Cunning Google Analytics Tactics to Supercharge Your Social Media Analysis

Your website is the heart of your business’ online presence and social media is too. Google Analytics is the perfect tool to measure the success of their relationship and to gain an insight in to how they’re operating together.

Google Analytics, a weapon in every seasoned marketer’s arsenal, provides in-depth data to understand where website visitors are coming from and to help you recognise the behaviour of those visitors. When you know the techniques and processes to analyse this data, you’ll have the facts and statistics to effectively prove the ROI of social media marketing for your business.

This guide of tried and tested tactics will help you to get the most out of Google Analytics for comprehensive social media analysis which goes beyond just vanity metrics.

STEP 1: Create social media objectives and goals for your website

Before you can begin tracking your social media efforts in Google Analytics, you need to create solid social media objectives and goals.

These objectives and goals should be part of your overall social media marketing strategy and should be aligned with your broader marketing and business plan.

If your objective is to use social media to increase website traffic, then create S.M.A.R.T. goals that will help you achieve that objective.


To increase website traffic by 20% in Q3, 150 Tweets a month will be dedicated to driving traffic to the website.

These objectives can form the basis of your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and should be reflected upon during the reporting process. You can look back at your objectives and gauge whether you are on track or whether tactics need to be adapted so you can meet your targets. I find a traffic light system works well here and is a good way to visualise key priorities for the month ahead.
STEP 2: Measuring Social Media Traffic

Now you have your goals set in place and your social media activity is in full swing to meet these targets, now’s a great time to track how much social media contributes to your website’s overall visits.

Where to find this report:
Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels


This reports shows you a high-level overview of traffic sources to your website:

  • Organic search (people clicking through from Google)
  • Social (All social media platforms)
  • Direct (people typing your site in their browser or using bookmarks)
  • Referral (people clicking links from other sites to get to you)
  • Email
  • Paid search
  • Other

For the pixel8 website, we can see that 5% of our traffic arrives from social media platforms, which accounts for just over 2,000 visits every month. This immediately puts a value on social media marketing showing that it is in the top 3 channels for attracting visitors to the website.

Under the Acquisition > All Traffic category, you can click to view the Source/Medium, which will show you a granular break down of the search, social, and referral traffic.



For a quick insight into your mobile vs. desktop traffic, look at how each social network URL is abbreviated. Twitter on mobile is represented by, and desktop is Facebook on mobile is represented by, and desktop is

Furthermore, to see the mobile vs. desktop traffic breakdown, you can add a Secondary Dimension to any view (by clicking the Secondary Dimension button at the top of any table). Type in “Mobile” and select “Mobile (Including Tablet).”



This helps you understand where your audience are coming from and how they absorb information from your website. It may even help you to understand how your website’s design and usability is influencing your visitors

STEP 3: Understanding Social Analytics Reports

There are 8 Social Analytics reports available in Google Analytics that can help you to measure your S.M.A.R.T objectives:

  • Overview
  • Network Referrals
  • Data Hub Activity
  • Landing Pages
  • Trackbacks
  • Conversions
  • Plugins
  • Users Flow

Where to find these reports:
Acquisition > Social

Here is a brief description of the information you will find within these reports.
1) Overview report

Acquisition > Social > Overview

This report allows you to see a glance into how much conversion value is generated from social channels. The social value graph compares the number and financial volume of all goal completions versus those that are from social referrals.

2) Network referrals

Acquisition > Social > Network Referrals

See your most valuable social networks, plus the up-and-comers! This report will provide you with engagement metrics for traffic from each social network. It will show you which social networks referred the highest quality traffic.


You can see here that Twitter is the most valuable social referral for the pixel8 website, accounting for a total 1,021 visitors last month.

You can view the data in a pie chart to see how the networks break down as an overall percentage of social traffic to your site. For instance, Twitter accounted for 46% of social traffic to the pixel8 website. Twitter and Facebook combined accounted for 80% of social media traffic.


If you click on the individual network name in this report, you can see a breakdown of all the links that have been shared on that network. Here is a breakdown of links which encouraged Twitter users to visit the pixel8 website:



It is essential that you refer to this when forming your content strategy. The more you understand what your audience wants, the richer the results you will see. You can also find information across all social channels in the Landing Pages section.

3) Data Hub Activity

Acquisition > Social > Data Hub Activity

The Data Hub Activity report shows you how people are talking about and engaging with your website content on social networks. You’ll be able to see the most recent URLs people shared, how they shared it, and what they said.

4) Landing pages

Acquisition > Social > Landing Pages

This report tells you which web pages receive the most social shares across all social media channels. This year, pixel8’s most-shared content was our eBook: 25 Best Social Media Practices which received 208 Page Views from our social audience


5) Trackbacks

Acquisition > Social > Trackbacks

In this report you’ll be able to find which sites are linking to your website content, and in what context. You can use this data to replicate successful content and build relationships with those who frequently link to your site.

6) Conversions

Acquisition > Social > Conversions

This report is the place where you can really quantify the value of social media for your business. The Conversions report will show the total number of conversions and the financial value of conversions that occurred as a result of referrals from each network. Please Note: You must set up Goals in order for this report to be populated with data. More on this later!

7) Plugins

Acquisition > Social > Plugins

If you have social share buttons on your site, it’s important to understand which buttons are being clicked on and for which content. This report provides you with an insight into which articles and pages are most frequently shared via social networks.

8) Users flow

Acquisition > Social > Users Flow

The Users Flow reports shows the initial paths that users from social networks took through your site. If you run product campaigns, for example, you see whether users visited the landing page in isolation or continued to other parts of the website too.


STEP 4: How to Set up Goals

Google Analytics Goals are essential for tracking the true effectiveness of social media for your business and goes far beyond Pageviews and Visits.

Until you set up goals, there are a lot of records missing from Google Analytics. Goals are necessary to see your Conversion reports, which show you the successful outcomes (leads, subscribers, sales) from visits to your website.

Before you can see how social media leads to actual conversions, you need to setup Google Analytics to track goals. These metrics can include anything from mailing list signups, contact form submissions, and shopping cart transactions for ecommerce websites.

The easiest goals set up type is by URL destination – where Google Analytics picks up on a goal that has been completed when a visitor lands on a particular page on your website.

For example, you would set up the ‘thank you’ page for a form submission or the final order confirmation page for a product purchase as a URL destination.

The great news is that goals take under a minute to set up, follow these simple steps by Google Analytics for goal creating success.

At the end of the setup, you have a chance to verify the goal to see if all is in working order. If all’s good, then you’ll be able to start seeing your traffic in relation to the goals you’ve set up, which can be hugely helpful in identifying which channels and paths are most valuable for what you’re hoping to achieve with your website.

You will be able to answer questions such as the following:

  • Are visitors from Facebook more likely to complete a contact form?
  • Do visitors from Pinterest tend to sign up to the newsletter?
  • Are visitors from Twitter more likely to download eBook material?

These insights will tell you which social networks deserve your time and energy and will help you identify leads which convert to customers via social media.

STEP 5: Free Social Media Report Dashboards

There are pre-build dashboards out there that are a timesaving dream for marketers. I only discovered these recently and they are now integral to my monthly client reports.

I would highly recommend trying Justin Cutroni’s Social Media Dashboard which includes real-time visitors to your website from social channels, top landing pages for social traffic, and campaign results.

To browse and add these pre-designed dashboards, visit the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery and find once which works for you.

How to apply a Dashboard to your Google Analytics:

1. From the Dashboard section in your Analytics reports, click +New Dashboard, then Import from Gallery
2. Browse the gallery and pick any dashboard you like
3. Click Import

Now you can view the report within your own Google Analytics account and customise as you see fit in line with your S.M.A.R.T targets:


STEP 6: Email Dashboards

Even the best data is useless if you never see it. Fortunately, Google Analytics makes it easy to keep those reports in front of you by delivering them directly to your inbox, daily, weekly or monthly.

It just takes a minute and involves a few steps.

1. While viewing the dashboard, click Email.
2. Enter your email address, along with the addresses of anyone else that should review the report.
3. Select a frequency for delivery.
4. Enter a message and click Send.


Now the dashboard will automatically be emailed to the address(es) you specified, making the data more visible.


Different dashboards may be relevant to different teams. Here are some ideas for which dashboards to share with whom:

  • Advertising managers – top-of-funnel, acquisitions dashboard
  • Sales managers – bottom-of-the-funnel, conversion dashboard
  • Directors- overview dashboard with high-level reports

STEP 7: Get Reports From Quill Engage

Here’s a shortcut that streamlines both report delivery and analysis. Quill Engage is a free tool that turns your Google Analytics data into paragraphs of text, sent to your inbox weekly. Here is an example or pixel8’s weekly report:


Instead of writing regular traffic summaries and basic analysis for your team, just send along the Quill Engage report. The reports are easy to read and easy to repurpose. They also offer some hard truths. Those who find it difficult to interpret data can read in plain English exactly what areas need looking in to.

Over to You

We all need to find ways to be more efficient with our data. These Google Analytics tactics will give you better access to your data so you can make smart decisions with your analysis.

I hope this 7 step guide to tracking social media in Google Analytics helps gets you started on the right track to proving social media ROI for your business.

Just remember:

  • Track
  • Measure
  • Analyse

So you can constantly improve your business’s online assets.

Which reports do you find yourself checking often?

What have you found most useful with Google Analytics for your social media marketing reporting?

Please, share your thoughts in the comments or chat with me via Twitter @fox_creative_



About the Author

  • Sian Ediss

    Sian Ediss has experience as Head of Social at digital agencies where she is responsible for keeping a wide variety of clients happy with interesting and engaging social media campaigns that not only make them stand out from competitors, but also bring a return on investment. Sian is a creative thinker with a penchant for blogging and illustration and incorporates this into social media strategy wherever possible. Sian and her three man team won ‘Best Social Media 2014’ at the City of Manchester Awards this year and she also speaks at events such as ‘She Says MCR’ as well as running tutorials with the Juice Academy, a great agency which nurtures future social media talent. In her spare time, Sian is an illustrator and you can find her illustrations here


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