Simple Advanced Analytics Tricks – 1.

Yes, the tricks I’m about to show you are indeed simple and advanced at the same time. How can that be? They are simple because it takes little effort to implement them, but they are advanced in a sense that you won’t find them set up in Google Analytics by default mostly because they are specific to your site / business / campaign / goals. In this post I’m going to show you how you can get more out of your Google Tag Manager installation.

This is not a guide of how to set up Google Tag Manager though. There are plenty of great articles and support documents on this. In case you don’t have it yet, use this post as an inspiration to set it up (which is not harder then it was to add your Google Analytics code to your site). After you set it up, you can use the following guide to set up all those useful stuff I’m talking about.

There’s a wealth of great resources out there that talk about really advanced Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager implementations – the hard part in my opinion is to actually use them on a daily basis to solve your own problems.

One of the most common misconceptions of using Google Analytics is that you put your GATC (Google Analytics Tracking Code) to your pages and boom you are done. That’s both true and false.

  • It’s true because in an early stage of your site or your business most of your efforts should be better put into figuring where you can bring value to your audience. In general and at lot of cases this will be content creation and content promotion. Building this up will get you closer to actually have something (visitors) that you will be able to analyze down the road in an analytics tool.
  • After a certain point however it is not really true as the data you’ll see in Google Analytics by default won’t be enough for you to really understand your visitors. It’s easy not to realize this.

My experience is that people either don’t really know about what could and should be measured in Google Analytics beyond the default metrics or even if they do have some idea, they tend to think it takes a lot of custom development so it just does not worth it. While this can be the case lots of times, with some learning and experimenting it’s easy to find stuff that can actually give you more information. This can then lead to more educated business decisions and that don’t need a developer, but you can do on your own as well.

Disclaimer: I’m not a developer, I can’t write a single piece of code other than CSS or HTML, but even those will not be required to implement the following things.

For a start, in this post I’m going to show you two things that are easy to set up and that have the opportunity to give you great insights.

Tracking affiliate links

Let’s say some of your revenue is coming from affiliate partners. Surely you get a report from them that tells you all the important figures. But in order to make more affiliate commission you want to optimize your content, your site structure and your layout to maximize this revenue. That’s quite vague. What if you could visualize on a custom segment  in Google Analytics how your visitors that clicked on an affiliate link behave on your site. Well, you can, and it’s not even that hard to do so. Here’s how:

  1. Add a new link click listener tag. This will check if a link is clicked at on your site. Make it fire on all of your pages.
    Adding a link click listener tag

    Adding a link click listener tag

    Making the tag "fire" on all pages.

    Making the tag “fire” on all pages.

  2. Add another Analytics tag and select ”Event” at track type below. Fill in Category and Action and Label as you see on the screenshot below. What this step does is that it creates a tag that will trigger a Google Analytics Event that communicates to Google Analytics the fact that there was an external link clicked (Category). If you add {{element url}} to the field value you’ll get the actual target URL in the Behavior / Events / Event action section of your Google Analytics.
    Editing a tag in Google Tag Manager

    Couple of stuff to note on this image: Use your own Tracking ID. In this example I added the our GA tracking ID as a macro so I don’t have to type it all the time, I suggest you do the same.

  3. Create a new rule for this tag that fires when a link is clicked where the target page (where the link points to) is not on your own domain:
    This rule will fire when the "href" of link your links are anything but your own site name (you better replace with your site :)

    This rule will fire when the “href” of link your links are anything but your own site name (you better replace with your site 🙂

  4. Create a version and publish your container
    Creating a version of a Google Tag Manager container

    Create a version of your container and publish it!

  5. Test. Tag Manager  has a nice built-in debug mode which allows you to test if your tag is fired. The following short screencast shows how I recommend you to test your tag using this debug mode and the “Real time” section in Google Analytics. What you can see is that I click on an external link on one of our older blog posts and two things happen: Firstly the debug console on the bottom of the page shows that my tag is fired and secondly the Real Time section in Google Analytics in the other window on the left shows that an Event (the one we have set up in step 2) is pushed to Google Analytics. Isn’t it cool? Sure it is!


+1. Visualize this in GA. Now all you need to do is create a custom segment based on your event. E.g. Event category = “External Link Clicked”. This however will add into this segment all visitors who have clicked on any external links. You want to be more specific than that so you should base your segment on if Action contains some of your affiliate partners, e.g. amazon. For this you can just add a list of the domains of your affiliate partners separated by “pipe” ( | ) which means “OR”. So if you add amazon|clickbank|buysellads the segment will include visitors who have clicked on a link that triggered an event where the action (which is the URL the link points to) contained “amazon” OR clickbank OR “buysellads”.

Creating a segment for visitors who have clicked on some affiliate links

Creating a segment for visitors who have clicked on some affiliate links

Example insight you can get from this

While a big percentage of your visitors arrive to a specific page of your site, only a small (X) percentage of those ever clicks on an affiliate link anywhere on the site. At the same 2X% of the visitors click on an affiliate link that arrived on a page that didn’t seem like important because not a lot of people came to your site through it. Takeaway: you should try to get more people enter your site through that given page.

Tracking PDF dowloads

Let’s stay at link tracking and don’t make set up too complicated for now (we’ll get there in one of our next posts) Staying at link tracking you can easily modify the process above slightly to capture your PDF downloads (white papers, brochures, price tables, ebooks, various supporting material). The point of doing this is that in case you have a number of various PDFs you won’t need to create a Goal to track the download of each of them in Google Analytics (you can have only 20 goals in Google Analytics and it makes no sense to use all of them to track various PDFs individually). So here’s how to modify the steps above:

  • In step 3 instead of naming the Category “External link clicked” name it as “PDF clicked”
  • In step 3 instead of basing the firing rule on your domain, use this rule (you can also copy the rule you created before and change these values):
    Tag manager rule to capture PDF downloads

    Tag manager rule to capture PDF downloads

If you want to use goals (but only ONE that reports all PDF downloads, instead of one for each PDF) – create a goal based on an event where Category includes “PDF”:

Base your goal on the GA Event

Base your goal on the GA Event

  •  To visualize PDF downloads in a segment, base your segment on the value that contains .pdf – you can do this because the linked URL is still in the Value of the Event.

Example insight you can get out of this

While your PDF download numbers seem to be OK, you may realize that Unique PDF downloads (Unique Events) are actually low. This means that very few people download a lot of PDFs, while your goal was to get as much people download your PDF as possible, rather than have a select few that downloads a lot. Action to take: highlight PDF download options more so more of your visitors will see them, rather than only a small fraction of your visitors – that like you enough so that they download a lot of youd PDFs even if they are rather “hidden” somewhere on your pages.

Stay tuned and in one of my next posts I’m going to teach you how to

  • Get actionable insights out of Google Analytics’s content grouping functionality
  • Set up and make use of your site search data
  • Show Facebook shares, likes and dislikes of your pages and posts right in Google Analytics

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