Used on over 28,000,000 million websites worldwide, Google Analytics is recognized as the most widely adopted of modern web analytics tools. While there’s no doubt this tool can help businesses understand how users find and engage with their website — and in turn help steer their marketing efforts in the right direction — the ROI they see is largely influenced by how the tool is used.

When we’re talking about how to make the best use of Google Analytics, we can look at this topic through two lenses: how the tool is set up and how it’s leveraged once it is up and running. Part 1 of this blog post series explores best practices to guide your setup.

Configure Google Analytics with These 4 Checklist Items in Mind

Opt for Universal Versus G4 Version

Businesses have two version options with Google Analytics. There’s the Universal Analytics (UA) version that’s most widely used today, and the new version, Google Analytics 4 (G4).

Recognized as two separate products versus an upgrade, UA and G4 differ primarily in their measurement models. While UA uses sessions and pageviews for measurement, G4 relies on events and parameters for measurement — such as when a user selects a particular piece of content or when they share it.

You’ll find that G4 is presented as the default option by Google. However, we advise that businesses use UA instead. Why? From an intuitive interface to access to more reports, the UA version is generally more flexible and easier for marketing professionals to implement and use.

Implement Through Google Tag Manager

Another choice you’ll have to make in the setup of Google Analytics is how to deploy the tool. Rather than manually adding tracking code to your website for deployment, Google Tag Manager makes the process far more efficient and beneficial to your website’s ROI.

By deploying Google Analytics through Google Tag Manager, you can ensure tracking codes are only added to relevant pages and thus only load when needed. This avoids the common predicament where code is placed in the header section of your website, and thus appears across all pages versus relevant hits. Considering the importance of page speed in the user experience, reducing unnecessary code offers clear benefits.

In further support of a positive user experience, Google Tag Manager also provides the option to delay tags based on variables like time on page or scroll depth. This allows the key elements of a page to be loaded first, from interactive graphics to videos.

Define Your Goals for Google Analytics

Google Analytics collects a lot of valuable website data, but without clearly defined goals in place, the ability to connect this data to business objectives becomes harder. Setting up goals within the tool provides you with that sense of clarity and direction.

If increased lead generation is the focus, you might set up a form submission goal around specific events — whether that’s a micro conversion (e.g., filling out a blog subscription form) or a macro conversion (e.g., filling out a request for a demo form). If improved customer service is the goal, you might set up a duration goal on your FAQs page to see how quickly people are able to get answers to their questions.

Once you’ve established your goals, Google Analytics will have the information it needs to record these events and organize them into unique reports for streamlined analysis.

Sync All Your Tools

While Google Analytics adds value to your inbound marketing strategy on its own, that value multiples when you pair this tool with other solutions in your marketing toolbox.

Consider your Google Ads account as an example. The seamless exchange of data between these two platforms provides you with added engagement metrics around your ads, such as time on page, number of page views and bounce rate. This can help you assess whether or not your ads are driving the right kind of traffic to your website. You can also use these metrics to help guide retargeting efforts — for instance, targeting a specific group of more engaged, interested users who did not bounce from the website.

The good news is linking your Google Analytics account to Google Ads (and other Google solutions) is a relatively simple process, as they are designed to seamlessly integrate with one another.

Optimize Your Use of Google Analytics, Starting Day 1

As with any new marketing tool, getting off on the right foot with the deployment of your Google Analytics account directly impacts the ROI it delivers to your business. With this Google Analytics setup checklist, our goal is to help guide you down the right path from the start.

Now that you’re off to the races, the next step is to help you stay on track. In Part 2, we’ll discuss some of the (oftentimes underrated) reports and features within Google Analytics you can use to gain more in-depth insights from your data.

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