It is unsurprising that Google Analytics is fast becoming the industry standard in website analytics. It’s free, fast and functional and only a small percentage of sites really need anything more than the extensive feature set offered by Google Analytics.

Google Analytics is a very powerful tool; however few users really utilise all the functions and thus only realise a small percentage of the benefits they could.

This article discusses a range of advanced options and configurations that should be considered and implemented where business value would be gained from having access to the new information gathered. Rather than a detailed technical guide, this article introduces each option and discusses why a business may wish to utilise it.

Features, Filters & GATC Modifications

There are three classes of Google Analytics modifications. The first, “Features”, includes things like goal, ecommerce and site search tracking. These modifications simply require you to add additional tracking code to the site or configure additional settings.

The second form of modifications can be classed as “Filters”. These allow you to manipulate the data captured by Google Analytics by either including, excluding or changing the data based on rules you create.

The final type of modifications is making changes to the Google Analytics Tracking Code (GATC) or using JavaScript to trigger the code under certain circumstances. Examples that utilise one or more of these modification methods are discussed below.


Before anyone starts playing around with advanced configurations it is best to create at least three profiles; Raw Profile, Test Profile, Main Profile. All the profiles will track the same site; however having these three profiles allows you to enhance your reporting without the danger of corrupting your reports.

The Raw Profile is just a profile that has no filters or other configurations that could impact the reports. The Test Profile is used to test out new filters to ensure they produce the desired effect before applying them to the Main Profile. If GATC modifications are going to be made then it is advisable to test the code modification on a Test Site before modifying your main sites tracking code.

URL Tagging All Campaigns

It is essential to “tag” all your online marketing plans using the Goggle Analytic variables. This allows you to analyse and compare the effectiveness of each campaign. Google provides five different campaign parameters:

Field Name

URL Variable Used



Campaign Source *


Site or Email List Name

facebook, ninemsn, newsletter, emailalert

Campaign Medium *


Type of Media

cpc, email, banner, link, gadget, rss, video

Campaign Term



{keyword}, cheap+flghts, used+cars

Campaign Content


Ad Creative

160×600, 300×250, logolink, textlink, animated2

Campaign Name *


Overall Campaign Name

free-shipping, competition, cars, bikes

Example Campaign URL: A leader board banner ad on NineMSN promoting the Free Shipping offer.×90&utm_campaign=freeshiping

Using Google Analytics compatible URLs for all your campaigns will allow you to generate meaningful insights across a full range of marketing channels and campaigns.

Linking Adwords

Your Adwords account should be linked with your Google Analytics account as it allows Google to pass cost information into your Google Analytics account, allowing basic ROI metrics to be automatically calculated and displayed in reports. Linking also allows you to compare “clicks” with “visits” as there is always some difference in these numbers. The Google Analytics click report also displays ad impressions and click through rates.

Tracking Non Page View Events

A basic Google Analytics install relies on each page of content on a website having a unique URL – for example having /contact-form.html and /thank-you.html represent the URL of the site’s “contact page” and the URL of the “thank you” page that is displayed once the contact form has been completed. However a number of site technologies do not present a unique page URL for Google to track. This is common with Java, Flash and Ajax powered pages. To get around this situation JavaScript can be used to trigger the “_trackPageview” Google Analytics routine. This records a ‘virtual’ page view which is displayed in the results just like any other page view.

This technique can be expanded to record all manner of site ‘events’. Google is planning to release additional event tracking capabilities in the future to help refine this technique.

External Search Engine Tracking

It’s funny but Google Analytics search engine tracking capabilities are fairly limited; for example, and are all just reported as “Google”. Because your rankings are likely to vary dramatically in each of these regional versions of Google it would be useful to see the natural search performance in each of the regional sites.

Also Google Analytics does not recognise local regional search engines and these are often categorised as referring sites and excluded from the search engine and keyword reports. To address both of these issues it is possible to replace Google’s limited search engine definition list with one that differentiates between regional versions of Google, Yahoo and Live as well as support for local search engine reporting. This is a GATC modification and requires additional JavaScript and a search engine definition file.

Internal Site Search Tracking

Google Analytics provides an option for tracking the searches carried out using the sites own internal search box. Analysis of this data can help to determine user intent and the effectiveness of the site search function and the sites content. There are a range of reports available once this option has been enabled and configured correctly.

Tracking Exit Links

One of the most important reports that most analytics packages do not report on is which links people click on to exit your site. If your site has links to other websites it is important to know which ones people are using. A clever piece of Javascript can be used to automatically track these exit links using Google analytics. Exit links can then be recorded as page views using the following structure:


Tracking Downloads

Another key piece of website intelligence not reported by many analytics packages is the popularity of non web-page content on the site. For example PDFs are not tracked by Google Analytics by default. Again a smart piece of JavaScript can be used to automatically detect users accessing these types of files and the document download can be recorded as a page view using the following structure: /Downloads/report123.pdf

User Defined Variables

A very powerful option within Google Analytics is the ability to invent your own user variable and then use these to filter profiles or reports. For example, JavaScript and the GATC can be used to detect a ‘new’ visitor to the site who has just arrived from Adwords. A User Defined Variable can then be used to store this information against these users. As the User Defined Variable stays with the users on subsequent visits it is possible to produce reports which report on the life time value of customers “acquired” via Google Adwords.

To illustrate this point in detail let’s say during September an Adwords campaign is run and it attracts 100 new customers. These Adwords derived conversions are recorded using the User Defined Variable. Then in October no Adwords are run, however a report can be generated that shows that a further 50 sales were made to users who have the User Defined Variable set. This provides a more detailed picture of the true value gained from the Adwords campaign.

Goals Tracking

Goals are an essential for any Google Analytics campaign. Using this function up to four conversion points on a site can be tracked. Goals simply use page URLs to determine if a Goal has been achieved. If more than four Goals need to be tracked then these need to be grouped into fours and profiles setup for each group. Goals can also have a fixed value and it is a good idea to assign Goal values to assist in campaign analysis. For example:

  • Views Contact Page = 5 points

  • Newsletter Subscription = 5 points

  • Download Completed = 10 points

  • Sales Enquiry Form Completed = 50 points

NOTE: you will find that Google Analytics Goal reports currently omit to report the actual number of goals achieved for a campaign, it only reports the total number of visits and the Goal Conversion Rate. It is expected that Google will address this in a future release.

Conversion Funnels

Goal tacking can be further enhanced by defining a conversion path; this is effectively a sequential list of pages that a user would normally take to reach the ultimate goal. Analysis of this conversion funnel can help identify stages of the conversion process where people are lost. For example:

  • Search for accommodation

  • “Book now” clicked

  • Dates selected

  • Payment page completed

  • Payment (and order) confirmed (THE GOAL)

Conditional Goal Triggers

Sometimes simple page view based goals do not cover all the campaign objectives and so it is necessary to use the event JavaScript technique discussed earlier to trigger a virtual page view when a specific campaign objective has been achieved.

Ecommerce Tracking

Google Analytics provides full ecommerce tracking and these reports offer a lot more than simple Goals. Ecommerce tracking requires additional code to be added to the conversion page and allows an order’s total value to be tracked along with the individual products that make up the order. Products can be tracked by product group, name and code and reports can be generated for individual products or product groups. This level of analysis not only illustrates which products are most popular and make up the majority of the revenue, but it also shows which campaigns are driving which product sales.

Non-Ecommerce Ecommerce Tracking!

The ecommerce tracking capabilities of Google Analytics are so flexible that it is sometimes desirable to use them for non-ecommerce sites and conversions. For example, if your site is designed to generate sales leads from online marketing campaigns via sales enquiry forms then it is possible to use Google’s ecommerce tracking on your “thank you” page to record not only the “form submitted” conversion but an estimated conversion value based on the fields selected. It is also possible to record different form selections as ‘products’ allowing campaign analysis that illustrates which campaigns attract certain types of leads.

Bid & Actual Terms Filter

When tracking your Adwords campaigns in Google Analytics the keywords reported by Google are the ones you bid on rather than the ones the user actually typed in. Using a GATC modification and filter it is possible to not only track the “bid” term but the “actual term” as well. For example a broad match bid on “used cars” would simply be reported as:

  • used cars = 1000 visits

However with the modification in place the “actual terms” are also reported.

  • used cars (used cars) = 500 visits

  • used cars (ford used cars) = 250 visits

  • used cars (holden used cars) = 250 visits

When combined with conversion data these more detailed reports quickly allow you to identify issues or opportunities with your broad match or phrase match keyword bids.

IP Filter

One simple common filter which is worth deploying on your main campaign is to exclude your own internet access IP address. This means that tests you carry out on the site will be reported in the “raw” and “test” report but will be excluded from the main campaign report. You should also add IP addresses for all your agencies and developers so their activities on the site do not skew the reports. This sort of filtering is very important if people are testing conversion points on the site.

Search & Replace Filter

Another really useful filter is the search and replace filter. This filter allows you to rewrite URLs so the reports generated by Google Analytics are more “human readable”, for example:

  • /a-folder/more-folders/yet-more-folders/page-id=3443

can be rewritten in the reports as

  • /contact-page

Link to CRM system

Using JavaScript it is possible to read the contents on the GATC cookie and pass this to a company’s CRM system when a particular conversion occurs. This means that when a user converts by completing a contact form on the site the contents on the GATC cookie can also be included in the contact form information. This can include useful campaign information including the Source of the users and any User Defined Variables that have been set. This allows campaigns like Adwords to be tracked all the way to an offline conversion.

First Rate offers a full range of Google Analytics consulting services.