Google Analytics at BU

The Google Analytics platform allows you to get detailed insights into how visitors are using your website. Google’s platform allows for everything from a quick overview to an in-depth analysis of your site’s visitor data. Google Analytics is a free application and is automatically included on most public-facing sites managed by IS&T.

How can Google Analytics help me?

Data from Google Analytics is often used in making critical business decisions. In Analytics, this data is extracted through “reports.” A number of standard reports come included with every Google Analytics account.

Basic reports have standard metrics including views per page, referring search terms, and visitors by location, among others.Examples:

  • “Which are our top-performing pages?”
  • “How many visitors do we have from MA?”
Advanced (“Custom”) reports are entirely customizable. These reports can help answer complex questions, and are intended for datasets that are retrieved on a regular basis.Examples:

  • “How have mobile visits from our newsletter changed since last month?”
  • “Are mobile viewers more or less likely to spend time reading our articles?”
  • “When people visit from a link shared on social media, which pages are most likely to result in a conversion (e.g. Information Request, Sign Up, etc)?”
Dashboards are a quick way to check your most business-critical metrics.

Getting Started with Google Analytics

On most public-facing sites managed by IS&T, the tracking code for BU’s Google Analytics account is already included. For sites with advanced tracking needs, a separate (free) Analytics account is worth consideration.

In WordPress on BU.edu, additional Analytics accounts are very quick update for Site Admins. More information about adding additional trackers is available in this section.

To view BU’s data in Google Analytics, you’ll need to be granted access to the account. Once access is granted, your view will include data from all of BU’s web properties. This can be an overwhelming set of data.

Here are a few quick steps to get started:

  1. Create a Custom Segment to filter out page views that aren’t from your site.
  2. Apply the Custom Segment to your view.
    • (Optionally) Remove the “All Sessions” segment
  3. Explore Custom Reports, if you find yourself regularly looking up the same metrics (e.g. “How many people visited from our newsletter this month?”)

Custom Segments

One of the most powerful aspects of the Analytics platform is its ability to segment data. Custom Segments allow you to filter down large datasets, so you’re only working with the data that’s most relevant at the time. You can use this feature to target users or sessions that meet a specific set of criteria. At BU, this feature can be particularly relevant for separating on-campus & off-campus traffic.

Once a segment is created, both standard and custom reports can be run against the data. Multiple segments can be enabled simultaneously, allowing you to easily compare report metrics. For more information, please visit Google’s documentation for Custom Segments.

Let’s run through an example by creating a custom segment for Techweb. We’ll be filtering out traffic that isn’t from the site:

Short on time? Load this Custom Segment (pre-made): http://goo.gl/6spVBB

1. Start on the “Reporting” tab, click “+ Add Segment”, then “+ New Segment” in the box that opens.
2. First, give your segment a name. We’ll call this one “TechWeb”. For your site, we’d recommend using your site’s name for easy reference. Next, we move on to the segment’s criteria. Under the “Advanced” section, click “Conditions.”Here, we want to exclude any page views that didn’t come from from TechWeb.

Change the dropdowns indicated with arrows to match the example. In the text box, enter your site’s main directory. That’s the first part after “http://www.bu.edu”. For TechWeb, we entered “/tech/”.

Note: Some criteria, although listed, are not metrics collected by BU. Segments including Age or Gender criteria, for example, will return zero results.

3. (Optional) Click “Test” and/or “Preview” to get an idea of what the segment will look like once it’s saved.“Test” allows you to evaluate the criteria without refreshing the view.

The “Preview” feature actually applies your segment to the data, allowing a preview before saving.

4. Click “Save” and you’re all set! Your new custom segment will be displayed alongside any other segments currently active. Typically, this is only the “All Sessions” segment.Tip: The wheel to the left of your segment’s name shows what percentage of the total sessions (from all of BU) are included in the view.

To remove a segment from the view, click the arrow to the right of the name, then click “Remove”.

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Caution: Be sure to triple-check Custom Segment criteria for new segments! A criteria set may have unintentional consequences, including leading to a significant amount of data missing from the report.

Custom Reports

If you routinely look for a similar set of data in Google Analytics, then Custom Reports are for you. Questions such as “What are the top keywords used to find our site in search engines?” are easily answered with Custom Reports. There are two ways to set up these reports in Analytics: (1) Start with a Standard Report and customize the options to fit your needs, or (2) Start entirely from scratch and create a new report with an exact set of criteria. For a more detailed discussion, please see Google’s documentation on Custom Reports.

Let’s walk through the process with our example question, starting with a Standard Report:

Short on time? A starter report is available at http://goo.gl/5i5cEx

1. Under “Reporting”, expand “Acquisition” > “Keywords”, and click “Organic”.Note: Be sure that “http://www.bu.edu – Boston University” is the profile selected in the top-right corner
2. Now, on the “Organic Search Traffic” page, click “Customize”
3. On the “Create Custom Report” page, you should start by eliminating any unneeded Metric Groups. “Goal Set 1”, “Goal Set 2”, and “Ecommerce” are likely not applicable, unless you’ve set up specific metrics for those.
4. This step is important! Here we’re separating your site’s data from all of the data at BU. Under “Filters”:

  1. Click “add filter”
  2. Search for “Page”
  3. Select the option named exactly “Page”
5. In the next dropdown on the line, select “Regex” (instead of “Exact”). In the text field, type: ^/yoursiteReplace ‘yoursite’ with the first part of your site’s address, after ‘www.bu.edu’.Example: For TechWeb (http://www.bu.edu/tech), we’d type ^/tech in the box.
6. Click “Save” & you’re done! Your report will be saved permanently under the “Customization” tab.

Sending Data to a Separate Analytics Account

  1. First, you’ll need to create a (free) Google Analytics account for the site.
  2. Once the account has been set up, grab the “Tracking ID” (http://note.io/1prHOgm) and head to WordPress.
  3. In your admin panel, go to Settings > Google Analytics.
  4. Click “Add new account…” and enter the Tracking ID from Google Analytics. Click ‘OK’.
  5. All set! Verify that data is being received in Analytics by following these instructions.