Customizing Google Analytics Starts with Objectives, not Metrics

Google Analytics out-of-the-box gives you access to thousands of different and useful data sets, how could you possibly want more data? If you can answer that question specifically, you’re on the right path. If you “know you need more”, let’s get you on the right path before you go down the rabbit hole of custom variables and events.

Customizing Google Analytics can provide a tremendous amount of new data (and yes, insights) but without an objective-first approach, you’ll be data rich and insight poor. Before you start looking at what’s possible when tweaking Google Analytics, start first with a simple framework that will define what to customize. Our approach looks something like this –

analytics framework

This framework allows you to understand what metrics need to be tracked and where the holes in your analytics strategy lie. That’s the foundation that needs to be put in place before you start customizing your Google Analytics install.


Let’s walk through an example using a question we commonly hear –

“How are potential customers using my ecommerce website and how can I improve sales?”


It’s a question that can (and should) be broken down into multiple sub-sets. The objective is clear, drive sales. The next step would be to identify the levers that affect sales, and one (of many) has already been identified – website usage. Now the question is – how do we optimize the website experience (lever) to encourage more sales (objective)?

There are more levers for website optimization, such as, ratings, reviews, on-site messaging, usability, product videos, etc. In this case, let’s focus on on-site messaging and how it can be leveraged to put more potential customers in the conversion funnel. By applying the aforementioned framework and objective-first approach, it might look something like –

Google Analytics Strategy Framework


We now have a focused approach and have identified multiple levers that point back to the objective. Now the question shifts to –


“How do different messages and placements drive users into the conversion funnel?”


This is a much more concise and measurable initiative and Google Analytics can be customized for this. One of the more common on-site messaging tactics are homepage campaigns, most often in the form of a tout or banner. One metric we already know we should now watch would include – % of people who navigated to the landing page from the homepage. That’s an easy out-of-the-box metric in Google Analytics but doesn’t provide the full story. There are holes in the measurement plan.

You would likely want to know the CTR of a homepage banner in order to gauge it’s popularity among the homepage real estate. I also would want to know if someone clicked on the banner and then purchased a product. Both are custom metrics (using event tags and custom variables) that will better measure on-site messaging, leading to more potential customers in the conversion funnel and ultimately sales.

You can read the full 2-part series on measuring the effectiveness of internal campaigns here.

A good data-backed organization has a framework in place. A good framework lends itself to a good measurement strategy. Without a good measurement strategy in place, efforts spent customizing Google Analytics could potentially be squandered and drown you in data.

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