How to Set Up Google Analytics: a To-Do List for Beginners

Logo of Google Analytics with banner that says 'A todo list for beginners'

We notice that a lot of our new small business customers have a misconfigured Google Analytics account. This stems from  the fact that they commonly start as a one man band, where the founder does ALL the tasks. 

In such cases Google Analytics set up is done halfway through and then forgotten. Unfortunately this means that data does not get recorded, which makes it impossible to decide on future marketing efforts. We fix the account and then wait for proper data to accumulate, wasting time when further steps should be done.

We wrote a list of tasks, a to-do list, which can serve as a springboard for your Analytics account set up.

Who is this post for?

  • You are a small business with a simple website;
  • You have already installed Google Analytics;
  • You want to be sure that no data gets lost from the start;
  • You plan to educate yourself or hire a professional in the future.

What is the post covering?

The basics with an emphasis on getting all your data stored in a meaningful form. The data will be a bit rough, but your future analytics expert will be grateful for this setup.

We will not go into details. Links to lengthier explanations will be provided. 

The topics of compliance and GDPR are especially important and need deep understanding. They will not be addressed in this post. So beware – proceed at your own risk!

You can always contact us if you have any questions, we will be glad to help.

The Google Analytics Set Up To-Do List

Fundamental settings

1. Decide on Your Account Structure

If you have a single webpage with a single analytics user account skip this.
You probably don’t need anything more than the default settings.

Otherwise check out this 2-minute video:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mLt-EjyezaI

2. Check if You Have ‘Edit’ Permissions

If you have created this particular Google Analytics account, skip this as you have all the permissions.

To manage the account you will need at least ‘Edit’ permissions. Navigate to:
‘Admin’
under View select ‘Filters’
do you see the red button ‘+ ADD FILTER’?

Picture of an ADD filter button in Google Analytics View settings panel

If you do not see this button you need to ask somebody with ‘User Account Management’ permissions to assign the ‘Edit’ rights to you. Read how to do that here: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/2884495

3. Google Tag Assistant

This is a Chrome plugin (get it here) that checks if Google Analytics is installed properly. Install it, enable it, visit your page and look for the green smiley faces in the tag symbols:

Showing an ok resutl from Google Tag Assistant Chrome plugin

Further reading:

Check out this video (5 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7zoJR6uq2g

4. Check if Events are Firing

Do you have any events you want to measure? Like ‘watched 50% of the video’, or ‘scrolled to the main CTA section’? If that’s the case, you need to check if they are being recorded correctly. This can be done using Real-Time Overview reports or Tag Assistant: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1008083

If you have the need to track specifics such as these you would probably be better off hiring an expert. Not collecting the events correctly could have a major influence on your marketing strategy. Get this right – triple check if everything gets recorded.

Property level settings

5. Create a “Raw Data” View for Each Property

This will serve as a backup for your data. For each property create a view with no configuration. It shouldn’t have any filters or goals applied.

How to create views: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1009714

6. Turn on Data Collection for Advertising Features or Google Signals

This setting is one of those where compliance, cookie consent, GDPR need to be fully understood.

But once you take the steps and get those questions answered this is what you need to do:
You either turn on data collection for Advertising or for Google Signals. The latter is a more recent feature and provides more data (namely some cross-device data).

Go to:
‘Admin’
under Property select ‘Tracking info’
‘Data Collection’.

Now turn on ‘Data Collection for Advertising Features’:

Google Analytics dashboard for turning on Data Collection for Advertising Features

or ‘Data Collection for Google Signals’:

Google Analytics settings panel showing Google Tag Data Collection for Google Signals

Read about Advertising Features: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/7532985

Read about Google Signals: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/7532985

7. Connect Search Console

This will connect Google Search queries to your page. You’ll see landing pages and search queries from Google search traffic.

7.1 Get Your Google Search Console set up
If you haven’t already. If possible, go for the ‘Domain’ method. Set up is a bit more technical, but it’s definitely worth it, since it will give you a more complete picture of traffic.
Source: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/9274190

7.2 Connect to Google Analytics
In Analytics:
‘Admin’ →

under Property select ‘All Products’ →

scroll to the bottom, select ‘Link Search Console’ →
‘Add’ and choose the radio button for the Google Search Console account you want.

8. Optionally: Connect AdSense

If you run AdSense make sure you connect it: https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/6084409

9. Optionally: Connect Google Ads

If you run Google Ads it is a must to connect it to Analytics. You’ll get great reports and options for remarketing.

You will need to be an admin in your Google Ads account to do this. Read more here: https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/1704341

10. Optionally: Import Google Analytics Goals to Google Ads

If you have connected Google Ads you must do this. It will enable your Ads account to optimize for your true website goals like leads or website purchases.

It will have to be done in Google Ads dashboard. Get instructions here: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1034306

View level settings

11. Time Zone & Currency Settings

Go to your ‘View Settings’ and set these according to your needs.

12. Filtering

Typically you, your team and your development team generate a significant portion of your website’s traffic in the first stages. This can seriously mess up your statistics. Fortunately it’s quite easy to filter it out.

You have multiple options:

12.A: Filter IPs
First, get the IPs of the traffic you want to exclude. Make sure they are static, if not this won’t work and you need to choose option b).
Proceed as follows:
‘Admin’
Under View settings find ‘Filters’
‘+ ADD FILTER’
Create it, see image below:

Google Analytics setup panel showing how to create filters for internal IP traffic

12.B: Create an Opt-out Designated Page

Source: https://www.bounteous.com/insights/2020/02/13/filter-and-exclude-internal-traffic-google-analytics/

13. Exclude URL Query Parameters

This step will make your page reports aggregated as they should be and also easier to read.

Example: A typical example of an URL query you need to exclude would be Facebook’s ‘fbclid’ parameter. Check the Landing Page report below. You can see a bunch of homepage visits aggregated separately, because their ‘fbclid’ parameters differ:

Google Analytics Landing Page report showing paths with fbclid URL parameters
Exclude ‘fbclid’ as follows:
‘Admin’
Select ‘View Settings’
Google Analytics View settings excluding URL parameters

Read more here: https://www.themodernentrepreneur.com/remove-fbclid-analytics/

14. Exclude Bot Traffic

Make sure Bot Filtering is turned on. Go to ‘View Settings’ and check the option:

Showing Google Analytics setting for excluding bot traffic from known bots
Read more here: https://varn.co.uk/11/17/google-analytics-you-need-to-double-check-your-reports/

15. Set Up Site Search

If your website has a search box you must do this so that Google Analytics starts collecting your search data. Follow these instructions: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1012264 

16. Set up goals

For strategic marketing and growth hacking purposes it is crucial you get this right. It’s not a light topic, but seriously, go and read more about it. It’s definitely worth the time.

Start here for a practical view on goals: https://cxl.com/blog/google-analytics-setup-101/#goals

We have partially covered this topic in a blog post you can find here: https://marketing-data-analytics.com/setting-up-google-analytics-tracking-with-google-tag-manager/

17. Optional: Connect e-commerce shop

We have written comprehensive instructions for this task here: https://marketing-data-analytics.com/setting-up-google-analytics-tracking-with-google-tag-manager/

This task demands advanced knowledge and experience. If your business depends on it, think twice before doing it on your own for the first time.

2nd round 

Let time pass to get some data.
Then:

1. Check Landing Pages report for any additional URL query parameters you would want to exclude.

2. Check Referrals report and make sure it does not contain:

  1. Your own domains,
  2. Payment processing service provider domains,
  3. Appointment booking service provider domains,
  4. Iframe embedded form provider domains.

If you find domains like these in your Referrals report, you need to take action. It’s usually a bit more complex though. Read more here: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/2795830?hl=en

Or contact an expert (you can contact us: https://marketing-data-analytics.com/contact/)

3. Check source/medium for unusually high (direct)/(none) traffic.

4. Check for weird, unexplainable variations in metrics.

Look for big differences in conversion rates, bounce rates, time on page. Any unusual, unexplained spikes and drops in traffic should be researched. Do this for these reports:

  1. Browser & OS,
  2. Devices,
  3. Landing Pages,
  4. Exit pages.

5. Read on Annotations

In Analytics it’s possible to create annotations on your timeline so that you can mark, when you have made modifications on the website or Google Analytics set up. This will make it easy to connect changes in your system with changes in your traffic. It helps a lot, especially after changes start accumulating or when another person starts working on the account. Read about it here: https://neilpatel.com/blog/google-analytics-annotations/

An image of creating annotations in Google Analytics.

For problem solving try Google’s Troubleshooter: https://support.google.com/analytics/troubleshooter/7480067?hl=en

Or give us a call!

Further reading

If you plan to manage data yourself we seriously recommend investing some time and/or money in a course.

Google Analytics courses for beginners:

Google
Study & possibly get your Google Certification.
https://skillshop.exceedlms.com/student/path/2938

Udemy
2h of video, €15 (it’s more, but you can always find a discount)
Link

CXL
9h of content.
This one is a bit pricier at $199/month, BUT they also have a 7-day trial for $1!
We seriously recommend that you take advantage of this 7-day trial. Choose a week, set aside 2 hours each evening and get some high-quality, practical know-how for a single buck!
https://cxl.com/institute/online-course/google-analytics-beginners/

Also – start thinking about Google Tag Manager. It will make your life easier.

We’ve written a post about setting up Google Analytics with Google Tag Manager. Enjoy the read: https://marketing-data-analytics.com/setting-up-google-analytics-tracking-with-google-tag-manager/

And good luck on your analytics journey!

Hi there!

Let’s start a project, schedule a call, or just say hello.

stay informed!

Subscribe to receive exclusive content and notifications

Success!

Thank you for connecting with us. We will get back to you soon!