***This post was updated for 2021 on December 10th, 2020. For a more in-depth piece, check out our Google Analytics Checklist: Everything You Need for 2021***
Site analytics aren’t just for tracking your site visitors’ behavior. Proper use of analytics can also help increase sales, reduce marketing budget waste, and enable better focusing on your target demographic. In fact, there are so many valuable metrics available through Google Analytics that the data can be overwhelming. So much so that a lot of it can be overlooked if you aren’t vigilant about foolproofing your analytics in 2021. Here’s a guide for making that happen.
Make Sure Your Analytics and Google Tag Manager Are Set Up Correctly
Because implementing Google Analytics is such a robust task, many site owners don’t have the resources to fully take advantage of everything that’s available. There are some key features that you won’t want to miss, however.
First, set up Google Tag Manager. Your webmaster will be able to do this for you since it involves some coding. Sign up for this free service with your Google account. Set up a new account with your website. Copy and paste the two snippets of code you’re given into the headers and footers of every page of your site. Next, sign in with your Google account and set up your property with Google Analytics. Your property is your website, and you can have multiple properties under one Google Analytics account. Here's a resource from Google.
It's important to note here that Google Tag Manager is not a replacement for Google Analytics. Instead, you can send data to Google Analytics through Google Tag Manager, along with custom events (like button clicks and video views). You can also leverage GTM to set up 3rd party advertising pixels like Facebook and Bing.
Make Sure Your Tracking Is Implemented
Once you have your Google Analytics account set up with your website property, obtain the code snippet called Tracking ID. Copy and paste that code into the header of every single one of your website pages. Return to your Google Analytics page. After a few minutes or less, check the Real-Time feature in your Google Analytics implementation.
If you don’t see a live number under "Right now", something may be wrong. Try accessing your website via another computer or your phone and see if anything happens. If not, you may have placed the snippet in the wrong area, or you may not have saved your edits. In any event, if you can’t get the Google Analytics tracking ID to verify, the dashboard gives you other options to try. However, it’s best to ensure that the tracking ID snippet is in the correct place by hiring a quality website designer.
Make Sure Your Filters Are Set Up Correctly
Google Analytics filters are there so that you can filter out all the activity that you don’t want to be counted as part of your site traffic data. For instance, the entire time your web designer is working on your site, there will be heavy site traffic. But including this in your Google Analytics reports will give false results that can skew your marketing decision making in the wrong direction. Make sure your filters are properly set up by taking these steps:
- Sign into Google Analytics and go to the admin section.
- Create a new view, then click on “create a filter,” then add a filter.
- Note: if you don’t see this button, it’s possible you don’t have full admin permissions. Your webmaster can help you with this or do the whole process for you.
- Name the filter something that will make sense to you later, such as “traffic filter.”
- Enter your IP address. If you don’t know this offhand, you can find out what it is by going here. If you access your website from both your home and office, be sure to enter both IP addresses here.
- Save the filter.
From here on out, traffic from those IP addresses won’t appear in your Google Analytics data. This is a great way to ensure that false results don’t contaminate your site traffic data. There are many more filters that can be created to improve your data like excluding spam or crawler traffic but excluding internal IPs is the best place to start.
Stay on Top of Your Google Analytics with Google Analytics Alerts
All this work setting up your Google Analytics properties and Tag Manager is for naught if you don’t use them regularly. Regular analytics checks are imperative so that you can respond to data insights in a timely and efficient manner. For easiest analytics checks, make it a point to perform them on a certain day of each week. Weekly checks are the most commonly recommended. Daily checks are of particular value only if you’re running a special marketing campaign or promotion and you want to keep tabs on response statistics. Monthly checks are too infrequent and could cause you to miss important data points. Weekly checks take into account weekly holidays, weekends, and even seasonal activity. A quality website services company can take care of conducting regular analytics checks for you. They can even reduce the data so it’s easier to digest in ways that your sales and marketing team can easily understand and leverage in new campaigns.
Setting up Custom Alerts for when goals or traffic dip below a certain threshold ensure you have an added level of monitoring in place. You can learn more about how to do that here from Google.
Finally, don’t expect miracles overnight. Once you do get your Google Analytics up and running for 2021, you may find that the data is fascinating. It can be mesmerizing to see just how deep the data can go, pinpointing the exact locations and times that visitors clicked on your web pages. While this is a powerful tool that you can use to create and plan your future marketing campaigns, be aware that changes often don’t happen overnight. In the world of organic web marketing, it can take time to realize results. Be sure to give any new site designs time to work on your site visitors. Wait after implementing changes to see just how your site analytics change over some time. One thing is for sure, though. When you foolproof your analytics for 2021, nothing will ever get past you again as far as your website is concerned!