Zen and the Art of Google Analytics Maintenance

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zen-art-of-ga-maintenance
As Google Analytics (GA) Analysts and Enthusiasts, we love strategy. We love to look forward. But it seems at times our industry, and ourselves included, can easily become fixated on the new:

  • What additional things can we track?
  • What new issues can we resolve with more code?
  • How do we measure the latest campaign initiative?

But maintenance is important. It allows us to head off problems before they catch fire.

Regularly checking in also allows us the ability to be proactive about trends. This way, we are no longer reactively building our implementation and applying band-aid fixes.

Let’s avoid frustration and develop a solid approach so this doesn’t happen:

Stick To A Schedule

The important thing is stay on a schedule. You’ve heard the adage “Practice Makes Perfect” or the adjusted “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.” It’s important to be consistently checking in to Google Analytics and checking that things are tracking properly, that your numbers are going in the right direction, and that you’re collecting the right data to make decisions. Not sure where to begin? We’ve helped to create a schedule to stay on track.

While not necessarily exhaustive, it identifies several key recurring milestones to help us keep our implementation in peak running order. It also has built-in a method for routine reporting and trends analysis. We have broken out the Calendar into Weekly, Monthly, Quarterly, Semi-Yearly and Yearly Tasks. The tasks within the calendar are spread throughout the year so new day/month is overly front-loaded when those yearly tasks roll around. You can configure it to send an email reminder the day before the task is due.

Below is a breakdown and summary of each one. They also include links to sample reports from the Google Merchandise Store Analytics Demo Account. You can gain access to their GA data here.

Download LunaMetrics Analytics Reporting Tasks! (ICS Files)

Import from Google Calendar!

Print the Bookmark!

In addition, we’ve created some handy bookmarks for you to print and share with your team! Print Them Out, Cut Them Apart, Pass Them Out!

GA-Calendar-Tasks-Full

Weekly Tasks (Download ICS)

WEEKLY: Conversions

Check conversions for any noticeable movement week over week.

  • What channels/regions drove this movement?
  • Communicate any changes to the necessary stakeholders.

Google Analytics LogoWeekly Report Examples

All Goals
Transactions

Monthly Tasks (Download ICS)

MONTHLY: Real-time Observations

Look over the default reports for any anomalous activity.

  • How many active users are on the site?
  • How many pageviews from the last 30 minutes?
  • How many conversions in the last 30 minutes?
  • Communicate any changes to the necessary stakeholders.

Google Analytics LogoMonthly Report Examples

Real-time Behavior
All Goals
Transactions

MONTHLY: Bounce Rate

Check the monthly Bounce Rate compared to the prior month.

  • What is the Bounce Rate for the month?
  • What Channel had the highest bounce rate?
  • What Channel had the greatest change (+ or -)?

Google Analytics LogoMonthly Report Examples

Bounce Rate By Channel (by weighted sort)
Bounce Rate By Channel (by absolute change)

MONTHLY: Change History

Review Change History for any undocumented/unknown activity. (You’ll need edit permissions at the account level to view).
If found, confirm changes with stakeholders and place any necessary annotations.

Google Analytics LogoMonthly Report Examples

Admin Page

MONTHLY: Conversions (Year Over Year)

Check Monthly Conversions Compared to the same month the prior year. This is a big one. Allow yourself some time to complete.

Goals Related

  • How many goal completions?
  • What was the percentage change?
  • What was the conversion rate?
  • What was the percentage change?
  • What was the goal with the most conversions?
Ecommerce Related

  • How many transactions?
  • What was the percentage change?
  • What is the Total Revenue
  • What was the percentage change?
  • What is the Ecommerce Conversion rate?
  • What was the Average Order Value?
  • What was the percentage change?
  • What was the product with the most revenue?
  • What was the percentage change?

Google Analytics LogoMonthly Report Examples

Ecommerce Overview

Quarterly Tasks (Download ICS)

QUARTERLY: Hit Volume

Check and record your property hit volume from the past 30 days.

  • Is this number over 10 million?
  • Communicate this with any necessary stakeholders.

Google Analytics LogoQuarterly Report Examples

Property Setting Report

QUARTERLY: Hostnames

Check the hostnames sending data to your property from the prior 90 days.

  • Are there any unknown/unexpected hostnames?
  • What percentage of pageviews are they accruing?
  • Communicate with any stakeholders the development and assess the need to adjust any filters.

Google Analytics LogoQuarterly Report Examples

Hostnames Via All Pages Report

QUARTERLY: Spam Sessions

Monitor Spam Traffic on your site in the past month.

Use this segment to check for bot behavior:

  • Any noticeable spikes in activity?
  • What percentage of sessions match this segment?
  • Is the ‘Exclude Known Bots & Spiders‘ box checked?
  • Were there any 3rd party monitoring services added that need filtered?
  • Are there any other movements to note?

Google Analytics LogoQuarterly Report Examples

Service Provider Report

QUARTERLY: Channels (Year Over Year)

Check the Channels Report compared to the same quarter last year.

  • How many sessions overall?
  • What was the percentage change?
  • What was the top channel?
  • What was the percentage change?
  • What Channel had the largest absolute change (of significance)?
  • What was the percentage change?
  • Are there any other movements to note?

Google Analytics LogoQuarterly Report Examples

All Channels Report
Sorted By Absolute Change

Semi-Yearly Tasks (Download ICS)

SEMI-YEARLY: Account Linking

Doublecheck the other Google products that are linked with your GA property, like Google AdWords, etc.

  • Are they properly linked?
  • Are there any additional ones that need set up?
  • What percentage of (not set) accounts do you see in your AdWords Accounts?
  • Is Google Search Console Properly linked?
  • Any additional integrations need configured (DFP, DBM, DCM, etc.)?
  • Are there any additional groupings you could create/modify within the the ‘other’ channel from the last six months?

Google Analytics LogoSemi-Yearly Report Examples

Product Linking
Adwords Accounts

SEMI-YEARLY: Channel Groupings

Assess your Default Channel Groupings Configuration.

  • Are they properly configured?
  • Do they align with your business objectives?
  • Are there any additional groupings you could create/modify within the the ‘other’ channel from the last six months?

Google Analytics LogoSemi-Yearly Report Links

Default Channel Grouping Settings (Need edit access at the view level)
All Channels Report -> Other

SEMI-YEARLY: Conversions

Check Six-Month Conversions compared to the same period the prior year. This is a big one. Allow yourself some time to complete.

Goals Related

  • How many goal completions?
  • What was the percentage change?
  • What was the conversion rate?
  • What was the percentage change?
  • What was the goal with the most conversions?
Ecommerce Related

  • How many transactions?
  • What was the percentage change?
  • What is the Total Revenue
  • What was the percentage change?
  • What is the Ecommerce Conversion rate?
  • What was the Average Order Value?
  • What was the percentage change?
  • What was the product with the most revenue?
  • What was the percentage change?

Google Analytics LogoSemi-Yearly Report Examples

Goals Overview
Ecommerce Overview

Yearly Tasks (Download ICS)

These tasks are broken out throughout the year bi-monthly.

YEARLY: Tracking Code Review

Check your site(s) for missing GA/GTM code.

  • Spot check key portions of your site for code. User third party tools in necessary.
  • Were there any code shifts, redesigns or additional content sections added to the site?
  • Check for self referrals and analyze the referral path for insight into missing tracking code.

Google Analytics LogoYearly Report Examples

Referral Traffic

YEARLY: PII Check

Check your Google Analytics Configuration for PII

  • Check the all pages reports as well as the event pages.
  • Visually check event categories, actions and labels as well.
  • If there are too many to observe, use the following rules to check for key PII values: Reg Ex Patterns List

Google Analytics LogoYearly Report Examples

All Pages Report
Top Events -> Category
Top Events -> Action
Top Events -> Label
Events -> Pages

YEARLY: Confirm Goals & Filters

Check Google Analytics Goals and Filters setup.

  • Make sure the filters are applied in the correct order.
  • Ensure Includes and Excludes are properly affixed.
  • Are there any new filters that need to be added?
  • Check and verify your Goals configuration.
  • Are there any new Goals you should include?
  • Do any goals need reevaluated?

Google Analytics LogoYearly Report Examples

Filters Setup
Goals Setup

YEARLY: Confirm Custom Dimensions

Check Google Analytics Custom Dimensions & Metrics setup.

  • Check to see if you custom dimensions are properly scoped.
  • Spot check their setup in the interface.

Are there any new dimensions/metrics that need to be added.

Google Analytics LogoYearly Report Examples

Custom Dimensions Setup

YEARLY: Confirm Goals & Filters

Check Google Analytics Goals and Filters setup.

  • Confirm Events that should be tracked on your site
  • Are the events properly reporting within the interface?
  • Do any adjustments need made?
  • Are there any new events that need to be added?

Google Analytics LogoYearly Report Examples

Top Events

YEARLY: User Access Overview

Check Google Analytics User Access Settings across all levels (Account, Property & View).

  • Are there any users that need removed?
  • Are there any users that need added?
  • Do any permission levels need reassessed?

Google Analytics LogoYearly Report Examples

User Access Setup

Wait, What About Daily Events?

Opposed to daily calendar tasks, we’d recommend establishing custom alerts to notify you should any major tracking event occur. Custom Alerts such as:

  • No Data Alert
  • % Increase/Decrease in Sessions
  • % Increase/Decrease in Pageviews

This holistic approach will help you keep tabs on and stay pro-active with your Google Analytics Properties. Let’s keep things nice and tidy!

Dan is an Analytics Engineer at LunaMetrics with an Agency/Development background. He has over five years of experience working with Google Analytics. He loves leveraging data to help clients make better decisions. Dan loves new methods and lives by the motto, “break it and make it better.” Dan is a husband and father of four future data science-loving sons. When not putting kids to bed, he writes songs and plays guitar.

  • Jared Peacock

    Great stuff, thanks for building these checks into calendar events! Every new analyst needs this post – one of my favorite pieces of auditing a clients’ analytics account is knowing that everything is clean, tidy and reliable once I’m done. The only thing missing was your extended Zen metaphor here… 😉 Oh, and no mention of query string parameters for cleaner page-level reports!

    • Daniel Settlemire

      Thanks, Jared! Periodic query string parameter checks would be a great addition, especially to check for poorly formed UTM’s.

  • I really appreciate all the effort that you put into this! The iCal file is super helpful. You really went the distance with that. Also the bookmarks are a nice touch.

    I wish the iCal files would let me use them as my own appointments. I ended up having to invite myself to each one of them. Overlaying the calendars just isn’t a good enough reminder plus other people will send me meeting requests if they don’t see that time blocked off. This is probably an issue with Outlook and iCal or it could be a user training situation.

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