Google Analytics

SEMrush Google Analytics Bootcamp Series One

How much time do you invest in setting up a CRM, SEO or social Media Strategy? Loads right? So why wouldn’t you spend the same amount of time getting your house in order in Google Analytics? We all want to be data driven marketers, but you need to build a solid foundation first! Only then will you will find the road to success. We like to think or Google as a blueprint to a house, you still need to bring in a decorating team to make it look pretty and design it to the way you want it to be for your business. Check out our three part video series that we did for SEMrush below.
Session One: Delve into why the default settings in Google Analytics are never okay for your business. If you don’t learn how to configure your account properly then you are left with a, data rubbish in = data rubbish out kinda situation, leading to lost opportunities and poor business choices!
Series Two: So that you can keep doing super smashing marketing wizardry, we’ll teach you exactly how to track your campaigns and traffic so you know what’s working, what’s not and use this information to justify your budget and resources to the big old boss.
Series Three: Do you know what users are doing on your site? No? Well to find out what’s really going on, you’re going to want to get your teeth stuck into something called Event Tracking. In the last of this three part series we’ll show you how to find out what pages people are looking at on your website, setting up events and goals, and we’ll also share a case study of a company that had no event tracking, what they did with it and how it improved the bottom line.
If you want to check out our templates and explainers you can view our resources page here.
Google Analytics

What’s the difference between user and session segments?

Segments in Google Analytics are vital if you want to get better answers to your analytics questions. If you don’t use segments, well you should, because looking at all of your Google Analytics data at once sucks like a sour lemon. 

Segments, can be super sweet and juicy, but there are a few pips that you’ll want to avoid, the kind of pips that get lodge in your reporting throat and choke you on your own “insights.”

One of those pips, is knowing the difference between user and session segments. 

Let’s use a hypothetical example to help explain the difference. 

You work for a shop that sells pens, and you have a marketing budget that you spend to drive traffic to your website, with the aim of selling your really nice pens. 

Imagine that you are doing a bunch of SEO, Email Campaigns and some PPC. This is working a treat in driving traffic to your website,  and when people arrive at your website they interact with something, hopefully anyway. They read your blog, look at your product pages, watch the videos, read the reviews, add to cart, then part with their cash and buy the pen. 

Let’s imagine for a moment that the customer, let’s call him Tim, is looking for a nice bit of stationery. Tim is one user and within our journey example here, he has four sessions, as well as-as interactions with your website (playing video, adding to cart, which needs Event Tracking setup btw).

Tim types into Google ‘what is a fountain pen’ and he watches a video on your website.  You send a newsletter to Tim about how ace your pens are and he clicks through and checks out the product as well as reads the reviews.  Tim goes off to chat with his sister about the type of pen he is going to buy, and knowing the brand, types in the company brand name and clicks on a PPC ad, he ads to cart, but the phone rings and he forgets to complete the transaction.  Tim sits down later in the day and remembers he needs to buy the pen, he types the URL directly into her browser and buys the pen. Happy days. 

Show me the money! 

Now then, your boss has walked in and says to you; “can you tell me how SEO is working to drive conversions, and based on that budget you spent on videos, do those people that watch the videos spend more money?”

This is where segments are going to help you, however, you need to know the difference between user and session-based segments, otherwise, you could end up with low inaccurate data and insights that lead to bad decisions. So, on to the distinction then.

User and Session Segments 

A user segment will look at all session that belongs to that user and will show you all the interactions that they had on the site. With user-based segments, you can apply a maximum date range of 90 days to your reports. It’ll capture all of the sessions, involving that user, in that time frame.

A session segment will look at a session that matches your requirements, and therefore will ignore all the other sessions belonging to that user that do not match. If you add a conversion to the segment it will include the final session that the user converted, and will ignore the rest for reporting purposes.

Let’s say I start with a basic segment to show me everyone coming from Organic sources, and I select the ‘Filter Users’ option, it will show me all users and their sessions with interactions to my site that came from Organic. 

Now, your boss again, asks you if the video is making a difference to the bottom line. To answer this you could build an Advanced Segment, in effect allowing you to ‘layer’ on different conditions as necessary. If you selected ‘Sessions’ as the filter, using our basic example of Tim going about his pen buying business, the video is going to look like it didn’t do much for you – as it is looking for a session where a video played and they bought the pen. And no such session might exist.

If however, you changed this to ‘User’ it would pick it up – and you demonstrate that value you’ve been asked for.

System Segments 

It can get a bit blurry here depending on which filter you are using, and on that note, a little tip. I’ve used system segments for ages, as these are the pre-baked into the tool, thereby saving you time building, and I assumed, quite wrongly, that all the system segments where session segments. 

They are not, they’re a mix of users or sessions, depending on which ones you select. 

System Segments that are user based are the following: 

  • Converters 
  • Made a purchase 
  • Multi-session Users
  • Non-Converters
  • Performed Site Search 

System Segments that are session based are the following: 

  • Bounced 
  • Direct Traffic
  • Mobile and Tablet Traffic
  • Mobile Traffic
  • New Users
  • Organic Traffic
  • Paid Traffic
  • Referral Traffic 
  • Returning Users 
  • Search Traffic 

Now, off you pop, go have a play with segments, and remember to check if the segment is set to User or Session.

If you want to know more about this wonderful part of GA, we have a whole module all on Segments in our online course. This module also comes with a super useful template to brainstorm and plan your segments so you get those juicy insights. Go have a look at all our online course has to offer, head this way.

Google Analytics

SEMrush webinar: Mistakes That Can Trash Your Data

We did a webinar for SEMrush on Mistakes in Your Google Analytics Setup That Can Trash Your Data. If you missed it, do not worry, the webinar is ready and waiting for you to watch, and the nice folks at SEMrush did a write up of the transcripts they wrote out (which is super helpful). Slides can be found here, and of course, if you want any templates we reference, head your good self over here


Aiden: Welcome back and happy new year. Jill and I are back now for series two, with SEMrush of course, around all things analytics once again.

We’re going to be talking about how Google Analytics can turn into a little bit of what we would call a dumpster fire if you don’t set it up properly. We’re talking about the human mistakes that make this particular tool, from a technological perspective, not work all that well.

A massive hello to all of you. Now, Jill, you’ve seen, over the hundreds of audits that have kind of crossed our various different desks, mistakes ad infinitum at Google Analytics. I think we agreed that there was one account that we’ve seen that was nearly correct but wasn’t quite. As for the rest, not so much. Can you tell us a bit about that?

Jill: Yeah. With Google Analytics, because it’s a computer program, you can’t always assume that the people that created the account for you have done it correctly, or they understood your business well enough to track the things that matter.

When we’ve done audits, when we’ve trained people in Google Analytics, the same mistakes happen, and that’s the reason for this particular webinar.

Aiden: I’m going to ask the lovely Jill to kick off her extremely interesting talk about some of those mistakes and indeed what you can do about them. Jill, quick, take it away.

Jill: Thank you very much. Okay, let’s do the screen share.

How Mistakes in Google Analytics Setups Can Ruin Your Data

Right. Mistakes in your GA that can trash your data.

Now, why should you care about your GA setup? I’m going to tell you a bit of a story. Some of you may know this story already. The reason that we called our company The Coloring-In Department, is because people had used that almost as a slur, as a mean thing to say to me when I was in the office.

When the budget was getting cut, or things were being moved, my department, my budget was the first one to go, and I’d have people say to me, “Well, we know marketing does stuff, but we don’t always know what the impact is.”

That’s when Google Analytics can really help you, because you’re reporting to people, and you don’t want them shouting at you saying, “I gave you this money and what did I get from it?” You want to be able to turn around and give them a number and show them some data.

Going back to my favorite quote from our data scientist, “Without data, you are just another person with an opinion.” You want to make sure that you can validate what you’re doing. On that thought, you also need to make sure that the data that you are providing is correct, because otherwise you will lose your credibility and people will shout at you, and nobody wants that.

Crap in, crap out. One of the things with any program, including Google Analytics, is that it’s as good as the settings that you have. If you have a bad configuration, if you haven’t turned a certain toggle on, then the data that’s inside those reports, those reporting views that you’re using to give information to your boss, your board, your client, whatever. You’ve got to make sure that the data that you’re presenting is actually valid data.

This messy door, this crap that can be in the back of your admin settings, I’m talking about this, the account settings. You arrive here by looking at the little left-hand cog, which will show your analytics account setup.

Accounts, Properties, and Views in Google Analytics

One of the mistakes that we’re going to talk about, is actually getting your house in order to make sure that you have the right account, properties, and views. We did this in the first webinar in series one, where we talked about analytics being a little bit like a house. You have your account level, and I want you to think of this as the roof of your website, your little house that you have. You’ll get given a UA number, so hypothetically UA1234.

You then have a property, and I want you to think of these properties as a floor, an actual living floor that your visitors are going to come in and sit down on your sofa and do stuff, like buy stuff from you, send a lead form, whatever. You’ve got different reporting windows, which are your view settings. Then to make those windows work you use filters, which is like adding drapes and blinds.

If you have a basic website, so you’ve got like our website, If you just have a single website, you have essentially a bungalow. You’d have a roof setting, UA12345. You have a property, so it’ll be UA12345-1. You should have four windows, four reporting views.

Google recommends that you have a raw window, so if I have a look through this window I see absolutely everything. You have a test view, this is where you play around and check if something’s going to work or not. You check a filter. You check a goal. You check your settings and make sure that you don’t flatline your data. Then when you’re happy with it, you then create your reporting view, which is the one that you go in and use to validate your decisions and your strategies.

Now anything that we do to our settings if I start messing around with my roof if I whack a massive hole in it, it’s going to impact the floors beneath it. If I do something to a window, by adding a filter, it only changes the data to that particular window. You’ve got to make sure you go into all of your settings and audit them, and not assume that if you do something at one end of the house that something’s going to magically happen at the other.

Importance of Cross-domain Tracking

Now if you have a multiple brand scenario, so you have different websites that sit independently from each other. You have a website, maybe you have a separate business, maybe you have an app, but they all sit separate to each other, you’ve essentially got a flat or a multi-story building. They all sit under the same roof, so the company name I’m going to make up a company named

I’ve got several floors for different things that I’m selling because I’ve decided I don’t want to do gin anymore. I want to sell vodka, or I want to sell ice cream or whatever. If they sit separately to each other, they’re separate floors with their own little reporting views, and I can see what is going on for those particular properties.

Now the mistake that I see more commonly these days is something where you have multiple domains for a website, but they’ve built as if they were a flat. I see this a lot in eCommerce sites at the moment. Their domains will change, so you might have where you’re sending all of your beautiful visitors to go and have a look at your products and services.

They decide they want to buy it, so they click on a button and they go to The website still looks the same. The design still looks the same, but the URL has changed. Then when I’ve decided that I’m going to buy from the shop and I’m going to create an account, another domain pops up called account.coloringin, or whatever it is that you’ve got.

Now, the mistake that can really ruin your data is if you set up a multi-domain website where the ecosystem is actually within the same business, and you’ve set them up as separate floors, you are unable then to track the customer journey. Because when I log into my analytics, like a floor, an actual physical floor, I’m on floor four of our building, and Aiden’s on floor seven. I can’t see what’s going on on the floors above me. I can only see what’s going on on this particular floor that I’m on at the moment.

If you have a goal for somebody creating an account, or somebody buying something, if I’m in the reporting view for, but the goal happened on a different floor and you haven’t tied that all together with something called cross-domain tracking, then you are not able to build your goals. You’re not able to see the journey. You can’t see what marketing brought people into that particular sale, so everybody’s having a bit of a hard time.

The first thing that you need to think about when it comes to your analytics setup… double check that your roof and your floor and your windows are correct. Double check that if you do have an ecosystem where you’ve got several domains but they all really need to be packed into one, have you done cross-domain tracking so that you’re essentially treating all of these different domains as one.

Making Sure You Set Goals For Your GA Reporting Views

The next mistake that we see a lot, which seems really obvious but they’re interestingly absent in so, so many audits that I’ve done, is not having any goals on any of your reporting views. Sometimes when I’ve done an audit where there are several windows, there are goals on one, and not on the other. I’ve had so many people come back to me going, “Oh, I thought if I created it in this view they would be created magically in the other.” I’m like, no, it’s a computer program. You’re going to have to go in and build that goal another time. If you’ve got 17 views, then you build that goal 17 times.

For any business, you want to be tracking a significant profitable customer interaction. Now, that can be I signed up to your newsletter, I scrolled down to the bottom of the page, I submitted a contact form, I bought the damn product.

Whatever it is that you’re doing, you have 20 goals available to you per reporting view. 20. What we normally see are either one or two big goals, so these are your macro goals. Think of these as, if these don’t happen, then I’m out of a business. Then your micro goals are the smaller meaningful interactions as people edge ever so close to doing what you want them to do.

Imagine having 20 goals, and being able to understand the role of a particular marketing channel. You might see that Facebook is really good at getting people to watch a video, but they’re not going to convert. Like that was the early awareness stage of the journey, but email was really good at getting them to start a free trial.

By doing this you’re able to give the managed expectations of your marketing channels and how they’re actually performing and the role that they have. Not every single channel in every single campaign is going to be the person that scores the goal, but they have a role. If you have 20 goals, your micro and macro conversions, it gets a lot easier to actually present that information to people.

Verify Your Filters in Test View First

Now onto one of my favorite topics, filters. When we are talking about our reporting views, as I mentioned, we have our little windows where I can look in and see what all of my lovely users are doing and if they’re engaging with my content, if they are buying stuff. Filters have probably been one of the main culprits of the data just being god awful because they are quite powerful. If you haven’t done it in a test view, and you haven’t checked out that they were working, it is very easy to flatline your data.

I’m going to give you some examples of where this has happened. This is an example of a reporting view that was created. Now, this view was meant to only show people from the United States of America. Now, when I went into the reporting view, and I went into audience, I think we can all see quite quickly here, because of the gorgeous heat map, it’s not just showing people from the United States of America.  

This company was saying, “Right, we had 52,000 users in America this month.” That’s wrong because actually, only 48% of this data was from America, the rest came from different countries. When they said to me, “Jill, we have a problem with our data. There’s a data discrepancy. We don’t understand what’s gone wrong.” I was like, let’s have a look at those filters. Let’s see what’s happened.

Essentially they had the right idea but the wrong filter. Now if they did this in the test view, they would have gone, “Hang on a second there Bob. You can see that the traffic is clearly not just showing from a particular country. Let’s go back and see what we’ve done and make some changes.” They didn’t do that. They didn’t do any of the test views, which would have fixed this particular obvious problem.

Another tip here, you have to write the country exactly as it shows in the Google Admin settings. If they put in France with a capital F, then you have to put the filter pattern that exactly matches what is in the Google Analytics settings. Because this is a computer program, there is no empathy here. They won’t look at this and go, “Oh you put the USA there. Did you mean the United States?” No. It’s going to just flatline your data and say, “Computer says no.” You’ve got to have a look at your filters and double check that it’s giving you the information that you want.

That was a nice easy one to get us started. The next set of filter mistakes will show you how you can have real errors in your revenue or your page views, or just generally the data’s not making any sense.

Exclude Staging Environments From Filters

The first mistake that I see with filters is to not exclude your staging environments. This happens quite a lot actually. There was one audit I did for a global company last year, where they had 20 different staging domains, and they didn’t put a filter to say, “Exclude,”

You’ve got to remember when it comes to conversion rates that Google is calculating those conversion rates based on your sessions. If some of the sessions are your dev teams, or your agencies working on stuff, you’re diluting your conversion rate. You might be getting kicked for a conversion rate that looks really bad, and in truth, it’s actually not bad.

You can still, for the reverse, have a view that says, “Only include traffic from” You can see what’s going on, on that staging. That’s fine, but you do not want to include this in your reports, because it’s just going to give you those data discrepancies.

If you have got any staging environments, you want to go into your view settings for each view that you want to do this in. Do it in your test view first, check that it works. You want to go in and say, “Hey Google, please exclude the data from dev.whatever the website name is, or staging.websitename.” Do it in your test view, check that it works, and then roll it over into the reporting views. Then the data is going to be a little bit cleaner, and life will be a little bit better as a result.

Exclude Query Parameters from Filters

Another problem with filters can be down to your content report. When we are going into our behavior reports and we want to understand what people are doing, we can go into our all pages report. This was from a client that we did some work for, and they said, “Our content is amazing. We have 11,416 page views. Go, team.” We went, “That’s fabulous. That’s wonderful.” They didn’t set up their site search correctly, in terms of adding a filter to exclude the query path.

Now you may or may not know this, but Google will record the URL at the time of a user’s session. For this particular website, they had a lot of people using their site search, and I mean a lot. Every time somebody went onto the little search bar and said, “I am looking for insert keyword.” Whatever the keyword is for the content that they were looking, that URL, where it pulls in the query parameters included in that particular search string, gets recorded as a page in your analytics.

When we added a filter to exclude query parameters, those 11,000 and odd pages actually got stripped down to about 3000 pages. That was an uncomfortable conversation to have with them, to say, “Actually people aren’t reading your content. They’re not looking at your pages. You have a usability problem. People can’t find the information, and they are resulting in your search features to try and help them find that information.”

Why You Need Event Tracking

One of the other mistakes that we’ve seen in accounts is not using event tracking. Now event tracking, for me, once you’ve got your house set up and you’re tracking things correctly in your acquisition reports, is to actually understand what people are doing on your website.

Do you know what people are actually doing on your website? Who’s scrolling down the page? Who’s clicking on images? Who’s printing a page, or downloading a PDF, or playing a video, or clicking on an email address?

This does not come pre-baked into Google Analytics. The reason why it doesn’t come pre-baked in is because you’ve got like a million, million, million websites using analytics. Google doesn’t know what you want to track. They don’t know what you want to call it, so you have to do this. You have to set up events.

Now the mistake that I’m going to focus on here is just getting the brief wrong from the offset. You need to think about the things that you want to track, and you have to talk to the computer program the way that it wants to be talked to. They want to have category, actions, and labels. Think of your categories as big, broad buckets for you to organize the things that people could be doing on your website. The action describes the doing, what is it they actually did. The label is going to further describe that action.

You’ve got to go into your event tracking, which will be found in your behavior reports, and I want you to audit what you currently have. This is how not to do it. I did an audit for an eCommerce company, and they said, “We’ve got event tracking, Jill.” I was like, “Fabulous. Let’s have a look at what you’ve got.”

We had one bucket, one bucket, for eCommerce. I’m like, all right, let’s have a look what’s in here. Two actions associated with a category, non-interaction, and interaction. I was like, okay, I’m going to open door number two, to see what the interactions were labeled, and they were all labeled to not set. That doesn’t help anybody. You’ve basically just wasted a load of opportunity here.

When you go in and audit your analytics, which is the fix, you have to go through your pages, your home page, your money pages. Your money pages being the pages that you want people to actually do something. Fill out a form, buy the shoes, buy the bottle of gin, book the holiday, whatever.

You want to go through it and make sure that you have independent categories, and that the actions associated with those categories don’t overlap. This is one of the issues that I’ve seen with event tracking. I might have somebody have an action, so this is the doing, and they’ve called it click. That’s associated with one or more categories. When you look into the report, you’ve overinflated a potential action because you’ve named three different things the same thing, if that makes sense. It’s just really heartbreaking when that happens.

You want to make sure that you don’t duplicate any of the naming conventions for your categories, actions, and labels. Because when it comes to building segments, or it comes to digging into this data if I’ve got three different separate categories. Let’s say it was playing a video, or downloading a PDF, or clicking on an email address, and all the actions for those categories were labeled as a click. When I go into my analytics and say, “Hey, show me all the people that watched the video.” It’s going to count all the other things as well, and that’s going to give you a false number, which you don’t want to have.

Building Remarketing Lists from Segments

Now a tip here, because I’m aware that we’re speaking to people that are going to be using a tool like SEMrush for their ICO and their PPC. If you have event tracking on your Google Analytics account, which I strongly suggest you do, because you’re going to need them to build goals, you need them to build segments. I want you to start building remarketing lists based off of what people nearly did.

Imagine having events firing correctly where somebody goes on a webpage, scrolls down the page, downloads a PDF, plays a video, half filled out the form and added to the basket but didn’t buy. Build a segment, and if you’ve linked up your AdWords to your Google Analytics, and again we go through this in the first webinar that we did in the series, then you can click on that little button called actions and build an audience.

That’s going to build a remarketing list that will sit in your AdWords, which means you can remarket to the people that nearly bought. They would be my first go to people that I would do any remarketing on. Then you can drill down further as you so wish. There’s a nice little bonus point for you there.

As you can see with a lot of these mistakes in analytics, it’s just down to not fully understanding the implications of the features that you have. Namely, a bad account set up in the first instance. You don’t have the right reporting views. You have a flaw, or several flaws, for different sub-domains when you should have done the cross-domain tracking. You don’t test anything, so you don’t see any filters that are making mistakes. If you are doing filters, you want to make sure that you’re at the very least removing your staff. You want to remove any staging environments. If you’re going to be looking at particular markets, then you want to make sure that you have the correct filter to isolate and only see those particular users.

Usefulness of Custom Dimensions & Metrics

I now want to touch on a mistake which is just a mistake by not using them. Custom dimensions, and metrics, and data import. My main point here is that your business is very unique. The insights that you want are also very unique.

Now, creating a custom dimension in your property settings will take you minutes. It will take dev a lot longer to actually get this working for you. The thought process, of thinking about what else can help my data analysis?

Let’s go through these one by one. In Google Analytics there is no dimension for a refund. If you are selling stuff, you can go, right, this month I sold 20 pairs of shoes and I made 1000 pounds. If somebody then decides that they don’t want to keep the shoes anymore and they send them back to your company, Google Analytics doesn’t know that that happened.

For me, I want to understand, how much did I sell? Then what got refunded? Then hopefully tie this together so I can understand the marketing channels. The way that we’re going to stitch this together is with your eCommerce data and your product data. Provided you’ve set that up correctly, you can stitch that together by creating a custom dimension and a metric where you can punch in that refund data. You can either load this up manually through your property settings, or you can just pump it in through your API. When you’ve got this, it’s so, so cool.

When we are looking at things like content, so if you are writing a lot of content, then it would be useful to know if I’ve got a lot of people on staff writing, who gets the sale? Looking at things like the author, because that doesn’t exist as a dimension in analytics. I can tie that to the page URL, so say, “Hey Google, this is the URL, and this is the person that wrote it, and this is the category.”

For anything, if you can build segments, you want to build a segment. You might say, “Show me everybody where the monthly recurring revenue is like 200 pounds.” If your average order value is like 50, who are your best users? Show me all of my users that are the B2B, or the B2C if you’re a two-sided marketplace. You’re able to split out that data. You’re able to split out those different users.

Again, as I mentioned, if you can build a segment, you can build a remarketing list. You can say, “Hey, show me all the users that are the buyers.” They haven’t bought anything for a while, so let’s send them a message around the web, and follow them, and give them a little message to say, “Hey, remember us? Come back.”

Tackling Spam & Undesirable Traffic in GA

Aiden: Jill, there seems to be a lot of chatter around, well actually how do we exclude bots? Is this an issue? What about spam? What if we’re getting traffic from sources that perhaps are undesirable? Things that we might have disallowed, say for instance in search console, are still coming into our Google Analytics reports. How might we address these two relatively synergistic issues, in your opinion?

Jill: Yeah. That’s a very good question. Spam, we’ll tackle that one first. Fake websites sending you traffic, but they’re not actually real visitors. Those visitors are showing up for sessions, and with them showing up for sessions they’re screwing with your data. If you go into your acquisition reports, and you drill into the referrals, so websites sending you traffic. Then I add a secondary dimension to say source, so where does the link live? You can start to find particular users and visitors where the bounce rate is 100% and time on site is set to zero. You’ll see things like You start to pick out common culprits that are basically spamming your site.

If I find a couple of different domains that are rubbish, I will go through the process again, where I’ll go, “Right, let’s have a look at all of these different links.” I add a secondary dimension to show the hostname.

If you find that you’ve got several domains that are all spam, but there’s a mother ship where the host is, I will build a filter to say, “Exclude all traffic from the hostname, the mothership.”

Also, in your view settings, there is a little tick box that doesn’t get ticked by default, which is exclude all known bots and spiders. You want to make sure in your view settings that you tick that little bad boy to make sure that it excludes Google’s kind of nice list.

Aiden: A couple of other things came up. Cross-domain tracking is a bit of a repetitive one. That one came in on Twitter actually.

Cross-domain tracking, thinking about connecting up our various different mother ships, so to speak. Are there issues with that that we need to be aware of? Is the UA code involved in some way? What would you say in a nutshell in making sure cross-domain tracking is set up properly?

Jill: You need to understand which domains do you want to track as a whole ecosystem. We’ll take our example. We’ve got Coloring In Department, and then when you do our online courses it’ll be like teach.coloringin. We want to stitch those two websites together essentially, those two different domains. I want to see the full ecosystem.

Instead of having several floors, where I’ve got different properties with different property numbers, I’m going to say, “Hey Google, we’re going to treat each of these different floors as if it’s one really big floor.” I’m going to use the UA1234-1 on Coloring In Department and teach.coloringindepartment.

If you know that you’ve got an ecosystem that needs to be tracked, then cross-domain tracking is what you need to have set up.

Aiden: Thank you, Jill.  Thank you, everybody, for watching this wonderful webinar on all things GA and mistakes there. Hopefully, you are less terrified, or you feel a little bit more able to troubleshoot maybe some of your own account issues or challenges that you might have.

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.

MEDIUM utm_medium= big buckets for marketing channels, defined by system and user defined
TRAFFIC SOURCE utm_source= where the link lives
CAMPAIGN utm_campaign= campaign name
AD CONTENT utm_content= more info to help slice and dice data eg banner , mpu, text links etc
KEYWORD utm_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.

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.

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!