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Google Analytics Checklist: Everything You Need for 2021

Nearly 90% of Google Analytics data is used incorrectly, giving marketers an inaccurate picture of their overall digital marketing performance. You need to feel confident in your Google Analytics data because the information you get from it informs every aspect of your ongoing digital marketing strategy.

Implementing Google Analytics correctly is critical to get to the point that you can truly rely on your data. If you are applying the data incorrectly or failing to exclude certain activities (like bot or spam traffic), your perception will be off. In order to make educated decisions, A/B tests, troubleshooting; you need to have accurate information. As Google changes, you will need to adapt your approach to analytics to get the most out of your platforms.

Table of contents:

Before we dive into specific checklists, we need to acknowledge a big change for Google Analytics heading into 2021: Google Analytics 4.

Introducing Google Analytics 4

Issues of privacy and data security have been plaguing the tech world for some time now. Much like Safari, Google is phasing out cookie use in Chrome too. The restrictions on cookies and data storage have caused concerns for marketers who rely on data that moves across sites and platforms. Google has recently responded to the concerns over cookie policies by launching a cookieless tracking analytics platform called Google Analytics 4.

What is Google Analytics 4?

With Google Analytics 4, data is compiled without cookies or individual IDs. Gaps are filled in with machine learning for a more robust view of the buyer’s journey — even across other platforms. Rather than focus on analytics for a certain page, Google Analytics 4 is organized by events and visitor activity. This is huge for marketers who’ve been concerned about how privacy restrictions might impede analytics.

New websites are now being defaulted to GA4, but Universal Analytics will still be running. Now is a great time to have them up and going side-by-side. Though it may be unsettling at first, you should expect to see different numbers on both dashboards, since the way they are configuring data is different. Expect to see updates and new features added to GA4 as Google phases out Universal.

So, the first step in implementing these checklists for Google Analytics is to make sure you are using both GA4 and Universal.

Get comfortable with the new Google Analytics, because we’re pretty sure it’s here to stay.

Google Analytics Strategy & Planning Checklist

As you prepare to implement Google Analytics, start with the strategy. Consider how you can make Google Analytics work for you. It’s hard to improve your efforts if you don’t have a clear picture of where things stand. Your use of analytics shouldn’t be focused on vanity metrics (like single-page views), but on deeper measurements that illustrate how visitors are reacting to your site. Your strategy will vary greatly based on your business objectives.

  • Define website objectives and digital marketing strategy goals
  • Determine the KPIs (key performance indicators)
  • Ensure you know how to access metrics for those KPIs
  • Establish a defined measurement plan for tracking KPIs
  • Plan checkpoints to review configurations and features
  • Audit Google Analytics regularly to ensure meaningful data

Getting Started with Google Analytics

Putting Google Analytics in place is simple enough. If you are implementing Google Analytics for the first time, follow this checklist:

Implementing Google Analytics Checklist

If you are considering a website migration, you need to have a plan in place for Google Analytics migration to avoid losing vital marketing and business data. If you already have your Google Analytics account established with your primary property (website), you are ready to continue onto this checklist.

With your main website property attached to Google Analytics (both Universal and GA4), it is time to add other elements to your Google Analytics for a broader view of visitor activity. Forgetting to include these things will impede valuable insights:

  • Setup cross-domain tracking
  • Related company app
  • Ecommerce store (including Shopify, Squarespace, Bigcommerce, etc.)
  • Site search tool
  • Social sharing options
  • 404 error page tracking

Google Analytics Setup Checklist

If you already have your account set up, there are a number of basic tasks you need to do to ensure a complete setup. If you’ve done this before, then you should review every so often to make sure everything is still in place. The right setup will impact the quality and accuracy of your data.

  • Time zone for reporting
  • Currency for your area
  • Default page is properly configured
  • Filters are in place to exclude internal traffic from the analytics
  • Referral spam (fake traffic) is excluded
  • Data retention is in place and set to appropriate configurations
  • Similar properties are grouped together and unrelated properties are given a different account
  • User-based reporting enabled
  • Reports based on Demographics and Interests are running
  • Benchmarking reports are active
  • A raw data view without filters or modifications
  • View with IP address filters
  • Referral spam (fake traffic) is excluded

Technical Configurations Checklist

Now, diving into the nitty-gritty isn’t fun for many marketing managers, which is why the data presented is often inaccurate. It's easy to get overwhelmed with the options and settle for what sticks out. But, the more you dial down into the details and hone your analytics to fit your company, the more you will get out of your Google Analytics. It's worth the effort to get true insight.

Here are some technical configurations to complete for a more thorough GA report. You may want to have your developer do some of this:

  • Link your Google Ads and Analytics accounts
  • Compliance measures to avoid collection of Personally Identifiable Information (PII), which includes information entered into search or data collected for User IDs
  • Enable cross-domain tracking if you have multiple properties
  • Ensure tracking codes aren’t duplicated on multiple pages
  • Keep most recent versions of tracking codes implemented
  • Establish actions and labels for deeper event-based tracking
  • Set up User ID to track users on multiple devices without cookies
  • Link Google Optimize or Google Tag Manager
  • If using Google Optimize, implement an anti-flicker snippet

Feeling overwhelmed by GA4?

Our experts have the technical expertise needed to ensure a seamless migration from Universal Analytics to GA4. 

Google Analytics Campaign Reports Checklist

Setting up tracking for your campaigns is a critical part of Google Analytics integration. You need to check that your marketing campaigns on Google Ads and other platforms are being included in reports. Your view is only going to be as accurate as you allow it to be. So, make sure you:

  • Stay consistent with naming conventions for clarity
  • Link Google Ads and Analytics
  • Link ALL Google Ads accounts
  • Match Clicks between Google Ads and Google Analytics
  • Avoid campaign tags within URLs for Google Ads (use Google’s integration instead)
  • Use campaign tags for all aspects of inbound marketing
  • Group custom channels as needed
  • Leverage UTM tags for marketing and vanity URLs (generate them here)

GA4 Event Tracking Checklist

Google Analytics 4 is really bringing the events to light. You can track user events within your website and across other channels. This offers a much broader understanding of the buyer journey. Most of the time, a lead won’t convert on the very first visitor from the very first page. Use event tracking to watch visitor behavior that includes downloads, video plays, link clicks and more.

  • Set up event chains (category, action, label and value)
  • Use consistent naming conventions for clarity
  • Set events to get a better idea of true bounce rates (where NO actions of value were taken)
  • Choose events that are labeled “non-interaction” so the bounce rate isn’t affected
  • Include event tracking for mailto links, contact/chat button, downloads and outbound links
  • Track for internal campaigns (like banners and affiliate ads)
  • Use data to understand how many events are occurring during the average session
  • Test conversion funnel theories and CTAs against event occurrences
  • Track user activity along with user experience (like how long videos take to load)
  • Limit events to avoid maxing session limits

Multi-Platform Integration Checklist

Make sure you have all your platforms linked into Google Analytics for the best picture of activity that impacts your site. From campaign management to revenue, you will want to see the buyer journey from start to finish. The more you can connect your accounts, the more clarity you will have since the buyer’s experience with your brand won’t be limited to just one page or platform.

  • Link Google Search Console, Google Optimize, Google AdSense, Google Keyword Planner, and all other Google platforms
  • Create audience lists for retargeting campaigns
  • Set up Google Signals for cross-device tracking
  • Integrate Google Analytics with your YouTube channel, Facebook page, Instagram account, and more
  • Implement e-commerce tracking and ensure data is accurate

Google Analytics Metrics and Reporting Checklist

Once everything is in place and tested, you will want to track traffic. Using analytics correctly will help you improve your website impact. You will build better marketing campaigns and convert traffic faster when your approach is more effective. Start by checking these key analysis factors:

Get the Most Out of Your Google Analytics

Understanding your target audience and marketing impact is essential to the growth and stability of your business. Without clear insight, you are flying blind. The stronger your Google Analytics game, the better you will be able to navigate moving forward. Keep working to improve your Google Analytics capabilities and accuracy.

Marcel Digital is here to help with all things Google Analytics. We’ve been an official Google Partner since 2003, and we are experts in website analysis. If you want help with a consultation, strategy, migration, or management, give us a shout - we would be happy to help.

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About the author

Dan Kipp

Dan Kipp is the Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager guru at Marcel Digital. He loves traveling, cooking, sports, and spending spare time with friends and family.

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