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Regular Expressions Google Analytics

Regular Expressions Google Analytics

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Published by Datalicious Pty Ltd

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Published by: Datalicious Pty Ltd on May 18, 2013
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12/20/2013

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For
 
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a story about Regular Peopleand Regular Expressions . . .
 When I rst starting working with Google Analytics, I was an analyst. A marketingperson. Not a techie.Back then, the Google Analyticsdocumentation kept referencing somethingcalled Regular Expressions. I could see thatmy goals and lters weren’t doing whatthey needed to do, but, not being a techie, Ididn’t know how to implement RegEx andx them.(In fact, I knew so little about this spacethat when a friend referred to RegularExpressions as “RegEx,” I wondered whathe was talking about.)Slowly I taught them to myself, with thehelp of Wikipedia and a friend in Australia.Then I began to blog about them, usingnon-techie language. I got a letter froma trainer on the other side of the pond who told me that when he trained peoplein Regular Expressions,
he
turned themloose on the LunaMetrics blog. Eventually,Google invited my company to becomea Google Analytics Certied Partner.Our company helped rewrite the Google Analytics Help Center section on RegularExpressions. And to this day, I get randomemails from random people, asking me totroubleshoot their RegEx.
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Google Analytics is one of themost widely used tools to measure andevaluate websites. The GA team has worked hard to make it easier and moreintuitive than ever before. However, you may still feel that you are limited by the Google Analytics out-of-the boxfunctionality.If so, it’s time for you to learnaboutRegular Expressionsand how GA uses them.
 
 A word about language.
 What would a how-to guide be without somedictionary-type advice? Here are some of theconventions we may use:
GA:
The abbreviation for Google Analytics
RegEx:
the abbreviation for RegularExpressions (singular and plural)
Plain text:
Not Regular Expression Text
String:
any assembly of characters and/orspaces. A word could be a string, a sentencecould be a string, a URL could be a string.
Target String:
the string you are attemptingto match with your RegEx.
 Example: when I use robb?(y|i)n to matchmy name, Robbin (the one with all the funny characters),
robb?(y|i)n
is the Regex, and my name,
 Robbin
, is a target string.
 A word about format.
I just hate when I read a post or book andthey write that the keyword is “sodapop.”Or “vanilla.” Or anything that has quotationmarks around it. Because you never know if the quotation marks are part of the stuff youare working on, or are just used to separatethat word from the rest of the sentence.Consequently, I put all target strings andall RegEx in boldface – no quotation marksneeded.
In Google Analytics, you can useRegular Expressions to ...
create lters.
 
Many lters require Regular Expressions. If  you don’t know what lters are, you can start learning about themher
e
.
create one goal
 
that matches multiple goal pages.Perhaps your “thank you” page has many names, but to you, all leads are the samegoal. So you can use Regular Expressions to “roll them up.”
ne-tune
 your funnel steps so that you can get exactly what youneed. Remember, Regular Expressions can be
specic
.
 What are Regular Expressions, anyway?
Regular Expressions are about“power matching.” If you need to create a goal that matches multiple thank-youpages – that is power matching. If you need to write a lter that matches multipleURLs, but only know what a piece of each URL looks like – again, that is powermatching.
w
Hy
u
se 
r
eg
E
x
?  
But what about Advanced Segments?Can’t I skip this whole RegEx thing now thatGoogle Analytics has Advanced Segments?
Well, no. Advanced Segments are lovely, and they often make ltersunnecessary. But they don’t work the same way as lters do. And you
will still need Regular Expressions to create interesting and complicated goals, and to accommodate your website designer who doesn’t do thingsthe Google Analytics-friendly way. And sometimes, you will want touse Regular Expressions in your Advanced Segments.
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