Digital Analytics Scholarship @ CXL Institute — 4th Week Review

Mohammad Sammak
9 min readDec 14, 2020

This week should be exciting for me, cause it is all about google analytics and it is taught by a guy who I actually love! Chris Mercer teaches google analytics and google tag manager like no one and the intermediate part of his teaching should have a lot of practical stuff to learn. Let’s dive in and see what he has prepared for us.

4- Intermediate Google Analytics by Chris Mercer

  • The session of this class was about checking if the user has the basic level of knowledge about google analytics. This was about telling the learner that no basic knowledge will be shared here. It is only about intermediate things.
  • Chris talked about cleansing data in google analytics and he started this by talking about spam traffic. He used filters on source and hostname to remove unwanted traffic. He stressed this out that the traffic shouldn’t be blindly filtered and there is no one size fits all approach in here. You need to customize these filters based on your specific situation.
  • He also talked about setting a password on the link and making it only available to the ones who have it. But he said it is rather complex to set up and referred to an intermediate tag manager course for learning this method.
  • The next thing was about removing the traffic that comes from your internal team. This traffic might not affect your data if you have a big website with lots of traffic. But if you have a small website, you need to distinguish these two types of traffic.
  • You can use a chrome extension that excludes you and your team members. But it is not scalable if you have a big team.
  • There are other ways to exclude internal traffic that almost all of them use filters to do this. You can filter the traffic based on city, country and IP address if you know that they are fixed and don’t harm genuine users’ data.
  • Chris talked about a way that he was used to set a custom dimension for internal test traffic. He continued that using google tag manager, he has set up a way that test traffic automatically gets excluded, even if the team members are unaware of being excluded. By doing this, you can be a hundred percent sure that your data is always clean.
  • One other thing that Mercer talked about and really touched me was about setting up backup ways to remove internal hits. He had managed to do a series of steps that each one was in place in case the previous one didn’t work properly. genius m huh? He is actually a measurement genius.
  • Wow! That was a big lesson about cross-domain tracking. Chris Mercer talked about this important topic in detail and elaborated on it very carefully. He said that this whole cross-domain tracking is about Client ID and if you want it to work properly, you need to look out for CID to not change.
  • For implementing cross-domain tracking, you have to add the second or the third domain in the referral exclusion list and then, use a method to tell google analytics that these domains shouldn’t be given credit when a user comes from them.
  • There is a thing called “decorating the link” which basically attaches the client id to the end of the link and by doing this, tells google analytics that this is basically the same person. How great is this?
  • You might want to work with a developer for setting up cross-domain tracking or learn the basics of google tag manager and do it in simple steps on your own. Yeah, it is doable like that!
  • Then Chris talked about the differences between Goal Flow report and Funnel Visualization report. These reports are kinda complementary to each other.
  • There are some differences between them. First is that the Goal Flow report can show you data for before and after the time you set the goals. It can also give you the option to segment the data based on different things.
  • But Funnel Visualization is only for looking at the steps your users are taking. This report is very easy to understand, but is also rather limited and only collects data from the moment you set them up. Setting it up needs setting a destination goal that has funnel steps activated.
  • You need to know that funnel steps can also be measured and looked at in a custom report or in the segments’ sequencing section. Chris promised that we’ll get to that part and I’m eager to learn more about segments.
  • One more thing: Mercer said that learning and practicing RegEx is mandatory for being better at digital measurement. I’ve already started practicing it and I’ll make sure to continue learning their use cases.
  • We officially started learning about segments. I just learned that segments in Google analytics can easily be compared to filters. But there is a huge difference between them: filters are permanent and segments are temporary. Once you learn this basic fact, you’ll be ahead of others by far.
  • Segments can easily be applied and removed on any kind of data and it gives you the power of analyzing. We have two kinds of segments: system segments and custom segments.
  • Building custom segments is rather easy if you know exactly what you want. You can temporarily filter your data based on any dimension that you desire. But if you see that your targeted dimension or metric isn’t available, go straight to the conditions part. You’ll most certainly find what you want there.
  • One great thing about segments is the existence of “sequencing” there. You can set up something like funnel steps in the segments and check what percentage of your users take that specific path. How cool is that? I personally didn’t know that there is something this cool there. I’ll be sure to check them out and use’m in the future.
  • The next thing Chris Mercer talked about in this course was about Custom Reports. I believe that if you have access to google data studio, then you can simply make any reports that you want. But for the sake of learning every part of GA, you need to know that custom reports are there.
  • You can have any kind of reports in Google Analytics using the power of custom reports. They are very easy to set up, but you need to know the difference between dimensions and metric in order to be able to work with them.
  • Custom reports can be managed using tabs, and in each tab you can have separate data. It is very useful when you have a large sample of data.
  • Google Analytics has a dashboard builder that I haven’t seen for so long and I can’t believe that. It is good to know that there is a built-in tool there which lets you customize the data you want to show to others. But at every step, Google itself reminds you of a better tool called Data Studio. GDS (which is the acronym) is specifically designed to do the same job in a much better way and good news is that it is completely free.
  • The main difference between GA dashboards and GDS dashboards is the flexibility. In GA there are some blocks that your data can be populated into them. But GDS gives you the freedom to place whatever data wherever you want. Besides, you are not limited to just GA data. You can visualize any kind of data using google data studio. I personally would rather use GDS and have never used internal GA dashboards, like ever.
  • It really surprised me to see there are great simple features in google analytics that I needed and didn’t know they were there for me. For example, I looked at some customized reports repetitively on a daily basis and have done this for so long. I didn’t know how to preserve the changes and hence, kept the tab open forever! You know why? Because I didn’t know that reports can be saved and accessed later very easily. What a fool I was!
  • And I didn’t know how to use alerts either. They are very practical and come handy in a real business. You need to know when your organic traffic drops or when your cart system malfunctions. Custom alerts send you emails and SMS in such situations. Isn’t that great? Don’t you think so?
  • Do you know about channel grouping in google analytics? There are two types of channel grouping in GA, one of which is default and the other one is custom. Each one of these have their own menu and are different in essence.
  • The one that is in the default channel grouping is at the view level, meaning everybody who has access to the view can see what you have defined. The other thing about them is the fact that they don’t go back retrospectively. What does it mean? It means that you can only filter your data from the moment you define them.
  • The other type of channel grouping is the Custom Channel Grouping. In this one, you are the only one who has access to the filtered data and it is available at the user level. The other benefit of it is that it affects previous data as well.
  • Channel grouping can be looked at like a bucket. For example you have different sources like facebook, twitter and linkedin, but they fall into a bigger bucket like Social. This is the idea behind channel grouping.
  • Multi-Channel Funnels or MCF is the strange part of Google Analytics. It is somehow different from the core of GA and seems to belong to another product. It looks at the data as it is without attributing traffic to other sources.
  • When you are in multi channel reports, you see something called assisted conversions. They are simply indicating that the channel didn’t convert any traffic by itself, but instead assisted other traffic sources to convert the customer. This is great in my opinion. In the same report, you can also find the same traffic source’s role in direct conversion and compare assisted conversion with it.
  • The other thing that you have in the multi channel reports is Top Conversion Path. It shows you the journey your users have taken for the path of conversion. Look at it to find some repetitive patterns. Do you see any?
  • Attribution is another beast that is in Google Analytics waiting for you to tame them. In attribution, you can find out about the channel or source or medium that takes the credit for the conversion. We have different attribution models including first-touch, last-touch, linear, time decay, etc.
  • You can compare your data by using different attribution models to find out if your assumption or projections are correct. It is really great to know that you can also create your personalized attribution model to measure the data against it.
  • I have always avoided using google analytics in google sheets and it seems that I can’t avoid it anymore. Because Chris ordered me to learn how to use it and I can’t not listen to him.
  • He used a simple addon in google spreadsheets and simply connected google sheets to google analytics. But I think it wasn’t that intuitive and there are better ways to do the same job. Any ways, he said that it is necessary to learn doing all the calculations in Google sheets and then use Google data studio only for the visualization part. He says that the data studio isn’t that fast in calculations and he is right.
  • And another surprise from Mercer is Measurement Protocol. Believe me or not, I didn’t know about this at all. I didn’t know we have such a thing in google analytics and thanks to Chris, now I know about it.
  • Measurement Protocol comes into play when you need to measure recurring bills or adding offline transactions data to your Google analytics account. Chris said it is really hard to set up and you need help from a developer. But you need to know that it is a real thing and is a pro one.
  • Google itself has something called hit builder which is specifically designed for this purpose.
  • In the end, Chris talked about small tips that can make anybody better at working with google analytics. For example he talked about using annotations, scheduled reports and other stuff in the view section of the admin panel. I believe it was a great course and I will need to watch it again in the future.
  • Thank you for being with me, Bye for now.



Mohammad Sammak

A marketer who tries to act based on data and never stops learning.