Google Analytics (GA) is a free service provided by Google that allows for everything from a quick overview to an in-depth analysis of your site’s visitor data. Basic BU Analytics is included with all sites that are hosted in BU WordPress. Additionally, departments can use a Department-Specific Tracking Code to collect traffic data into your own GA account in addition to the BU analytics account.
Basic BU analytics uses Google’s Universal Analytics code and will be converted to version 4 of Google Analytics before June 2023. Department-specific tracking codes can use either the UA syntax or the GA4 syntax. It is recommended you use one or the other, and not both.
Need To Know:
- There are two ways to use Google Analytics at Boston University. Depending upon your needs, you may use Basic BU Analytics, Department-Specific Analytics, or BOTH methods.
- Basic BU analytics is included on all WordPress-based sites on www.bu.edu, www.bumc.bu.edu, sites.bu.edu, and blogs.bu.edu and includes Viewer role access to the BU GA account. It does not include admin access to the BU account.
- Sites with more advanced needs can create their own Google Analytics account and add their own department-specific GA tracker to their site (in addition to the BU tracking code). It is the responsibility of the department to create and maintain the GA account. IS&T does not provision or support department-specific GA accounts.
- IS&T does not provide support or training on how to use Google Analytics. If you are using Basic BU analytics, you will have to learn how to create a custom report in order to filter your websites traffic from all of bu.edu traffic. See “more help” links listed in the bottom section of this page.
What is Basic BU Analytics?
- GA data from December 2005 to present. (Some sites from 2005-2009; all WP-based sites from 2009 to present)
- Does not include administrative-level access to the BU GA account, and therefore cannot be used for setting up campaigns nor for using other advanced GA features.
- Read/analyze access is available to bu.edu website admins and approved consultants.
- This tracking code is included on all WP-based sites on bu.edu, even if you are using a department-specific tracking code.
- Most BU websites (i.e. those without a pre-defined site-specific view) will need to use Custom Reports (see Custom Reports in the links below) to filter your site’s traffic from the overall BU traffic.
What is a Department-Specific Tracking Code?
- Create your own departmental account in GA, get your own GA tracking code, and add it to your site (see Sending Data to a Separate Analytics Account in the links below).
- IS&T does not manage this account — you maintain it within your department.
- The main BU tracking code remains, and both the BU account and your department-specific account get the same GA data.
- You have full admin-level access to your own GA account. Use this option if you need campaigns and other advanced GA features.
- You do not get the historical data with your own tracking code — you start collecting data only at the time you add your own code.
- Using your own code eliminates the need to create Custom Segments to filter your traffic from the overall BU traffic.
Google Analytics Dashboard Widget in BU WordPress
We have retired the in-line display of Google Analytics in the dashboard widget on BU WordPress sites. The widget has been replaced with a direct link to Google Analytics. Please log directly into analytics.google.com.
Getting Started with Basic BU analytics
To view BU’s data in Google Analytics, you’ll need access to the account.
Before requesting access make sure your @bu.edu login is enabled for BU Google Apps.
Request access to Google Analytics using the WordPress Help Request Form.
To use Google Analytics, log directly into analytics.google.com.
You’ll have the role of “Viewer” in the BU account. This can be an overwhelming set of data, since the BU Web encompasses many hundreds of websites. Most users will need to create Custom Reports to filter your traffic from all the other traffic on your bu.edu subdomain.
Navigating to the BU Google Analytics account
When you log into Google Analytics with your BU login, you will be directed to the Google Analytics home page. If you have access to multiple BU accounts and/or have access to non-BU accounts in Google Analytics, you may need to navigate to the BU account. Click the arrowhead to the section immediately to the right of the Google Analytics logo. This will open the accounts browser.
Within a Google Analytics account, there are properties. Within properties, there are views. BU website admins need to ensure they are looking at the correct account, the correct property, and the correct view. For Basic BU Analytics, this means the Boston University account, the www.bu.edu property, and the Boston University view.
BU schools and colleges websites plus many major business units have dedicated “views” but the number of dedicated views are limited in the BU account. If you do not have a specific view for your site alone, you will need to create a Custom Report to filter your site data from all the traffic.
MOST BU USERS will need to create a Custom Report to filter your site’s traffic from all the other sites on your bu.edu subdomain.
There are many ways to create reports and IS&T does not support how to use Google Analytics — please use Google support options for more detailed assistance. But as a basic example, to set up a Custom Report to see only the traffic for the Classics website, you might create a report with a metric of Pages/Sessions, a Dimension of Page, and a filter to include only pages that contain the string “/classics/” (in the URL). Here’s a screenshot of this basic report example to get you started:
Once you have filtered your traffic from the whole of your bu.edu subdomain, you can layer additional metrics, dimensions, and other filtering for more detailed reports. For a more help please see Google’s documentation on Custom Reports.
Sending Data to a Separate Analytics Account
- First, you’ll need to create a (free) Google Analytics account for the site.
- Once the account has been set up, get your “Tracking ID” and head to WordPress.
- In your admin panel, go to Settings > Google Analytics.
- Click “Add new account…” and enter the Tracking ID from Google Analytics. Click ‘OK’.
- All set! Verify that data is being received in Analytics by following these instructions.
Note that Universal Analytics tracking codes will follow an alphanumeric syntax like this: UA-XXXXXXXX-XX. The new version 4 of Google Analytics follows an alphanumeric syntax like this: G-XXXXXXXXXX. Department-specific trackers can be added for UA or GA4.
Enable Tracking for Downloads and External Links
Your site can let Google Analytics know when visitors download a file or follow external links. With these settings enabled, you can use the existing tools in Google Analytics to track this information.
A user on your site with the Site Admin role can enable these from the WP Dashboard > Settings > Google Analytics.
To track external links, simply turn on the checkbox.
To track file downloads, turn on the checkbox and specify which types of files you need to track. The settings panel has built-in options to select PDFs or MS Office documents. There is also a field to specify additional file types. Follow the on-screen instructions carefully. Only track file types that you need — every additional file type adds overhead and make may page loads slower.
For More Help with Google Analytics
Google’s Analytics Help Center gives a good overview of the product and some step-by-step procedures to setup some basic reporting.
For more in-depth study Google offers Analytics Academy — a lineup of free online courses aimed mainly at teaching how to use the product’s reporting features to make decisions about your site.
Google’s support for Google Analytics is excellent and extensive. IS&T supports the BU-specific aspects of Google Analytics (embedding tracking codes, account management, access to stats), but IS&T does not offer general training for using Google Analytics.