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Custom Variables in Google Analytics

NOTE: This article refers to an old feature, which has been deprecated in favor of multiple custom variables. Users are encouraged to use the new, more powerful code.

When to Use User-Defined Variables

Google Analytics gathers all the information it can about each visit: location, network speed, browser, operating system, screen resolution, traffic source, number of previous visits to the site, etc. But these variables are all generic. They apply to every site, and some of them are meaningless to yours. Using a custom variable makes reports much more useful.

Preparing to Measure Success in Google Analytics

The code is installed. The data is clean. Now let's make the reports actionable before finally beginning to analyze the data.

Making Google Analytics Data Relevant

The code is in place and raw data is coming into your Google Analytics account. Now it's time to make the reports relevant by cleaning out obvious things, like your own visits to the site. There are also a number of other things to go through that may not be obvious. Without cleaning up your data, you may be led to inaccurate conclusions about what is working or how your visitors interact with your site.

These articles discuss different things you can do to make your reports more relevant and tools you can use to get there.

Installing the Google Analytics Tracking Code

Implementing the tracking code for Google Analytics is relatively simple. However, most problems users have with Google Analytics are the result of incorrect coding. Also, some situations require more specialized coding changes.

What is Web Analytics?

Google Analytics is marketed as being free and easy. Free it is, but with the depth of available information, analyzing your reports is not as simple as just looking at the colorful graphs. Before beginning to analyze your reports, you need to have the right expectations about what web analytics is meant to do and how you should go about it. Many troubles can be avoided by setting the right expectations and establishing an understanding of how Google Analytics works.

Set Up E-Commerce Tracking in Google Analytics

Tie transaction data to your marketing efforts to get a more rounded picture of what's working and what isn't.

Google Analytics can track online purchases to give you an idea of the true dollar value of campaigns and traffic sources. To do this, you need to enable e-commerce tracking in your profile and add some extra code to the receipt page.

Tracking Subdomains in Google Analytics

Subdomains on a website can confuse Google Analytics. You need to make decisions about how you want to track your site and then tag accordingly.

You may have heard that Google Analytics uses cookies. In fact, it pays a lot of attention to those cookies.

Customize Your Google Analytics Tracking Code

The new ga.js tracking code has some tricks up its sleeve.

The new code has some built-in functionality that is more advanced than typical implementations require. Broken out by category, some of the advanced options are described below.

These are advanced features and should be used with caution. Using these features for the wrong situations may cloud your reports with funny data, and it won't be possible to fix that bad data once it's in the account.

Mobile GA version 1.01 for Android Released!

A new version of Mobile GA has been released for Android. This new release fixes some bugs and adds more functionality.

JavaScript Basics in Google Analytics

Google Analytics relies heavily on JavaScript. Well, actually, it's almost entirely JavaScript. "Relies heavily" is probably an understatement.

Sure, the Google Analytics tracking code can just be copied and pasted into each page on a website. You could go the easy way out. But what if you want to get into more advanced features? What if you want to track file downloads? Or what if you just wanted to really screw up your tracking code? Well, you would need to know some basics about how JavaScript works.

Adding and Testing Google Analytics Tracking Code

One reason that Google Analytics has gained such rapid popularity is its ease of implementation. Google made the installation process easy enough that non-technical website owners have been able to use it.

For most websites, simply copying and pasting the code that Google provides is sufficient. It's important to be able to test that code implementation immediately, though. Sometimes it's even necessary to go back into the account to grab the code again.

Cookies in Google Analytics

Cookies form the foundation of Google Analytics attribution reports.
A warm, delicious foundation.

Cookies are at the heart of Google Analytics. Not just because they are delicious, but because they provide a critical link in tracking return visitors and attribution.

Organizing Your Google Analytics Account

Google Analytics reports a lot of data. If you don't take out the irrelevant stuff, you will have a hard time getting anything useful from it.

Almost every company I've seen, large and small, uses Google Analytics unfiltered in the beginning. Trying to make useful analysis out of raw data is difficult. To really make sense of the reports, you need to exclude outliers, consolidate pages and isolate irrelevant data.

Real-Time Analysis and Google Analytics

Why Real-Time?

Here are some of the most legitimate reasons for real-time tracking that we have heard:

  • Need to know if ads are underperforming in real-time so that they can be modified or discontinued.
  • Need to know if a page is failing so that it can be remedied.
  • Want to track individual users as they interact with my site.
  • Need to know if a page is popular so that a link to it can be posted somewhere.
  • Want to proactively engage visitors on the site.

Tracking Campaigns in Google Analytics

Google Analytics provides a simple way to track any marketing that drives traffic to your website without making any changes to your account.

To track marketing campaigns, simply insert campaign information into the landing page's query string. It looks something like this:

First, let's take a look at how Google Analytics keeps track of where a visitor came from.