Setting Up Google Analytics Filters 101

Roy McClean
Apr 15, 2013
Setting Up Google Analytics Filters 101

Setting Up Google Analytics Filters 101. Learn how step-by-step.

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Need some help setting up Google Analytics (GA) filters? Many people I speak with are overwhelmed when setting up Google Analytics. It doesn't have to be terribly complicated. Adding filters to your GA account has real advantages. We'll explain why this is so important to your digital analytics strategy below. But if you don't set things up properly right from the start you can screw up your data... and that's something we don't want.

How Google Analytics Moves Data

Let's start with a review of how Google Analytics works.  Before any of the digital analytics magic happens you first need to have Google Analytics snippets placed into the HTML of your website. We also use GA on Facebook Page tabs using a third party Facebook custom table builder application.

This screenshot shows a snippet of GA code from this website that we placed in the <head> tag of the page's code.

GA Source Code

There are three steps involved in getting your data available to view:

  1. Each time a page loads, visitor data for that page is sent from your website to Google Analytics servers via a JavaScript file.
  2. This data is then "cleaned up" on Google's servers so that the data works in GA's control panel. It often takes up to 24 hours before this data is available to you.
  3. The data is then pushed back to your Google Analytics account for viewing in the online control panel that you access with your username and password.

Setting Up Google Analytics Properties

We first set up Properties, then Profiles, and lastly we add in Filters to our GA account. Let's do this using Custom Fit Online's online channels for this example. You can set up multiple profiles for each of our online channels. Each profile is given a unique Profile Number by Google. For example:

  • Our Website's GA Profile Number: UA-30466469-1
  • Our Mobile Website's GA Profile Number: UA-30466469-2
  • Our Facebook TAB GA Profile Number: UA-30466469-3

GA Profiles

Why three profiles? Once this process is complete, and filters are used, there is no way older data can be retrieved. Set up filters incorrectly and you may have major problems with your data. You could potentially even wipe out any data that would normally show up in your GA account. Utilizing a Test profile first allows us to double check that the filtering is working the way we intend it.

So What Are GA Filters?

GA filters allow you to limit and modify the traffic data that is included in a profile. For example, you can use filters to exclude traffic from particular IP addresses, focus on a specific subdomain or directory, or convert dynamic page URLs into readable text strings. Google Analytics provides the ability to set up both predefined and custom filters.

Setting Up GA Filters:

We're obviously not going to add any filters to our "No Filters" profile. We'll only set up filters for the "Test" and "With Filters" Profiles. Let's use the example of our "desktop" website in this case.

GA Filters

Using the screenshot above, here are examples of what two of these filters do...

  • Hackers' Defense: A "hacker" could potentially add our Google Analytics UA code to another website so that traffic from this "rogue" website shows up in our GA data. By using this filter we're protecting our data from being manipulated by another source.
  • IP Addresses: I don't necessarily want Custom Fit Online's team data showing up in GA data results. We visit our website a lot. If I don't filter our "local" traffic we're not really get the true picture of "real" website visitors that came to our website. So we create filters that remove IP addresses from our team member's computer. In the case of the screenshot shown below, I have filtered out the IP address from my home office, Robert's IP address from work and home, and Ben's IP address from work and home.

There are lots of different types of filters that you can add.

Once I set up a new filter in the "Test" profile, I check the data in this profile after a day or two. If the data looks good I can then safely replicate that filter in the "With Filters" profile. I am typically expecting that the "Test" profile will show a little less traffic than the "No Filters" profile.

The Result? More Accurate Data to Make Better Decisions

By filtering out data such as local business traffic and ensuring hackers can't amplify your traffic numbers you get better info to make better business decisions. Use this 3 profile process and you can be assured that you will always have a copy of the "raw" data available in a "No Filter" profile, a place to test your filters, and finally a filtered profile that gives you better data to make good business and marketing decisions from your Google Analytics account.

By the way, the "names" given for each Profile, Property or Filter shown below can be customized. We have developed a naming practice that we feel makes identifying Profiles, Properties, and Filters easily in the "breadcrumbs" of Google Analytics control panel.

GA Breadcrumbs

Now Your Turn

Do you use filters with your GA account? Do you have any questions, recommendations or suggestions about this process? If you do we welcome your comments below! And if you need any digital analytics help feel free to contact us.

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