Configuring Google Analytics for Business Success

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the two types of Google Analytics configurations: the technical configuration and the functional configuration. I’ve been explaining the technical configuration with a series of posts called ‘Top Google Analytics Configuration Mistakes’. Now I’m finally going to tackle the functional configuration. Don’t worry; I’ve got more posts about GA configuration mistakes coming!

The Google Analytics functional configuration is where we make sure Google Analytics will collect the data that an organization needs. During this process we spend less time working with GA and more time talking to individuals within an organization. Remember, Google Analytics is just the tool that collects the data for our analysis. It’s one part of the web analytics process.

I like to think of the functional configuration as a melding of GA knowledge and organizational needs. Knowing which metrics are used by an organizations drives the data that needs to be collected by GA. Knowing which data needs to be collected drives how we set up GA. See how it’s all connected?

How you actually go about defining what the data needs are for your organization takes time. Set up meetings, talk to people and learn. Some may not think that the process is worth it or understand the value. Believe me, this process is very important. If you can’t measure success how will you know when you reach it?

Here are a few things to consider when thinking about the functional configuration:

1. Find out who is going to use the data.

Different people in different parts of an organization will want different information. Take the time to sit down and see how they use analytics. Think about what they’re asking for and how GA works. Can GA deliver what they need?

Here’s an example. I like to report the Depth of Visit and Time of Visit for various marketing activities (email campaigns, AdWords campaigns, etc). By default, this info is not available in a standard GA profile. To solve this problem I create a profile specifically for the marketing activity (using an include filter based on the campaign name). All the reports in this campaign specific profile, including the Depth of Visit and Time of Visit reports, are for one marketing activity.

2. Don’t think in terms of GA reports, think in terms of equations.

Learn how your user’s metrics are calculated. If the report they need is not in GA can it be created based on the raw data in some other GA report? Personally, I always extract data from GA and create my reports using other tools. This method lets me create the exact metrics I need for a client.

3. Set expectations.

This is very important. Google Analytics may not be able to provide all the information you need. It’s just a simple fact of life. But remember to be creative when addressing someone’s data needs. I never say ‘no’ without thinking about a problem. I always try to use the functionality within Google Analytics to ‘craft’ a creative solution.

4. Think about the future.

One of the biggest challenges in using Google Analytics is you can not re-process data. This limitation has some implications. For example, there is no way to segment your data using a custom variable after the data has been processed. If you can plan ahead, and anticipate what data you organization may need, then you can configure GA to meet those needs.

I can’t tell you how many times a client contacts us and complains about their GA setup. After we spend a few minutes with them we realize that there is no problem with their configuration. They simply don’t know what data they need. Take the time to understand how GA data fits into your organization. Talk to people. You’ll save yourself time in the long-run.

There you have it. What I’ve learned from working with many, many clients. Do you have some experience with GA that you’d like to share? Or do you think this post is junk? Your feedback is always appreciated.

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