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Google Analytics: How to get international implementation right!

The most important aspect of any digital marketing activity is tracking and the set-up of your analytics package; Dave Beatty, Senior SEO Analyst explains why.

Why set up analytics? 

The biggest strength of Digital Marketing is the amount of data at your fingertips – it really gives a unique advantage over traditional marketing and allows you to be a lot more agile with reporting.

Google Analytics is one of the most widely used and powerful reporting tools available and it is also free! However, in order to get the most out of it you need to make sure that it is set up correctly.

To measure the success of any online marketing activity; to confidently attribute the worth of any channel and make decisions about budget allocation you need to be confident that your reporting figures are accurate. This becomes even more important when you’re dealing with an international business and are looking to track data across several websites.

Issue one – different profiles or different views?

When you’re using Google Analytics to track data across several websites the first decision you’re going to have to make is whether to track each website separately using its own profile or to have a single profile with multiple views.

Using a separate profile for each site means that each reporting dashboard is its own entity and the data from each is completely solid. This is a very “clean” approach as it prevents any sort of mixing of data from different sites. However, looking at multi-regional trends or worldwide figures becomes complicated and time consuming, as you will have to amalgamate data outside of the Google Analytics dashboard.

Another approach is to have a single profile with one tracking code across all sites, but using the “Views” feature to separate each website’s data. This is our preferred approach, as it allows you to keep each website’s data separate, but it also allows you much more flexibility in multi-region reporting and data manipulation.

Cross domain tracking

If your site uses a subdomain structure, for example “fr.yoursite.com” and “uk.yoursite.com”, you’ll need to enable cross-domain tracking.

By default, Google will not recognise the two subdomains as two different websites and you’ll have to take a few steps to ensure that it does. If you haven’t done so, then GA may actually amalgamate the traffic from both subdomains into both views, making it impossible to get accurate data for either subdomain traffic.

You also run the risk of incurring self-referrals – where your own website appears as a referral source in reporting data.

Approaches to setting up cross-domain tracking differ depending on whether you’re using “classic” Google Analytics code or the newer Universal Analytics code.

Setting up goals and event tracking

Many websites are still set up with either no goals or have inherited a huge list of historic goals relating to old pages which no longer exist. This can cause erroneous or misleading data when looking at statistics such as overall site conversion rate.

Google Analytics allows 20 goals per view, so if you’re looking to track many different parts of your site you need to make sure you’re prioritising what you’re tracking.

Event tracking can also be a great way to track interactions with features such as buttons or videos on the site – however care needs to be taken when setting them up to ensure they follow a logical structure, otherwise reporting can become very difficult.

Benefits of a correctly set up Analytics account

Once your reporting profiles have been correctly set up and you are confident that the data coming through is robust and accurate, you’re able to accurately and easily understand your website’s performance.

Which of your marketing channels has the best ROI?

Which of your pages should you optimise first?

How did your display campaign affect organic traffic levels?

Where should new content be created?

How easily can people navigate your site?

How is your website performing year-on-year?

Unless you have not set up Google Analytics correctly, the answers to any of these questions could be unreliable or misleading. If you have set it up correctly however, these questions are just the stepping stones which allow you to truly understand your website and allow you to make more intelligent, informed marketing decisions.