A Beginner’s Guide to Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a critical piece of your data analytics puzzle, but getting it right can be puzzling. Here’s how you can make the most of it for a holistic and accurate picture of your performance.

Google Analytics (GA) is a free service offered by Google to help you understand your web traffic, and while it’s not a perfect solution, it is a great option for businesses both small and large because it’s cost effective but still focused enough to help you get some valuable insight. As an eCommerce merchant, you’ll definitely want to leverage GA to help get a holistic view of your performance, but getting it right is absolutely critical. And it’s not always easy to do.  

That’s why when I often get asked by merchants just starting out what first steps they should tackle, getting their Google Analytics ironed out is always something I recommend. Why? Put simply: there is no way to fix or clean the data in GA once you get started, so if you miss the mark at the start, your reporting will be wrong — forever

That sounds scary, but it doesn’t need to be. Over the years, I’ve had tons of experience helping brands set up and optimize their GA.

Here are three simple steps you can take to make sure you’re set up for success: 

  1. Have eCommerce Analytics turned-on 
  1. Check your referral exclusions 
  1. Check your Default Channel Grouping 

First thing’s first...a bit about Google Analytics

Before we get started, it’s important to understand that GA works by embedding Javascript in your website that sends data to Google whenever a user visits your site. Here’s why that matters: let’s say someone is visiting your site with a browser that blocks Javascript from running (like https://duckduckgo.com/). In that case, the Javascript won’t run and GA won’t capture your data. This is why orders and revenue in GA are always lower than what you might see on the admin page of your Shopify store. Luckily, Shopify has done a great job making it easy to set up your Google Analytics, you just need to follow the simple steps here.   

Now that you’ve done that, you might be thinking you’re good to go, but there is still more setup within GA that you’ll want to do. Why?  Because GA is used across all sorts of websites (blogs, news, eCommerce, etc.) and each one has different needs, so you want to tailor GA to each versus using the basic “one-size-fits-all” version. Here’s how: 

 Step 1: Have eCommerce Analytics turned on 

From the homepage, you’ll want to find the Admin option in the bottom left hand corner. Once you’ve done this, click “View Settings” and select “Ecommerce Settings”. Make sure Enable ECommerce and Enable Enhanced ECommerce Reporting are turned on. Why? Having these options enabled allows for much better visibility into the metrics that matter most to your business performance. Ecommerce allows you to see things like transactions and revenue by channel, while  Enhanced Ecommerce allows us to see things like product performance - product page views, adds to carts, transactions, etc.  

Step 2: Check Your Referral Exclusions 

Referral exclusions allow you to tell GA to exclude certain domains from being tracked as new sessions. This is important because certain payment methods (like Paypal for example) require the user to log into their account to make the payment. If you don’t exclude Paypal, then GA will think the customer is coming to your site from Paypal — even if they didn’t. 

Let’s say a customer sees your ad on Facebook and clicks through to your site to make a purchase. If they use Paypal for the transaction, GA will give all the credit to Paypal, even though the sale really came from Facebook. That’s not good. Ultimately, without referral exclusions, the original “real” source appears worse, while the referral channel looks better leading to discrepancies and errors in your reporting. 

So, how can you make sure you’ve set up referral exclusions correctly?  

Navigate to the Property and Tracking Info within GA and add the domains you want to exclude. Here’s a good guide from Shopify for which domains to exclude. We’ve excluded our store, shopify and paypal in our referral exclusions. 

Step 3: Check Your Default Channel Groupings 

The last thing we recommend changing is your Default Channel Grouping in GA, which can be located under Channel Settings

 Channel groupings matter because your channels get mapped based on the UTM parameters in your marketing. Take Facebook, for example. For many of us in the eCommerce space, we would use Facebook as an advertising platform to generate traffic to our site with paid ads. We might also create our own posts hoping that people see them and visit our site without us having to pay for that traffic. Unfortunately, Google doesn’t know the difference between organic traffic and paid traffic — all it knows is that the traffic came from Facebook. 

That’s where your Channel Settings come into play. We need to tell GA how to interpret some of these sources so we can make smarter and more informed decisions when it comes to how we’re spending our marketing dollars. 

From the Channel Settings menu, click on Default Channel Grouping to open the rules.  

Almost everyone on Shopify uses Google Ads and Facebook Ads to get traffic.

At Daasity, we always recommend that users setup or modify two channels and put them at the top of the list: 

  1. Paid Search – we usually modify the System defined Paid Search and add “bing / cpc” as a “source / medium” as we don’t always see Bing getting captured correctly
  1. Paid Social – Paid ads from Social platforms are almost never tagged correctly which is why it’s important to set them up in your marketing platform, as well as GA, so you can differentiate between the traffic and order types.  

For Facebook, paid ads almost always come with “cpc” as the medium, so it’s important to set up a rule that says assign “facebook / cpc” to Paid Social first  

In just a few simple steps, you can take your GA from basic to brilliant so you can get the insights you need to boost your business. Looking for more? Check out this helpful guide from Elevar for more details.   

Have questions? Drop us a line and say hello, we’d love to hear from you!