These are my best tools, or “add-ons” I use when working with Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager. They focus on helping you get you get on top of and maintaining your data quality. I use all of them regularly (listed in no specific order). Updated Feb-2019.
If you have a recommended tool, please add via a comment. Note I am looking for recommendations from real practitioners – not promo material from vendors…
Let’s start with the fundamentals from Google…
The first three are official from Google and offer reliable, if basic, functionality.
Allows you to verify you have installed tracking tags correctly on your pages (not just GA). Helps you troubleshoot the Google Analytics Tracking Code (GATC), Google Tag Manager (GTM), and Adwords Conversion Tracking. Official from Google.
Inserts analytics_debug.js (or ga_debug.js) for you when you load any page containing a GATC in the Chrome browser. You can then view very useful information in the browser console. Includes error messages and warnings about your tracking code implementation and a detailed breakdown of each tracking beacon/variable sent to Google Analytics. Official from Google.
Overlays GA report data directly over a page loaded in your browser. Includes date range comparison and segmentation tools. Official from Google.
More advanced tools…
These build on the basics and add some really useful bells and whistles. All are indispensable to me…
A Google Analytics audit tool taking a systematic and forensic approach to data quality and governance. Note, this is my own development based on the methods I describe in the book Successful Analytics. Verified Data automates the audit process, acting as an early protection system – finding issues, such as GDPR problems, bad or missing data etc., so you can fix them before they become serious. Launched in 2018, it is now a separate venture with its own dedicated team.
This tool brings a lot of small enhancements together in one place – and it does them really, really well. Making the whole so much greater than the sum of its parts. Developed by a trusted expert – Stephane Hamel.
This is my indispensable Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics debugging tool – particularly for enhanced e-commerce implementations. It works by examining the actual data hit sent to GA, not just the variables Developed by a trusted expert – David Vallejo.
I have used this excellent “data grabber” from day one – almost 10 years – and it keeps getting better. Originally designed in order to pull data from a variety of sources (e.g. GA, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter etc.), into Excel or a Google spreadsheet so that you can calculate and mashup as you wish. Now its also a major force in connecting such data sources directly with Data Studio. Developed by Michael Thuneberg.
Google already has a useful URL web page for building campaigns, but its a little cumbersome to use. This browser extension adds some very nice user friendly features such as: Loading the current web address automatically; Create and manage pre-configured sets of tags i.e. a template campaign url; Choose a template campaign as your default – great for fast editing of multiple landing page urls.
If you are using Google Tag Manager (if not, why not?), this is a very powerful tool. It allows you to inject your own GTM container snippet onto a page. Why do this? So you can build your own complete test environment within GTM and then “deploy” it onto a site via your browser. That is, its a GTM install specific to you. Very powerful for creating/testing a setup before a real deployment. Developed by Chris Berger.
Thanks to my friend and colleague David Vallejo for letting me know about this one.
10. Data Layer Inspectors (Chrome extensions)
There are quite a few of these as browser extensions now though I only list the ones I have personally used. Essentially they allow you to inspect the dataLayer in realtime so you can see what variables are being set and on what events. Think of these as a better user experience than the GTM Preview mode. All are quite similar in functionality:
- dataslayer – by Sean Adams
- Datalayer Checker – this also allows you to inject a GTM container (similar to #9). From sublimetrix
- Data Layer Inspector+ – by Analytics Pros
As simple as the name suggests, straightforward to use and a huge time saver. This completely replaces the use of GTM’s export/import function which is a PITA if you just wish to copy a handful of items. By measureschool.
Regular expressions (regex) are used to match patterns within text. In Google Analytics, regular expressions are used for filtering—for both filtering within a report (table filter) and for creating separate report sets (View filters); For defining advanced segments; For configuring goal conversions and funnel steps. In other words, regular expressions are important!
Going beyond the basics things can rapidly appear complex to the uninitiated – because regular expression resemble algebra. Therefore, before attempting these try my jumpstart regular expression tutorial, then practice with these interactive sites:
These are not really about data quality and are a little more experimental – by that I mean I do not use these every day, but I have experimented with them and I am happy to recommend others to do so.
A good visualisation allows you to spot data quality issues. Table Booster turbo charges the stale data grid of Google Analytics with some very useful visualisation aides. Developed by e-dialog.
An innovative approach data science without coding, by using a visual interface for R. Enterprise stuff indeed, but comes with a free trial. For experienced data users. Presented at Superweek 2019.
Even more apps…
Google Analytics maintains an App Gallery of third-party-developed add-ons that extend Google Analytics functionality.
If you have a recommended tool, please add via a comment. Note I am looking for recommendations from real practitioners – not promo material from vendors… 🙂