Focused on mobile? Create a mobile view in Google Analytics

Jul 22, 2014

Mobile traffic has once again hit a new peak for our station sites and we eagerly anticipate the time when more of our traffic will come from mobile and from tablet than from desktop devices. All this growth can lead us to want to know more about our mobile users - who are they, what are they doing, are we helping them find what they are looking for?

Limitations of Segments in Google Analytics

Segmentation is an important tool in understanding users. Google Analytics offers great tools for this however, this can get a little complicated when you are trying to dig in to mobile traffic.  Google includes a default segment for Mobile as well as many other helpful defaults, but if you want to ask a question that combines mobile and another segment  you will need to do some editing.  You may even want to understand how different traffic sources impact a mobile user's likelihood to stream - and you won't be able to do that easily using default segments and reports. Rather than creating new segments that add mobile to all of your common segments, let's create a way to apply any of the existing segments to only mobile traffic.

Filtered Views

One tool that can help you better understand how common segmentation and goals apply to smartphone and tablet users is to use Google Analytics to create a mobile only filtered view. This filtered view allows us to really dig into the behavior of mobile and tablet users by making their usage patterns and behaviors much more clear.

In a mobile only view content and pathing reports will only include mobile and tablet devices making it easier to understand how users interact with your site. Trend reports will clearly identify the specific hourly and daily trends. All of these things can be muddied or lost when viewed along side of desktop data, but now understanding the unique habits of our mobile users becomes easier.  

Views begin accumulating data when the are created so it can be helpful to create this view well in advance of a planned launch for a redesign or change to your mobile site. That way you'll be able to see how the changes that you make impact your users. Comparing the conversions rates for goals before and after a redesign can help you to quickly understand how successful your site is at meeting user needs.

Creating Filtered Views

To create the view you will need admin access to your Google Analytics account. Enter the admin section by clicking on the link in the right side of the top menu.  

Creating a new view in Google Analytics

Then select the account and profile you'll want to work with. In the View dropdown, select "create a new view". To create the view you will only need to give it a name and set the time zone; then click on create. Once this view is created it will capture all data sent to the property id (UA-XXXXXX-YY) from that point on. To control what specific information it contains you'll need to create and apply filters to the view.

To create new filter, first select the view you would like to filter from the drop-down menu, then click on "filters".

Creating a new filter for a Google Analytics profile view

Create the filter as indicated in the image below and click save to apply to the selected view.

Once the view is created it will start collecting data from sessions that use a smartphone or tablet. You can then use this view to get a high level or detailed understanding of your mobile traffic. More importantly you will be able to apply any system or custom segments to the view. This allows ease in answering questions that would previously have required complex segmentation or filtering, such as "how do mobile users interact with content?" or "what are the loyalty patterns for mobile users?" Looking at a goals report can now make it easy to understand if a redesigned mobile experience encourages user to complete key activities. If you don't have goals set up read more about that here.

Now that you are feeling comfortable with views there a few more that you can create.  It is important that you keep a main profile that contains unfiltered data, but you may want to add a view that uses IP address to filter out your internal traffic.  You can also use domain (hostname) or URL filters to create view for specific sub-domains or content verticals.  Whatever you chose to do keep in mind that a small mistake can cause a big loss of data so always use a test profile to check that your filters work correctly before you apply them to an existing view.  When creating a new profile be sure to check it in Real-Time and again the next day to confirm it works correctly and you see the data you were expecting. Read more about creating filtered views.