Being able to make data-driven decisions on customer data in real-time should be every business’s goal. As businesses collect data from their websites, digital analytics can give them the power to transform that data into useful knowledge they can act on. 

When digital analytics is done right, it will help you and your organization improve online marketing effectiveness, generate new customer insights, drive revenue, and ultimately make better business decisions. 

But getting there is hard.  By now, you may have heard of Google Analytics (GA) and hopefully, you have a GA account set up for your small business. Google Analytics is a great resource for small businesses because it’s free and easy to get started. But just because you are collecting data does not mean that the data is ready to inform your business decisions.

So how can you get the most out of your Google Analytics account? 

One of the most important things to know is how to get your Google Analytics right – or to set it up so that you’re receiving accurate data. The biggest mistake that many companies make is not setting up the right filters to measure traffic that is coming exclusively from real people (not bots) or people outside your company. Once you’ve collected data for a period of time, you can’t go back and change it.

Want to make sure your data is accurate, so you can know the real performance of your marketing campaigns?  Here are 3 easy ways to get started:

  1. Enable bot filtering – Bots and spiders are automated computer programs that “crawl” websites and can show up as hits on your GA account.  Since these visits to your website are not coming from humans, you probably don’t want to include them in your reporting.  GA has made it easy to exclude traffic coming from known spiders and bots, using the IAB/ABC International Spiders and Bots list.  You can enable bot filtering, which will exclude all hits on the view level, in the “View Settings” section in the Admin interface.  Check the box labeled “Exclude traffic from known bots and spiders” and save your change at the bottom of the screen.
  2. Set up (at least) 3 views – Google Analytics organizes an entity’s data in a 3-tiered hierarchy, made up of an “Account,” one or more “Properties” and one or more “Views” (for an explanation of this hierarchy, read more on Google).  You can use this hierarchical system to suit your needs, but generally, if you have one website for your business, the best practice will have you set up an Account with one Property and at least 3 Views. 
  • View #1 – Master view

A master view will contain all historical data since tracking begins and can be used as a failsafe for all data collection. You should not apply any filters to this view, EXCEPT bot filtering.

  • View #2 – Reporting View

This is the View you will use most often and can be considered the “main” view. It differs from the Master View in that any additional filters you want to use will be applied to this view and not the Master View. You should also definitely enable bot filtering for this view.

  • View #3 – Testing view

Use this view to test out any filters or development work before applying them to your reporting view. You should enable bot filtering for this view to keep the baseline traffic consistent.

3. Use a filter to exclude internal traffic – Now that you have set up your GA account with appropriate views and enabled bot filtering to exclude non-human traffic, there is some traffic from real live people that you should consider excluding from your reporting view as well – the traffic coming from you!  If you and others in your company go to your website, that traffic will show up in your reporting view and be counted in your reports and towards your goals.  The easiest way to ensure that your data is not skewed by your own company is to add a filter to exclude traffic by IP address.  

Remember to test your filter in the Testing view to ensure that it’s working correctly and as anticipated before moving the filter to the Reporting view.  If you aren’t sure of the IP address you’re using, a quick Google search will help you find that info, or ask your network administrator.  Create a new filter from the Filter section of the Admin interface, and name the filter, “Internal Traffic.”  Next, use the drop-down box to select Filter Type to “exclude” and the select source or destination to “traffic from the IP addresses” and select expression to “that are equal to”.  Finally, type in the IP address or addresses from your internal computer or network of computers, and save.

Now that you have excluded bots and spiders from your account, set up appropriate failsafe, testing, reporting views, and excluded internal traffic to your reporting view, your GA account is ready to report!

About the Author(s)

 Rebecca  Corcoran

Rebecca Corcoran is a Senior Digital Analyst at MaassMedia. With an MS and background in neuroscience, Rebecca has extensive experience in a variety of analytics settings.

Close up of a page displaying website analytics. Pen and glasses sit on top of paper.