The Google Analytics Academy
A couple of us in the office recently under took Google’s latest online course, at The Google Analytics Academy: Digital Analytics Fundamentals Course.
Essentially you are led through a series of “lessons” each which has a video tutorial with Justin Cutroni, and then a series of related questions or tasks for you to complete. After working your way through all the lessons there is then a “final exam” on everything covered and if you pass with 80% or more, you have the… er…right to download this rather orange certificate. As with all Google products these days, you are required to create a log in for the Analytics Academy to enable you to save your progress and for Google to send you the inevitable emails inviting you to take yet more courses, but nevertheless, it’s an excellent free resource so I recommend making the most of it! There are 6 units that make up the full course, followed by the final assessment:
- Unit 1: Course Overview (this one doesn’t really count)
- Unit 2: Getting Started with Digital Analytics
- Unit 3: Understanding and Using Google Analytics Data
- Unit 4: Collecting Actionable Data with Google Analytics
- Unit 5: Navigating Google Analytics Reports
- Unit 6: Navigating Conversions Reports
And by the time you’ve got through all of that you’re expected (if you don’t cheat) to have “an overview of today’s digital measurement landscape, how to build an effective measurement plan, knowledge of the best practices for collecting actionable data, descriptions of key digital measurement concepts, terminology and analysis techniques and knowledge of deep-dives into Google Analytics reports with specific examples for evaluating your digital marketing performance”. Or something to that effect, and that’s definitely not bad for a free online course.
Overall it was easy to complete in the sense that you could log in and complete a question or two and then log out again, so it was easy to fit around work. It also meant you weren’t strapped in for the long haul, forced to complete the entire six units in one mega session hours and hours long (definitely not my cup of tea).
Question types range from fill in the blanks, to multiple choice to actively setting up aspects of a Google Analytics account, and it was this part of the course that I thought was especially useful. We have loads of Google Analytics accounts here at Cloudspotting both for ourselves and for our clients, and for the most part, I am perfectly happy collecting and interpreting the necessary data from the accounts in order to compile the reports I need. However, it wasn’t until beginning this course with Google that I realized although I have always used Google analytics data, I’ve never actually set up an account to capture it. A pretty glaring hole in my analytics skill set I must admit. Due to this, I had never had to consider the contingencies needed on these kinds of accounts to protect the raw data. So this was my key take away from the Analytics Academy course: when you set up a Google Analytics account for a new data set, always set up three views:
- The Master View
- The Test View
- The Unfiltered Data View
This is essential because if you make a mistake with a configuration setting on a view, you cannot just simply reprocess the data and you will loose historical data if you did. As such, creating a test view allows you play about with the settings and configurations of your data in one view, while the original, un-manipulated data remains protected in another.
The unfiltered view is also a useful asset to any campaign as it presents the data as exactly that, unfiltered. Often applying filters can simultaneously make one interpretation of the data clearer while making an alternative interpretation harder to spot. As such, having the unfiltered view as well as other views available, allows a balanced understanding of what’s happening on your website. (The full course is still up online but for more information specifically on how to set up different views and properties you need to be looking at Unit 4).
Beyond Unit 4 the course starts getting in to the “deep dives” and while this mainly serves to promote the service, being led through Goal Flow reports, Ecommerce reports, Attribution reports and Mutli-channel funnel reports is certainly useful. As I am sure is the case for others, before taking this course my knowledge of Google analytics has been developed “on the job” so to speak, so while some of this was already familiar to me, it was certainly useful to just run through these more complex data reports from beginning to end.
All in all, if you’re responsible for a Google Analytics account/campaign, I recommend taking a few minutes each day and gradually work through this course, even if you’ve no intention to sit the exam at the end, the video tutorials alone can offer some neat little tips and insights on how best to use the service. After all, if anyone knows their way around Google analytics, it’s Google.