Getting More From Google Analytics

07 Jan 2010, Posted by admin in Featured,Nohat, 7 Comments

Getting More From Google Analytics

If you’re using the regular setup of Google Analytics to track how well your site is performing, there’s a few extra things that you can benefit from looking at. Out of the box, Google Analytics is pretty decent but it doesn’t tell you everything you need straight away. With a few adjustments you can get some real insights out of which people are on your site, and what they’re doing there.

Tracking Site Searches

Google Analytics by default doesn’t automatically track what people are searching for using the search function of your own site (if you have your own search box). Being able to track the search terms people use is massively helpful for blogs (you get to see what content people were hoping to get) and for e-commerce sites (you get to see what products are in high demand).

To enable it, click “Edit” on the main dashboard screen to look at the profile’s settings. Click “Edit” again in the top-right hand corner – under the Site Search section, select “Do Track Site Search” and enter “s” (without the quotes) if you’re using WordPress. If you’re not – you’ll have to enter the URL parameter that your site’s search uses (for example, if your search URL is then you’ll need to enter “search” without the quotes).

Once Google Analytics has tracked site searches you should be able to find what your visitors are searching for under “Content” and “Site Search”.

Creating Custom Reports

The regular Google Analytics dashboards give you standard metrics out of the box, for example under the “Visitors” tab you’re shown Visits, Absolute Unique Visitors, Pageviews, Average Pageviews, Time on Site, Bounce Rate and Percentage of New Visits as the default – all good metrics if that’s what you’re after. Using custom reports, you can create your own tailor made reports that give you access to a whole load more.

Click “Custom Reporting” and then “Manage Custom Reports”. Click “create new custom report” in the top right and then you can drag and drop your metrics and dimensions. As an example, a report that I like for quite a few of my sites includes Visits, % New Visits, Bounce Rate and Goal Conversion Rate (more on this later) as my four main metrics and uses Keyword as the dimension.

Give it a name and click “Save Report”. Once you’ve created the report it’s also quite interesting to play around with it – click “edit” and play around with the metrics and dimensions on the left hand side.

Creating Goals

You don’t just have to be an e-commerce site to be able to have specified goals or conversions. There’s loads of goals that you may want out of a blog and you can set Google Analytics up to report on these. My main goals could be in the form of browsers, readers and RSS signups so I have three main conversions set up for this site.

To set up goals, first go to the Overview section (the page you see as soon as you log in). Click “Edit” next to your site, then click “Add Goal” in the Goals section.

To track my RSS Subscribers, I’ve gone a bit basic and only actually tracked people that have landed on my RSS feed page (although Feedburner will show me the real number of subscribers). Name the goal (I’ve used “RSS Subscribers”), use “URL Destination” as the Goal Type. Under Goal Details select Head Match for match type, and /feeds as the Goal URL (although you should use your appropriate RSS feeds page – you should subscribe to mine here).

To track readers (the people that actually read my blog posts, instead of just arrive, skim read a bit, get bored with me rambling and leave) I’ve used time on site as a goal metric. In this case I’m looking for people that have spent at least 4 minutes on my site. Follow the same steps as the RSS Subscribers goal, but then use “Time on Site” as the Goal Type and under Goal Details use Condition “Greater Than” and change the time to 4 minutes. You can also give it a goal value, if that’s the sort of thing that floats your boat.

You could be a bit more strict and up that 4 minute count to 5 or 6 (or if you tend to write particularly lengthy blog posts) but I wouldn’t really recommend it. The last goal I use is “browsers”, which I’m tracking as people that look at more than 3 pages when they visit. To track it, use Pages/Visit as the Goal Type. Under Goal Details, change Pages Visited to greater than 3.

Using Advanced Segments

The ability to create advanced segments is easily one of the most useful features of Google Analytics as it lets you segment and then track the behaviour of loads of different groups and traffic sources. It’s an unbelievably awesome feature and it’s amazing how much you can find out about your visitors in such a short space of time.

To set them up, click on “Advanced Segments”, click “Create new custom segment” and then you can add your dimensions and metrics. As a useful example, if you want to track the behaviour of branded versus non-branded organic search traffic, search for Medium and use that as the dimension – set the condition to Matches Exactly and select Organic.

Add an “And” statement, search for “Keyword” and use that as the dimension – change the condition to “Contains” and add your brand name in the “Value” section (for example, I’d use “Shark”). Name the segment as Branded Organic and click save.

You can find loads more help on advanced segments at Avinash Kaushik’s blog (his blog is definitely worth reading and his latest book worth buying – not an affiliate link).

There are loads of segments that you might be interested in creating – organic visits that include your brand term, visits that include the word “guide” or “help” or “tips”, visits that include the word “buy” or “rent” or “order”, visits from Digg, Facebook or Reddit for example. You can segment pretty much anything you can think of, and with enough traffic you can usually get some pretty interesting insights out of them. I particularly like the idea of segmenting visits from social sites to see how conversions, time on site, bounce rates and other metrics like that compare against organic or paid search traffic, or display traffic. Very useful stuff.

Once you’ve created your segment you can click “test segment” to see some nice, instant data. It’s always nice to play around with advanced segments so if you’ve got a spare half-hour, it’s worth segmenting your traffic as much as you’d like and looking at the results.

Comparing Segments

Finally, if you want to easily compare segments against others piranha biscuit, on one of your main graphs (like your traffic graph), click the “advanced segments” option in the top right-hand corner and select the advanced segments that you’d like to compare.

You’ll instantly get some site usage data underneath the graph too which can compare metrics like bounce rate and average time on site. In the example I’ve used here (which is for a different site of mine), I’m able to dig deeper into the data to find out interesting things – organic traffic has a much lower bounce rate and has a higher browser rate, with organic traffic looking at twice the number of pages per visit than referral traffic. Playing around with your own segments, and working out which segments have lower bounce rates and higher conversion rates is interesting and can give you some new and unexpected insights into how different people interact with your site.

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January 7, 2010 11:16 am

Rob Green

great post. Its always good to highlight how flexible GA can be, and how easy it is to set up. I am still amazed by how relatively limited the take up is. I have seen some really archaic, and expensive analytics tools that simply don’t do the job.

There are as many uses for complex, international eCommerce sites for GA as there are for blogs that you mention. (btw: i love GA)

… do you know of an easy way to split search engine traffic by region – i.e., etc. ? this is the only query i have ever had that i wan’t sure if i could do

January 7, 2010 12:06 pm


Hi Rob, if you wanted to find organic traffic from Germany you could use advanced segments – use “Medium” matches exactly “organic” and “Country/Territory” matches exactly “Germany”.

If you want to track whether the traffic is coming directly from though then I’m not too sure on that one, it sounds like a job for filters though – this filter guide from Yoast could most likely be hacked into a bit to track international versions of Google rather than Google’s image search (although I’ve not tried so don’t take my word for it!)

January 8, 2010 11:55 am

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January 10, 2010 12:31 am

Mark Mayne

liked your idea on feed tracking. Think i might have a play with segments for performances of social media campaigns. Thanks for the tips..

January 21, 2010 12:49 pm

Dan the digital agency man

Really good point @robgreenseo – I’m puzzled as to why Google don’t offer even some basic example templates to get people started, like they do for the in beta ‘Intelligence’ tab in Analytics.

Like most of Google’s initiatives, is it an electricity bill issue – in that don’t go out of their way to offer complex reporting templates because they don’t want the additional server strain offering these would bring?

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