Google Analytics: How to Use Real Time Reports Effectively

Great for Immediate Results & Quality Checks: Since data can take up to 24-48 hours to populate Google Analytics’ historical reports, Real Time reports are handy for immediate testing. As the data updates live by the minute, you can review the amount of traffic and how it’s being categorized for Google Analytics report immediately.

Top 3 Benefits of Using Real-Time Reports

1. Monitor Live Campaigns

Campaign launches are crucial to the success of entire campaigns. Real-time reports allow for teams to be proactive in ensuring a smooth launch. Overlooked issues can be brought to light when live. Refer to the Active Pages section on the Overview report or navigate to Traffic Sources or Content reports for relevant campaign variables.

2. Test UTM Parameters

UTM parameters can get confusing with several dimensions to choose from. Google Analytics’ Real Time reports shows Source and Medium right away to help you validate the data. You can double check your UTM parameters in campaign URLs as mistakes can be easily overlooked during the setup process, especially with multiple assets to manage.

3. Debug Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager tagging

Review how the website data rolls into Google Analytics without having to wait 24 hours or depending on additional tools. Real-time reports cover the main dimensions for immediate debugging.

Pages: See if all pages are correctly firing. Some pages may get lost in the crowd, especially for a large content site.

Events: Google Analytics gives you flexibility in tagging additional metrics, not included with the original snippet. Real-time shows the main two dimensions, Category and Action as identifiers that events are working.

Goals: For those who create custom Goals in the Admin settings, this is helpful to see if goals are firing properly in real-time. It’s easy to catch immediately to prevent missing out on conversions in your overall performance reporting.

Filters: Creating a new view with custom filters can be tested in real-time by reviewing all the high-level metrics. You can confirm if the proper pages are included and all other criteria you’ve set without having to wait 24 hours!

How do we double check or validate your analytics tagging with Real Time reports?

You can rely on the different breakdowns underneath “Real Time” to match up your attributes. Here are how the reports match up to various tracking categories.

Custom Campaign UTM Parameters

  •   Origin: Overview “Top Referrals” and/or Traffic Sources “Source, Medium”
  •   Landing Page: Top Active Pages or Content

Custom Events > Events “Category, Action”

(Event Label and Value – other available event dimensions - are left out, but still give a good view of what's firing through to Google Analytics in real-time)

Defined Goals > Conversions

Remember, Real Time reports only show unique users for each action and page within a 30-minute time span, so be sure to keep track of what’s populating right away. This is crucial when there are high-traffic levels on the property you’re testing – or else you’ll need to wait until the 30-minute time span expires to see your live activity.

Recommended for intensive quality checks: Download a debugger tool to review tagging in real time. Some suggestions: Google Analytics Debugger (Chrome Extension), Omnibug, Google Tag Assistant (Chrome Extension), Charles, Fiddler. Charles and Fiddler are useful for mobile app analytics debugging.

The Locations report confirms if your test activity is populating properly. If there is too much incoming traffic to the view you’re testing, you can click into your location, using the map. The filter will apply to the real-time reports, so you can debug easily!

Otherwise, wait at least 30 minutes after the hour to see your data populate the customizable reports in Google Analytics.

Warning! Looking at web data too much may get you side-tracked into the micro-level issues.

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Google Analytics Real Time Report Best Practices (Sketchnote)