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Google Analytics - using with Simulator

Matthew Hornsby -

Tracking access to your site

There are a number of tools you could use for this, the most well-known being Google Analytics. Since the EU Privacy Directive was put in place in 2011 ( Delib stopped automatically adding Google Analytics to our products without customers specifically requesting it. If you would like Google Analytics, you can ask us to set this up by sending us a specific snippet of code from your organisation's Google Analytics account.

This article may also be useful for background:

Once we have added this for you, be sure to now update the wording on the Cookie Policy to include the use of Google Analytics.

A couple of things to be aware of about Google Analytics:

1. It can be quite a complex tool to use, although you may not find it too difficult if you are only interested in looking at some basic data. If you want to go further, this will require a reasonably detailed understanding of web analysis. There is some useful material online to help you learn, mostly provided by Google (you can see this at the bottom of the article), but you should be aware it will require some time and effort and we're not able to provide guidance on this ourselves.

2. By embedding a Google tracking code in your website, you are giving Google the ability to associate that user with other online activity, and with various bits of data, which all go into creating a profile of that person's internet activity. For many people, this won't really be a concern, as the data is all relatively abstract - but if users are entering what is potentially sensitive and personally identifiable information on your site, you give someone who has access to both a) consultation responses and b) web analytics the opportunity to breach a respondent's anonymity. This risk is quite remote, as there is no one who is likely to both have that information and the desire to do that - but it is worth consideration in terms of your ethical stance on privacy and your data protection concerns.

3. Google Analytics differs from Google Tag Manager, which we advise against using. You can find our guidance on that in this article.

We can't specifically recommend Google Analytics, but it is by far the most popular tool available for doing this kind of thing - so, if tracking access is what you want to do the chances are you will end up using it.

Google has its own set of articles on how to use the application. They are laid out in easy to understand format in the help pages - we would suggest you read through these to get a detailed understanding of how GA works and what you can get out of it. However, we give you an introduction below on how to use it with Delib products:

Setting up Google Analytics on your Simulator site:

1. This Google article explains the basics of setting up an account. On the homepage, click 'Access Google Analytics' (in the top right corner), then click sign up. You will need a Google account (you can do this without a gmail address, see here for how). You will need to create a name for your GA account and enter the URL of the main site you want to track.

2. Once your account has been created, you'll be taken to your home screen, with your tracking code shown below, for example: 



If you need to find your tracking code again, you can get to it by going to the 'Admin' tab at the top of the page when you sign into Analytics, then go to 'Tracking info'

3. Provide us with the tracking code (ie. the wedge of Javascript code in the box starting with <script> and ending with </script>, rather than the tracking ID)

4. We'll add this code to your Simulator site.

5. If you do decide to go down this route then your Cookie policy will need to be updated in the 'non-essential cookies' part, to say you are collecting this kind of information on your visitors. We've added an example of this additional information you will need to provide, at the bottom of this article.

Notes on using GA

There are different levels of permission users can have within one GA account - this article explains more. Essentially you can track multiple sites using one account, and give multiple viewers permission to view the analytic data. You can track up to 50 sites (or 'properties', in Google parlance) from one account. This may be useful if you are running multiple consultations and want to track them all.

It's also important to note that when you set up an analytics account, it will not capture historic data - so if users have already been accessing your site before you implemented analytics, they won't show up in the data. 

What can you do with Google Analytics?

The key functionality of Google Analytics is to provide data about the people who are viewing your site. The data that will be most interesting to you are probably:

- How many people have viewed the site.

- How long each of them spent on the site once they were there (called a 'session').

- Where the site has been viewed from (this will be particularly important if you are running a local consultation - you will want to be sure that most of those who are viewing and responding to your consultation are in the area concerned!).

- The 'bounce rate'. A 'bounce' is when a user accesses the site, but then leaves immediately without actually clicking on anything. A high bounce rate might mean you need to work on your homepage to make it more accessible or appealing (there is another phrase, '% exit', that you will also come across in analytics - it has a very similar meaning).

These are the basic data - you may not want to view anything more than this. You will get all of this data when you login, go to the 'Reporting' tab at the top of the page, and then select 'My dashboard', under 'Dashboards' on the left-hand column. You'll see an image like this:



By clicking on 'add widget' at the top-left hand corner, you can add another infographic of your choice to the dashboard, if there are metrics you are particularly interested in.


There are also various options to do slightly more sophisticated analysis. These can all be accessed on the toolbar along the left hand side of the screen:

'Intelligence events' - this is basically a functionality that sends you alerts when there are spikes in activity around your site. You can set custom alerts for when particular events happen.

'Acquisitions' - this is about showing you where people are coming to your site from - so, are they coming to it via searching for X council budget consultation online, or are they coming to it through a link on the council website?

'Audience' - This tells you information about the specific users looking at your site. There are two sub-categories of audience data, demographics and interests, which require a bit of a tweak of your Google analytics - turning on 'Advertising Features'. You will need to edit one line of your tracking code, and will need to edit your privacy policy accordingly.

'Real Time' - Quite self-explanatory: this will let you look at activity on your site in real time.

'Behaviour' - This lets you look at how users are 'behaving' on your site - how long they are spending on each page, for example.


Learning more about Google Analytics

There are plenty of useful resources provided by Google itself if you want to get the most out of using its product. Their help pages are very useful if you want to learn more. You can also have a look at 'Analytics Academy' - this is a set of more in-depth, free online 'courses' from Google that teach your more about using GA, and about digital analytics in general. You can access it here

Here is an example of the kind of additional information you need to supply in your Cookie Policy:

Google Analytics

This website also uses Google Analytics, a web analytics service provided by Google, Inc. (“Google”). Google Analytics uses “cookies”, which are text files placed on your computer, to help the website analyze how users use the site. The information generated by the cookie about your use of the website (including your IP address) will be transmitted to and stored by Google on servers in the United States . Google will use this information for the purpose of evaluating your use of the website, compiling reports on website activity for website operators and providing other services relating to website activity and internet usage. Google may also transfer this information to third parties where required to do so by law, or where such third parties process the information on Google's behalf. Google will not associate your IP address with any other data held by Google.

By using this website, you consent to the processing of data about you by Google in the manner and for the purposes set out above.

You may refuse the use of cookies by selecting the appropriate settings on your browser, however please note that if you do this you may not be able to use the full functionality of this website. We are committed to following the ICO privacy and electronic communication regulations.

Google Analytics sets cookies to help us accurately estimate the number of visitors to the website and volumes of usage. This to ensure that the service is available when you want it and fast.

Cookie name Typical content Duration
_utma Randomly generated number 2 years
_utmb Randomly generated number 30 minutes
_utmc Randomly generated number Until end of the session
_utmz Randomly generated number + info on how the site was reached (e.g. directly or via a link, organic search or paid search) 6 months
_ga Randomly generated number 24 months


For further details on the cookies set by Google Analytics, please refer to the Google Code website.