Making Data Work Harder: Google Analytics Integration



Let’s start with something obvious:
In terms of data-driven decision making, the biggest issues facing marketers (and brands, in general) are not related to the accessible volume of data-points, but rather the assorted selection of which data-points should be allowed to drive decisions.

But this is nothing new. In an effort to stay afloat within an age of digital-experience building, brands have no choice but to empower themselves to make quicker, yet well-informed, data-based decisions.

The library of digital tracking and reporting tools is vast, yet the most common tool which most marketers keep in their arsenal also happens to be one of the most robust. Of course, we’re talking about Google Analytics (GA).

Beyond the typical implementation, with almost limitless reporting structures and frameworks, GA offers marketers the opportunity to understand the unique insights of their digital properties and the users who visit them.

Two Google Analytics Integrations to Build Smarter Reports

Search Console Integration (formerly Webmaster Tools)

webmaster tools

So, what is it?

Search Console (it’ll always be Webmaster Tools in my heart) offers site owners the ability to further understand how Google’s algorithm indexes, structures and renders their web properties. This is an essential tool for marketers to diagnose potential site opportunities, basic search engine performance and existing security issues.

And how does it work?

Through an easy verification of property ownership, site administrators can link their Search Console account to their GA property. In most cases, establishing the connection between tools can be initiated without additions to a site’s html. Outside of the most common verification method, adding a unique meta tag to your website can get this linked in no time.

But what will it tell me?

Enabling your GA property with Search Console activates a report within GA called “Search Engine Optimization.” Within this report, administrators can view (rounded values) of their site’s most popular search queries, respective impressions, clicks and average SERP position.

This SEO report doesn’t unlock the coveted (not provided) keyword data notoriously encrypted by Google, but it does help shape some understanding of which keywords contribute to the site’s organic search traffic.

Power User Tip: Apply an advanced filter to the data by excluding all queries containing the brand name. Take it further by matching a regex (regular expression) for each variation of a brand name. Express the regex in this format: example|example 2|example 3


Ok – how do I set it up?

(Skip to the steps below if Search Console is configured for the site)

If Search Console is not configured for site:

  1. Visit the Search Console and sign in with the appropriate Google account.
  2. On the right, click the red “Add a Property” button and enter the URL of the web property to be added. Click “Continue.”
  3. Verify ownership of the site with one of the given methods:
    1. Add a meta tag to the homepage of your site (only an option if you can edit the site’s source code)
    2. Add a new DNS record within your site’s control panel.
    3. Upload an HTML file to your site. (Google recommended)
    4. Verify with Google Analytics. (Google account must be an administrator of both tools)

If Search Console is already configured:

  1. Within GA, navigate to Acquisition>Search Engine Optimization.
  2. Click the button “Set up Webmaster Tools data sharing.”
  3. Scroll to the bottom of the Property Setting page and beneath Webmaster Tools Settings click the blue link, “Edit.” This will direct your browser to your Search Console account.
  4. Select the appropriate Search Console Site from the list, then hit the “Save” button. This should take the browser back to the GA Property Settings page.
  5. Click the blue “Save” button to confirm connecting the tools.

Email Data Integration

So, what is it?

Integrating email tracking offers incredible reporting possibilities. Many reading are thinking email integration offers an easy work-around by employing custom utm parameters, and they’re half right.
But just half.

Only utilizing custom utm parameters within email marketing will uncover email-visits on the session-level, providing short-sighted insights, at best. More than that, if GA is setup for advanced implementations of custom data sets, the only barrier between deeper email understandings are the steps listed below.

And how does it work?

By establishing a new custom metric in GA, we will be informing GA to understand and organize a specifically defined data point from visits of a particular source. Additionally, future emails will be amended with a snippet of GA code which will set the stage for this deeper tracking.

We won’t get into adding a custom metric to GA here, but a great resource can be found here.

As far as what code to implement on the email side, see the sample below.


Here’s the important parts of the code, for some clarity.

tid=UA-XXXXXXX-YY : Tracking ID and property ID
cid=*|UNIQID|* : Client ID
t=event : Hit type (This code is using event tracking)
ec=email : Event category
cs=newsletter : Campaign source
cm=email : Campaign medium
cn=cookie-sale : Campaign name
cm1=1 : Custom metric 1 (The index of the custom metric in GA)

But what will it tell me?

The better question is, “what won’t it tell me?”
Most email platforms provide great email-level metrics like bounces, amount received, opens, and clicks.

After building the campaign and sending it, log into GA and watch recipients open it in real time. Do this via the Real Time reports.

Ok – How do I set it up?

  1. Add a new custom metric to the GA property (remember the index number)
    1. Property>Custom Definitions>Custom Metrics
    2. Set the name (Email Opens), scope (Hit), formatting type (Integer), Min value (0), Max value (1), set to active
  2. Create a new email campaign in your distribution platform.
  3. To your new campaign, add the proper code and custom values based on your custom metric, source, medium and campaign values.
  4. Create a new exclude filter to eliminate email open hits from reporting views.
    1. Because GA is now tracking email opens, each email open will trigger an event hit sent to GA. This will create sessions to the property with no pageviews and must be excluded from other reporting views.
  5. Lastly, create a new email reporting dashboard.
    1. A good starting report can be installed here.


Clearly, these two Google Analytics integrations just scratch the surface of the capabilities. However, it’s clear site owners, administrators and marketers must build a deeper understanding of the measurement tools they rely upon.


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