Top Tips and Tricks To Using Google Analytics Better

Written by Joanne Kearney

Joanne has over 10 years’ experience working in digital analytics, executing and managing many large scale projects across the UK and Ireland. Joanne is also an experienced trainer, having developed many customised corporate training schemes and regularly speaks at digital and analytics events.
September 23, 2016

I recently had the pleasure of delivering a talk to a group of businesses on the top tips and tricks to using Google Analytics.

Thankfully these pointers are all relatively simple to implement and best of all- they are FREE!

I’ve shared some of them below- they will either save you time or help you collect more insightful data. There was too many to fit into one blog article so stay tuned for the second half when I’ll discuss the remaining.

In this article I’ll talk about:

  1. Filtering out bot traffic
  2. Setting-up site search 
  3. Removing internal traffic from reports
  4. Choosing a full month date range
  5. Creating annotations

1. Filtering out bot traffic

The last stat I read found that bot traffic can now make up, up to 60% of traffic to a website. 6% is crazy, 60% is unbelievable! If you’ve ever looked at your referral traffic and found traffic from unfamiliar locations with a time on site of seconds, 1 page per visit and high bounce rate you can normally define this as bot traffic or non-human traffic. Thankfully Google have recognised this and under ADMIN – VIEW and VIEW SETTINGS you can now simply tick a box to ‘Exclude all known bots and spiders’:


2. Setting up Site Search

Just below the bot filter option in VIEW SETTINGS you’ll see an option for site search tracking. 

Have you got a site search box on your website so visitors can search your site? If so you might want to know how long people are spending on your site before they search, how many people use the search facility and most importantly what they type into it.

Once you turn this option on, you’ll notice it will ask you for a query parameter (2):

Not sure what your site search query parameter is? To get the query parameter you could either:

a) as your web developer what it is 

b) perform a search on your own website, take a look at the URL, note down the letters or sequence that appears just before the search term or terms. Then perform another search and check the URL again to see if the same letters or sequence appears again before your search term and if it does then that is your search query parameter.

For example, in the case of GlowMetrics, when you perform a search you will see an s before the search term each time so this is our query parameter that Google can now use to identify that a search has been performed:


What does this mean? Setting this up allows you to see a range of new reports in the SITE SEARCH reports (under BEHAVIOUR) for example, what people searched for, from what page they searched from, % search exits, search terms used and lots more!

3. Removing internal traffic from reports

Staying within the VIEW SETTINGS, the next tip is removing internal traffic. Imagine working in a business that has all employee browser homepages set as the company website homepage. This is not uncommon and most people will open a browser and then navigate straight to Google or another site – at the same time this is impacting your Google Analytics data. When you look at Google Analytics reports you really only want to be analysing customer traffic.  

To filter out internal traffic, click on FILTERS (just under VIEW SETTINGS), click to create a new filter (1) add your filter name (2) select a predefined filter (3) and select exclude (4) traffic from the IP addresses (5) that are equal to (6) and pop in your IP address (7):


Note: if you still would like to keep a view in your Google Analytics account to contain all non-filtered data, duplicate this view and set the filter up in a ‘Filtered’ view.

4. Choosing a full month date range

Tip 4 is a relatively easy one! Have you ever opened up Google Analytics and wanted to view your report stats for the last month/ current month/ any month?! Did you know that instead of individually selecting the dates of the month you can just select the month title and it will automatically select all dates within that full month for you? It’s a small tip and will save you a few seconds every time you use it but I use it multiple times every day so by the end of the week I’ll have saved minutes.


5. Creating annotations

My last tip is to use annotations in your account. This is especially useful to keep track of any changes that you make above, or any that you think will impact your data and skew your data trends. 
Annotations act as small notes on your account, to remind you of what happened that day, so when you look back on data and see a big spike or dip in traffic, you don’t have to spend hours trying to remember what caused this.

Annotations can always be added under the Audience Overview trend graph (although can be set-up and are visible across many more reports).

If you look under the middle of the trend graph you should see a small grey arrow, click on it:

It will then give you an option to add an new annotation (1). Then select the date range you want to add the note to (2) and in the box, type your note (3):


Notes will then appear under the graph as a speech bubble and a click on this speech bubble will expand it so the full note can be read:


Hopefully you find these tips and tricks useful. We’ve more to come but if you’ve any you’d like to share or find beneficial, feel free to share them in the comment box below.


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