Research shows that people who achieve their resolutions start small. The same can be said about cleaning up your Google Analytics account. Whether you manage one website or a large portfolio of GA accounts, use this guide to cover the basics this January.
Take care of your data
Before you start making any changes to your Google Analytics views, you need to remember that if you create a new view, GA will not populate it with historic data. This means that if you make an error when setting up a view filter, there is no way to reverse it, the data is lost forever.
That is why, aside from the GA views that you use for day-to-day reporting, you should also have a raw data view. That is a view that has no filters applied to it and records all data as it arrives from your website. If mistakes happen (as they occasionally do) on your main view, the raw data view will be there for you to refer back to and have a look at what you might have missed.
Moreover, if your website services more than one hotel, you should set up separate views that capture only the traffic to that hotel's part of the website. This will allow you to analyse hotel performance independently.
If you are setting out new filters or making substantial changes to old ones, it is also a good idea to create a testing view to test these. It does not matter what you call any of these views, as long as you are consistent. Once you are happy with your test results, don't forget to apply the new filters to all other applicable views (except for the raw data view of course).
You should also consider creating a Google Analytics 4 property - setting it up now you will mean you have access to historic data when you want to switch, although this is slightly more complex and might require a change to your tracking code. Make sure that you keep your old properties up to date too, as GA4 is still in early stages of development, and might be missing some important features (such as a Hotel Benchmark connection 😮).
Use filters to clean up your data
So what kind of filters should you consider for your new views? It is a good idea to exclude traffic from anyone working as part of your hotel team, as their behaviour on the website will be very different from your other visitors. You can use their IP address, or a custom dimension if you have a user login facility as your filter.
Another important filter for hotels is a hotel wi-fi filter. If your hotel wi-fi automatically redirects your hotel guests to your website, you might want to consider removing this traffic, as the behaviour of these guests will again be very different from the general population. You should also think about using a lowercase filter to standardise your page URLs and search terms, or a search and replace filter if your URLs include any IDs.
Lastly, leave a note about what you've done. It will come handy in a couple of months when you look at historic data and wonder what caused that 20% drop in traffic and a massive improvement of your bounce rate in January or serve as a useful record for other members of the team accessing the data. You can do this under the Annotations option in the view's administration, and the note will then show on all charts in the interface.
Inside the admin section
When setting up or reviewing your views, check out the View Settings . Make sure that your time zone and your currency are correct. Beware that this setting will not apply any currency exchange calculations, it will simply change the currency symbol in the Google Analytics interface. Just make sure it matches your booking engine currency so that no one in your team gets confused.
Speaking of teams - check who has access to your views under in View User Management. A freelancer that you briefly worked with in 2015? An old colleague who now works for a rival hotel? Remove the access for anyone who should not have it.
Applications can also be granted access to your Google Analytics account. To check which apps you have granted access to, go to https://myaccount.google.com/permissions and remove any apps that you do not recognise. Just make sure to keep Hotel Benchmark in there 😉
E-commerce & alerts
Your booking engine produces a wealth of incredible data that you are missing out on if you do not have e-commerce tracking enabled in GA. As part of your January clean-up, make sure that you enable the Ecommerce report for all your views (even the raw data view). And if you already have the e-commerce report activated on all views, why not check the more in-depth article by Ed Janson about setting up Google Analytics Goals.
When considering e-commerce, you should also set up basic alerts to receive notifications when there is a problem with your tracking code implementation. Setting up an alert for when Transactions and Traffic decrease by 80% week-on-week will allow you to fix such problems as soon as they arise.
Link other Google Products
GA allows you to link other Google products together with GA to enhance the information available in these tools. One of those products is Google Search Console, a free tool provided by Google to help you measure your site's performance on Google. Link it with GA to easily monitor your search performance.
Another product you want linked is Google Ads. This link is indispensable if you advertise on Google, as it will import Analytics goals, transactions, and other metrics from GA into Google Ads, giving you more intelligence to improve your digital campaigns, and then import Google Ads campaign performance back to GA (and thus to Hotel Benchmark). Additionally, if you set up an audience in GA it will allow you to use retargeting to display ads to people who visited your site in the past.
There is much more you can do to keep your Google Analytics account in tip top shape, including setting up events, goals, or enhanced e-commerce, but following these recommendations will already give you a head start in 2021. And if you need help, leave our team a message!