LIVE from edUi 2011: 5 Ways to Make Use of Your Google Analytics

By Justin Champion | Oct 13, 2011
More Articles by Justin

This week I am manning the Search Mojo booth at the edUi conference for web professionals serving colleges, universities, libraries, museums, and beyond. While I’ve met a lot of interesting people in the expo hall, I thought I’d get away and sneek in a session.LIVE from edUi 2011: 5 Ways to Make Use of Your Google Analytics

In this session, “5 Ways to Make Use of Your Google Analytics,” presenter, Charlie Morris (@cdmo) , North Carolina State University Library Fellow, explains how “90% of departments and service units in a large public university track web traffic, but about 75% of that same group never actually use the stats they track or they use them only sporadically.”

“Google Analytics is easy if you know how to make use of it,” says Morris. Here are five techniques that will help you identify and fix:

  1. 404 error pages
  2. Set up goals
  3. Track site search terms
  4. Create campaigns
  5. Automate reporting

404 Error Pages

Modify the _trackpageview function to track a 404 error page. “It tracks the place you came from and where the error happened,” says Morris.

  1. See top content
  2. filter by “404″
  3. Set 500 per page (it’ll only show you what it’s able to report)
  4. Set up email

Create permanent 301 redirects if the page no longer exists to send to an appropriate page.

Set Up Goals

“Defining your website goals is probably the single most important step of your configuration process, as it enables you to define success”

- Brian Clifton, author of Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics

You need to have actual goals before you can set “Goals”. A website is allowed to have a maximum of 20 goals per website.

Mission-Business Goal-Website Action


  • You: an instructional technology training unit
  • Mission: To raise the instructional technology expertise of faculty
  • Business Goal: Get more faculty to come to in-person training sessions
  • Website Action: Registration for Workshops

What is a Google Analytics “Goal”?

  • A page view that gets tallied as a conversion

The confirmation page tracks the final conversion.

Also, help track more difficult endeavors, such as events and “virtual” pageviews. This triggers an action, NOT a bounce (which makes the bounce rate more valuable).

Example Event: see how many people clicked on Flickr. Here are the events code to help track this:

  • _trackEvent: Track visitor behavior
  • category: General event category
  • action: Event action
  • Opt_label: Optional descriptor
  • Opt_value: Optional value

Virtual pageview: Like an event, but tabulated as a pageview

Example Virtual Pageview: Someone clicks a link to view an application and is taken away from the original page.

Track Site Search Terms

This is a form input that Google can track. Take the name=”q” to track your site search.

Example: Extension Forestry

What can search analysis tell you:

  • What terms to include in campaigns
  • What to feature on the homepage
  • How to structure information
  • What synonyms to use in th search itself
  • Where users are getting lost

“Help make your site and its content more relevant and useful.”

Other low-hanging fruit:

  • Daily number of visitors
  • Top visited pages
  • Average length of visits
  • Bounce rate

Create Campaigns

The One True Way: “Make something great. Tell people about it. Do it again.”

- Derek Powazek

Without campaigns, you can’t tell how valuable one page is over another.

Solution: Google Analytics URL GA-specific variables into a URL solely for tracking purposes

This will create longer URLs, so you’ll need to shorten it. Use to shorten URLs for easier sharing.

Automate Reporting

Track progress through daily, weekly, and monthly reports.


  • Build reports that answer specific questions
  • Automate delivery
  • Cut out stuff that doesn’t matter
  • Leave no room for interpretation

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  • Charlie

    Hope you enjoyed the session, thanks for coming.

  • Justin Champion

    Sure thing. Thanks for the great content!