Successful Analytics

I recently had the chance to read Brian Clifton’s book “Successful Analytics: Gain Business Insights by Managing Google Analytics“, and it is a great read for anyone that is involved with digital analytics. In this post, I’ve put together some key takeaways from this book that you can apply to your business.

Understanding when to purchase GA Premium

Clifton goes in-depth on how to decide whether Google Analytics Premium is right for your business or client. This is a highly important topic that I see all the time in my line of work. It’s nice to see such transparency from someone that works at Google when considering the paid version.

Google Analytics Premium is not for everyone. In fact, I see clients that have invested in Premium and they honestly don’t need to. Brian includes a very useful flow diagram on when to choose Premium and a Google Analytics Certified Partner (GACP). Aside from the GACP services, two easy ways to rule out Premium are if you don’t have $150k per year to spend or if you don’t exceed 1 million hits per month.

Another huge piece of criteria in my opinion is whether you have the resources (people or $$) to provide insights. A measurement tool is only as good as the insights you can get from it. I can’t stress how important it is to have the resources in place; Otherwise, you’re just gathering good data and doing nothing with it.

Digital analytics is an investment

This is probably my favorite takeaway because the time taken upfront is the most important part of the digital analytics process. The book outlines 4 required phases when implementing a digital analytics strategy within your organization: installation, configuration, education and insights. It isn’t until you reach insights is when you begin seeing a return on your investment.

It kills me inside when organizations overlook the installation, configuration and education of their analytics implementation. There are important steps like establishing a measurement and implementation plan that should not be overlooked when setting up Google Analytics. Putting your time and money on these up-front phases will lead to informative and actionable insights to benefit your business.

Avinash Kaushik has written a great article on creating a measurement plan.

Test your hypothesis

According to Clifton’s book, you should first conduct your analysis and build your hypothesis (or vice versa) about the visitor behavior on your website before deciding if a test is required. Once that’s done, ensure that best practice user experience principles are applied.

Let’s say you’re seeing a significant drop-off rate on one of your forms on mobile devices. Are your labels directly above the form fields instead of within? I highly encourage you to read up on Luke W‘s form research before ever considering to make a test with your forms. Instead of playing around with the form first, make sure you’re using form design best practices and optimizing it for mobile devices.

Audit your implementation

If you have the time and resources, always audit your implementation before analysis. Most clients I begin working with either have serious errors in their implementation or are missing key tracking that will enable them to measure against their website KPIs. Over time, be sure continuously audit your implementation to make sure it’s meeting your needs. Websites and measurement plans are ever evolving and your implementation should support it.

Clifton provides a nice audit report form on his website that’s worth checking out.

Use campaign tracking

I can’t stress the importance of this more. I commonly run into clients that overlook this important feature of Google Analytics, and they’re missing out on valuable data to understand how they’re arriving at your website and which content is performing the best.

Let’s say your running a couple different ads on Facebook. You want to understand how these visitors are performing on your site and which ad they clicked on. Without campaign tracking, users that come from the mobile app can show up as direct because your website is opened within the app itself instead of from Also, without campaign tracking, you’ll never know which ad they clicked on.

Campaign tracking should also be used for email campaigns, paid search or organic social posts. Get started with Google Analytics campaign tracking by using the URL builder.

Clifton hits on all of the detailed points, including campaign data upload, around campaign tracking to ensure you’re able to measure success from your offsite or offline activities.

Use cross domain tracking

This is probably one of the most overlooked things I see in implementations, and it can be detrimental if it’s not implemented correctly. Clifton hits on this point, in addition to many other items, when deploying your tracking code. Ask yourself: Do I have multiple ‘sites’ under different domains that I’d like to track within the same experience? If the answer is yes, then you will likely need to consider proper cross domain tracking. The most common oversights I see with clients are job portals, investor relations sections and e-commerce.

More information on cross domain tracking can be found here:


If you’re looking to read up on the business aspect of digital analytics and Google Analytics can play a part, then I highly recommend picking up this book.


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