The first things we look at on Google Analytics

We offer a service particularly for public sector clients where we will review your current GA set up, write a report and then run a workshop with your team.

I thought you might find it interesting to see what we typically look at first (and what we typically find).

Is Google Analytics reporting correctly?

OK. this one sounds obvious, but it’s not unheard of for us to be given access to legacy accounts that no-one had noticed hadn’t been collecting data since the switch to the new CMS.

If we see some data, we’re happy.

Are there at least three views?

It’s good practice to setup 3x separate views

Recommended practice is at least three views on each property… a Filtered view used for reporting, a Test view used for, well, testing, and a Raw view that you leave alone in case of disaster. In addition in a large organisation you probably want views that filter out (and alternatively only include) visits from internal IP addresses). Views can also be useful to provide tailored reports to individual departments.

If we see three or more views we’re happy. We also check some things about the configuration of views: correct time zone, bot filtering, currency etc.

How much direct traffic is there?

An acquisition report showing the sources users used to arrive at a website

The effectiveness of your website starts well before people get to the site. The acquisitions report shows you what Google knows about how people got to your site. Out of the box Google can’t tell if people clicked on links in email and social network apps so it throws those people into the “direct” bucket along with people who had you bookmarked in their browser.

This is totally fixable (using Campaign Tagging) but that can be hard to arrange across a large and complex organisation. Even so, it’s really important data so we like to see a concerted effort to tag as much traffic as possible.

Over 10% of your traffic flagged as “direct” and we worry. Especially if there seems to be a very low level of email traffic (what is low? that depends… sorry).

How’s your event tracking?

Setup events to measure where users are interacting with your website

Google Analytics tracks page views. That’s cool. It’s useful but only when you track events do you start getting close to the real user experience. Video plays, scroll depth, button clicks, clicks on out-bound links, this is all stuff that you want and need to measure.

Setting up event tracking used to be a real pain. These days, assuming you use Google Tag Manager, it can be (almost) point and click. So there’s no excuse.

Measuring no events or only a couple, we worry.


Setup goals to measure your key website objectives

It remains unusual for us to be asked to undertake an initial review of a public sector Google Analytics set up and to find that people actually are tracking goals. This is a pity, goal tracking in GA opens up a world of really high value insights into what’s working for your users both on and off the site.

And with the ease (these days) of setting up events, goals can be complex, rich and glorious.

If we see goals being tracked we are pleasantly surprised. If we see goal value we fall off our chairs.

It could be doing so much more

So many organisations wire up Google Analytics to their online estate because it’s free and then they either forget it or they use it to generate reports that no-one reads.

This is a pity because Google Analytics is a rich and powerful tool that really can help you understand how your services are working for your many users. We often hear from public sector clients that they don’t think that most of the Google Analytics platform is relevant because they aren’t commercial operators. In fact nothing could be further from the truth. OK you don’t need the e-commerce functionality but pretty much everything else in the system can add real value to public sector digital services.

And, of course, we can help you with that.

Thanks for reading.

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