Google Analytics for Beginners Review

This article is part 4 of 12 reviewing the CRO Minidegree at the CXL Institute.

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Google Analytics for Beginners

The Google Analytics for Beginners course is taught by Chris ‘Mercer’ Mercer and it consists of twenty-two classes that take at least nine hours to complete but probably more for most of us. Each course has very actionable next steps (but they do take time to set up and practice so be ready!).

The course kicks off with sharing when and when not to use Google Analytics. Then we dive into using reports.

Reports commonly used in Google Analytics:

  • Overview
  • Table report
  • Flow report
  • E-commerce funnel visualization report

Important features to know in Google Analytics:

The Date range is typically the last seven days of data, while the actual day of analysis is not included in the report. It is very important to pay attention to the date range to make sure that you are pulling the correct and most accurate report.

Segmentation consists of direct traffic or male/female buyers, mobile vs desktop, etc. Next to Pages if there is an orange or yellow shield that means you can be sampled but only if you get a lot of traffic with massive amounts of data.

Primary dimensions are the main or primary focus of the report. Secondary dimensions are a more narrow or granular view of the data report. In this course, we learned how to sort or breakdown reports by both primary and secondary dimensions.

Goal flow reports provide the opportunity to see how users interact with your funnel and get to the bottom of important questions such as:

  • Where do my website users enter the funnel? Are they beginning with the first step or are they entering the funnel somewhere in the middle?
  • Are there a lot of exits from the funnel before proceeding to the next step?
  • Is there anywhere in the funnel where the traffic loops back?
  • Is there a segment of your traffic that behaves differently from the rest? Do they convert more or less than the rest of your traffic?

All that is needed to get started with goal flow reports are to create at least one goal and collect data for it.

Google Analytics admin

At the back end of Google Analytics, we have an account. Accounts are able to have properties, and they can have more than one property. Essentially, one account can have multiple properties.

Each property has a view. There has to be at least one view, but they can have more. We can have multiple views within a property.

“Think of properties as buckets of data.” — Mercer

A sister site or affiliate site is an example of a site that could be placed into a separate property.

Views are used to answer specific questions about the data. For specific goals and users from the same properties.

When it comes to account permissions it is vital to have access to Manage Users. This feature gives permission to add users, delete users, and change user permissions (only give permissions if you really need to). You can also add assess only to a property, not the entire account (production view).

Reports in Google Analytics

Real-time reports show the number of users on your site in ‘real-time’. This report is great for seeing if things are working, debugging, and testing. Trends can not be seen in these reports so they should not be used for any meaningful testing.

Audience reports answer the question Who are my users?” These reports give an in-depth insight into the characteristics of your visitors.

Acquisition reports deal with the question “Where are my users coming from?”. When using these reports Mercer heavily stresses that you must use tags to adequately track traffic.

Behavior reports answer actions. Specifically, “What actions are my website users taking?”

Conversion reports answer the question of results “What results? How are we achieving results?” These reports deal heavily with goals.

As previously mentioned views are literally just that: they are a view of the data that’s coming into the property. As a result, they are designed to answer certain questions for certain things. For this reason, it is vital to have more than one view.

You can have a maximum of twenty-five views and Mercer strongly recommends having a minimum of three types of views:

3 Types of Views

  1. Master View
  2. Test View
  3. Raw Data View

The Master View is used to answer most marketing questions.

The Testing View is used only for testing and it is not to be used for making any real marketing decisions

The Raw Data View is the Backup View.

Pro Tip: This is the view that is NEVER changed in any way shape or form! You NEVER EVER use it for testing or anything! It is literally there in case of an emergency! If you screw something up massively in another view this will help.

To avoid staff or team members from touching this view, label this Raw Data View something like:

z_Backup Data — DNU (Do Not Use)

Within views, filters can be created and used to narrow the data down into even smaller chunks or groups. Filters aid in providing clean data, meaning data that is useful. It is very important to remember that filters are extremely powerful but they can be dangerous if used incorrectly.

We also learned how to find out where all traffic is coming from by viewing the Source/Medium report, referrals, and customization (highly recommended). We can use filters to help tell the story of exactly where our traffic is coming from.

We learned to think of Goals in terms of ACE:

What a goal should be:




Narrow the goals in your sales funnel to ACE for accurate tracking at each stage.

My thoughts

This course is over nine hours long, packed with very useful information about understanding Google Analytics from a beginner’s standpoint. I have been in the digital marketing field for over 10 years and I have always run (literally!)…

Me running from Google Analytics | Image credit: Giphy

As far away as possible from this topic because quite frankly the word ‘analytics’ has always scared the crap out of me, not to mention the thought of actually trying to learn it!

With that said, this course took me two weeks to complete because after each lesson (again there are 22 of them) Mercer provides very actionable tips for getting started with what you learned either in your own Google Analytics account or using the Google Analytics Demo Account (yes there actually IS one!).

After each lesson, I actually ‘rode the bike’ and began applying the techniques I learned to both the tester account and the accounts that I manage. This helped me to really understand what I have been learning, but again it also took more time to complete this content.

I think this course has done a phenomenal job at helping me to understand Google Analytics much more than I ever have before. I even passed the exam for this course on the second try! The first time around I missed two questions and you need 90% to pass. The second time I passed with flying colors 😊.

I had to wait six hours before I could take the test again.

CXL Certificate of Achievement for Google Analytics Beginners 😁

Overall this course is definitely worth the time it takes to complete because professor Mercer shows live demos with every lesson and provides a lesson slide deck that contains even more useful resources.

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t need Google Analytics?

Image credit: Giphy

Would you like to join the top 1% of digital marketers in the entire world?

Check out more of my in-depth reviews of CXL Institute’s CRO Minidegree courses:

  1. Intro to CRO and Best Practices Review
  2. Intro to Conversion Copywriting, Product Messaging, Psychology, and Social Proof Review
  3. Neuromarketing, Emotional Content Strategy, Influence, and Interactive Design Review
  4. Google Analytics for Beginners Review
  5. Landing Page Optimization, Conversion Research and Using Analytics to Find Conversions Review
  6. Google Tag Manager for Beginners, User Research, Fast and Rigorous User Personas Review
  7. Heuristics Analysis Frameworks for CO Audits, Google Analytics Audits, How to Run Tests
  8. Testing Strategies, Statistics for A/B Testing and A/B Testing Mastery Review
  9. Optimizing for B2B, Customer Value Optimization, Digital Psychology, and Behavioral Design Training Review
  10. Advanced Experimentation Analysis and Applied Neuromarketing Review
  11. How to Design, Roll Out, and Scale an Optimization Program; Evangelizing for Optimization in Enterprise Review
  12. Building Your Optimization Technology Stack and CRO Agency Masterclass Review

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