Recently a client asked us to help them do a better job tracking employee visits to their website. For many websites this is a relatively small segment of traffic and often comprises visits from the dev team. But this particular client, like many of our nonprofit clients, has a staff that uses the organization’s website regularly over the course of a normal workday. And so it’s especially important to separate external and internal traffic.
The usual advice for removing internal traffic from your Google Analytics data is one of two methods. Either set up a filter based on your IP address (or range of addresses). Or if your organization is large enough to be its own ISP (Internet Service Provider), then the filtering is even easier.
Internal Traffic is a Moving Target
But neither of these methods address how your employees visit your website on their mobile devices or laptops. They might be out of town for a business trip on a hotel network, at home on their home network, or even on the Wi-Fi at the local coffee shop.
And we all know this is a rapidly growing segment of visitors, especially as more and more people use tablets. Your internal traffic is literally a moving target.
Cookies for Everyone!
Which brings us to a third method, having your employees set a visitor cookie to identify themselves. Google Analytics has a field called User Defined that you can use to filter internal traffic. User Defined is the older version of what are now called Custom Variables – but those aren’t available yet for filtering.
Because a visitor cookie is specific to a computer and browser, your employees can identify themselves on every device they normally use. Simply have them visit a special page that will set the cookie for them, and ask them to visit that page one time on every device and every browser.
Remind Staff to Visit the Cookie Page
After that you’ll be able to identify your internal traffic and filter it, regardless of their IP address or ISP. Of course, if they delete their cookies, they’ll need to visit the page again. So you could remind them periodically, “Hey, here’s that URL we need you to visit. Help us keep our analytics data clean.”
To make it even easier, here’s what the code looks like. Just insert your UA-number where I have UA-XXXXX-YY and publish the page.
Create the Filter
You could also choose a different value for _setVar; where I have ‘employee’ you could insert any identifier you like. Remember to create the exclude filter using this identifier and apply it to a test profile – make sure it’s working before applying it to your main profile.
Check Your Profiles
You may also want to create a new profile that includes only internal traffic. Or cross-check everything against your unfiltered profile. (You do have a completely unfiltered profile for troubleshooting, right?) With a glance across profiles you can see that the data is in fact being sent to GA and appears in one profile, while being correctly excluded from another profile.
Tracking employee visits is essential for nonprofits and other organizations with staff who use the website regularly. Adding to the complexity are employees working remotely and the increasing use of mobile devices. The cookie page is a relatively easy to implement solution. What obstacles have you encountered and what methods do you find most accurate for capturing employee data? The comments are yours.
Looking for more insights on nonprofits? Register now for NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference 2012 and sign up for our SEO Training Day, taking place April 2nd at the same location. It’s a full day of SEO training, centered around nonprofits.