Definitive Guide to Hack Your Google Analytics Data

Written by Arup

Updated on Jul 30, 2020
Category: Others

Are you a newbie in the world of websites and analytics? After setting up your site, the next thing that came to your mind is probably Google Analytics. 

Entering into the world of analytics can be overwhelming in the beginning.  This is why we bring you this guide with a list of major hacks into Google Analytics.

This piece of content is specifically written for you to remain focused on the important metrics in Google Analytics while avoiding going around in circles or getting lost due to data overload.google analytics hack

According to Build With, there are more than 47 million live websites with the analytics code snippet installed within them. This data includes a large number of top sites as well.

According to Builtwith.com, there are 47m live websites with Google Analytics tracking code

Indeed, Google Analytics is the go-to tool for businesses irrespective of their industries and company size. As a free-to-use tool, Google Analytics has become a necessity for small and medium businesses to monitor the success of their website and take action. 

In this guide, we will look into some quick hacks, derived from some key metrics that matter to your business. These points will help you look right into a set of Google Analytics features that can boost your business in a short period and prevent going overboard. 

How to Apply Filters?

Application of Google Analytics filters is a prerequisite before you start to draw any inference from the data. 

Filters are applied to maintain data accuracy that may occur from visits coming from your own company or some spam traffic.

How to apply filters in Google Analytics?

  • Log on to Google Analytics. You will land on the home page.
  • Click on admin from the side menu.

  Analytics admin panel with Account level and view level filters

  • Now you will find filters under the first and third columns.  
  • Go for view filters. (why not account filter? We will let you know in a moment)

Our filters for the Stan Ventures website. 

  • Click on add filter

Select source allows you to filter traffic with respect to domain, IP, directories, and hostname

  • To exclude traffic from your own company or IP address, select Filter type- “exclude”, destination- “traffic from the IP addresses”, select expression- “that are equal to” 
  • If you want to stop traffic from a specific ISP domain, elect the expression “traffic from the ISP domain” instead. 

Special Cases:

There can be cases where you would want to exclude traffic to a particular webpage or a group of web pages. This is where you set the filter type to Exclude, the destination to traffic to subdirectories, and select expression to equal to. 

You can filter traffic coming from countries, regions, events, and so many other variables using a custom filter setting. We won’t go much deeper into it now, as it is more important to get started for a beginner.  

Now, coming to the question-

What is the difference between account filter and view filter in Google Analytics? 

Account filters permanently exclude the corresponding data that is configured by the website owner as filters. On the other hand, a view filter will only eliminate the information for demonstration. The raw website data without filters can still be accessed under the view “All website data”. 

Identify Tier One Pages to Optimize

One of the fundamental things about analytics is to identify the pages that are getting the most traffic. 

By principle, these are the pages the search engines are presenting to the target prospects. Hence, they must be optimized for better conversion, engagement, provide link juice, and so on. 

How to find tier one pages?

The first thing is to identify the tier one content. These are the ones that get the most organic visits. 

Go to “Behavior” and expand “Site Content” and click on “Landing pages”.

  Landing pages are the best way to find out the popular pages that serve as the entry to your website.

Now, you have all the top landing pages for your site. However, our job is to ascertain the ones that are getting traction from Google and not landing from some social media account, referral, or direct URL. 

Hence, the next step is to skim the traffic that has only come from organic searches. For that, click on “All Users”.

You can filter your traffic with respect to a number of variables in Google Analytics.

Under segment name check “Organic Traffic” and uncheck “all user” and click “Apply”. 

The list of variables to exclude or include in the analysis under “segment.”

This page will return the links that receive the most organic traffic and serve as the first point of contact with your target audience. 

Out top performing landing pages with respect to organic traffic

You can see that most of the pages earning significant traffic are the blog pages. 

You can also see that the first blog post has more than three pages per visit and more than 2 minutes of average engagement time.

While we have erased the details, a lot of these posts are written on algorithm updates. So how do we make the most out of this pre-existing content? 

We can put a lead capturing form on the webpage. But since leads coming to this post will not be qualified enough. This is not the right way to go.

A lead magnet with more content can be a good option. But a lead magnet is quite invasive. So that is not a popular option as well.

How about a hello bar? Well, no webinar or giveaway is coming up. It’s not a good idea, either.

Let’s think about something that allows these users to read about algorithm updates to solve their problem (recover their ranking) while bringing an opportunity for us to solve that through our services. 

A content upgrade that aligns contextually seems like a logical option. And here we have it. Tick

  A content upgrade on stanventures.com

While analyzing the tier one pages, you can find a lot of anomalies or deficiencies that can be solved, keeping in mind the business objective and the individual use case. 

Content, CTAs and internal linking for tier-one pages-

  1. Providing additional content using a full-screen welcome gate, a hello bar, a content upgrade, etc.
  2. Tweaking existing CTAs with respect to placement, text, or putting new CTAs altogether. 
  3. Tweak or add content to the tier one pages for better conversion.
  4. Internal linking other pages to the tier one page for traffic and link juice.
  5. Providing options to easily share the content.

Once we have optimized the tier one pages, we must follow it by optimizing the traffic flow.

Traffic Flow Optimization

Often, many websites have a few pages receiving a substantial volume of traffic but no conversions. As we have seen with tier one pages, it is not uncommon to find web pages with a lot of traffic but are going in vain. 

It is of utmost importance to utilize all the traffic; a particular webpage is getting, and funnel it in the right direction.

All the pages on a website belonging to a particular part or stage of the funnel and the right traffic flow ensure the funnel’s success.  

To do that, we must have a clear idea of the incoming and outgoing traffic from each page. 

How to estimate incoming and outgoing traffic in Analytics?

Go to “Audience”>> “Benchmarking”>> “Users Flow”. This shows you the complete user flow through various pages of your website.

 Behavior flow set with respect to the traffic source

You can select a secondary dimension from the dropdown, as highlighted here. We have selected the source/medium of the traffic, but you can put other variables. 

If we want to ascertain the traffic from a particular post, we can click on that and select “highlight traffic through here” option.

Highlighting a path within the traffic flow 

You can see that a chunk of referral traffic from LinkedIn goes to three blog posts on our website. 

Actions to take after behavior flow analysis-

What could we use these blog posts for? Apart from the content upgrade that we provided, we can do a number of things-

  • We can set internal links to other blog posts that are contextually related but do not receive many organic visits. 
  • Since the traffic does not flow to any of our business pages, we can contextually edit a part of the content and link our business pages.
  • As many people are not going to the web pages from the blog, they might need another content between the blog post and the web pages, such as an ebook for better lead qualification and conversion.

Optimize Keywords

If you have an e-commerce website that attracts many search queries, it is a goldmine to extract actionable insights to target the right keyword. You can also edit the content if needed. 

How to find site search queries?

Go to Acquisition>> Search Console>> Queries

Search queries is a great tool to identify the search queries put on your site

You will land on a list of queries, as shown below.

Search queries in Analytics

Correlation of targeted keywords and queries

Once you have got the list of keywords with you, the next job is to correlate these keywords with the keywords that you have targeted those pages for. How to do that?

  • If you see a lot of keywords from search console matching the intent of the targeted keywords, it suggests that your targeting is perfect. 
  • Despite proper targeting, if you see that your respective web page appears in the second or third page for the targeted keywords, there can be issues related to lack of content, on-page SEO and many more. 
  • Oftentimes, a website lagging in KW ranking will have a wide discord between the search queries and the keywords targeted by the website owner. This is when data from the search console can give you insights to target the right keywords. 

Keyword targeting is a lot about understanding the intent of the search and there can be multiple intents based on the buyer qualification. 

One of the challenges of the keywords derived from the search console is to segregate these keywords with respect to the qualification. Refer to our previous post to learn keyword targeting while mapping content for your blog. 

Tighten the funnel and close the gaps

We have partially dealt with this problem in the second section of this post. However, it definitely needs a lot more attention, as it is the most important aspect of calculating the success of an online business. 

Conceptually, the marketing and sales funnel looks like this-

A typical marketing and sales funnel

What should effective marketing and sales funnel accomplish?

  1. Efficiently qualify and eventually convert a prospect as fast as possible.
  2. Be relevant to a large number of target users coming on the website.
  3. Irrespective of the stage the user lands on, the funnel is able to push him to the next level.
  4. Should contribute to high conversion rate, low bounce rate and high on-page time for the website pages

Marketers look into the funnel performance and efficiency from time to time and work on all the four points mentioned above.   

If your funnel is not able to perform well on these points, you should look into Google Analytics to find a fix.

How do you do that? 

The fundamental idea here is to look at the bounce rate of individual pages against the pageviews. 

The pageviews vs. bounce rate matrix-

Four possible scenarios with pageviews vs bounce rate 

Quadrant 1-

You want every page of your site to be in this quadrant. With high pageviews and less bounce rate, it is implied that the page is indeed valuable. 

Quadrant 2-

This is one of the most common situations seen with page performance when closing the gaps in the funnel.

Now, you may ask how you go about determining those pages?

What should be done?

  1. Review the context of the content. Change if necessary.
  2. Provide additional content. The page must be directly linking to the inquiry page and not to a webpage or guide that can act as an intermediate content to qualify the user and bring him to a level of qualification to register an inquiry.
  3. There could be pop-ups or interstitials on the page that prevents your user from getting through. If yes, use session recording tools such as inspectlet to confirm.
  4. There could be a technical malfunction with the server. If so, get it corrected with the developer.

Quadrant 3-  

This is the worst-case scenario. Your website should not have many pages falling into this one. 

If you come across fewer page views and high bounce rates, review the page and its relevance. You may try tweaking the title meta and content or delete the page altogether. 

Quadrant 4-  

These pages can have the potential to attract more traffic and push more users to the deeper parts of the funnel. 

For such pages, you may check the keywords and their context and then select more keywords that are contextually connected and widens the topic. Look for google suggested keywords and make changes. 

Conversion Rate Optimization

If you’re new to the digital and content marketing space, this may be a new terminology for you altogether. In layman terms, conversion rate optimization or CRO is a systematic process to convert more users visiting a website or app.

In other words, CRO does not focus on increasing website traffic. Instead, the techniques are targeted towards the existing visitors to complete certain actions such as buying a plan, filling in a form, downloading an ebook, etc. 

CRO may include a long list of things that would require optimization from your side. 

CRO has gained a lot of importance in the present times as a lot of inbound marketing software are built around this concept. 

As for a beginner, Google Analytics can also provide you with tools and options with which you can get a lot done to optimize your site for more conversions. 

How to use Google Analytics for conversion rate optimization?

Google Analytics provides some quick options that can be leveraged to get more out of the traffic. 

System- Are you getting traffic from desktop or mobile?

Go to “Audience” >> “Overview” . You will see this screen. 

Audience overview – one of the most important view in Analytics

Scroll to the bottom and look for this part. 

Audience overview shows you traffic segmented with respect to system, OS, and Demographics. 

Go to both “System” and “Operating System” to see what your target audience use. 

These days, the mobile visits have literally skyrocketed and your website needs to be in top shape to be able to capitalize on that. 

If you’re a newbie, you may ask if your website is mobile optimized in the first place or not? To find that, perform this simple trick.

Open the website on a laptop or desktop. Then use the maximize button to shrink the website to a portrait mode. 

Web view of Stanventures website

See how the elements have arranged themselves automatically to fit the resolution. 

Mobile view of Stanventures website

This shows that the site is optimized for mobile. 

If it is not optimized for mobile, then the font would go beyond the width, making the mobile user scroll horizontally back and forth to read the content.

If you’re getting a lot of mobile visits, you may consider this mobile optimization checklist from Search Engine Land.  

Site Search- Do you really have what customers are searching on your site? 

We all want our website to come up for a specific set of search queries and be found for relevant buyer personas. Site search is an extremely valuable tool to find if that is getting accomplished or not. It gives a clear indication between the dissonance or the gap between the targeted keywords and the keywords or products/services you seem to be relevant for. 

See the above section on optimizing keywords to learn more about the topic.

Funnel Visualization- Where are the visitors dropping off?

Google Analytics provides marketers with a basic funnel visualization to help them set a pathway, or sales funnel that they deem important with respect to buyer qualification and conversion. 

Go to “Goals” >> “Funnel Visualization” to access your funnel. If you have not set up your funnel, you should first get that done. 

Funnel visualization under Conversions

On clicking, funnel visualization, you can see your funnel that you have set up. 

A typical funnel in Google Analytics

In the above example, we have a three-step funnel. The three steps are “Checking availability”, “booking process”, and “reservations booked” which are nothing but respective webpages.  

The visitors are supposed to go from the start to the end. However, as you can see that not all of them go beyond the first step. 

For each step(page) in the funnel, Google Analytics gives a list of pages from where the user has entered and interacted with the funnel page. It also gives a list of pages that the user has interacted after the landing on the funnel page.

Thus, Google Analytics gives a clear idea of the intent of the user and uncovers optimization issues. 

Two common issues reflected in the funnel-

Poor Content-

If a lot of users are exiting from a particular funnel page without going to the next funnel page, that may mean that the page either has irrelevant content, or it does not provide a value proposition that is good enough for conversion. 

Misplacement of pages in the funnel-

Instead of the next funnel page, if they are going to another page that provides more information about your product, then you should consider that the buyer is looking for more information. You can consider including that page in the funnel as it might be serving as the last interaction before conversion.

Another factor that points to misplacement of pages is the rate of drop off across the funnel. The fundamental idea is to have a decreasing drop off rate with successive funnel pages. That means as users go deeper into the funnel, the percentage of users going further should increase. 

If that is not the case, you may consider setting up the funnel again. It may indicate that your keyword mapping or content mapping might not be accurate.   

Capitalize on Referral Traffic

Referral traffic reflects the reputation of your website, along with an ability to attract traffic on a regular basis. 

If you are new to digital and content marketing, you must keep an eye on the referral traffic in order to monitor the performance of your outreach efforts, virality factor of the content and so on. 

How to monitor referral traffic and derive insights?

Go to “Acquisition” >> “All Traffic” >> “Referrals

Referrals under Acquisition is used to ascertain referral traffic.

Once you click on “Referrals”, you shall see the complete list of all the referral sources sending traffic to your website. Look to the following parameters to evaluate the performance. 

Referral traffic sources for stanventures.com

Parameters to evaluate referral traffic performance-

Engagement- 

To see if a specific source is providing engaged users, look for long session duration, less bounce rate, and more page/visit. 

Social Media Success-

A lot of businesses may not spend significant resources on social media. However, that perception may change as they study their referral traffic sources. Look for social media channels that send high-value traffic to your website. Look for a high goal conversion rate and the parameters for engagement.

Outreach Success-

If your content marketing efforts include outreach as an important element, then you may look into its performance from the referral sources and derive conclusions.

Keep a check on spam-

Is your website receiving a lot of spam traffic? Spam traffic is bad in many ways for websites. However, one of the worst drawbacks is their ability to disrupt your analytics as a result of which you are not able to derive conclusive results from your analytics data. 

Spam traffic looks weird with respect to the number of sessions, engagement time, location, etc. Moz gives a comprehensive analysis and provides ways to block spam traffic effectively.

Evaluate listing websites-

A lot of b2b business listing sites have popped up in the last few years. Google is also giving them a lot of priority when it comes to the intent of buying b2b products and services. 

If your website is listed on one of these sites, you may want to see their performance. As a lot of these sites offer paid listings, it becomes imperative to monitor them. Referral traffic in Google Analytics can give you a lot of insights into that. 

Natural Backlinks and Opportunities-

A lot of times, your content or any webpage is used as a reference by other websites. When you earn a natural backlink, it suggests the type of personas that take an interest in your content. You can search more into these personas and target them with your future content or marketing strategies. 

Utilizing Link Juice

We have read about this to some extent in the previous section, where we discussed behavior flow. Let’s understand that further. 

Utilizing the link juice simply means allowing the traffic to flow from links that get more visits to the links getting less traffic.  

Link juice should be optimally used to leverage the SERPs of weak pages by transferring the traffic from the pages that rank high. The idea is to look for links coming from external sites and then finding out the pages that they direct. 

To do that, 

  • Go to “Acquisition” >>  ‘All Traffic” >> “Referral”
  • Find out the referrals that are sending out referral visits
  • Find the pages on your website they are linking to
  • Make a list of those pages
  • Now make a list of pages that you would want to rank higher. 
  • Correlate pages and link contextually

The higher the DA and PA of the referring site, the higher is the value.

Conclusion

Google Analytics is the industry-standard tool that allows marketers to record, analyze, and improve their website performance. For a marketer, Google Analytics is the first tool that they master and then move on to more complex analytics software meant for specific purposes.

Nonetheless, despite its formidable place in the analytics domain, the software package as a whole can be quite complex for beginners. We have compiled this ebook specifically for such users. 

If you liked this content, stay tuned for more. We will soon release the next part of this ebook that will deal with the advanced features of Google Analytics and ways to use them for maximum ROI. 

We hope you found the insights and points listed in this ebook to be useful in cutting the clutter and help you look at the right places. Once you’re able to do that, it becomes a lot easier for you to look at the microscopic aspects and go deeper into the tool without losing your focus.

About Arup

Arup Dey works as Content Marketing Manager for Stan Ventures. He has more than 6 years of experience in formulating Digital and Content Strategy for mobile apps services and B2B SaaS products.

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4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Thanks for sharing a great article!! I’ve bee using Google Analytics for one year. I got to know a lot more information from this article. Please do share insights like this in the future.

    Reply
  2. Avatar

    Hello Arup!
    Great Article. Which tool will give accurate data, Google Analytics or Adobe Analytics? Which is better for large businesses?

    Reply
  3. Avatar

    Amazing stuff. Learned a lot of new things today. Not all website owners have the time to dig into Analytics and identify their growth data. I have a blog and this article helps me a lot of knowing how to find the exact traffic I am getting. Thanks again for sharing the insights!

    Reply
    • Avatar

      Thank you Moore.

      Reply

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