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Two Simple Ways to Improve Your Data in Google Analytics

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I look at a lot of data. Every day, I swim through numerous analytic metrics, such as unique page views, visits, bounce rates, and session duration for a number of clients, Nomad Communications included. What I find again and again is data that doesn’t really mean as much as it could because the proper filters have not been set up to trim the fat.

Most businesses set up a free Google Analytics account, have their webmaster install the code, and go about their daily tasks thinking everything is operating correctly. And, for the most part, it is working—you start to see data pour in about how a visitor is consuming your content. But, when you look at your overview on the dashboard, don’t you wonder why the second most popular language of your website traffic is Russian?

When we speak about analytics, the most important message I try to convey is that data will only help you make accurate decisions if the output is configured properly. It’s not just about placing a chunk of code on your web pages, but applying segments and filters to truly see the whole picture. There are a wide range of tweaks and improvements that you can make. Let’s look at two of the most important and easiest to execute in Google Analytics.

IP exclusions

This is perhaps the easiest and quickest way to start filtering data. What is it going to filter? Your website traffic from your work computers. You might be looking at your data and think, wow people are spending a lot of time on our site! However, in reality, you are looking at roughly how much time your co-workers are spending on the website, because you are not filtering out your own company’s Internet Protocol (IP) address. Now, IP addresses can change from time to time, so make sure your Internet Service Provider, or ISP, provides you with a static IP.

The first step in filtering is identifying what your IP address is to the outside world. Think of this as an address on the streets of the world wide web. Your IP is your digital location and you can find out what it is by using a handy tool such as WhatsMyIP or just typing “what’s my ip” in a Google Search bar. Copy that string of numbers (ex. 123.45.678.90) and log in to your Google Analytics dashboard.

From there, do the following under the particular view you wish to apply this filter.

Here's a quick tip: Since filters remove whatever you ask of them from your data completely, it is a good practice to apply filters to a new secondary View that will contain your modified data. Keep your Main View (Labelled ‘All Web Site Data’ in Google Analytics) untouched so you can get every bit of raw data that hits your site. This applies to every filter you may setup.

To create an IP address filter:

  1. If needed, setup a new view to apply this filter to. Once created, navigate to the Admin section of the new view's dashboard.
  2. Under the 'View' column select 'Filters'. Once there, select the button '+ Add Filter'.
  3. Leave the Filter Type as Predefined.
  4. Click the Select filter type drop-down menu and select Exclude.
  5. Click the Select source or destination drop-down menu and select traffic from the IP addresses.
  6. Click the Select expression drop-down menu and select the appropriate expression.
  7. Enter the IP address.
  8. From there you can verify the filter to see how much traffic will get filtered. Once set, click the ‘Save’ button and you’ll be filtering internal traffic!

Visit Google’s instructions to filter internal traffic 

Bad Spider, Bad!

If you look at your data, it might appear you have a lot of people visiting your website from Russia, the Netherlands, or Ukraine. Chances are, this wasn't because of the recent presidential election. Instead, it’s a good indicator you have some segment filtering work to do.

Do NOT visit the referring site. You do not know the validity of these sites and it is an invitation to get a Trojan virus on your computer, fall victim to ransomware, or otherwise meet the various goals of the spammer. The easiest way to learn about these referring sites is to do a quick Google search first. You’ll typically see some indications in the first page of search engine results asking whether said site is malicious; spammers are often found within a few days. It’s a never-ending game of cat and mouse, however. 

Why is this traffic a concern? Because each time one of these spiders hit your website it’s registered as a session, page view, referral and more. That can seriously inflate your metrics and results in making decisions using bad data. This information needs to be filtered out.

So, how do you fix this? With a segment filter. Analytics Edge has an excellent article on applying the segment filter and provides updates, but this task is sometimes best left to the professionals—let us know, and we will be happy to help get you up and filtering.

Happy data mining!

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