Author Archives: Admin Person






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, 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


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:

and here:

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.


How NOT to use campaign tags: links on your site

Campaign tagging is the key to using Google Analytics properly. Done the wrong way, however, it can make your Google Analytics data useless.

Campaign tagging – adding some Google Analytics-specific information to the links you send out – is a very powerful technique. If you’re not using it for measuring the impact of your online marketing, start right away.

Some people use campaign tagging to track clicks on links on their own website, like “Donate” or “Buy Now” buttons, promotional banners in sidebars of pages or images in a slideshow.

This technique trashes their Google Analytics data and makes it next to useless for monitoring online marketing.

Here’s why.

How campaign tagging works

Campaign tagging works by adding a bit of information to each link in the HTML code that tells Google Analytics things like where the link was clicked (utm_source) how the link was distributed (utm_medium) which marketing effort the link was part of (utm_campaign) and other details. Here’s a cheat sheet if this is all new to you.

Here’s a link to your donation page that might appear in your email newsletter. I have included the HTML with campaign tags, below it.

Campaign taggiing or adding UTM values to your links helps you track your email results in Google Analytics.


Adding the  information in bold to the links in your email newsletter  helps Google Analytics  record when someone visits your website from that email message.  Combine this with conversion tracking and you will be using Google Analytics like a pro.

Campaign tagging is great, I am a big fan, and you can be too.

Campaign tags on our own website ruin Google Analytics

The problem starts when we get too “smart” in our use of campaign tags, and try to use them to track user behaviour on our website.

Two things happen when we put campaign tags on internal links – for example our “Donate” button – on our own website:

1. we inflate the number of visits our website gets by counting a single visit as two visits (this is bad, but not a disaster) and

2. we have no idea where our website visitors who convert have come from (a disaster)

An example of campaign tagging gone wrong

To illustrate what happens, let’s look at an example.

We send an email (with the tagging in the illustration above) to our email list. When a subscriber  clicks on a link in the email, Google Analytics knows how they got to our website – which email list and message sent them to the site.

This is great.

The page they land on on our website has a donate button on it.

Hoping to track clicks on that donate button, someone has added campaign tags to that button on our website.  Here’s the HTML of that donate button that has campaign tags added:

Don't do this: buttons and links on your website should NOT have campaign tags (utm values) added to them!

Campaign tagging helped us identify traffic from our email list, now it’s going to help us identify who clicked on the donate button, which is great, right? Wrong.

Don’t do this – it’s a Google Analytics “worst practice”

When someone clicks on that “Donate” button and travels to our donation page, Google Analytics resets their visit information: it ends one visit and starts another one.

So one visit is recorded to the landing page. Once that ‘tagged’ button is clicked, that visit ends and an entirely new visit is recorded on the donation page.

Two visits are recorded, when in reality it’s  one person moving between pages on our site. We’re overcounting visits. This is bad, but it gets worse.

We can see, in Google Analytics, that the “first” visit to the landing page came from someone clicking on our email message. The only information we have about the “second” visit – the one to the donation page – is that it came from a click on that donate button.

So every visit to that landing page that clicks through to donate is recorded as originating from that button click.  We’ve lost the main advantage of Google Analytics tracking: understanding what we did to get people to our site in order to convert.

What our data looks like when campaign tagging  is not used properly

Here’s  what our Google Analytics data looks like  “before” and “after” we tagged internal links with campaign tagging.

The most important report in Google Analytics  (Conversions > Ecommerce > Overview > Top revenue sources by Source / Medium) is shown below with  the proper use of  campaign tagging. Click on the image to see a larger version.

Google Analytics ecommerce report with proper campaign tagging - great.

We can see how much each marketing method brought in for the period in question – email brings in the most donations, with organic search and social media bringing in a few more donors.  We see a healthy mix of sources of donations, and notice that email is a pretty big source of revenue for us. Understanding what we did to bring in revenue  is one of the main reasons to use Google Analytics.

Now see what happens when we use campaign tagging on our “Donate” button.

This is the same report (Conversions > Ecommerce > Overview > Top revenue sources by Source / Medium) when the “Donate” button has had campaign tags (aka UTM values) added to it.Report showing sources of revenue in Google Analtyics Conversions > Ecommerce > Source / MediumWe can see that most people who end up donating have clicked on our  “Donate” button (surprise!). We don’t know what page  that button was clicked. We don’t know what brought them to the website before they clicked  on that button. We just know that at some point they clicked on a “Donate” button on our website.

To be honest, I could tell you that without using Google Analytics, and save everyone lots of time! I have seen this method  used on websites  far too often –  that’s why I wrote this post, to discourage this “worst practice”.

How do  you track link clicks on your website properly?

I will cover that in my next post, but as a preview, I would suggest using Event tracking in most cases, or Custom Dimensions in a few specific cases.


Google Analytics for Website Redesign

I am running a workshop next week called Website Redesign with Google Analytics

In the two hour workshop, we’ll quickly review the key elements of these Google Analytics tutorials  before applying them to the website redesign process.

What You Will Learn

From the registration page :

During the two hour workshop we will cover

  • A brief introduction to Google Analytics, and why it’s particularly helpful with planning a website redesign
  • Avoiding the most common and costly mistakes of redesigning your site (solving the baby/bathwater problem)
  • Identifying your top content, your biggest opportunities to get more visitors and what’s working and what’s not on your current website
  • Dashboards that will help your site redesign go smoothly
  • Do you really need to redesign your site, or can you just refresh it?

While this workshop is most useful to people already using Google Analytics on their website, you don’t need to have any previous experience with the tool.

Online Version

A few people have asked me if this workshop will be offered online in the future. I have not committed to that yet, but if that sounds interesting to you, please let me know!

new mode test