Google Analytics – Going Beyond the Default

Typically as part of a launch and post-launch support process when we complete website or application development work, we install Google Analytics to track the traffic and provide insight into how the website or app is used.

Installing the code snippet is fairly simple. “Out of the box,” just having the Google Analytics code on each page of the website enables tracking of basic activity on the website or app.

Analytics and reports are often a useful tool to help establish the usage of the website and customer behaviour on your website.

Building the site is just the beginning.

If you are to gain the true value out of the investment in a website, you should, as the business owner, strive to make use of the data you have available and use that information to make decisions on future products/services, website development activities, and more.

All too often, the installation of the tracking code signals the end of the transaction and unless ongoing services are being provided by your developer, this data is collected in the background and rarely (if ever) consulted.

In order to ensure that the tracking data and content are put to reasonable use, this post discusses key items to consider that should ensure at least some value from Google Analytics.

Key Things to Setup Beyond the “Default”

Views & Filters

We will often create several views in an Analytics property.

One to store the raw (everything) data, and then others to filter to more specific audiences or situations. This includes development and staging views to test development and website changes, different views for language if the site is multilingual, and removing the client and developer IPs from analysis since most of that traffic isn’t “real”.

Tracking Outbound links (and non-webpage internal links)

This includes links to external websites and services that your website offers but also can include assets and downloadable items that aren’t tracked by default by Google code snippet which requires a webpage with JavaScript enabled to submit the details of the visitor’s behaviour

Track Key Events

Anything relevant that isn’t a webpage, should be tracked and recorded as an event.

These can include anything from downloading a file to filling out a lead-generation form, to purchasing a product or service, and more.

Google also allows you to assign a value to the event, and while this can feel arbitrary if this isn’t a “sale”, it can lead to a useful way to track the return on investment of your marketing activities


These can be simply the realization of an event or if you are creating a news or information based site this could include the duration one spends on the website or the number of pages they view in a session.

Goals help you to understand if your visitors actually “convert”, and those conversions don’t need to be a sale or a lead generation, but could be any activity a visitor performs that indicates there is some value being exchanged.

Google URL Builder

Make sure your external marketing vehicles, links, badges, ads, etc. employ the Google URL Builder’s syntax so that you can filter or segment your activity based on a campaign or traffic source to a fine degree.

Many external applications already follow this scheme so you don’t have to think about it, but some may not.

If you’re spending money on marketing and advertising outside of a typical tool like AdWords, it’s still important to know if the money spent is converting any visitor.

Custom Dashboards

The reporting in Google Analytics is a dizzying array of graphs, charts, and tables, and includes far more website traffic information that anyone would ever want to know about.

Instead of fighting your way through multiple screens and functions, find out what information is important to you and create a Dashboard the summarizes that information in a useful format (there are actually quite a few out there you can import to give you a head start).

You can always consult the raw data and reports for deeper digging, if required. The goal of this is to get away from the mass of data and focus on what counts and reduce the time it takes you to consult the reports and action useful items from it

Automated Monthly Reports

Once you have a Dashboard (or Dashboards, perhaps you have multiple stakeholders in your organization), use the built-in functionality to send yourself a monthly report.  This email is an easy trigger to review the data monthly (or another frequency) so you can actually make decisions and draw conclusions from the data and undertake strategies to improve your website’s ability to drive traffic, convert visitors, and more.

In addition, Google Analytics has custom reporting features that can help you create your own views of the data gathered by the website.

For some clients with specific and unique requests, further exploration and reading into other tools may be warranted.  We have on several occasions used a Google Sheets add-on to help “pull” in data from Google Analytics to perform very specific and unique analysis that directly reported on a client’s data and visitation in ways that helped them value their ongoing efforts.

When you launch a website or application consider some of these suggestions to help you get the information you need to ensure your website remains a valuable and useful tool for your organization!

Contact MARSWorks for any digital assistance you may need.