In Google Analytics you can both temporarily as well as permanently manipulate Google Analytics data. This article will show you the smartest tactics behind data manipulation.
Many people and organizations lack the knowledge to modify the data they see in Google Analytics. It can be very powerful to manipulate the data for enhancing business insights!
Table of Contents
- Temporary Google Analytics Data Manipulation
- Report Filters (Standard)
- Report Filters (Advanced)
- Campaign Tracking
- Custom Channel Groupings
- Permanent Google Analytics Data Manipulation
- Google Analytics On-Page Tracking
- Google Tag Manager
- Data Import
- Google Analytics Filters
- Default Channel Grouping
Temporary Google Analytics Manipulation
Google Analytics allows you to temporarily modify data in several ways.
This can be very useful as different views of your data contribute to greater insights. Actually, it is very hard to optimize your business outcomes without going beyond the obvious surface, like looking at all data in aggregates.
Segments belong undoubtedly to the greatest features of Google Analytics. It supports ad-hoc and retroactive data manipulation in extremely effective ways.
Google Analytics allows you to compare four different segments (audiences) within the reporting interface:
Applying segments is one of the most important strategies that every marketer and analyst should understand and utilize.
It helps you to see how different subsets of traffic perform, lets you spot opportunities for optimization and much, much more.
2. Report Filters (Standard)
Another great feature to manipulate Google Analytics data is the report or table filters.
- Standard report filters allow you to filter data for the first dimension in your report and this can sometimes be limiting.
- Advanced report filters are more powerful as they allow you to filter on all available dimensions and metrics in your report.
Standard report filters are limited but very easy to work with:
All landing pages selected that begin with “/google”. The caret “^” is one of the regular expressions that is very helpful when working with report filters.
But what if you want to look at this set of landing pages and only include those that have a bounce rate higher than 50%? In that case, you need to work with the advanced report filters.
3. Report Filters (Advanced)
There is an “advanced” link next to the search field above the selected report.
This is where you can add multiple selection criteria for the report you are looking at.
Additional condition on bounce rate: higher than 50%.
In short, advanced report filters allow you to further drill down on the data that you need to review.
4. Campaign Tracking
Traffic channel analysis is very important for any business operating online.
Campaign tracking is at the heart of many of the reports in Google Analytics related to channel analysis.
Google Analytics allows you to define five utm parameters for all your campaigns:
This results in a specific way of capturing the data and displaying it in Google Analytics. A custom report is shown below:
In short, you have a great deal of control over how to capture all traffic on your website by manipulating the utm parameters.
5. Custom Channel Groupings
Custom Channel Groupings are one of these underused, but very powerful features in Google Analytics.
They allow you to group all your traffic sources in specific buckets for traffic and attribution analysis.
The great thing is that you can set them up and apply the rules retroactively to historical data.
Here is an example of a Custom Channel Grouping I set up for one of my clients:
Specific rules – in this case, based on utm parameters – allow for grouping all traffic sources in certain buckets.
It’s much more effective to use this report (or the Default Channel Grouping dimension) for high-level data analysis if compared to source/medium evaluation.
Permanent Google Analytics Manipulation
Permanently changing the data that is collected and shown in Google Analytics can be very powerful, but you should be aware of potential risks.
6. Google Analytics On-Page Tracking
The first method you could use is directly modifying your Google Analytics tracking code. There are dozens of reasons why you want to change your “basic” GA tracking: measure across multiple domains, add extra Events for interaction tracking, control the percentage of sessions being measured (because of hit limit) etc.
In most cases this is not the recommended way to go as today Tag Management solutions (e.g. Google Tag Manager) are much more efficient to implement and control your GA tracking.
The links above will help you modify the basic GA tracking (on page) to manipulate the measurements coming through in Google Analytics.
7. Google Tag Manager
A much more effective approach for most will be to implement Google Tag Manager and manipulate the tracking and data collected via all the options available in GTM (and Data Layers).
Two great starting points to learn more:
These blogs and GTM experts will get you on track very quickly. You will learn effective ways on how to manipulate and control your Google Analytics measurements via GTM.
8. Data Import
Data Import lets you join the data generated by your offline business systems with the online data collected by Analytics. This can be a great help for organizing, analyzing and acting upon this unified data view in ways that are better aligned with your specific and unique business needs.
There are different types of data you can upload to Google Analytics:
- Refund Data.
- User Data.
- Campaign Data.
- Geographical Data.
- Content Data.
- Product Data.
- Custom Data.
- Cost Data.
You can set this up at the property level of your Google Analytics account.
9. Google Analytics Filters
The last three methods discussed work primarily at the property (= data collection) level, but what if you want to manipulate the data in one or more reporting views?
This is when Google Analytics filters become your best friend!
Five ways to effectively use Google Analytics filters:
- Exclude employee or third-party contractors’ IP addresses from your data.
- Set up a separate test view in Google Analytics.
- Mitigate Google Analytics campaign tracking issues.
- Exclude all technical query parameters at once.
- Collect data from one (your main) target country.
Note: Set up a test view where you experiment with your filters first. One mistake can totally ruin your data in Google Analytics.
10. Default Channel Grouping
In addition to Custom Channel Groupings, there is the Default Channel Grouping in Google Analytics.
It also supports aggregating traffic sources (e.g. based on source/medium) into high-level buckets.
There are several, important differences if compared to Custom Channel Groupings:
- Default Channel Groupings don’t work retroactively.
- Default Channel Groupings can be applied in different ways and to different reports if compared to Custom Channel Groupings.
- A big difference is that the Default Channel Grouping can be leveraged via the Google Analytics API where the Custom Channel Grouping can’t.
Be careful with permanently modifying your Google Analytics data if you are rather new to Google Analytics. It’s much safer to work with the other methods mentioned in the beginning of this article if you don’t want to risk making a mess of your data.
PS. When you set up all the useful data manipulations, be sure to actually use it on a regular basis. One-time insights are of little value. Set up weekly emails with the most important reports (yes, there’s such an option in Google Analytics) and analyze the data regularly.