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Google Analytics for Paid Search: Basic Setup

Published: August 18, 2014

Author: Caitlin Halpert

Ah, Google Analytics. The interface changes regularly, the terminology can be obtuse, and there’s SO MUCH data that it’s hard to know what’s truly useful and what might just be a rabbit hole. Is it even worth learning? BalticServers_data_center In a word, yes. But we’ve got a lot more space than that, so buckle up. In this post, we’ll cover why to use GA, plus walk you through installing codes, linking accounts, and doing some basic troubleshooting. We’ll take the agency view and assume that you’ll have to work with a client account, which presents some issues of administrative control that we’ll discuss.

Why Use GA as a Paid Search Marketer?

Google Analytics provides additional data points that can be combined with traditional engine data (AdWords and Bing Ads) to better understand your client and their customer. Here are the primary reasons to connect GA with your day-to-day account management process:

-Direct access to the data means you can see the pain points and strengths of the site directly without questioning the client.

-You will have another data source to review when cross-checking results that look fishy.

-You’ll be able to better compare PPC to other channels and understand how the client’s PPC goals compare to actual performance of other digital channels. Reviewing other channels lets you know how realistic your client’s goals are based on current performance.

-Once you have a better understanding of how the client is using different channels, you’ll better understand their marketing strategy. When you have new ideas for improvement or expansion within search or into new channels, you’ll come to the table prepared with client-specific data.

Most important of all, Google Analytics is a robust platform that is constantly changing. If you are not using the platform on a regular basis, it can be extremely difficult to pick up. Staying active in the platform will allow you to adapt as Google updates their naming contention or updates the interface navigation.

Code Installation

Google Analytics is a useful tool to track on-site user actions and engagement. It uses a snippet of JavaScript placed on every page of the site (have your webmaster do this if you’re not sure how) that passes data into the platform each time the code loads. The data itself is reflected within the interface within 24-48 hours. Here is an example of what standard Universal Analytics code in Google Analytics looks like:
If you are installing new Google Analytics code for the first time, take a moment to review your potential use cases for the data and be sure any necessary code changes are made at this point to avoid having to return to the code at another point. Here are a few examples of advanced tracking that require changes to the main code:

-Generating remarketing lists

-Event tracking

-Tracking users across multiple domains

-GDN impression reporting

Account Linking

To integrate engine data with Google Analytics data, you need to take four steps. You’ll want to complete these steps as soon as possible because they impact collection of future data. If you wait until there’s an issue where you want to review GA, it’s too late. Start collecting the data now so when you are ready to dive in deeper, everything is properly tracked.

1. If the client has an existing Google Analytics account, you’ll need to access the account and review the setup before you’ll be able to use it in your standard optimizations. Whenever possible, try and get “Edit” permissions or higher. This will give you the control you need to make changes to properly link accounts and make any necessary adjustments. (Note: “Read & Analyze” won’t cut it.)


2. To link Google Analytics to AdWords, you must be logged into a user with Edit Google Analytics access and Administrative Access to AdWords. Linking is available in the Admin section of GA under the specific Web Property you’d like to link. Under Property, look for the Product Linking section; AdWords Linking will be the first option. Click “+New Link Group” and select the AdWords accounts to be linked. Once you click “Continue,” you’ll be able to select which views you want to link.


3. Enable auto-tagging in AdWords and Bing Ads if possible to avoid any errors. The AdWords gclid parameter passes far more information than is available via the standard utm_ parameters. Gclid passes ad group, match type, destination URL, ad format, placement, keyword position, etc., automatically. BingAds now allows “auto-tagging” that is based on standard naming conventions for source, medium, term and campaign.

If you must manually tag URLs, be extremely careful and consistent. It’s also a good idea to add regular URL QA to your weekly to-do list. Any untagged traffic will be uncategorized in Google Analytics – it could get attributed to organic or direct traffic.


4. Link AdWords to Google Analytics to import GA metrics into the AdWords interface. In Account Settings, select Linked Accounts -> Google Analytics.



Once you’ve gained access, you’ll want to review the account, property and view settings. There are many different options within Google Analytics, so it’s easy to make mistakes. Here are a few common blunders:

-Code not placed on all pages – Aside from losing data for users on those un-tracked pages, other data will be contaminated as well because users returning to tracked pages will be counted as referrals.

-Channel tagging – Ideally the client will tag all other channels including email, affiliate, and social. This will keep the data clean and avoid it getting misattributed to direct or referral. Note that some of Google’s beta products will not support auto-tagging and should be manually tagged instead.

-Complicated profile filtersFilters should be as simple as possible and be in the order you want them executed. Common mistakes include unnecessary URI (uniform resource identifiers, or everything after the .com) re-writes or entire channel filters. It’s important to fully understand the impact of each filter so you know what data should be flowing into the view.

-Goals & eCommerce tracking – Be sure to set up all conversion tracking as soon as possible. All key events on-site that indicate value should be tracked.

-Traffic exceeding 250K per standard reporting period – High-traffic sites will be subject to data sampling, which could skew results depending on volume. If traffic exceeds 10 million hits or more a month, the account may need to upgrade to Google Analytics Premium.

Discuss any GA set-up issues with the client. Make sure you’re on the same page with what should be tracked and how that’s currently reflected in the account. Be sure the client approves of any setting changes since it will cause data inconsistencies. In a worst-case scenario, you can generate a new view or account just for paid search where you control all settings and filters. It’s best to avoid this choice if possible since data will only collect moving forward from code placement or profile creation. Good luck! Drop a comment if you have questions. 

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