Want to Expand Your Google Analytics Skills or Land a Full-Time Job? Start Here.
Paul Koch, Former Data & Analytics Director
Because the landscape has changed significantly over the past few years, so has our approach.
People often contact Viget about our analytics training offerings. Because the landscape has changed significantly over the past few years, so has our approach. Here’s my advice for learning analytics today.
We’ll break this article into two parts — choose which part is best for you:
1. I’m in a non-analytics role at my organization and looking to become more independent with analytics.
2. I’d like to become a full-time analyst in an environment like Viget’s, either as a first-time job or as a career change.
“I’m in a non-analytics role at my organization and looking to become more independent with analytics.”
Great! One more question — do you want to learn about data analysis or configuring new tracking?
At Viget, we used to offer full-day public trainings where we covered everything from beginner terminology to complex analyses. Over the past few years, however, Google has significantly improved its free online training resources. We now typically recommend that people start with these free resources, described below.
After learning the core concepts, you might still be stuck on thorny analysis problems, or your data might not look quite right. That’s a great time to bring on a Google Analytics and Tag Manager Partner like Viget for further training. You’ll be able to ask more informed initial questions, and we’ll be able to teach you about nuances that might be specific to your Google Analytics setup. This approach will give you personalized, useful answers in a cost-effective way.
To get started, check out:
1. Google Analytics Academy. The academy offers three courses:
- Google Analytics for Beginners. This course includes a little over an hour of videos, three interactive demos, and about 45 practice questions. The best part of the course: you get access to the GA account for the Google Merchandise Store. If your organization’s GA account is — ahem — lacking in any areas, this account will give you more robust data for playing around.
Advanced Google Analytics. This course includes a little over 100 minutes of videos, four interactive demos, and about 50 practice questions. Many of the lessons also link to more detailed technical documentation than what can be shared in their three-to-five minute videos. Aside from more advanced analytics techniques, this course also focuses on Google Analytics setup. Even if you’re not configuring new tracking, having this knowledge will help you understand what might have been configured in your account — or what to ask be configured in the future.
Ecommerce Analytics. If you don’t see yourself working with an e-commerce implementation in the future, you can skip this course. It consists of about 10 written lessons and demos, along with about 12 minutes of video and 15 practice questions.
2. RegexOne. Knowing regular expressions is a crucial skill for being able to effectively analyze Google Analytics data. Regular expressions will allow you to filter table data and build detailed segments. RegexOne gives you 15 free short tutorials explaining how to match various patterns of text and numbers. As you’re doing GA analysis, tools such as Regex Pal or RegExr will help you validate that your regular expressions are matching the patterns of data that you expect.
Configuring New Tracking:
Unless you’re spending 50% of your workweek on analytics and 25% on tracking configuration, I’d recommend leaving most tracking configuration to those who do. Why?
First, it’s not worth your time to learn the ins-and-outs if you’re not handling configuration on a regular basis. If you do GA configurations in one-year intervals, you’ll perpetually be playing catch-up with the latest practices.
Second, it’s error-prone. If you can afford for your organization’s collected data to be incorrect the first time or two around, then go for it. If you need to get it right the first time, hire someone. There are plenty of ways that GA or GTM can break — and it only takes one potential “gotcha” for the data to be rendered unusable.
Google has made some great strides over the years to simplify tracking configurations. Unfortunately, it’s still not at the point where anyone can watch a few hours of videos, then execute a flawless setup. I’m excited for the day that happens because it will mean that more clients who hire Viget to redesign their sites will come to us with clean, usable data from the start.
If I still haven’t convinced you, then consider taking the Google Tag Manager Fundamentals course to learn more about GA configuration. It’s mostly video demos, along with about 20 minutes of other videos and about 30 practice questions. Make sure you know the material in “Google Analytics for Beginners” and “Advanced Google Analytics” before starting this course.
Even if you’re not configuring GA tracking on a regular basis, knowing Tag Manager can help you implement other tracking setups. These non-GA setups are sometimes less prone to one mistake having a ripple effect through all the data, and they’re often simpler to configure within Tag Manager than within your code base. Examples include adding Floodlight or Facebook tags to load on certain URLs; trying out a new heatmapping tool; or quickly launching a user survey on certain sections of your website.
“I’d like to become a full-time analyst in an environment like Viget’s, either as a first-time job or as a career change.”
Nice — and even better if you’d like to work at Viget! I’ll explain what we usually look for. First, though, a few caveats:
This list of skills and resources isn’t exhaustive. The information below represents core skill sets that most of us share, but every analyst brings unique knowledge to the table — whether in data visualization, inbound marketing knowledge, heavier quantitative skills, knowledge of data analysis coding languages such as R or Python … you name it. It also omits most skills related to quantitative analysis and assumes you’ve gained them through school classes or previous work experience.
2. Get GA certified. Once you’ve completed this training, consider taking the free Google Analytics Individual Qualification. It’s free, takes 90 minutes, and requires an 80% grade to pass. This qualification is a good signal that you understand a baseline level of GA.
4. Go deeper on Google Tag Manager. Simo Ahava’s blog is hands-down the best Tag Manager resource. Read through his posts to learn about the many ways you can get more out of your GTM setup, and try some of them.
5. Learn about split testing. We’ve used Optimizely for a long time, but are becoming fast fans of Google Optimize. Its free version is nearly as powerful as Optimizely, and you don’t need to “Contact Sales” to get any of their pricing. There’s no online tutorial yet for Optimize, but you should be able to learn it by trying it out on a personal project.
1. Find opportunities to put your knowledge into practice. With GA and GTM, the best way to learn is by doing. Try setups and analyses on your own projects, friends’ businesses, or a local nonprofit that would probably appreciate your pro bono help. Find those weird numbers and figure out whether the cause is true user behavior or potential setup issues. If you don’t have any sites that are good guinea pig candidates, another option is the Google Tag Manager injector Chrome extension. This injector lets you make a mock GTM configuration on any site to see how it would work.
2. Ask communities when you get stuck. Both the Google Analytics Academy and Codecademy have user communities where you can ask questions when you get stuck. Simo responds to quite a few of his blog post comments. And, of course, you can always comment here, too!
3. Keep in mind that technical skills make up only part of analysts’ jobs. While those skills are certainly important, a few other attributes we look for in applicants include:
Attention to detail and accuracy. For analysts, paying attention to small details is crucial. Your introductory email and résumé are your first opportunities to make a good impression and to demonstrate your attention to detail. Make sure to avoid typos and inconsistencies. Pay attention to parallel structure in your résumé.
Strategic UX and marketing thinking. Can you make compelling business cases? Do your recommendations focus on high-impact changes?
Communication abilities. Can you confidently speak to your thought process? Do you convey confidence and trustworthiness? Is your writing and presentation style clear and concise? Is your communication tailored to your audience?
Data contextualization. Do you avoid overstating or understating the data? For example, do you only say that a change is “significant” if it’s statistically significant? When you’re doing descriptive analytics, instead of predictive analytics, do you avoid statements such as, “people who are X are more likely to do Y”?
Efficiency. Because we often bill by the hour, how efficiently you work correlates with how much value you can provide to a client. Can you use most Sheets and Excel functions without needing to look them up? Can you clean, format, and pivot data in no time flat? Can you fluidly use regex?
Team mentality. At Viget, we aim to be independent learners and thinkers, but also strong collaborators who rely on, and support, each other. We look for people who are eager to talk through ideas to arrive at the best approach — to be equally as open to teaching others as to learning from them.
Passion. Lately, there’s been talk in the industry about finding “culture adds,” rather than “culture fits.” Along similar lines, we love people who care deeply about something we’re not currently doing and who will work to make it more widespread within our team or all of Viget.
I hope this has been a helpful start. Feel free to add your own questions or thoughts in the comments. And maybe we’ll hear from you sometime soon?