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CXL Website Optimization Minidegree – Week 4 Review

Week four of my minidegree in conversion optimization from CXL Institute was focused on Google Analytics.

This particular course is long, and for good reason…

There’s a ton to learn about GA.

Before this course, my use of GA has been very limited. Of course I have it installed on all of my sites, but I used it mainly to look at how many visitors I had in any given time.

Sometimes I would explore some of the other reports, such as the Geo reports showing me where my visitors were coming from, and what type of devices – mobile or desktop – they used.

But beyond that, I knew almost nothing about using Google Analytics.

I must admit that I entered this course with mixed feelings.

On one hand I recognized that this was an area of weakness for me, and if I was going to be a better marketer, I needed to understand this tool.

On the other hand, I was intimidated. I don’t consider numerical analysis to be a strength of mine, and like many other people, I don’t like to do things that I feel I suck at.

And even though I just made it through the “Getting to know GA” sections, I’ve already learned some important lessons.

A few of the big takeaways of this week were:

  • Referral exclusions. I learned that you can tell GA not to count “hits” from sites like PayPal or Infusionsoft by adding them to an exclusions list.
  • I discovered that you can create multiple accounts of one site.
  • Views. I have always had just one view – all website data. Now I see that there is so much more to that powerful feature, and can’t wait to dive into it in more detail.
  • Google tag manager. Although tags aren’t covered in this course, the presenter makes a compelling case for learning how to use them. This is a course I will likely take in the future from CXL.com.
  • Goal flow. I have never really used goals on ME.co and so to see how you can use the goal flow report so see how people move back and forth through your funnel was exciting.
  • Multi-channel funnels. Not much was covered on this but it is something I want to learn more about.
  • Ecommerce reports. I will be working with my first ecommerce site shortly, and so it was very interesting to see how you can analyse product sales, and use the different segments to get a picture of the sales process. For example, being able to see how different devices, and browsers convert.

Something else I wanted to mention was unrelated to Google analytics, but relevant to the course in general.

Last week, I spoke with the owner of a jewellery store in my area. I initially went to the store to get a watch fixed.

After speaking with the owner, he seemed like a genuinely nice person, who really cared about his customers.

When I got home, I went to their site to look at some of the watches they sold to find a replacement for the one that was broken.

Their site was a hot mess. The owner had mentioned to me in the store that they just had the site built after the start of the pandemic, but he knew nothing about online marketing.

I emailed him, and asked if he would like a free website critique to show him how to improve the conversion potential of the site. They weren’t getting much traffic that he knew of, so there were no existing conversions.

He agreed to the review and was excited, to say the least.

Due to the pandemic, he did not have a great deal of money to pay me for my services, but I suggested we help each other out.

We’ve agreed that I will help make the changes I recommended in my site review, in exchange he will pay me with a new watch, plus some cash.

I will also be able to use this site as a case study on my website.

My notes for each section covered this week are shown below…

Getting to know GA: Intro to Admin

The big takeaway in this course is this…

Always have a question or list of questions you want answered before you open analytics. If you don’t, you can get sucked down the rabbit hole – spending hours poring over reports with no real answer.


  • Property (think of properties as a bucket of data)
    • View A
    • View B
    • View C
  • Views are stories or customized collections of data. Default is “All Website Data”

In account settings, make sure that the reporting timezone matches the timezone used for your shopping cart.

PRO TIP: Set up a 2nd property for your real site, and keep the 1st property as a decoy site (UA-XXXXX-1) so that your 2nd property never gets fed junk data.

Getting to know GA: Realtime Reports

Realtime reports are ideal for testing to make sure something is working the way you expect it to.

Active users view shows you for the last 5-minutes while Pageviews shows you the last 30-minutes.

Realtime reports don’t give you trends so it’s a very limited report, and should not be used to make decisions.

Getting to know GA: Audience Reports

Audience reports answer the question, “who are my users?”.

Users according to GA are individual client id’s. No personal data is associated to the client ID but each ID is unique to that computer, and on that browser.

Using a different browser on the same device creates a new client ID.

Using demographics to paint a picture of who uses your site will be very useful when creating paid ad campaigns in Facebook.

Interestingly, the audience demographics of ME.co have a good mix, but about 80% of my visitors are between the ages of 18 and 44.

Getting to know GA: Acquisition Reports

The Source/Medium report is an important report that shows you where people are coming from.

I had to connect my Search Console reports. Didn’t even know they weren’t connected. Will go through all other sites and do the same.

Getting to know GA: Behaviour Reports

Behaviour reports answer the question “What actions are my visitors taking?”

Landing pages are the pages that people see first.

Exit pages are the pages that people see last.

Bounce rate is different from Exit Rate in that bounce rate counts the times people land on a page and then leave without any other pageviews occurring.

Getting to know GA: Conversions Reports

Conversion reports help us see the results of all the users actions.

Goal reports include:

  • Goal URL’s. What page was a user on when they met a goal, such as clicked a button, or filled out a form.
  • Reverse goal path will show you the 3 previous pages they were on before completing a goal.
  • Funnel visualization. Allows you to see all steps in a funnel and get traffic stats for each step.
  • Goal flow. Gives you a really good visual representation of how people move through a funnel, and even if they move backwards in a funnel. The goal flow report is more flexible and most accurately reflects your users’ path before completing a goal.


The product performance report is where you can see how your products are selling.

By adding a secondary dimension, you can start tracking things like which source/medium is sending you the sales.

Multi-channel Funnels

Shows you the different traffic sources as they work together to make a sale.

These work completely differently from all other reports, using a different API.

Conversion reports only work if you have set up goals, and ecommerce.

Getting Started: Account Settings


When adding users, the email used must be a gmail account or an email address associated with a google product.

There is no “super-user” in Google Analytics. If you assign permissions to a user allowing them to add, or remove users, they can remove YOU, so be very careful about who you assign these permissions to.


Filters are applied at the view level, but you want to manage them at the account level.


History shows you a list of all changes made in the account.

Trash Can

Anything that’s deleted goes into the trash can and sits there for 30-days before being permanently deleted.

PRO TIP: When creating a view, such as a test view, or a duplicate view, append to the name something like “OK TO DELETE”. This way, if the view is deleted, all people on the analytics account will see that nothing is being deleted that shouldn’t be.

** Something to do is to add Martha (my wife) to my GA accounts as an admin – just in case I’m hit by a bus.

Getting Started: Property Settings

Make sure to set the Industry Category to take advantage of benchmarking information provided by Google (especially helpful for ecommerce, I think).

The “Advanced Settings” is related to Google Adwords. If you check it, you are able to override the tags applied by Google Ads. It’s fine to leave it unchecked, as Google does a good job of tagging adwords.

Free accounts have a limit of 10,000,000 hits per 30-day period.

In-page analytics is a legacy feature that has been replaced by a Chrome extension, and isn’t something to worry about.

User management at th property setting is the same as account setting but applies just to the specific property.

Tracking Info

This is an important section of the property settings.

  • Tracking Info > Data collection. When turning on the option “Data Collection for Google signals”, it’s important to know what you’re agreeing to.
  • Data retention. This does not mean that after the set period of time you lose all data. It means that after the designated amount of time, user-level data is deleted.
  • Session settings. Default setting is 30-minutes for a session. If no activity is recorded for that time, Google ends the session. But if there’s a case where someone would be on a page for longer than that time, you may need to adjust the session time. For example, if you have a 45-minute video that someone could watch. If the session is closed while they watch the video, and then they go to another page, Google records that new page as a new session, throwing off your stats.

Campaign timeout has to do with attribution. For example, if someone comes to my site in January through organic search, then came back 5 months later as a result of an ad, the attribution goes to organic.

This can be useful when trying to determine the success of an ad campaign. If you run an ad campaign that results in a sale to someone who was on the site nearly 6-months ago, you want the credit for the sale to go to the ad campaign, not to organic.

** I’ve changed this to 3-days in all the accounts where I’ll be running paid traffic campaigns.

  • Organic search sources. This allows you to add additional search engines (Duckduckgo) so that they show up as “organic”.
  •  Referral exclusion list. You should see your domain address here. You want to add sites that show up on source/medium reports that aren’t really traffic sources.

For example, if you use PayPal as a payment processor, people will be directed to PayPal to make a payment and then directed back to your site when the payment is completed. This will throw off your stats. By adding PP to the exclusion list, you eliminate “false” hits being recorded.

** You do not need to add subdomains – just top-level domains.

  • Search term exclusion list. If there are search terms that you don’t want to show as “organic”, you can enter them here. For example, if you have a lot of people typing your site url into Google search as a way to get to your site.
  • Product Linking. To link your GA property to other Google products such as Adwords, or Search Console, you must have admin rights in those products, and the same Google account must be used (imcurtispenner@gmail.com).
  • Advanced features.
    • User id not for the feint of heart. Would be used with a CRM like Infusionsoft.
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Curtis Penner

Curtis Penner

Curtis Penner is the man behind the sheep ... ahem ... well, he helps service-based businesses harness the power of online marketing to become the lead sheep in their markets. Cause if you follow the herd, all you get is sheep $#!t on your shoes.