Not to be cliché, but setting up Google Analytics really is like building a house. There are certain foundational elements that you must have in place to avoid the whole thing crashing into an overwhelming, disorderly mess. In this video and post, we identify the three cornerstones needed to build a strong Google Analytics account and set your marketing team up for tracking and reporting success. They are:

1) Google UTM Codes

2) Conversion Tracking

3) Custom Channels

These are basic elements that you can set up on your own, so sign into your Google Analytics account and let’s begin!

1) Google UTM Codes (0:32)

Google UTM Codes are a string of parameters added to any URL that tell Google Analytics how to track that URL. By using UTMs, you are precisely telling Google Analytics how to organize your data so you can easily see and compare the effectiveness of online marketing campaigns. UTM codes allow you to:

  • TRACK digital marketing efforts across ALL channels
  • QUICKLY CHECK channel performance
  • COMPARE traffic sources

Parameters are “placeholders” that allow you to track any information about how a URL is consumed. There are five parameters you can use with Google UTMs, but most home builders use the three required ones, which provide more than enough information.

Required parameters:

  • Campaign Source (utm_source): Where traffic is coming from –  Facebook, Google, Newsletter, etc.
  • Campaign Name (utm_campaign): Name of the campaign – for home builders, we recommend either the community name, submarket/broad market name, or move-in ready homes.
  • Campaign Medium (utm_medium): Type of traffic – email, cpc, facebook, cpm, etc.

Optional parameters:

  • Campaign Term (utm_term): Identify paid search keywords – yypically only used for Google AdWords traffic.
  • Campaign Content (utm_content): Can be used for advanced marketer testing different ads within the same campaign and source.

Here’s what a Google UTM URL should look like:

google analytics for home builders UTM codes

 

How to Set Up Google UTM Codes, Step-By-Step

Step 1: In a worksheet, create a list of sources where you advertise online such as Facebook, Zillow or Instagram. Then create a list of advertising products available from these sources. For Facebook this could be “Paid-Social” or “Organic-Social.” For Zillow or other syndication sites this would be the name of the product you are buying from them.

Step 2: Decide on the naming convention you will use for the different campaigns, sources and mediums. You should try to limit these to keep it simple and manageable. Best practice is to use an organized naming convention that will help you communicate easily the digital marketing efforts.

Step 3: Create and update ALL of your URLs. This last step can be time-consuming. We find that it is best to update the URLs when you would naturally update your ads. For example, if you refresh your Facebook ads every eight weeks, update your URLS when you update your ads. To create UTM Codes, you can use Google’s Campaign URL Builder.

 

How to Access Your New Data in Google Analytics

This is the reason we create UTM codes – new data! Here’s how to access it:

  1. Log into your Google Analytics Account
  2. Click Acquisition then Campaigns. A submenu will open up; click All Campaigns.
  3. Add the Secondary Dimension of Source

You should now have data like the screenshot below:

You now have all your advertising channels in one report in Google Analytics. Enjoy!

2) Conversion Tracking (also called Goals) (11:29)

Conversion tracking allows you to:

  • TRACK the success of your digital advertising
  • DETERMINE your cost per lead
  • SIMPLIFY reporting & analysis

What is a conversion? A conversion simply an action you want to track on your website that a user takes. Most often this is a form submission or a phone call. Other times, a conversion can be the session duration or number of pages viewed during a session by a user – though we do not recommended tracking those actions as a conversion.

Setting up Conversion Tracking

The two most common methods to setup conversion tracking is by either tracking an event or the destination URL. 

1) Event

You can use an event as the “flag” to Google Analytics that an action on the website occurred that you want to track. You’ll first need your web developer to add a “Google Analytics Event” to your form. Most web development companies can easily take care of this for you. If you are familiar with Google Tag Manager, you can also create events on your own.

2) Destination URL

The second way to set up conversion tracking is to use a destination URL as the “flag” that an action occurred that you’re wanting to track. This is mostly commonly a thank you page after a form is submitted. google analytics for home builders - conversion tracking

Which Conversions Should I Track?

We like to keep things simple – only track goals that correlate directly with a lead being generated. For most builders this will be phone calls and form submissions. If you have conversion tracking setup properly, over time the number of leads that Google Analytics shows should be close to the number of website leads in your CRM.

3) Custom Channels (21:51)

If we told you there is a single place where you can pull reports on ALL your digital marketing efforts, including Google, Facebook, syndication, email – and that you ALREADY have access to it – would you believe us? Well, it’s true. It’s called Google Analytics Channel Groupings – and all you have to do is customize it to meet your reporting needs. Channel Groupings allow you to:

  • TRACK digital marketing efforts across ALL channels
  • QUICKLY CHECK channel performance
  • COMPARE traffic sources

What are Google Analytics Channels?

Think of channels as folders where you can put multiple traffic sources into and summarize the results. The default channels do a good job of providing a starting point for most businesses, but these need to be customized to fit standard home builder marketing strategies. Here is how Default Channel Groupings look in Google Analytics:

google analytics for home builders - custom channels

For home builders, we’ll want to add folders for syndication sites, paid social ads such as Facebook, and remarketing. Here’s what Custom Channel Groups for home builders look like when completely set up.

 

How to Set Up Custom Channels, Step-by-Step

To set up a brand new channel:

  1. Log into Google Analytics. From the left-side menu, click on Admin
  2. On the right side of the screen under View, click Channel Settings, then Channel Grouping, then Default Channel Grouping.
  3. To create a new channel, click Define a New Channel, name the channel, then define the rules. Rules are defined by things like source or medium, which are pulled from your already-created Google UTM codes. For example, for a “Paid Social” channel, you’ll want to select all the campaign mediums that contain “paid-social.”
  4. Click Done and Save.

With these three cornerstones of Google Analytics established, you’ll be confident in your ability to track, measure and analyze all your digital marketing efforts in one, easily accessed location.

Have a question? Head over to our Market Proof Marketing Facebook group and ask away!

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