Google Analytics: Beginner to Intermediate (Review)

Each week for 12 weeks, I am writing about what I am learning through the Growth Marketing Mini-Degree from the CXL Institute. This week, I worked through the first two courses in Module 3: Google Analytics for Beginners and Intermediate Google Analytics.

The Google Analytics Beginner and Intermediate courses were the ones I was MOST excited about. I’ve been wanting to learn in-depth GA for some time, and this course delivered! Google Analytics is just one of a host of Google-made products that collect, store, and report data. Although GA is best at storing data, it also collects and reports. Throughout the first few lessons, we learned how to look at simple reports, navigate around our view, how to create an account, and how to install the global site tag into the header in order to start collecting, storing, and reporting data. Next week we start the course on Google Tag manager, and that is the premiere tool to utilize in conjunction with GA for collecting data, so I am looking forward to that one too!

One of the first things we did was bullet-proof our accounts with various Admin settings. This included optimizing various permissions, connecting accounts that needed to supply data, and at the account level, we walked through when to create a separate account for each property, and when to group multiple properties into one account. In general, if you aren’t planning on cross-analyzing the data from one property to the next, plan on creating separate accounts for each property. Getting to walk through the account, property, and view settings was really helpful.

We also learned about “Views,” a feature within Property settings that helps us collect data in a cleaner way. Creating multiple Views for each property is important because when we implement changes to our site, we can accidentally alter data as it’s coming in, so we like to have “test” views, and a “backup” view in case we need to access prior data, if needed.

Tracking how someone goes through my funnel was as easy as setting a Destination Goal. A Goal is triggered and “completed” when a user completes an activity in our site. What type of activity? To set an effective Goal, take into account the ACE model. ACE stands for Aware, Complete, Engage. We should be setting goals in each of these 3 areas of the customer journey: from awareness to engagement.

ACE Model: Aware, Complete, Engage

Just a note: When you’re setting up anything new like a Goal, this is when it’s best to use a “test” View while doing so, just in case your data is changed in a way you weren’t expecting. We can then “test” the goal by looking in the Acquisition Reports. This whole process was so helpful to walk through because I think what used to be so intimidating about GA is connecting my data (filters, goals, views) with being able to read the story that the data is telling.

Inside Intermediate Google Analytics, we dove deeper into the customization of our accounts, honing how the information is collected, stored, and read. Creating Customized Dimensions and reports were a few of the things that were really helpful in this course. In the last course, we learned that Dimensions are “attributes” of our data that aren’t really quantifiable, like a category such as State, City, or Street. A Metric, on the other hand, is a quantifiable number like 5000 visitors. I quickly found that customizing the metrics and being able to view “secondary” dimensions was one of the most useful things in reading my data. Not only can I see where a user came from, but the secondary dimension helps me see what exact URL they came from. This trick is something I will use often!

One of the other helpful things in this course was creating custom reports. This is the feature that I anticipate to use most for my business! Reporting seems to be updated in GA since the course was recorded, and now includes a ton of custom reports that I can build from scratch, but also includes incredibly helpful templates for viewing info, as well as suggestions based on the data we already have. I find that altering a View is a lot more permanent (and admittedly kinda scary) than creating a Custom Report, and being able to sort by various Dimensions makes it so easy. I like that reports can be endlessly customizable, and I think overall, I like that I can “clean up” the data in post production, so to speak. A few other ways to “clean up the data” that we walked through together are: to remove internal traffic metrics, and get rid of spam using filters.

Then there is segmentation! Segmentation is used when we want to take a chunk of data, and analyze it in smaller sections, thus splitting it up into segments. The best part? It does not permanently alter our data! We can use segments to target a certain subset of people; a particular audience we may want to analyze and advertise to, or to see why a product may not be doing well in a certain location, for example. I can already imagine the many ways I will use segments! Segmenting our data in reports is just another way to gather relevant insights based on really zooming into subsections of data to gather a more clear story that may have been otherwise overlooked. For both my course funnel and business funnels, segmenting will be one of the most helpful tools because it is less risk, yet really lets me deep dive into the information in order to make informed actionable decisions.

Google Analytics contains the story, we just need to be able to read it! During both of the Google Analytics courses, I found myself so excited about the data I was already seeing behind the scenes in the Audience, Acquisition, and Behavior reports. One of the things that held be back before taking this course was my intention behind analyzing data has changed. I now go into GA with an objective in mind, and my goal is to find data that I can take action on. This is in such contrast to beforehand, when I really just went in to GA to explore. But equipped with a better understanding of how I can view and collect my data, I am finding that the data leaps off the page much easier.

Next week I’ll be in Google Tag Manager for Beginners, and finishing off the 3rd Module with Attribution and Excel Sheet for Marketers. See you then!




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Emily Olson

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