Frequently Asked Questions: Everything You Need to Know About Google Analytics, Data Tracking and Reporting

Collecting and analyzing data is one of the most important aspects of digital marketing. Proper tracking methods will help you understand where your website is earning traffic, where your visitors are coming from or other important information about the users on your site. This valuable information can be used to learn which marketing efforts are bringing in new customers and what steps you can take to improve your strategy in the future.

Google Analytics and Reporting Tips

Everything You Need to Know About Google Analytics

We often hear questions about how to determine if Google Analytics is set up and how to best use it to gain insights. We’ve documented the answers to some of the questions we receive the most, but if there’s a question we didn’t answer, feel free to send it our way!

Why is it important to use Analytics to track my website metrics?

Google Analytics provides essential, in-depth data about the people who are visiting your website, which pages are most popular, the path people take on your site, how often you’re meeting your online goals and so much more! You can use this information to determine which content is the most effective, increase conversions and optimize your website for a better user experience.

How can I tell if I have Google Analytics on my website?

There are a few ways to find out if you have Google Analytics implemented on your website. One option is to look for the tags in the source code of your website. To view the source code, start by navigating to your website. Then, right click and select “view page source.”

View Page Source on Blue Compass Website

Once you’re viewing the source code of the website, use CTRL+F to look for one of the following tags to confirm you have Google Analytics on your website.

Google Tag Manager Code:

If you are using Google Tag Manager (GTM), there is a chance Google Analytics is implemented there. To find out if you have the Google Tag Manager code on your website, use CTRL+F and search for “googletagmanager.” If found, you should see a code snippet similar to the one below. Having this code does not guarantee you have Google Analytics on your website, only Google Tag Manager. While many people implement Google Analytics through GTM, you should login into your Google Tag Manager account to verify.

Google Tag Manager Code Snippet

Google Analytics UA Identification and Tracking Code:

If you are not using GTM to implement your Google Analytics code, you can look in the page source for your Google Analytics code. Use the same method as above to access the source code, then click CTRL+F and search for “UA-.” If found, you should see a code snippet that looks similar to, “UA-12345678-1.”

Google Tag Assistant

The final way to find out if your website is using Google Analytics or GTM, is through Google Tag Assistant. This is a Google Chrome plugin that allows you to easily see which Google Tags (such as Analytics, Remarketing, AdWords Conversions, etc.) are installed and properly working on your website. If you do not use Google Chrome, refer to the methods above for finding out which Google snippets you have on your website. If you are a Chrome user, read on!

Once you have downloaded the plugin, select the Google Tag Assistant icon in the top right corner of your Chrome window. If you do not see an output similar to the one below, you may need to enable the plugin to begin working. Select enable and reload the page. Click on the icon again, and you should now see a screen which breaks down all of your tags. This tool not only tells you which tags you’ve implemented, but it informs you of any implementation issues. In the screenshot below, all tags have a blue or green face, showing the tags are working. However, if you see a red face with your tag, something may be wrong and you should investigate the issue.

Google Tag Assistant Plugin

How can I tell if my competitors are using Google Analytics, Google AdWords or another Google tool?

To find out if competitors have Analytics implemented on their website, you can look at their page source code, or use the Google Tag Assistant Chrome plugin using the same methods listed above to find other Google tools.

What are Google Analytics “goals,” and why should I use them?

Goals in Google Analytics let your team track conversions on your site. Whether it’s a form submission or online purchase, you want to keep track of marketing efforts that lead to online conversions.

What is the most important thing to look at in Google Analytics?

Besides goals and conversions, our team looks at website traffic and behavior metrics and how these metrics are changing month-over-month and year-over-year. Traffic metrics (such as sessions, users and pageviews) tell you how many people are coming to your website and how often they visited your site.

Behavior metrics (such as pages per session, average time on page, bounce rate and new sessions) show how people interact with your website, how long they spend reading your content and if they’ve been to your site before. The most important metric to look at will vary for each site. We recommend taking time to determine which metrics drive your marketing decisions and look at those going forward.

What can I find out about users visiting my website?

While Google does not allow you to collect personally identifiable information, you can learn a lot about your online audience using Google Analytics. You’ll have access to extensive aggregate data about your visitors, including:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Location
  • Language
  • New or returning visitor
  • Device used
  • Channels and sources they came from
  • And more!

Does Google Analytics track the success of my Google AdWords campaigns?

Yes, if you have linked your Google AdWords and Analytics accounts, you can see your AdWords campaigns, keywords, clicks and conversions under the Acquisition section.

How do I link my Google Analytics and Google AdWords accounts?

You can link your Google Analytics and AdWords accounts in either platform. In Google Analytics, navigate to the admin tab, and select “AdWords Linking” under “Property.” Then, follow the listed steps to complete the process. Remember, AdWords linking is done at the “view” level, so you will have to turn on linking for any Analytics views that you would like to include AdWords data.

To link within AdWords, click the wrench icon and choose “Linked accounts.” Click on “Details” under Google Analytics to see a list of Google Analytics properties you have access to. Select “Link” next to the appropriate property and follow the steps listed to complete the process.

What is spam traffic?

Spam traffic, sometimes called “ghost traffic”, refers to website hits from bots that look like users. This fake traffic information shows up in Analytics, despite no actual users visiting the site.

How do I get rid of spam traffic?

When setting up new Analytics accounts, always create a “clean” view to filter out this type of traffic. In “view settings”, you can choose to exclude traffic from all known bots.

We also recommend including a Valid Hostname filter to include only traffic to your domain. However, this will not work if your site is using subdomains. If you are still having problems with spam, we recommend analyzing your Analytics data to identify additional spam traffic and using filters to exclude this traffic from your clean analytics view.

Do I need to filter out IP addresses?

We recommend filtering 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.

Analytics at Blue Compass

Tackling Google Tag Manager For Analytics

If you’ve heard marketers use the term GTM and you’re feeling lost, check out our guide to all things Google Tag Manager. With our helpful guide to GTM, you’ll soon be able to talk the talk.

What is GTM, and why do I need it?

Google Tag Manager is a tool which provides a user-friendly interface to implement tags and pixels on your website, such as AdWords conversion tracking or Facebook pixels. Using GTM, you can implement a wide variety of tags, scripts and code snippets that you would otherwise need to install on your website. GTM makes implementing and changing tags easier since they are all stored in one place.

With GTM, you can track a variety of actions on your website such as clicks on navigation elements, clicks on call-to-action (CTA) buttons or form completions. Yes, you can see similar data with Google Analytics, but it’s not nearly as detailed as the data from GTM. With Google Analytics, for example, you can see the number of pageviews on a page and infer people are clicking on that element in the navigation. With GTM, you can see exactly which buttons were clicked on that led them to the next page and which page users were on when they clicked on that element.

Some of the elements we recommend tracking include navigation clicks, form starts and completions, clicks on social icons, PDF downloads and queries in the search bar.

We’ve just scratched the surface of what you can do with GTM and Google Analytics. For instance, you can also use GTM to implement tags for third-party vendors.

What is a tag in GTM?

A tag is a tracking code you implement to collect information. Google Analytics tracking and Facebook Pixels are examples of tags you can implement through GTM.

What is a trigger in GTM?

A trigger is an action you define in GTM. Each tag has a trigger which tells the code when to fire. When the preferred action is completed on your website, such as a button click, the code fires based on the trigger you define. For example, if you’re tracking pageviews in Google Analytics, a tag would trigger on a page load for every page on your website. On the other hand, if you’re tracking a form completion, a tag would trigger when someone clicks the submit button or lands on a thank you page.

What is a variable in GTM?

A variable is a special condition that must be met and is set up within a trigger to track events that meet more specific criteria. For example, you want to track any time an item over $100 is purchased on your site, so you set up a special variable to collect that specific data. You can set up a trigger to track all sales, collecting purchases under $100, but only sales over the specified amount will count as a variable.

Other Reporting Tools and Insights

Any time we begin working with a new client, we start by setting up Google Analytics to gain insights into the current behavior on their website. Additionally, there are other valuable tools which can help make reporting easier and reveal deeper insights. Here are some of our favorite additional analytics platforms and resources.

What reporting tools are available besides Google Analytics?

Our digital marketing team likes to use Google Data Studio - a reporting tool which integrates with other Google products such as Google Analytics and Google AdWords. Community Connectors also allow you to include data from social media platforms and other marketing tools you may want to report on. One time-saving benefit: you can set up a report that will automatically update when you change the date range.

In addition to Google Data Studio, there are many other tools which provide supplemental analytics such as RavenTools, Kissmetrics and HubSpot.

How can I tell if there’s a Facebook pixel on my website?

The Facebook Pixel Helper is another Google Chrome plugin that shows you if you have Facebook pixels on your site. The Facebook pixel can be used to track website events or conversions and can help create remarketing audiences for the Facebook Ads platform. When you click on the icon, it will tell you if one or more Facebook pixels were found.

How to Use Facebook Pixel Helper

An alternative option to check on the status of your Facebook pixel is through Facebook Business Manager. Navigate to your Business Manager account and select “pixels” under the Measure & Report tab.

Facebook Business Manager Pixels

What resources do you use to stay up-to-date?

Some of the best sources for new information about Google Analytics and other reporting updates are SEMRush, Moz and Search Engine Journal. Google regularly sends out news about their algorithm updates and other new functions they offer in their Analytics and reporting tools.

Still have questions or looking for help with Google Analytics and creating digital marketing reports?

Our team of digital experts can answer any questions you have about analytics. Whether you’re looking for ways to uncover more complex data or you’re just starting out, Blue Compass can help guide you through any analytics issues. Call our team today!