Google Analytics

What are the best website goals?

You want goals setup in Google Analytics …….because, well, you like money right? You want to have some kind of measurable purpose or outcome, that line in the sand, those conversion rates to give you some context on how well your website is doing to meet your objectives. Not forgetting, how your marketing is working to drive said conversions and to be honest, without goals, you are left reporting on site visits, page views, what marketing channels got them there, and that will only get you so far. You need to know if your work is having an impact.

So, this brings us to the question, “What are the best website goals to have for your website?”

Before you jump off into admin land and create them, you need to spend some time thinking strategically about the goals you want to have on your site, and from there you can work out what investment is needed in order to get them working. You may need some configuration to your analytics in order to build the goal, such as Event Tracking (check out our Event Tracking Explainer, if anything to see our faces on buckets of chicken).

Macro and Micro Goals

You can have a whopping 20 goals on your site, yet more often than not, we have found that goals aren’t set up in Google Analytics, or if they are, there are only a small few, and they have been focused on the big hitter goals.  You should be thinking about your goals from a Micro and Macro point of view.

Macro The main key performance indicators for your business, AKA if this doesn’t happen your business will go bust!

Micro These are small interactions from people actually moving towards what you want them to do. There is value here; don’t throw this data away!

Here is a basic example for an Ecommerce site. End game, macro goal, you want the money, smaller conversions could be people looking at your social media accounts, or signing up to your newsletter, of clicking through your product images/ reading reviews/ watching a video about the product, then adding to basket (they are soooo close to giving you the cash now).

Mapping to your funnel

Ideally, you should map your business goals (micro and macro) to a funnel. To help, we have created a model to think about goals, say hello to TIMER©


Represents the people who are flirting with you, they arrive on your site and scroll down a page, maybe look through some pictures, then they hard bounce out of your site! Bye!


They are “investing” their time with you, not quite converting but slowly giving more of a damn about you. Maybe watching some of your video, downloading a pdf, or adding to basket. It’s the little things.


They are doing what you really need them to do, you are big hitting, if they don’t do them, we will go out of business goals.


Your users are happy (and unhappy) people who are really engaging with your brand after a big goal, think referring a friend or leaving a review.


The circle of life and all that, you have to consider some retention goals, do they come back, repeat the process? Think signing back in, or cross/ up-selling. Also known as post acquisition in some circles.

What does it look like in action?

Here is one I made earlier, well actually we made 6.

Want to see 20 ‘atypical’ micro and macro goals to use in your Analytics? There are 20 goals available per business (to mirror the allowance of goal numbers in your analytics views), well you are in luck!

As part of our Google Analytics Online Course, we have created 6 fully editable templates based on 6 business models (Ecom, SaaS, Lead Gen, UGC, Content, 2 Sided Market Place)

Google Analytics

How to Track Campaigns and Website Traffic in Google Analytics

Tracking campaigns and website traffic

Curious about how to track your campaigns in Google Analytics the right way? I hear you.

Well I hope you will agree that tracking your campaigns is absolutely critical not only to your marketing department but to the overall performance of your business.

Tracking your campaigns helps you to understand what is working and what marketing tactics are a big fat flop. But it’s also important to use the data from your analytics to backup your budget and resources for all your super smashing marketing wizardry.

What if I was to tell you that you may be doing your tracking all wrong?

Would you feel nervous? A pang of panic?

Have you made the right decisions when sacking that agency for not delivering, or put money on a channel that was actually, well wrong……?

As a marketer (or anyone who’s job is to get people to your website) you have to really understand how Google Analytics works.How they define your website traffic, how they may be bucketing your wonderful work, which could be, for all your best intentions and tagging efforts being thrown in the wrong bucket, or sent to (none) / Direct which is what I like to call, “the-man-draw-of-data-hell”.

But fear not my friend, The Colouring In Department are here to save you!

In this post I am going to walk you through:

  • How UTM tracking codes works
  • How Google Analytics actually defines your marketing channels
  • Common mistakes with UTM tracking and your sources and mediums
  • What you can do to fix your tracking problems (hurrah!)
  • How to tinker with your Default Channel Grouping settings (spoiler, you need to do this, especially if you are doing paid social)

How UTM tracking codes works.

You use UTM codes to track your marketing campaigns, as we will dig into the nitty gritty in this post you will see that GA needs some help in making sure your marketing gets put in the correct pot. A side note here, UTM codes are for your EXTERNAL marketing campaigns, you DO NOT, and I really mean DO NOT use UTM codes in your own website, you will royally fuck up your data. If you did want to know who went from the Blog to your Product page you can find those answers in the Behavior reports and by building Segments. Right, now that is out of the way……

Let’s break down a UTM code.


You need to have a URL that you want the traffic to go too, this sounds uber obvious, but you want to check that you have the correct URL, check it works (no one wants a 404 page when they click on that link), check its current eg your HTTPS version not the HHTP that will redirect.


This is the big broad buckets for your marketing channels, Organic is a medium, Email is a medium, Social is a medium.


This tells us where does the link live, so if Organic is the medium the source would be Bing or Google, if Email is the medium it will be the name of the data set eg newsletter database, or customer database, and if it was Social the source would be or

Campaign Name

You can choose to give the link a campaign name, so if you were doing a marketing campaign for a promotion that included a bit of PPC, Social Media and Email you can name all your traffic involved in said promotion under one campaign name which you can dig into in your Analytics , which is a massive timesaver to see how the collective channels are working for a campaign.


Love using this 💕

It gives you the option to further slice your data. If you had an email campaign, you would set the Medium = email , Source = newsletter-database, Campaign = BlackFridaySale and if you had, say a CTA that links to the same URL as say an images, you could create 2 UTM codes, the only difference is to vary the Content tag, one would say Content = CTA the other Content = Image. This would give you insights into your email creative and how that is working at driving traffic and conversions.

Below is a good example of a correctly tagged email campaign.  Medium is correct set as ’email’ , and the source is lovely, where does that link live… is from the ‘newsletter-database’, so all the traffic from this person’s email marketing is going into the right bucket and being attributed correctly. High Fives!

How Google Analytics actually defines your marketing channels.

So far, you may think, this all sounds simple doesn’t it, what could go wrong?

Well a lot.

You need to help Google Analytics understand where you’re inbound links are coming from to help attributes correctly. It is after all, a computer programme!

So you really need to know how GA processes that information and I know you guys do not lay awake at night thinking ‘I wonder how Google Analytics core reporting API defines the Default Channel Attribution model for my Acquisition reports”

Lucky for you, I have (true story) so here we go!

The Default Channel Grouping (which you can find in your Admin> View settings) is what powers your gorgeous Acquisition > Channels report. You know, the one you use to see how you marketing is working for you.

Think of the Default Channel Grouping as a bouncer, they are at the door of your website, asking people where they have come from and checking through their little list to see if your traffic matches the rules that they have down.

This is where the problems can start.

Let me backup and explain how Google defines this list and show you some common errors (that you may be doing and will need to fix).

Below is the actual list of rules for the Default Channel Groupings, this is the little list the bouncer is checking your traffic against, and it all HAS To match exactly what is here, case sensitive, no room for error.

General overview:

1- Referral. This is a click through from any website that Google does not recognise as a search engine so this can come from other websites that maybe you have a Blog link on,  social media is also included in this bucket.

2- Organic. These are Google recognised search engines so Google, Bing, Yahoo (side note, I find it rather amusing that DuckDuckGo which is a search engine is categorised as a referral medium by Google)

3- (None) This is a for your inbound links that are pushed directly into the browser and with no referral data or parameters to see where it came from, it gets recorded as source = (none) and therefore medium =  (direct)

You will notice that there are a few more channels listed when you select Acquisition>Channels  but again you have to understand that this channels report is powered by Google’s Default Channel Grouping, this is Google system defined channel definitions, and it is locked down.

This is how google buckets your hard work, notice that there are no channels for paid social, or retargeting! We will get to how you fix that in a second.

Google Analytics will go through its lists of SYSTEM DEFINED rules and based on that ,will assign the channel they will appear in which is what you see in Acquisition > Channels.

If you get it wrong, well your in for some bad luck.

Common mistakes with UTM tracking and your sources and mediums

Let’s start nice and easy with just using UTM codes and NOT matching them to the system defined. Email is the big common issue I see here.

If you look at the system defined rule the Medium = email , as in lower case email, not Email , not Email Marketing, not Newsletter. If you put something in a UTM that the bouncer does not understand it will be sent to (other) which is kind of where data goes to die and collect dust.

Then we have the problem when people do not even tag email marketing (tut tut to you!)

Let’s say you send out an email and 1000 people click through to your website. 50% of the emails were click on from people using Outlook on their desktop, and the other 50% through an online email client such as Gmail.

Without any campaign tags on those inbound links, Google Analytics is going to count the outlook link traffic as Direct because it won’t find any parameters so It will be treated as if it was Direct traffic, and if the link was opened in an email in Gmail browser, Google Analytics thinks that it is a website referring traffic to you so the medium assigned will be Referral and the Source = or something to that tune.

Both are wrong, and Email gets no love (poor email marketing channel).

Here is another example of a bad Now if you look at again at our Default Channel Grouping rule list, there is NO medium for social-post so that is thrown in to (other) along with another set of email traffic as someone tagged the medium as browser, which also does not exist in the Default Channel Grouping.

And it came again for a client that didnt tag their email correctly.

Personally, I have done a few hundred analytics audits, and over the years have taught thousands of people about the joys of Google Analytics, and one of the biggest issues I see boils down to people not correctly tagging.

But do not fret dear reader, you can tinker with your Default Channel Grouping settings (spoiler, you need to do this, especially if you are doing paid social)

What you can do to fix your tracking problems (hurrah!)

Get a sense check to any issues you think you may have, and talk to your team about data discrepancies they think they have eg “We are doing loads of email campaigns but the data never shows in GA.”

This is what happened with this example below, they had about 3 members of staff full time on email, sending out around 5-25k emails a month, yet is looked like they were the worst department in the world.

They NEVER tagged the emails so it got thrown into Referral and Direct (sad times). Check out the image below. This was from their account…… when we dug into the data, the Referral traffic was full of source = gmail, yahoo, outlook, all that email traffic was being opened in an email browser and therefore not attributed correctly.

Another common mistake I see is with Paid Social Campaigns. Did you spot that the Default Channel Grouping has NO way to group or define paid social.

The problem with tagging paid social campaigns for say Facebook, if you have tagged the medium as CPC,  the Default Channel Grouping has a System Defined channel called Paid Search and if the medium matches CPC it gets put in that bucked, AKA Adwords!

Now it’s not technically wrong, Facebook is on a cost per click basis, but boosting your social posts is a very different strategy and tactics than those in your search marketing and your AdWords campaigns.

I’ve seen people login to Analytics, go to the Acquisition>Channels, and they take this report by its face value and sack agencies managing paid social as the numbers do not show in Analytics, or pull budget lines for other channels, like Email, as it doesn’t pull in the numbers.

As a general rule then, you have to do EXACTLY what is on the tin, you can not create new mediums, decide you would rather put a capital on the name when its lower case sensitive.

For me this shows just how critical tagging is.

Everybody within the team and external (agencies) basically anybody that’s creating inbound and trackable UTM links for any of your marketing campaigns needs to understand how important this is.

Because you are making decisions based on how well the channels in the Default Channel Grouping are doing.

How to tinker with your Default Channel Grouping settings (spoiler, you need to do this, especially if you are doing paid social)

Step 1: Work out your medium lists.

Think of mediums as big broad buckets for you to put your marketing activity into.

In addition to the System Defined Channels, sit down with your teams/agencies and work through all the mediums you need or have up and running that may not be showing up in your analytics correctly.

Remember the examples from the start of the post? Paid Facebook campaigns tagged as CPC were put in the Adwords bucket (Paid Search), or Email campaigns that may come up as Direct or Referral.

Below are some examples listed in the tracking sheet that can help get the brainstorm juice flowing.

Do you have PDF documents that you send out that have links in them? Are you doing Paid Social? Retargeting on Paid Social? Do you have a list of partnered website that you work with or do co-authored content?When it comes to your naming conventions, there is no right way,  but do remember that these medium and source names show up in the tagged url for your customers and prospects to see.

You want to make them as descriptive as possible as you need to understand them quickly in your analytics,  if you were to move jobs or handover to someone, it should be clear what your mediums and sources are.

Step 2- Create your User Defined channels

When you have worked out what mediums you need, you’re going to have to tinker with your Admin settings in order to tell Google how you want your channels to show up in your Acquisition Reports.

Here are some examples of Default Channel Groupings that have some User Defined channels for the marketing teams to identify how well their marketing campaigns are doing and how their website traffic actually got there.

There are a few ways you can tackle this, you could create a Custom Channel Grouping (beta) but that means you have to build up the Channel Groupings, including Google’s system defined channels, from scratch which I personally find a big fat ball ache, and prone to error.

Instead, I want you to head over to your Admin> View> Channel Settings >Channel Grouping and select Default Channel Grouping.

VERY IMPORTANT : What you are going to do here is changing the way that Google crunches your data and it does this from the day that you create them. If you make a mistake you can flat line your data. So it is very VERY important that you do this in your Test View first. When you are happy with the data coming in, create the same changes to your Reporting View.

Just in case some of you are going “what you talking about Jill”, let me back up quickly and explain.

Google recommends that you have 3 views in your Google Analytics account:

  1. One Raw Data View, think of this as your backup file
  2. A Master View or Reporting View ,you can call it anything you want, this is the view you put filters on, set up goals etc
  3. A Test View is so you can check things work and don’t bugger up your data.

If you want to know more about what your account structure should look like, check out our explainer for getting your Admin Account Properties and Views in order!.

Identify how you will define your new channels in your tagging conventions. When you create your User Defined Channels you need to use and keep using (consistency is key here) how you are going to tag your mediums in your UTM links. Below are some examples of NEW channels you may want to create and how you may want to name them.

Let’s say I wanted to tag traffic from SMS messages. I can create a rule where the Medium = sms and every time I track a link from an SMS it will no longer go to Direct, but will be moved to my nice new channel and show up in the Acquisition Reports.

How do you do this? It takes a few jiffy seconds! Click on the ‘define a new channel’, and provide Google with the details on how they are going to process your super UTM and tracked traffic to your website.

Then scroll down to the bottom and hit save! Always scroll down and hit save. You are working in a browser and if you don’t do this, all your work will be gone.

Rinse and repeat for all your new channels.

You need to be aware that these channels run in order so you want to put your more specific channels at the top and you’re more generic channels at the bottom.

I have given some guidance here on how you may want to tag your mediums, I have used ‘medium matches regex’ so it is not case sensitive. Tip Brian Clifton has a super post on using Regular Expression.

Again, you are going to follow this step in a test view and then when you are happy, roll it over to the reporting views you are using.

Step 3- Agree on Source names

The source tag is easy to work out and define, as this is where the link lives.

But again, you need to have consistency across the board, you don’t want fragmented reporting due to inconsistent tagging, see the example below.

In this case, the marketing team were using ‘facebook’ and ‘’ for the Paid Social campaigns.

Another question I get asked is what the source should be for Email. I personally like to put the source in relation to the data bucket.

For example I am sending out my newsletter, I would put this down as Medium = email and Source = Newsletter+Database

Or I am sending a triggered email campaign to people who downloaded content, I would put Medium = email and Source as content+trigger and the campaign name, something like: Q12017analytics+white+paper

Tip: adding a + in the middle as turns it into a space in your reports, much easier on the eye!

Campaign Tagging Structure

So you’ve learnt how to track your campaigns in Google Analytics, now what?

As mentioned earlier in the post, you will need to maintain a log and this your the bible!! This is the list of all your links which everyone in the team (internal and external) will use so that your website traffic goes into the right bucket. We have such a document if you would like it, head over to our Resources.

But in general this is what you are going to agree on, no more getting your sources and mediums mixed up no fragmenting data with people having 40 million different ways to say the link was on facebook. Nice and tidy structure to help that computer programme understand where the link came from.

MEDIUMutm_medium=big buckets for marketing channels, defined by system and user defined
TRAFFIC SOURCEutm_source=where the link lives
CAMPAIGNutm_campaign=campaign name
AD CONTENTutm_content=more info to help slice and dice data eg banner , mpu, text links etc
KEYWORDutm_term=used for Adwords

Step 4- How to Understand Attribution and Assisted Conversions for your User Defined and System Defined Channels

What is attribution? 

Short answer, it is a fancy way of saying ‘who gets the credit’.

If you haven’t used attribution models in Google Analytics before it can be little confusing, daunting or a mixture of both. But what exactly is attribution modelling and why is it so important?

According to Google, attribution modeling is:

An attribution model is the rule, or set of rules, that determines how credit for sales and conversions is assigned to touchpoints in conversion paths. For example, the Last Interaction model in Analytics assigns 100% credit to the final touchpoints (i.e., clicks) that immediately precede sales or conversions. In contrast, the First Interaction model assigns 100% credit to touchpoints that initiate conversion paths.

In layman’s terms, attribution modeling allows teams to determine the value of their marketing channels that led to a conversion.

Everything north of the Multi-Channel Funnel Reports is pulling in data from the core reporting API, which works on the last click win rule.

When we marketing folk like to see what is assisting in conversions, all that lovely work we have just done works in our Acquisition>Channels Report, last click win. BUT the reports in the Multi-Channel Reports run on the MCF Channel Grouping.

So how do you see if your Paid Social for example, is assisting in conversion?

There is a very quick way to do this.  In your Conversions> Multi-Channel Funnels> Assisted Conversion Report click on the drop down and select copy MCF channel grouping template.

Now rinse and repeat the same process that you have just done for your Default Channel Grouping User Defined channels.

Unlike the Default Channel Grouping, this MCF Grouping is part of your personal tools and assets, and is only changing the way your current, and future data is being displayed. That means if you create this, you need to share this asset with people in your team.


  • It is vital for anyone responsible for driving traffic to your website to understand how Google Analytics processes your traffic.
  • It is our responsibility to tell Google what we want to happen to our inbound links, do not expect them to put them in the right bucket.
  • Use the option to add a Secondary Dimensions in your reports, in this case, adding Source/Medium to identify if you have any flags that need looking at urgently.
  • Work out what channels you have, and need, that are not part of the Default Channel Grouping.
  • Work together with your wider teams, agencies, anyone who is responsible for your marketing to get them to understand how you are going to Tag and Log your inbound links.
  • Agree on a naming convention, consistency here is the key
  • Keep a log of all the links you create: use our channel planning template as a starting point. 
  • When you are ready to tinker with your settings, do this in your Test View first then when you are happy, recreate in your Reporting View
  • Don’t forget about Assisted Conversions, copy your MCF Grouping and repeat the steps in your Default View so you can see how your channels, including any new ones, are working at assisting conversions for you.

Hopefully by reading this far into the post you have seen the importance of getting your channels and tracking in order, but how do you do this?

This is your to-do list, you need to own this, consistency is key, so you want to bring in your team members, and brief your agencies/consultants so you are all on the same page.

And for the love of marketing, keep a log! I have seen people report fragmented sources or teams working in silo and tagging more than one different campaign the same name! (Rolls eyes).

To help you, we have created a UTM explainer that you are more than welcome to use.

Happy Tracking!

Found this post interesting?


We have a whole module on Tracking in our Online Google Analytics Course.

And, as no one likes a blank sheet of paper, we’ll walk through a process to work out your channel planning process so you marketing goes into the right place

You know you want to have a look 👀

Head this way my measurement loving friend.


Favourite Metrics from Influencers

What is Your Favourite Digital Marketing Metric?

We have been asking key influencers across the Digital Marketing landscape a number of questions around digital marketing metrics. Questions like, what are your favourite metrics? What top metrics would you take to the board? As marketing departments engage in digital transformation, why ican it be so damn hard to be a data driven marketeer, why the struggle? In this part 1 of 3 blogs we’ll be sharing what Rand Fishkin, Dave Chaffey, Edwina Dunn, Brain Clifton, Matthew Tod,Tink Taylor and Mathew Eisner had to say when asked.

What is your favourite metric and why?

Big thank you again guys for giving up your time to respond to the questions!

To make the most of these metrics, I have mapped the answers to a basic funnel using.Building Awareness Unique Visits – Rand Fiskin talks about Keyword Opportunity Metrics Audience Share- Edwina Dunn loves Customer Commitment (brand love) Engage Audience Engagement Segments – Brian Clifton goes into detail about engagement rate by segments (using Google Analytics)  Achieve Conversion to Marketing Goals ROI- Tink Taylor, because Sales is what matters.  Build Customer and Fan Relationships Net Promoter Score – Dave Chaffey, how satisfied are your customers. K Factor- Matthew Eisner, do your customers do some work for you and get you more customers? Matthew Tod- doesn’t have one favourite metric……read on to find out what he had to say. Ready to read? Let’s go!

Building Awareness

Rand Fishkin, former Wizard of Moz, Founder SparkToro

My favourite metric……. is Keyword Opportunity. It’s a metric that the SEO world has only recently come around to using, and tries to estimate the relative click-through rate to the organic, web search results for a given keyword. With Google introducing so many types of rich data in search results, there’s a huge difference between ranking #1 for a query with 10 blue links vs. one with a Knowledge Graph, three ads above the results, a news block, an image block, etc. Keyword Opportunity helps us prioritize the right keywords to target, not just the ones with high volume.More about it here and in the KW Explorer tool.

Edwina Dunn, CEO Starcount

My favourite metric is customer commitment (brand love)because just using spend, value or frequency places no value on the degree to which a customer is truly engaged with the brand; too often a valuable customer may be disloyal and spending with others also and so we have to fight constantly to keep our share of spend.

Engage Audience

Brian Clifton, Author and Director of Data Insights & Analytics

My favourite metric is engagement. This not something you can directly lift out of your analytics tool – you need to give it some thought. In Google Analytics Engagement Rate is obtained as a segment i.e. a segment constructed to include all visitors that have done something of value on your website.

What constitutes “value” is what requires thought. Mostly, value is defined as completing a call-to-action. These include the obvious candidates of:⦁ visitors who clicked an email link (made contact) ⦁ visitors who completed a contact, subscription, or survey form (made contact) ⦁ visitors who logged into a private area (existing customers, members, subscribers) ⦁ visitors who add-to-cart but did not purchase ⦁ visitors who transacted with you ⦁ visitors who commented on a product, post or article However, engagement should also include softer metrics such as: ⦁ visitors who viewed specific content that requires genuine interest (or effort to find) e.g. special offer related to previous content viewed. Amazon does this very well with their “People who viewed this product also viewed…” ⦁ visitors who’s visit goes beyond the “site average”, such as spending x minutes longer on your site, viewing y pages more. INSERT PIC

Basically any action that constitutes real visitor engagement on your site should be included this segment i.e. its a count of visitors that engage with your brand in some shape or form. Then calculate what percentage of your total traffic this represents – I guarantee you will be surprised, and not in a pleasant way! Around 150 years ago, John Wannamaker famously stated:“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”Amazingly I find that is still true today.

Achieve Conversion to Marketing Goals

Tink Taylor, Founder of dotMailer

My favourite metric is ……. ROI Because …… Sales is what matters… not opens, clicks, reads, visitors etc

Dave Chaffey, CEO Smart Insights

Customer satisfaction rating (with online experience or overall multichannel brand experience).Why? Since marketers need to go beyond the web analytics and commercial metrics to get direct insight from consumers to get their perception of your online brand / multichannel experience.

Building Customer and Fan Relationships

Matthew Einer Global Marketing Manager 

Favourite Metrics: K-factor/viral coefficient – if you can create a product where users onboard each other, all you have to do is hit a single node in each network of people to gain adoption.

One metric to rule them all?

Matthew Tod, Director at D4td PLC

My favourite metric is ……. one that I know impacts the whole business not just a digital channel. For example the number of people who are doing high quality pre-purchase product research in a digital channel prior to purchase in ANY channel is always interesting. Because …… single channel thinking is for numpties, those who don’t want to progress and those who are to lazy to figure it out!

So what next?

Interesting right? For any marketeer, metrics, data and all those numbers can quite frankly give even the most astute data geek the night sweats! If you want to find out more about Google Analytics and how to report more effectively to the board, we have a number of free resources ready for your download here – enjoy!

Google Analytics

Google Analytics: 5 Awesome Ideas To Focus On

Are you writing and managing a blog or website? Then say hello to your new best friend: Google Analytics Google Analytics: those two words sound shivers down most marketers spine. For many of you, it’s a maze, a web of complicated data, “tough beans!” some may say. Yes it can be a little bit of a head bend, BUT it needn’t be. Practice makes perfect and there are some simple things you can do to get more out of your data with our top 5 Google Analytics Tips. Analytics is a super cool tool that you can use to pull insights to improve the metrics that matter to you the most. You should be using it to answer questions about your site and blog, like; where are your readers from? Which post is engaging people for longer, are they returning, which marketing channels are doing better to drive traffic to your site? This is all key information that will help you to create better content, distribute it across the right channels and drive ROI through the roof. As everyone is at a different stage in their analytics journey, we’ve focused on 5 awesome Google Analytics tips that you can use today, without (much) additional tinkering.

1- Get to know more about your readers

When you log into analytics you will find the reports on the left hand side. Audience will have data about who is going to your website eg what age, gender, locations, do they return, are they on a mobile? Acquisition will let you know how they got to your website e.g do your visitors come from google organic, social media, or email campaigns? Behaviour is focused on what they do when they get to your website e.g what pages of your site are popular with your readers? Conversions will be about what you want them to do e.g sign up for blog alerts, share content on social media etc Start off with Audience> Overview at a high level it will tell you how many users you have, how many pages the average user’s session will be, and how long they stay on your site. overview google analytics pic If you want to get a little more granular, you can head to Demographics> Age or Demographics > Gender to see how old they are, and if they are male or female. If you want to get this data you have to enable this feature in your Admin settings. Head over to Admin> Property Settings and turn the toggle on enable demographics report pic What we really like about this report, when you have enabled this feature, is that you can drill down to see how old your readers are and if they are male or female. It always surprises me how these cohorts behave and there is the option (in all the reports) to see how well the age and genders do in regards to your conversions. If you found out that most of your readers where within in a certain age range and gender, would you change your tone and style of writing? demographics age google analytics pic You can also find out where they are coming from. Head over to Audience> Geo> Location will tell you where they are from, down to the City. This will give you a basic overview of who your customers are, a mini persona so to speak.

2- Get context with data ranges to understand if you are going in the right direction

If your reports just focus on last month’s data, you will struggle to understand if you’re moving in the right direction. We would recommend always comparing current performance to 2 out of these 3, time comparisons. % year on year Month on Month Today v Yesterday If you business is older than a 1 year (hurray!) , use sequential and last year comparisons. If your business is less than a year old use sequential and average comparisons. For example, instead of just reporting on what happened last month, you can say something like this…… “So our January 2017 traffic is down 25% compared to December, but we are up 30% compared to last January 2016”. To change the date ranges, head over to the top right of your reporting area and click on the little triangle at the end of the date range, now you just need to highlight the date range and to compare you just need to tick ‘Compare to” and select previous period or previous year. See this isn’t as hard as you thought right? These Google Analytics tips are a doddle when followed correctly.

3- Compare to the site average

Averages suck. Yes it’s great to have a baseline number for your metrics, but it won’t help you see the good, bad and the ugly. In all of your reports there is a hidden trick to pull your data up by its socks. When you look at your reports they are typically pulled into a grid with average metrics pulled into the report. Hidden away, top right of table you will see 6 little boxes, the 4th one across is one of our favorites, this is the Comparison option. compare to the site average icon google analytics pic When you click it, you get a visual like this, just play around with the drop downs to change the report. This allows you to see (compared to the site average) how your marketing channels are doing in terms of getting you new users, which ones are better at getting you more revenue etc.

4- Annotations: Sticky notes on your analytics

Have you ever looked at your analytics reports and seen the a spike in your traffic and you asked yourself “I wonder what happened there?”, or more recently a client of ours said “we’ve had a burst of organic traffic in 3 days!”. There’s an option to add little sticky notes onto your analytics to help you understand what those blue spark-lines are doing. To create an annotation you just click on the little triangle under the reports and select + create new annotation. You can then amend the date and write up to 160 characters. You have the option to make them private (only you see them) or public (anyone who has access to the account can see them). Use this to note when you launch a new blog, make changes to your website homepage, or launch a campaign. You can also view these under your personal tools and assets at View level.

5- Site Search

This is one of our all-time-favs and Google Analytics trick that SO many business owners and marketers miss out on. Think of your site search like a little pot of gold at the end of rainbow. It’s full of surprises and such a great Google Analytics trick. If you have a little search bar on your website so that users can quite literally ‘search’ for something, then we have some good news. You can track and record your visitors that use this feature. But what’s even better, is that you can find out what they’ve been typing in!! Bingo! This for us is a little gold mine, it tells you exactly what people are looking for. If you don’t have the information people are searching for on your website, write about it! Create a landing page or blog post. Or if you thought it was obvious to people where to find it but they are getting stuck, improve the user experience to help people get what they need faster.

To get this you need to go to your View settings at admin level and turn the toggle for Site Search Tracking ON. One last step is to pop in what your query parameter is, you can find this by looking at the URL when you use your search facility, for this example for the website Book Machine the URL puts the letter s before the search term, so you would add the letter S. In other cases it is the letter Q. When you have done this, it will only start to pull in data the day that you turn it on, so get it turned on asap! When you want to see the results, head over to Behaviour> Site Search and you can drill down to Search Terms.

As you can see, Google Analytics doesn’t have to be this super-duper complicated platform that you try to avoid using. By implementing a few simple Google Analytics tips like these, you can get to know your audience, look at year-on-year performance, site averages and really get to know more about what people are searching for on your website. Well done fellow marketer! You superhero you. If you’d like to find out more about The Colouring In Department’s cool stuff, you can download some of our free marketing templates here.


What KPI’s Would You Take to the Board


What Marketing Metrics Matter

How do you build a KPI dashboard for the boss?

User Experience

Top Tips For User Experience in B2B Marketing

Introducing our top tips and tricks to master user experience in B2B Marketing! Originally taken from our 10 mistakes in B2B Marketing published on the Smart Insights website we delve into the biggest mistakes B2B marketers make when it comes to user experience.

Google Analytics

Social Media and Google Analytics Reporting

Social Media and Google Analytics Reporting: What you need to know

Feeling like Social Media and Google analytics are an absolute minefield? We here you. If  you haven’t had the budget internally to send you on a course or had a wizzy wig mentor by your side, this analytics stuff can become a little overwhelming.

Jill, one of the co-founders of The Colouring In Department was invited as part of her role as lead instructor for General Assembly, to deliver a workshop for Social Media Week Bristol on a topic that’s very close to her heart. Analytics. The 1.5 hour workshop sold out, so to help people who were there and needed additional notes, or if you missed it, Jill has written up this post which covers the 8 Tips she shared and the main topics that were covered in the analytics workshop.

This turned into one meaty post, but it is worth it. There are some quirks to the social media reports in Google, including how it defines social media, how using the wrong medium will stuff up your numbers and knowing that google does not have a defined channel in its core reporting API for paid social or re-targeting (I know right!) ….read on to find out more!

You are not the colouring in department

When marketers and businesses are using social media I have heard from clients and students that team members or their bosses still see social media as “just dossing around on Facebook” or “playing with the latest social media tool” .

Marketing needs to be able to track all of our campaigns in order to show the return on investment which in turn will give us more respect.  By having data at its marketing core you are no longer a marketer with an opinion, you are the one who has data and insights to drive growth. You can’t expect somebody to place value on something you are not able to measure and quantify.

Social media probably gets the biggest kick out of all of the marketing channels available because of the lack of evidence.

According to a report by BrandGym key drivers for companies using social media is to “keep up with the latest trends”. You heard correctly,  62% of businesses are only using social media because it makes them look like they’re ‘keeping up with the latest trends’ rather than because of tangible evidence and benefits that social can have to a business.

Only 23% said that they are using tangible evidence of social media.  How on earth are we supposed to shake the ‘your dossing around on Facebook’ if we can’t measure the results?

We believe that social media does bring value to the bottom line,  but in order to do this you need to have a deep understanding of how Google Analytics reports social media so that you can better attribute your social campaigns and show that crucial evidence of social supporting the businesses overall objectives.

This blog post is a summary of the key topics, tips and advice for using Google Analytics correctly.  Let’s try and increase that 23% shall we?

A Jill-Quick-Google-Analytics-Fundamentals-Checklist

There are a few things that you need to do before we jump into the nitty gritty of social media within Google Analytics.

Number 1: Enable your demographics and interests report

Make sure you turn your demographics and interest reports on.  This is a super feature within Google Analytics but you have to go into your Admin settings and turn a little toggle on to enable this report to be populated with valuable data.

audience report

The reason why this is useful, is when it comes to building your segments which we will talk about later in this post.  If you want to find out if a certain gender or age group respond better to social media you can only do it if you’ve turned this feature on.

Number 2: Use annotations, you will forget things!

This feature is so underutilized,  and it’s such a useful tool in Analytics. Have you ever logged into your accounts  and seen a spike in traffic which was a number of months ago and you find yourself asking as you scratch your head “hmm  I wonder what caused that traffic to spike”.  You are all very very busy people, and it is natural with all the plates spinning that you will forget things.

Annotations are really useful because you can add little Post-it notes to your account


You can choose for your annotation to be shared, i.e you’re happy for  everyone who has access to the account to see it, or you can select private, so only you can see it.  Use it to log when you have a new launch, for example a new Twitter campaign or if you started using a new social channel. I like to also add industry specific changes,  for example Google changing its algorithm so I can quickly develop hypotheses on what has happened to my traffic.

annotations google

Number 3: Set your goals

This may seem very obvious but you need to establish your goals and estimates.  From teaching Google Analytics on a monthly basis, delivering private client training and doing Google Analytics Audit’s, we still find a high number of accounts that have no goals on the website! Shock horror I know. It is impossible for you to see how well your marketing is impacting the business if you don’t have anything to benchmark it against.

To help you along the way we’ve created a really cool goals guide here.

Number 4: Don’t forget about the little guys: Micro Conversions

When you think about your goals also consider micro conversions.  There will be a lot of meaningful interactions that fill in the gaps to your funnel. For example, sharing content via social media, watching a video, using live chat.

If you only track the big-hitting-my business-will die-if-these-objectives-don’t-happen goals,  then you are missing out on those smaller meaningful interactions.

Number 5: Use Events

Make sure you are using events, they really are wonderful! To use event tracking you do need to do some tinkering with your account,  I would recommend that you use Google Tag Manager to create your events. An example I really like is a Flora case study from a few years ago (I am paraphrasing my notes from seeing them present this case study) .Their website had a lot of content on it in the form of recipes, and they went to their agency and said “we have a bounce rate that is well over 80% we need to do something about it”. Instead of jumping up and down and thinking of expensive ways to improve the website the agency asked Flora “what is it that you’re wanting to achieve with this website”. They wanted better engagement, they wanted to make sure that people were reading and downloading these recipes. The agency had a look at Flora’s Google Analytics account to find that no events were being tracked.

flora event example

Now, a bounce rate is when a visitor only visits a page and doesn’t go to any other page on the website, or they click on an external link. It is possible to set your events to impact bounce rate so you’re saying to Google “hang on a second pickle there WAS  was a meaningful interaction on this page, be a doll and have it impact my bounce rate”.  In this case they started tracking how many people printed the page, scrolled all the way down to the bottom, emailed it to themselves or shared on social media .  After they set up their events the bounce rate dramatically reduced. So there wasn’t a problem after all. And now they have insights into how many people print recipes, share on social and email.  You can find your Event in Behavior> Events> Top Events.

Here is an example below from a client of mine.

events report

Number 6: Map your Micro and Macro conversions to RACE

Once you have identified all your macro and micro conversions,  map all of your goals from top to bottom – I personally like the Smart Insights RACE model. Do an audit and make sure that you are tracking everything. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.

Number 7: Custom Dimensions: the volume you didn’t know your data needed.  

Google Analytics comes pre-cooked with a number of super dimensions for you to report on.  It also gives you the option to add 20 custom dimensions to your account. As you are all a unique there are a lot a potential custom dimensions that you could use.

Imagine your Google Analytics account is a brick of wax,  imagine you want to add information through another dimension, and it is essentially a cup of oil, if you throw it on your brick of wax then it’s just going to slide right off.  For it to stick you need something to anchor into the wax, Google calls this a key. You have your data and google Analytics data which needs a link or key so that your data sticks.

If you do only one thing with your custom dimensions I recommend that you load all your marketing costs.  If you are familiar with the reporting interface you will see that AdWords will always pull the cost of your AdWord campaigns.

data import social media

Now, if you are doing any other paid campaigns for example paid social eg promoted Facebook posts,  sponsored tweets, then you should be creating a custom dimension for your cost data and the key here is going to be the source/medium.  By doing this you can start to track the return on investment and return on ad spend on all of the interactions on your website with regards to your social media.  Which I think is pretty cool.

Number 8: Segment for the win

I really do love a good segment,  drilling down into lots of “I wonder questions” you can slice and dice your visitors on your website to get those insights that drive growth for your business.  In the context of social media you want to be building segments to see what your visitors do that have arrived from your organic or paid social activities. If you have followed this checklist and created goals and events,  in most cases social isn’t a conversion driver from the get go, but by building segments you can see how it supports your business goals and drives engagement within your website.

For this example, I have created a test segment called Social Traffic where the medium contains social this has given me 145 users and 196 sessions.  All good? Well no actually because if I go to my acquisition and select social from my source medium I get 163 sessions.

segments social media

Why? You need to make sure you select the right filter sessions when you build your segment. So to make sure your numbers match when building your segments select: Filter Sessions.

Tagging mistakes and best practices

If you have gone through the Jill Quick check list, you now have an account that is tracking  all macro and micro conversions, you are using event tracking like a wizard and you are segmenting for the win. Question for you, are you tracking properly?  I have recently seen in Analytics audits a common mistakes where the company did not fully understand how Google processes your data. Added to this they had been tagging traffic incorrectly so their marketing efforts for paid and organic social media will be being thrown into a data man-draw and therefore it looks like social media had no impact because the numbers just weren’t there in the right report.

So let me back-up a little and just go over how Google records traffic.  Without any tagging Google records all traffic as:

Referral  websites that are not seen as a search engine

Organic these are Google recognised search engines

(None)  when there is a direct entry of a URL to a browser any traffic recorded with known as the medium will be recorded with direct as the source this is what has been happening with some social media sites when clicking on a link opens a browser with the URL in it.

social-in-acqNow to see this in your accounts, head to the Acquisition> Channels>  and click on ‘Social’ you should see a list of Social Networks, please note here that the dimension is not called ‘medium’ the dimension here is called  Social Network. If you add a secondary dimension and  select medium you will see that next to each social network the medium is recorded as referral.  There is no social medium value captured by default.

social ga

Getting your mediums and sources in order.

It is up to you to provide the right mediums and sources to inform Google on how to group your traffic if you do not tag, it gets messy and this is our job or you brief your agencies to do this for you.  You are in charge of making sure that your social traffic, (in fact, all of your marketing campaigns for that matter) are tracked otherwise Google will put it into Referral, or if it is a “Dark Social” example where the link triggers a browser to open with the URL then it will head to the Direct pile.

mediums and sources

Tagging Best Practices: How you should track using the URL builder.

Most marketers are aware of Google campaign URL Builder  but if you look at the examples that they provide I can see where people may get confused with what they should be using in each parameter.

Starting at the top with Campaign medium,  in addition to the three that Google use ( organic,  referral, none) you can add other custom mediums for example social, email, display, affiliate.

Campaign source  effectively means where does the link live for example, One of the biggest mistakes we see with Analytic audits and training is people put Twitter or Facebook for the Medium and social as a Source.

Our survey said….No. Please stop doing that.

Campaign name is one of the more straightforward because this is the name or the term that you’re using to specify that particular campaign for example “spring sale”.

Campaign terms  and Campaign content I like to think of as a “brucey bonus”. For my paid search I can add the keywords for example running + shoes  and in the campaign content I can add more information to help differentiate ads or links that point to the same URL . For example I may have two banners on a site and I want to differentiate between the two eg one was a skyscraper at the top, and the other a mid page unit at the bottom.

Let’s use an example. Let’s say you’re answering questions on Quora and driving traffic back to a blog post of yours. You would want to tag it like so:

Website URL: www.thecolouringindepartment/blog/google-analytics-tips

Campaign Source: quora

Campaign Medium: social

Campaign name: google-analytics-tips

It is critical that you maintain a company-wide tagging best practice policy,  you can call things whatever you like as long as it is consistent and you make sure that the mediums and sources always refer to the correct one.

Here is a great UTM tracking explainer for you to follow if you get a little stuck!

We also recommend recording all utm tags.

Social in the acquisition report

There are a few little quirks but you need to be aware of when looking at the various reports where social media data is populated.  First is in the acquisition channels report. Google actually separates Social and Referral data. So if you clicked on Social you would get the data for our social/referral sites, BUT if you clicked on Referral you get the non social traffic, so links on other sites. In my example here, you can see that Social = 55,029 sessions, and Referral = 9,541 sessions.

acq channels

Then, when you head over to Acquisition> Referrals the sessions are 64,570. This is because this reports adds up the Social and Referral data together.

social numbers

We actually prefer to use the Acquisitions > All Traffic> Channels report to see how social media campaigns are doing.  Now I know you can get this information in, but the reason why I don’t like this report is because I’m missing all those lovely metrics that I have at the top of my Acquisitions > All Traffic> Channels report.

The  Social >Network Referrals just shows me sessions, page views and average session duration and I need to know better metrics and also I don’t like the graph at the top because, if you notice, the y-axis values are not the same so it’s difficult to really understand the context of all sessions vs sessions via social media.


Understanding Google’s core reporting API

Before you think,  “hang on a second, how have we jumped from social quirks in the acquisition report to talking about Google’s API?” Well this is really important and it’s something that I only clicked onto about 2 years ago, and I wish I knew it sooner  because it affects how we report on the revenue that social media delivers.

Google has two core reporting API’s. The Default Channel Grouping API which is the one that powers everything north of the multi-channel funnel reports.

However, that isn’t true, because it slipped into the acquisition social reports.

Let Me Explain.

If I go to Acquisition>Channels>Social report  the revenue with this example is $1582.95.  Now this is powered by the Default Channel Grouping which works on the last click win model.


Now if I go to the acquisition> social> Conversions report, this says $2,193.61. What the feck is going on?Well, this report is actually powered by the Multi Channel Funnel API so the data here is on assisted and last click conversions.

social-conversionsWhat you also need to be aware of is that these two core reporting APIs treat Direct traffic differently.  If somebody came to your website and the first channel was social, then they arrived from email, and then Direct,  with the Default Channel Grouping API, Direct doesn’t get the credit, it actually goes to the last non-direct channel, so email (in this example) gets the last click win credit. The multi-channel funnel API doesn’t work in the same way, they would give the credit to Direct.

My advice here for marketers wanting to look at social media conversions is to focus on the Acquisition> Channels>Social report and when you want to look at assisted conversions dive into the multi-channel funnels report and look at assisted conversions for social media.

Tracking Paid Social

I don’t know many marketing teams that are not doing some sort of paid social media and or social retargeting. And if you are PAYING for these campaigns you want to know what you are getting for your money.  If you have followed my fundamental checklist and you are using the URL builder and have created a medium called “paid+social” or “retargeting” you may think, job done.

It isn’t.

Here is how Google defines its Default Channel Definitions. Have a close look…notice anything missing?

default channel groupings

Hold the phone Mary…… there is NO PAID SOCIAL OR RETARGETING IN HERE!

Now, you don’t want your data to go into that man-draw, so you need to do some tinkering to fix this. This is what you need to do to create a channel definition for Paid Social.


  • Head over to Admin> View> Channel Settings> Channel Groupings
  • Click on Default Channel Grouping
  • Select Define a new channel
  • Give it a name, eg Paid Social
  • Define the rules: using the drop down select medium,  matches regex ( this means it won’t be case sensitive) = paid social
  • You can give it a colour if you wish to make your reports look pretty
  • Hit ‘Done’

And that’s it.

However you need to be aware but these run in order so you want to put your more specific channels at the top and you’re more generic channels at the bottom.


Editing your default channel grouping will affect the way that Google processes your raw data, so be careful, and do this in a test view first and then when you’re happy roll it over into the reporting view that you want to use for your marketing reports.

Use your annotations to make a note of the day that you created a new channel,  and be aware that this will work from the day that you create them so you cannot use this to fix historical data.

If you are thinking “aw man, I could do with looking at this historically” well, you can look back at how paid social or paid retargeting worked historically when looking at assisted conversions, which I will talk about now.

Assisted Conversions and Social Media

We all know that most customers do not have a single step in their conversion path, if you only use the conversion data north of the Multi-Channel Funnel report, then you will be assigning the last marketing channel a customer touched before conversion as the Big Cheese.  This can result in cost per acquisition that guides investment at a point where most customers have already decided where to send their business.

I like to call the multi-channel funnels area the basement,  because it’s a part of the reporting people don’t really go. You know there is “this stuff down there” but you’re not really sure what to do with it. There are a few reports that are really insightful to show you how long it takes two people to convert, what is assisting in conversions, what are your top performing paths etc. So be brave, and head down to the basement.

In the context of understanding how social media is supporting your business objectives  you want to head over to the assisted conversions report Conversions> Multi channel Funnels> Assisted Conversions.  This report is going to show you how many interactions each marketing channel initiated,  assisted and completed. If you have an e-commerce site and you added a value to your goal when you created them then it will also show the value of assisted and last interaction conversions.

Remembering that Google does not have a section in its default channel grouping, well it is the same for the multi-channel funnel channel grouping. No defined channel for paid social or re-targeting.

If you are doing any paid social activity then you are also going to need to do something coming to the Channel Grouping session so you can attribute channels correctly.

There are two ways to do this, you can go into your admin settings and create a custom channel grouping although this is quite a long winded way of doing it and you have to start off from the bottom adding and creating every single channel.

There is an easier way. If you head over to the blue tab called Channel Groupings and then click on the drop down and select copy MCF channel grouping template.

Now repeat the same process that we did for all default channel grouping.

This is part of your personal tools and assets, and is only changing the way your current data has been processed and is displayed. So if you create this edited MCF channel and other people in your team or your clients do see this, then you are going to need to share this channel grouping that you have created. Provided you been correctly tagging,  you can look at historical data to see how social media from a paid perspective has been assisting your company objectives


  • You need to know why you are doing social media and what your business objectives and goals are
  • Get your analytics house in order, know the fundamentals and setup your Google Analytics account correctly
  • Make sure you are tagging correctly, keep a record, be consistent and let your teams or clients no how important it is to get your mediums and traffic sources  correct
  • Segment for the win – but make sure you select the right filter option
  • Google does not have paid social or re-targeting as part of its default channel grouping,  you are going to need to create a paid social or re-targeting channel
  • There are 2 core APIs used in Google Analytics, they treat Direct differently and the MCF
  • Use assisted conversions to see how social media assists in conversions
  • Create a copy of the MCF grouping and add a paid social or re-targeting channel to look back historically for that channel

If you want to know more about Social Reporting and Google Analytics, we have a number of free resources available here for you to download and get you started!