce websites rely on data analysis that includes Multi-Channel attribution models, total sessions per transaction, and assisted conversions. Broken sessions makes this reporting unusable. This can hurt eCommerce website marketing, because so much is dependent on proper traffic source attribution. Picture this: A new visitor comes to an eCommerce website and begins shopping. At some point, the website session being captured by Google Analytics breaks, and a new session begins during the visitor’s same shopping visit. Once a purchase is made, the marketing channel that brought the visitor will be considered an assisting source, not the actual source. Depending on the website’s attribution model, this could hurt analysis that will lead to marketing budget decisions.

If you are not confident that your visitors’ website sessions are maintained from beginning to end, then you have some work to do.

Here four ways that a Google Analytics session could break:

1) Session Timeout

There is a 30 minute session timeout, by default. Once that mark is hit, the session ends. If a user kept a tab open in their browser with your website, and resumes activity in the browser, then a new session will begin. Google Analytics will note that it is the same user with a new session. You have the option of adjusting the timeout marker, anywhere from one minute to four hours. This can be done in the Session Settings section of Tracking Info configurations for your Google Analytics property (see screenshot below).


2) Missing Google Analytics Tracking Code

Every now and then, I come across a website that has not applied consistent Google Analytics tracking code across the entire site. Google Analytics data collection is based on its JavaScript being installed and readable. If a page on your website is loaded, and the JavaScript is not present, then there will be no data capture. Consequently, the previous pageview will mark the end of a user’s session. If the user clicks from the non-tracked page to a page with the Google Analytics JavaScript, then a new session will begin. Just like with the session timeout, your data will show one user with two sessions.


The best way to avoid missing code is to apply the Google Analytics JavaScript in your website template. Every time a new page is created with your template, the Google Analytics code will automatically be in place. If you use multiple templates on your website, be sure to apply the Google Analytics JavaScript to each template.

3) Cross-Domain Tracking Error

Anyone who intends to set up cross-domain tracking knows that the most valuable aspect of the setup is maintaining session continuity between the two domains.

The industry I most frequently see cross-domain tracking is Higher Education. Many institutions utilize multiple domains, and there is an obvious relationship between the content across those domains. Perhaps from the institution’s standpoint, content, data collection, and reporting are segregated by departments. However, the website visitors have a unified experience across all of the content during their website sessions.

Cross-domain tracking with Google Analytics can be tricky, which is why even Google recommends using the linker plugin to make life easier. Validate your tracking code setup in a test environment. If at all possible, never use your live environment to test your tracking code. If, while testing, you notice that the source/medium changes when clicking to the second domain, then there is an issue with the tracking code.

4) Conflicts with Other Scripts

A very talented JavaScript developer once explained to me that, with the broader use of scripts on websites these days, there is potential for some scripts to conflict with each other and cause one or both to break. The best way to catch this is to validate your tracking code setup in a test environment. Not only should you make sure that the Google Analytics reports are showing data, but you should also verify the appropriate Google Analytics cookies, and use your browser’s developer tools to check for any script errors.

Get More Reliable Data

Guarding against the above issues helps ensure that your website’s Google Analytics tracking is as accurate as possible. More specifically, these issues skew website session totals and sometimes source/medium attribution, which then skew conversion rates and other helpful KPIs. The goal of analytics is to make informed decisions that improve your business. Make sure your data is reliable, for that purpose.

5 01, 2016

Segmenting Your Higher Education Audience Using Google Analytics

By | 2017-10-09T09:26:47+00:00 January 5th, 2016|Categories: Higher Education|

Higher education websites face a difficult challenge that websites in many other industries do not have to endure: Catering to a handful of audiences with one website.

The typical list of audiences that frequent a university or college website includes:

  • Prospective Students: The most critical audience for higher education websites, especially considering the impact of digital marketing for admissions.
  • Current Students: Not only do current students access the website for email and current schoolwork, but researching potential classes and majors can also be important. Sometimes, this can be the most difficult group to isolate.
  • Faculty/Staff: Digital marketers obviously do not want to isolate this audience for marketing purposes, but identifying Faculty/Staff activity can help with future content navigation and redesign projects.
  • Alumni: Especially when donations are sought, it is important to know the website interactions by this audience.
  • Parents: Some higher education websites have a section of content tailored to parents of prospective students, incoming students, or both.
  • Community: This audience constitutes individuals involved with the university or college who do not fit in any of the above audiences. For example, if the university is leading an initiative in its city, website visitors seeking more information on that initiative would fit in this category.

Imagine how much impactful Google Analytics for Higher Education would be if the data could be segmented based on audiences such as these. Analysis of audience activity could lead to improvements in content display, website navigation, and call-to-action optimization. In order to implement audience segmentation for a higher education website, follow these steps:

#1 – Identify and Define the Audiences

You may want to include all of the audiences listed above, or it may make sense to just start with Prospective Students, nail down that audience, and then add more audiences later. The best way to define each audience is by noting what actions can confidently be associated with just that audience. Examples of such actions could be:

  • A prospective student is any user who downloads an admissions application form.
  • A prospective student is any user who schedules a tour on campus.
  • An alum is any user who submits a donation via the form in the alumni section.

Notice that there can (and should) be more than one action used to identify any given audience. An important point about defining audiences by action is to be careful to avoid actions that could be performed often by multiple audiences. For example, logging into the school’s email provider is an action probably done by students, faculty, and staff. You cannot confidentially single out any of those audiences with that action.

#2 – Configure the Audiences as Custom Dimensions

Under the property settings in the Account Admin for Google Analytics is a link for Custom Definitions. (Side Note: These instructions are for Google’s Universal Analytics syntax, their most current version. If you are on an older version, it is time to update your website analytics.) When you click Custom Definitions, you will then need to click Custom Dimensions.


Add a new custom dimension for each audience that you are building. Name the custom dimension as you plan to name the audience, and set the scope as User. That configuration will apply the audience identification for a user across multiple sessions. Once you save the new dimension, Google Analytics will provide you with a snippet of JavaScript. The dimension value should be replaced with the name of the audience, and the snippet should be added to all user actions in the website’s HTML.


What if our website uses Google Tag Manager?

Rather than hard-coding snippets of custom dimension JavaScript, some digital marketers prefer Google Tag Manager. Google has some content that points Tag Manager users in the right direction, such as this:

#3 – Test and Validate

First, make sure that the website’s pages load properly in a test environment after the custom dimension code has been added. Also, use a test reporting view in Google Analytics to make sure that the custom dimensions are loading in the reports. In most reports, all you need to do is add a secondary dimension, typing an audience name to find the custom dimension in the list. You can also create custom reports, adding these custom dimensions as a primary dimension.

Once the custom dimension tracking goes live, decide on an amount of time to allow new data to populate in the reporting view, maybe a couple of weeks or a month, depending on the website’s traffic volume. Upon analyzing your new data, you will be able to determine if the actions you have tagged on the website are representative of that audience. For example, you may see audience totals much higher or lower than expected, compared to overall traffic or to other audiences. Take that opportunity to adjust the actions tagged for those audiences in question. Of course, you will always have the opportunity to tag additional actions in the future, further refining your audience reporting.

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