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My name is Mike, and I’m a Google Analytics (GA) addict. There, I’ve said it. This post is not urging you to become an addict, but to spend some time looking at Google Analytics real-time on a daily basis.

Why Mike?

First and foremost, it shows you the flow of people through your site as it happens. For example, I particularly like to have a peek when I’ve just posted a new blog post to the Velocity site and then sent it out across social media etc. What does this tell me?

  • What platform is returning immediate traffic to the site?
  • Where do people go once they’ve visited the blog post?
  • Where are they located? (this can still be sketchy due to IP/mobile)
  • Are any of my Google Analytics ‘goals’ being carried out right now?
  • The device type being used – desktop/mobile/tablet

Now, all of this info is available in the full reports within GA, and is very valuable, but I really do recommend dipping into real-time from time to time. As you can see, I tend to have it live on my second screen – not all day as it would of course be distracting, but when I’m doing a lot of marketing activity or blogging, I will have it open to glance at. I often experiment with posting blog posts at different times of day – watching real-time allows me to gauge the initial surge of traffic (one of which wasn’t occurring in my image here!).  Give it a go, Google seem to be developing it fairly regularly. Access from the ‘Real-time’ menu. Funny that. Next up – link tracking!

Remember to track links!

Google Analytics allows you to create custom links that help you to further gauge your activity. For example, when I send this post out on Twitter, I’ll use this link:

You can see various additions to the standard URL:

  • campaign=GARTpost – this is what I’ve decided to call the campaign (Google Analytics Realtime post)
  • source=twittermike – I know that this is the link I sent out via my personal Twitter account
  • medium=social – Social is the medium. This could also be email, banner etc

Adding these means that GA will recognise these as a campaign and give me data based on that distinct link. View the data for each link under Acquisition > Campaigns menu. The image below shows all of the links I generated for a job role we’re advertising at the moment.

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Notice that each social media platform has its own link – make sure you change your ‘source’ variable to reflect the platform you’re using the link on. Also, if you have various staff who may be sharing your content, make sure they add their name to the source in someway.

If we don’t track links like this, all GA will return is generic data for each platform – it will tell you traffic etc from Twitter, but that doesn’t equate to just your activity, it’s an overview of everything Twitter has sent your way. Even when tracking like this, some data can be lost, as people may use link shortening services via their Twitter apps that can sometimes clean out the tracking. Using these tracked links also helps when viewing your real-time data, as it will show you what link is creating live traffic.

I mentioned ‘goals’ earlier – these are simple to set up and effectively allow you to tell if a specific action has been taken on your site and where it stemmed from. I have a goal for visits to our contact page – I want to tell what activity generates a visit to that page –  a simple albeit non-perfect metric. For example in the image above, I can see that my post on LinkedIn about the job has created 6 visits to the contact page. For help setting up goals, see here.

Creating the links

We have a Google Docs spreadsheet that allows us to very quickly create links for us and our clients. It then takes the long link (they ain’t purty!) and creates a link via their API that we can share via social etc. Each client etc has a tab and we can build banks of links for future use etc. Having it in Google Docs means we can all use it. Make sure you agree with your team/clients etc on uniform variables as you don’t want to have various names for mediums etc as your data will be scattered.

Now, I appreciate that you all don’t have access to our spreadsheet, but there is a free option here – it won’t create links though. If you just want to have a play around, you can also use this tool from Raven. You’ll notice two fields I haven’t mentioned – ‘Campaign Term’ and ‘Campaign Content’ these are non-compulsory, but use them of you’re doing PPC or have multiple digital ad types running. Get into the habit of tracking links and you’ll become a much more insightful marketer.

Well that was a bit of a move away from my usual post, but I hope it’s helpful none the less! Are you a real-time junky? Love a bit of link tracking? Share your tips in the comments below. You’re in a safe place.

We can help you understand your social media and wider digital marketing data and can also create you a fancy link tracking spreadsheet. Please do get in touch if you’d like a chat. 

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Pic credits, both from author.

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