When most people think Google Analytics they think raw tracking numbers: how many people visited my site last month? What was the bounce rate? Do you have accurate data on the click-through rate? What was the most popular post? Things like that. What many don’t realize is that GA contains a host of other features that can help you collate and comprehend that information in a variety of useful ways and help free you and your site from the scourge of bogus referrals. Here we’ll look at five GA trends and features we believe are being overlooked by many webmasters and why you should consider putting them to work for you.
Spam Filters, Spam Segments, Custom Dashboards and More: Google Analytics 2015
Important: It’s imperative that you make sure to implement best practices when setting new filters.
- Ensure that you have an unaltered view available at all times that has no filters.
- Make sure to create a test view on which to devise and try out new filters.
- Only proceed with the implementation of new filters on your main view after you are satisfied with the filter’s performance in the test view.
With that firmly in mind let’s start this overview by looking at spam filters.
Spam Filters – Historically spam is thought of as little more than a nuisance but today’s referral spam is much more than that. If you run a small to medium size business there’s a pretty good chance today’s sophisticated spam scams are corrupting your Analytics data big time, including:
- Your site’s bounce rate
- All important conversion rates
- New session data
- Platform usage statistics
As much as 50% of referrals to small and medium size websites today can be spam coming from just a handful of shady sources. 50%. Sometimes more. How can you possibly get accurate data about legitimate activity on your site with that sort of garbage blizzard obscuring everything? You can’t: unless you take the plunge and institute Analytics spam filters.
Spam Segments – Segments in Analytics are a way of honing in on a particular aspect of the data. Default segments of GA data include new and returning users as well as mobile traffic. By using spam segments you’ll be able to segment nearly all of your unwanted bot traffic and ghost referrals and finally get a clear picture of the real activity on your site.
While filters will help you weed out future spam, segments can help you dig through and unclutter your historical data. They are relatively easy to implement and can be shared across all Analytics accounts linked to a particular Google account. This means you can have all relevant segment data for all your sites at your disposal to be easily distributed to clients if you want or need to. Remember that spam segments won’t allow you to block spam but they will allow you to separate it from the useful data in your Analytics report.
Custom Dashboards – Dashboards enable you to view multiple data sets in a single place thereby negating the need to switch between different reports. A customized dashboard gives you a quick, convenient overview of all aspects of your site’s performance. At the moment your dashboard can include any number of the following 6 widgets:
- Metric – A straightforward numeric display expressing a single metric
- Bar – A bar chart created to display information relative to a selected metric
- Pie – Same idea as the bar widget in pie chart form
- Geomap – Displays a map of a specific region with info relative to a specific metric
- Timeline – Presents information relative to a specific metric as expressed over time
- Table – Can display 2 metrics in table form for comparison and analysis
Perhaps not all of these widgets will serve a relevant purpose when it comes to your website so it’s important to pick and choose carefully which ones you use.
SEO Dashboards – The aforementioned custom dashboards are a handy way to view many Analytics reports on a single screen. If you are an Search Engine Optimization expert who’s inundated with metrics requests having everything in one place to view can be an enormous time saver. Many create and share a custom made SEO dashboard with their clients who then have ready access to the information they need right there at their fingertips. SEO dashboards can help you or your clients:
- Pinpoint the most popular landing pages
- Understand which are the most important organic keywords
- Keep track of day to day search reach
Setting Specific Goals – Goals are the way you enable performance indicators in a measurement plan so it’s essential that you institute goals for every meaningful measure you currently use to determine your website’s success. At the view level within Analytics there are currently four ways for you to track goals:
- Pages/visits – Triggered when a visitor exceeds the threshold number of page views you specify.
- Destination – Destination pages are triggered by specific user activity like signing up for a newsletter or making a purchase. Setting a destination goal enables you to separate conversions from the flood of other data.
- Duration – Duration goals are recorded when visitors spend more than a specified amount of time on your site.
- Event – If you want an easy way to keep track of how many pdfs are being downloaded or videos watched on your site, event goals are the way to do it.
When you set goals be sure to use intuitive names so that the resulting reports will be easier to understand and keep these things in mind:
- Be sure to assign values to your goals so you can evaluate performance.
- Don’t waste time and energy creating goals with little or no practical application.
- Using expressions will help you achieve a far clearer picture of what the data is telling you.
Final Thoughts – It’s hard to know if your website is doing the job you intended it to do if the data coming from it is sullied by spam, ghost and zombie referrals. The less well-known GA features listed above, when properly implemented, will help you get a hold of what’s going on and separate the wheat from the chaff.