Getting Started and Getting the Right Data From Google Analytics

by    |    May 22, 2016    |       8 min read

One fundamental truth of optimization is that without data, you can’t optimize. Just as important as it is to know to tell an engaging story, to have an effective call to action or a fabulous design, it’s important to know how to measure your audience’s interaction with your site. There’s no shortage of powerful measuring tools out there: Adobe Analytics, Crazy Egg, Kissmetrics and Clicky, for a start. However, these tools cost money, and often you can do all the same things for free on Google Analytics. Even if your company already uses another analytics program, using Google Analytics is important for two reasons.

First, it’s risky to base all your decisions on only one source of data. No software is error-proof when comes to data analysis, and each one uses slightly different metrics. Secondly, you will lose the option of segmenting your data and getting more perspectives. Using more than one analytical source is like looking at an object with both eyes rather than one. You get more details, depth, and perspective. Since we are looking for subtle, sensitive information such as trends, we need all the accuracy and perspective we can get.

Tagging: Google’s way of making analysis less technical

Tags are simply a way to connect your online presence to analytics without the need for technical assistance or interference with your site’s programming.

  • Tags mark specific information you want the analytics program to record, such as when a page was viewed.
  • Triggers tell when the tag should be activated.
  • Variables allow access to additional information that Google might need to perform what you’ve asked.
Step one – Creating the account

I’m assuming here that you or your client already have an analytics account. In this case, all you need is to create or add a user. You can read an explanation on how to do that here. It is very important to create a tag manager account as well or to become a user on your client’s account. Here is how to do that.

Once the account is set, you need to connect the site to it. To do this, you can either copy and paste the GA tracking code on your client’s site or you can use the Tag Manager. The next thing to do is to verify that the page is actually connected to Google Analytics. Using real-time viewing is very useful for that.

google analytics dashboard

To check if your page is connected, simply go to it on another browser and check if the counter increases by one.

Set the View Goals and Filters

This is where the magic starts and you can have useful info coming in. The first type of view to create is the natural view or a view that doesn’t have any goal or filter to modify it. I usually call it the Zero View.

google analytics view

The reason I want to have a view like this is that filters permanently alter the data in the view. Once you filter something it disappears forever and you can’t get it back. So this Zero View is a backup for situations when you’re really unsatisfied with your filters and want the ”raw data” back. After you’ve done that it’s time for the real deal. Let’s create a custom view and call it Main Site Data.

We will set the correct time zone for it and press the “Create View” button. After setting parameters such as site currency and location, you can start setting filters. With filters, you can do stuff like checking different traffic sources, how much traffic gets to specific pages or sections of your sites, and more. As an example, here is a filter that shows only the traffic your blog receives.

google analytics reporting view

Filters are very useful but the complete use of them is beyond the scope of this article. Check out this YouTube video to learn how to set your first five fundamental filters.

Setting goals

Goals are a way for you to measure specific events that take place on your sites. They are useful for measuring the efficiency of specific funnels and the popularity of specific pages. To set a new goal, click on Goals just above Filters and then click on “New Goal.”

goals google analytics

There are four types of goals, as you can see in this image:

google analytics goal description

I will explain here these four options and their uses.

  • Destination – This is probably the most common goal. This goal is activated when a certain URL is accessed. It can measure the purchase of a product by counting thank you pages or downloading of content. It’s very useful for funnel analysis. You can set different triggers associated with different pages, which lets you count how many users reach different funnel stages and where most of them drop out.
  • Duration – This goal counts how many visitors stay over a specific time on your page. Especially if used with segments, it can measure their engagement level with your content.
  • Pages Per Session – How many visitors have passed more than a set number of pages. This goal can also indicate visitor engagement.
  • Event – This is the most flexible and versatile type since it allows you to set triggers for almost any condition, such as mouse clicks on a specific button, forms filled out or activations of a chat app.

You can use a combination of conditions to trigger the goal, so it’s a very refined way to extract useful info. Setting goals are critical for improving your campaign’s conversion. They might be challenging to set at first. Using a tag manager can save you a lot of time and the need to rely on IT guys.


With the introduction of Google Tag Manager, tracking your visitors’ behavior became easier and faster. Google now offers many forms of data gathering that can be the base for your optimization attempt, in combination with other tracking programs. Views, filters, and goals are the basic functions to use when tracking a campaign.

However, this is only the start. The combination of Tag Manager and Google Analytics allows much greater control over more complicated data gathering such as in cross-domain tracking when buyers go through more than one URL on their buying trail. Another great feature is GA Content Experiments, which allows you to conduct A/B testing.

This article has covered just the basics of getting the data you need to optimize your campaign. Knowing how tap into Google Analytics can give you an advantage over many competitors, so it’s worth taking the time to learn it in detail.