• Google Analytics 4 is coming

    Tired wired inspired - GA 4 is here, Universal analytics is going away July 2023

    Google Universal Analytics is being replaced by an entirely new technology, Google Analytics 4. Some things don’t change: Google Analytics is still based on putting tracking codes on your website (and in your mobile app) and adjusting those codes to track user behaviours.

    Almost everything else about Google Analytics 4 is new. Join me for three free webinars in June to find out what to do next. Sign up for “Google Analytics 4 Progressives” here.

  • How to set up Google Search Console

    Google Search Console is the best single source of information on how to improve your performance in Google search (and other search engines) It’s a free tool offered by Google, available to anyone with a gmail address and a website. Creating your account is the first step in learning how to get more website visitors from search engines.

    To gain access to the account for your website, you need to prove to Google that you control your website. This requires a bit of technical knowledge: either the ability to edit a DNS entry for your website, or the ability to add or edit HTML files on your website. If those tasks are a complete mystery, share this post with the technical person who helps you manager your site. The entire process should take about 15-20 minutes to complete.

  • Learn Google Analytics the Hard Way – Session 4 – Reporting


    The password to view the video is : GAtheHardWaySession4

  • Learn Google Analytics the Hard Way – Session 3 – Campaign Tagging

    Conversion Tracking

    The password to view the video is : GATHWSession3

  • Learn Google Analytics the Hard Way – Session 2 – Conversion Tracking

    Conversion Tracking

    The password to view the video is : GAtheHardWay2

  • Google Tag Manager – Google Analytics for Progressives

    The password to view the video is : G4PTechSession1a

  • Session 1 of Learn Google Analytics the Hard Way

    The password to view the video is : GATHWsession1

  • How to Use Google Analytics with Blackbaud Luminate – 3 Free Webinars

    3 Free Webinars - Using Google Analytics and Blackbaud Luminate

    Three free webinars on how to make the most of Google Analytics and Blackbaud Luminate. A follow up to my 2018 Blackbaud Conference session.

    Earlier this month I presented a session at the 2018 Blackbaud Conference (BBCon) in Orlando. The session looked at how use Google Analytics to measure and optimize the performance of your Blackbaud Luminate site, and I co-presented with Brenna Holmes.

    The conference was a series of firsts for me. It was my first time in Florida. It was the first time my plane had to fly around a hurricane to get home. And it was the first time I realized I had to do a follow up session once I got home from a conference.

    There was a lot to cover in our hour long session, where we showed people how Google Analytics could help them raise more money and engage more followers online. From the questions after the session, I realized that people would benefit from a follow up session that got into the details of exactly how to make the most of Google Analytics for their Luminate site. So here are those follow up sessions.

    Sign up here:  Using Google Analytics with Blackbaud Luminate ‘“ Three Free Webinars

    Wednesdays November 7,14 and 21st. 1pm Eastern, 10am Pacific.


  • What does “Review your data retention settings before they take effect…” mean?

    As a Google Analytics user, you likely received a cryptic email from Google with the subject line “[Important Reminder] Review your data retention settings before they take effect on May 25, 2018

    It is a slightly confusing email that has no clear follow up actions. Don’t worry, here’s what to do in three quick steps:

    Step 1. Log in to Google Analytics Admin section

    Log in with your Google Analytics password at analytics.google.com, choose your account and click on the orange “gear” icon at the bottom left hand side of the page.Admin button in Google Analytics

    Step 2. Click on Property Settings > Tracking Info > Data Retention

    This is in the middle column of the admin page.

    Google Analytics admin view: Property Settings srcset= Tracking Info > Data Retention” width=”271″ height=”381″>

    Step 3. Set “User and event data retention:” to 38 months and confirm that “Reset on new activity” is ON and click to Save.

    View of admin setting in Google Analytics User and Event Data Retention

    Step 4 [Optional] Understand what you did (and didn’t) just do

    – Your data won’t be deleted after 38 months, only a small subset of your data that could be used to identify individual users will be affected.   Standard reports in Google Analytics will not be affected, while some advanced segments and custom reports will see gaps in data older than 38 months.

    – Setting the “Reset on new activity” to “On” means that every time someone revisits the site their data is stored another 38 months – you will only lose data on people who haven’t visited your website in more than 3 years.

    –  This change is connected to new regulations on data collection from Europe coming into effect on May 25th, 2018, called the General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR for short.

    Further reading

    Here’s a great plain-language post “New Data Retention Policies in Google Analytics” from Krista Seiden’s blog.

  • Google Analytics and GDPR – Four steps to comply

    New rules on collecting personal information are coming into effect. As a user of Google Analytics, here’s how to prepare for GDPR.

    DISCLAIMER: I am not a lawyer, this post is focused on Google Analytics and GDPR, and this advice should not be taken as a complete set of instructions on how to comply with the  General Data Protection Regulation.

    Long post: Skip to what you want below

    1. What is GDPR?
    2. Google Analytics doesn’t collect personal information – why is GDPR an issue?
    3. Four steps to make sure you comply with GDPR
      1. Confirm you are not collecting personal information
      2:   Check if you are using ‘Advertising Features’ in Google Analytics
      3: Change how Google Analytics tracks IP addresses
      4: Meet with your organizations Data Protection Officer and lawyers

    WTH is GDPR?

    The General Data Protection Regulation is a new set of rules around the collection and storage of personal information  – names, email addresses, payment information – of European citizens. It comes into effect on May 25, 2018.   If your organization is communicating with supporters in Europe, it’s likely that someone is already working on compliance in your organization.
    Here’s   a good introduction to GDPR for charities from The Guardian

    Google Analytics doesn’t collect personal information – why is GDPR an issue for Google Analytics admins?

    Google Analytic’s terms of service prohibits you from collecting personal information – emails, names, zip codes, – in Google Analytics.   You can collect them from forms on your website, just make sure none of that information makes it’s way into your Google Analytics account.

    If the law regulates the collection of personal information, and Google Analytics doesn’t collect personal information, why do you need to do anything to comply with GDPR?

    The new regulations define “personal information” to include cookies and other information like IP addresses, user and transaction IDs when they can be used in conjunction with other information to identify a user.

    This is referred to as “pseudonymous information” Here’s an example: used alone, I can’t tell from your Google Analytics Client ID that your name is Willem and you live at 646 Hooiblokstraat in the Netherlands.

    But if you fill in a form that sends that information to a database at certain date and time, I can technically cross reference that personal information with the Audience > User Explorer  report in Google Analytics and  find out how you, Willem, have browsed our website in the past.   Google Analytics is not collecting information I can trace to you, Willem, but it can be used in conjunction with other data to build a profile of you.  Voorzichtigheid, of course.

    Four steps to make sure you comply with GDPR

    Step 1:   Confirm you are not inadvertently collecting personal information in Google Analytics

    Collecting any personally identifiable information in Google Analytics is against the terms of service, and Google Analytics can shut your account if you break this agreement.   That said, your technical platform may be sending personal information to Google Analytics without you knowing it.

    This most often happens when users submit their information in a form – for example when subscribing to an email list.   The email is included in the URL or title of the confirmation page, and Google Analytics stores it in the Page dimension.

    Here’s a quick check to see if you are doing this: In Google Analytics go to Behavior > Site Content and in the search field enter the @ symbol. If you are recording email addresses in URLs and passing them to Google Analytics, you will see them here.

    Screenshot of Google Analytics Behavior > Site Content > search for @ symbol and resulting email addresses that shouldn't be in GA


    To fix this particular instance, we stopped Google Analytics from recording the “Email” parameter in page URLs by clicking on the Google Analytics Admin  (“gear” icon) > View Settings > Exclude URL Query Parameters and entered Email

    Fix for Personally Identifiable Information in Google Analytics email

    This is the most common way that personal information gets into your Google Analytics account – I see it all the time with particular platforms that are set up to include email addresses in URLs.

    Other possibilities for coll are when a Custom Dimension is set with personal information – though this wouldn’t be by accident, a developer would have intentionally set up that form functionality.

    My sense is that inadvertent storage of personal information in Google Analytics something that Google is going to be much more vigilant about, and start enforcing more proactively.

    Step 2:   Check if you are using ‘Advertising Features’ or “User ID” in Google Analytics

    The cookies used by Google Analytics to create Adwords remarketing lists and demographic reports are referred to as ‘Advertising Features’, and are considered personal data by the new regulations.

    If you are NOT using these features, you can simply disable them from Admin > Property Settings > Tracking Info > Data Collection.

    How to switch off Advertising Features in Google Analytics if you're not using them.

    If you are using Adwords remarketing campaigns, demographics reports or other ‘Advertising Features’ and want to continue to use these features, go to step 4 below.

    Step 3: Change how Google Analytics tracks IP addresses

    Internet Protocol addresses may be considered ‘personal information’ by the new regulations, and Google Analytics can be set to ‘anonymize’ this information.   A change to the Google Analytics tracking code is required, see two options below.   Note that this change will slightly affect the accuracy of the geographical information collected in Google Analytics.

    If you are using Google Tag Manager, set the ‘Anonymize IP’ option in your Google Analytics Settings variable as shown.

    How to switch your Google Analytic tracking code to Anonymize IP in Google Tag Manager

    If your Google Analytics tracking code is included in the code of your site, add the following line to the Google Analytics tracking code:   ga(‘set’, ‘anonymizeIp’, true);

    More instructions are here: https://developers.google.com/analytics/devguides/collection/analyticsjs/field-reference#anonymizeIp

    and here: https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/2763052?hl=en

    Step 4: Meet with your organizations Data Protection Officer and lawyers

    If your organization is collecting personal information online from an international audience, your organization should already be preparing for GDPR compliance.   People in your org have been hard at work cataloguing the information they collect, who stores it and why, and updating privacy and opt-in policies.

    If you are using Google Analytics ‘Advertising Features’ such as Adwords remarketing, make sure that the group preparing for these regulations knows that Google is collecting some information that will be regulated under the GDPR.  

    Your organization will need to get informed consent from European users, letting users know in detail what information is being collected, what it will be used for and how long it will be retained. They must actively opt-in for you to track them with “Advertising Features” in Google Analytics. You will also need to be able to delete their data upon request. Google has assured us that they will have this ‘data deletion’ functionality in place in time for GDPR Day, May 25th 2018.

    If your organization collects emails and other personal data from European supporters and don’t have anyone working on GDPR compliance, tell senior management that the regulations go into effect on May 25th and it would be wise to be prepared. My advice: don’t volunteer to lead this project, pick another hill.



Free online course on making the most of Google Analytics – sent to your email inbox.


Join these webinars for in-depth explorations of digital analytics techniques and data habits.


Get an analytics site audit to find out how your site is doing and how to improve your online measurement.