At some point most marketers have dabbled in Google Analytics, a tool (THE tool really) used for tracking data across websites and social media. With this tool you can see where website traffic is coming from, what device someone used to get to you, most visited pages and so much more.
If you’re using Google Analytics to create reports that showcase your digital efforts, you’ll want to display the most valuable metrics that will impress whoever you’re presenting this data to. If you’re pulling the same report each month though, you may start to feel they are getting a little stale and are no longer providing the same level of value.
Luckily, Google Analytics offers so much useful information you'll never need to present a stale report again. It can be tough to know where to find the metrics you’re looking for but, our digital marketing experts are Google Analytics certified and here to help. Keep reading to discover our favorite hidden Google Analytics tips to help marketers pull information that will not only spice up your reports but impress your stakeholders.
How to Set Up Google Analytics Filters & Tracking Code
Having Google Analytics on your website is simply a matter of adding some code and then calling it good, right? Ehh, not so much.
There’s quite a bit that goes into setting up a Google Analytics account and if not done properly, you could be including inaccurate data into your reports. We’ll walk you through a few best practices and touch on some Google Analytics filters that are commonly forgotten.
Before we get started we should note that we always recommend setting up your Google Analytics spam filters in a separate “clean” view to filter out spam traffic. It’s important to keep your raw data as well though, so creating a separate view in the admin area will help you keep these straight.
What is Spam Traffic & How Do I Get Rid of It in Analytics?
Spam traffic, sometimes call “ghost traffic”, refers to website hits from bots that look like users in your analytics platform. This fake traffic information shows up in Analytics, despite no actual users visiting the site.
When setting up a Google Analytics account to filter spam, users often forget to exclude traffic that comes from bots and spiders crawling the web. This can really affect small businesses using analytics, as these hits can make it appear that traffic varies wildly.
The box below needs to be checked to remove traffic from bots:
To find this check box, go to View > Admin > View Settings.
Filtering "Trafficbot.life" Referral Spam Traffic in Google Analytics
Updated March 5, 2021
In February 2021, many websites saw an abnormal spike in traffic in Google Analytics. If you aren't starting a new marketing campaign that would cause a sudden increase, this is the first sign that you may have been hit by spam traffic. This version of spam traffic hit URLs using names such as:
This type of spam traffic is called "referral spam." Its goal is to show up in your Google Analytics to get you to look into their service (which, FYI, is a frowned upon advertising tactic.
How to Block Spam Traffic Like Trafficbot.life in Google Analytics
To check if this form of referral spam has hit you, got to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages and set your date range to January 1 - February 28, 2021. If your site has been impacted, you'll see a sudden spike in traffic on one day, and a version of the trafficbot.life URL will appear in your Page list.
Once spam traffic hits your site and is tracked in your Google Analytics account, it unfortunately cannot be removed. That's why it's critical to take the time to set up spam blocking filters when you create your Google Analytics account. To block this type of spam traffic in the future, set up a custom exclusion filter in Google Analytics like the following example:
If you've already been hit by this spam traffic, the only way to temporarily exclude it from your Google Analytics reports is to create a segment from your Audience > Overview page that excludes traffic to the spam pages. This segment needs to be applied in order to see your historical website data without the trafficbot.life spam. Here's an example of how to set up this type of segment:
Include Hostname Filter in Google Analytics
Setting up an Include Only Hostname filter in Google Analytics allows you to exclude traffic from spam that may appear like it’s from a legitimate website, such as Facebook or Google (example below). To see if you’re getting spam hostname traffic, go to Audience > Technology > Network, and switch to the “Hostname” tab. Once you’re there, you may see if people are using a translated version of your site, a subdomain, a staging site or spam websites. Once you’ve removed this traffic by setting up Google Analytics filters for spam traffic, you can ensure that you’re receiving actual web visitor data.
To know what hostnames to include in Google Analytics, look at the example from the Blue Compass website:
Do I need to filter IP addresses out of my analytics?
We recommend filtering out the IP address of your business and other partners you work with, such as a marketing agency, that may spend a significant amount of time on your website. It’s necessary to exclude these IP addresses to get a true understanding of how users are interacting with your website. You don’t want data from your employees to skew your website results and future marketing decisions.
To get your IP address information, search “what is my IP address” on Google while you’re connected to the appropriate network, and they will provide you with the answer.
Use the Referral Exclusion List Properly
The Referral Exclusion List, found by going to Admin > Property > Tracking Info > Referral Exclusion List (see image below), is often used to exclude hits from sources that are spam. However, that is not the correct way to use this feature. Instead, it reclassifies a domain into “other.” So, when and how do you use Referral Exclusion Lists?
Users should use this filter when you have sister-sites that link to one another in multiple places. For example, if you have a career site and a main website that are on different domains, add them into each other’s referral exclusion list. Once you've done this, when you review the percentage of your traffic from a referral, it will accurately reflect sites linked to yours.
Look at the Navigation Summary
Where are users coming from and where did they go next? This is a question marketers are always asking when they’re looking for information in Google Analytics reports. Fortunately, Google has a way for us to find this information, known as the Navigation Summary.
To find the Navigation Summary, go to Behavior > Site Content > and choose any single page URL. From here, you can click Navigation Summary, located above the graph. See the image below for an example:
In the above image, we can see how people got to the /default.aspx page (labeled as Previous Page Path) and where they went on the website once they left that page (Next Page Path). This information can help marketers determine how visitors use a website and potentially help create better calls-to-action on web pages.
Monitor Highly Engaged Visitor Behavior in Google Analytics
Have you been wondering what your high-value users are doing or how they’re navigating your site? First, you must create an analytics segment focusing on user behavior across all sessions within a particular date range. Highly engaged users are important as they show us how successful our marketing efforts are or if our website is encouraging them to take the actions we want them to take. Monitoring these behaviors can help marketers determine the content of updates or decide on next steps to take in their efforts.
Once you’ve created this segment, you’re now able to apply this segment to analytics data. If you want to look at the pages highly engaged users landed on when they visit your website, go to Behavior > Site Content > All Pages. From here, add the secondary dimension “Landing Page.” Take a look at an example from the Blue Compass website below:
We are able to see which page our highly engaged users landed on. If we want to know where they went from this page, we update the secondary dimension from “Landing Page” to “Next Page Path”.
Don’t Forget About Pagespeed
Did you know that Google recommends that your web page load within two seconds? Pagespeed may seem like a no-brainer, but it can answer quite a few questions that you may have about your website. To find pagespeed, look at Behavior > Site Speed > Page Timings. Pagespeed will identify which pages are affecting page load time.
For example, do you have a blog on your website that has several large images, and you’ve noticed the bounce rate is very high? This is likely due to the images slowing down the page when users are trying to access the blog. To help prevent the page load time from getting too high, compress the images to reduce their size.
Dive Deeper Into Your Google Analytics with Blue Compass
Whether it’s implementing Google Analytics on your website or monthly reporting, Blue Compass can help you understand what’s happening with your brand online. Our digital marketing team has multiple Google Analytics certified professionals that know the best information is in the nitty-gritty details and can help you find it.
If you’re unsure if your Google Analytics is working properly or you want to know how well your digital marketing efforts are performing, contact the Blue Compass team today!