How to implement Google Analytics for the first time?
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Written by Bartek Bezemer

About the author
I want you to get more out of your online marketing by helping you learn from the greats and give you practical tips.

May 2, 2020

Chances are you might have worked with Google Analytics in the past with an account that was already installed, but how to setup your first Google Analytics account yourself?

When I write a post like this it always feels a little pretentious, as Google themselves have a plethora of content describing how to set up their different tools, but from experience I know the documentation is not always as up to date or as clear for newcomers. I want to mix my personal experiences through posts like this one and be an addition to the documentation which is already out there.

Implement through Google Tag Manager 

When setting up your first Google Analytics account, I recommend using Google Tag Manager as it will save you a lot of time in the future when you are ready to install other tools such as Hotjar, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter pixels and tons of other tools you’ll want to experiment with in the future. Google Tag Manager is installed through a Javascript snippet. If you use a CMS such as WordPress implementing a Javascript snippet is pretty easy. 

Google Tag Manager has a built-in functionality that lets you implement Google Analytics out of the box. Back in the day when Google Tag Manager was just introduced, a lot of tools weren’t supported and all had to be done manually. 

Create a raw view for testing 

A Google Analytics property never consists of only one view. You need a few views which measure different scenarios. You keep your base view, or raw view, as the core of your website. This view has no filters, goals, audiences or whatsoever. It purely serves as a measure to see, when in doubt if your Google Analytics is working properly, if data is flowing in. 

Create a view which filters your own IP address 

In addition to the raw data view, you have to create a view that filters your internal IP address. If you work from home, you’ll also want to filter your own IP from the Google Analytics view. You’ll be doing a lot of testing and content creation, so you don’t want dirty your data in the early stages of your website when traffic is low. This is especially true for B2B websites who in general attract less traffic and where every conversion counts. A simple Google search for “what is my IP”, will give you the IP-address you are using. 

Exclude payment service providers 

In addition to your own IP address, chances are you’ll be using a payment service provider to handle your payments. A payment service provider can be PayPal, Visa, iDeal or any other service. Payments are redirected to the respective platform, which means a session is abandoned by Google Analytics. If you do not implement this referral exclusion and you get to the point where you want to see which channel or website generated salesm you will see that payment providers are generating all your sales. Obviously this is not something you want to see. I learned this the hard way. 

You can create a referral exclusion in the filter view (see screenshot below). Insert the link of the payment page such as payment.paypal.com or the likes and Google Analytics will hold the sessionID and attribute the conversion to the original channel. Can’t find the referral you need? Go to the acquisition report and select referrals. You’ll find all the different websites that are referring to your website.

Do not filter the payment service provider from your raw view, but only for the filtered view. Your raw view, as stated earlier, cannot have any filters. 

Create a Google Search Console account and enable it in Google Analytics 

A valuable addition to your Google Analytics property, is the data from Google Search Console, which fuels your account with data related to your search engine performance. This data consists of search impressions, search clicks or keywords used. Through this report you’ll learn how people are finding your website and if your content efforts are helping you get discovered. As you’ve already implemented Google Analytics you can easily verify your account through this integration. 

Set up goals to measure conversions 

Your website exists for a reason, namely to generate sales or leads. Your commercial success depends on how many sales or leads you are generating. To measure them, it’s important you track them as Goals in Google Analytics. The free account of Google Analytics offers you 20 goals. This may sound like a lot, but as you are growing your business you’ll discover it’s not so much. Be strict with the goals you want to track because you can’t replace past metrics if you decide to reset them. 

To measure goals, I always recommend using thank-you pages after each conversion. A thank-you page is a page which a button or forms refers to when a certain action is successfully completed. Some of those conversions can be: 

  • A successful purchase (e.g. the visitor bought a speaker, a pair of shoes, a wallet, scarf, headphones).
  • Downloaded a brochure.
  • Requested a quote.
  • Requested an appointment. 
  • Completed a reservation.

These are all pretty set in stone goals, but if you don’t have that many conversion points or direct sales are not your primary objective, you want to create as I’d like to call ‘soft goals’:

  • Visited product page.
  • Visited contact page.
  • Visited home page. 
  • Visited careers page.

All these goals, and even the ones that drive actual conversions, aren’t telling a lot, so it’s best to add a goal value. You can read more about how to use goals in the following post where I focus on B2B Google Analytics accounts. It takes a deeper dive into how to use goals to measure success when not selling products directly on your website like an e-commerce shop would do. 

Get your privacy right 

Privacy is getting more attention everyday and the general public is becoming aware of all the data that is gathered about them. And rightfully so as some websites can go overboard in data collection without even themselves knowing where the data eventually ends up. 

The basic steps you will need to take to be privacy ready are as follows:

  • Comply to the processing amendment of Google Analytics
  • Anonymize IP-addresses visiting your website. 
  • Disable benchmarking which will prevent your data from being shared over others properties. No your data won’t be visible in other accounts, it will not be used as a benchmark within the same industry. 
  • Disable Google technical support, which will make your Google analytics account accessible to Google Employees. You will find your way around when issues pop-up. 
  • Disable account access by sales specialists who can view your data. 

Make sure you have the ability for website visitors to either deny or accept the different scripts or cookies that you are using on your website. If you are using a CMS such as WordPress, you can easily install a plugin and place the scripts that are necessary, analytic and promotional in their respective categories. The plugin will do the rest. 

Just having a cookie statement is not enough, it’s important you refer to a privacy policy and terms and conditions section on your website. This may sound a little far fetched when you are just creating your first Google Analytics account, but getting it all right from the get go will save you a lot of time later on when you really want to push for advertising and other third party measurement tools.

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