I’m a Google Analytics addict.
Also a Google Tag Manager and Google Data Studio Addict.
With lashings of Google Search Console, Google Sheets and Google Docs thrown in.
With these free platforms from Google you can build an enterprise-level analytics solution providing a wealth of information about how people found your site and what they did there, and report on it in a centralised, customised format.
This is where it all starts. You create a free Google Analytics account. Review your configuration, including:
- Good naming standards
- Local currency
- Exclude known bots
- Separate Views for production and testing
- Search parameter reporting
- Enable ecommerce (if applicable)
- Define goals
- Filters to exclude your own IP address
You can get the GA code and place it straight on your site, but I prefer to use Google Tag Manager…
Google Tag Manager
Create a free Google Tag Manager account.
Setup a Google Analytics Settings Variable inside GTM. It’s best practice to use variables where possible, so that you can reference them in multiple tags with consistent settings, and in case you need to change something later in a single location.
Create a tag that adds your GA Settings to All Pages on the site.
Publish your GTM Container.
Get the installation code from GTM, and add this to your website (instead of adding the GA code directly).
This now allows you to make any tagging changes inside GTM, instead of needing to edit your website each time. So you can add your Facebook Pixel, Google Ads Conversion Tag, custom event tracking, alongside your Google Analytics tags, all inside GTM.
There is an excellent Preview feature built-in, where you can test your tagging changes prior to publishing them.
Google Search Console
Sadly Google Analytics doesn’t tell us as much as it used to, about organic keyword traffic. For privacy reasons, if your website visitors are logged into another Google service (Gmail, YouTube) in the same browser, then any organic keyword searches are not reported inside Google Analytics. They appear as “Not provided”. Which is extremely annoying, as it now represents a good 95%+ of keyword searches.
So you need to set up a free Google Search Console account. This is the official way that Google prefers to communicate with webmasters – it used to be known as Webmaster Tools.
After verifying your website in GSC (by uploading a file, or via your GTM account), you will be able to see:
- Organic keyword positions, impressions, clicks, click-through-rate on Google
- Recommended enhancements, warnings and errors
- XML sitemap status (after you’ve created and submitted it)
You should then link your GSC account to your GA Account, so that you can see GSC data inside Google Analytics in a single location.
Google Sheets & Docs
I like having a Google Sheet set up for each website, so that I can have key facts organised for quick reference.
I set up a couple of Sheet Tabs where I list significant changes to the site, keyed by date, such as key content changes, new campaigns, industry events.
I also set up Tabs for Competitors, Channel Objectives and Link Prospects. Combined with my Event Calendar, this becomes my Digital Marketing Sheet and Content Planning “platform”.
I use Google Docs for documents that need to be shared with others, or general system documentation.
Google Data Studio
And finally the creme de la creme. Google Data Studio dashboards.
Google Data Studio is a free dashboard reporting tool that allows you to pull together data from multiple platforms, into a consolidated report.
Now that you have Google Analytics, Google Search Console and Google Sheets set up, you can create a GDS dashboard that extracts data from all of them at the same time, using a date filter that applies to all of them.
You can also setup extra filters for your Google Analytics data, segmenting your data performance by channel, source, medium, device, user type – a huge variety.
I’ve tried a few combinations of filters, and this is my current favourite:
Google Data Studio dashboards work best with other Google Products, but you can use Connectors to pull in data from other platforms such as Facebook Page Insights, Facebook Ads, Pinterest. There are paid services from companies such as SuperMetrics, that provide these connectors.
I get a strange joy from setting up custom Google Analytics Event Tracking, and pulling it all together in a handsome Data Studio dashboard….