Published: 07 June 2017
Google analytics is a powerful tool that is available, completely free, to anyone and everyone. Once installed, on a basic level it gives valuable insight into data such as how many visitors your site has and how they found it. How these visitors behave on your site, which pages get their attention and which don’t and whether they converted? There is much more beyond this allowing you to drill down and analyse your site and its audience, however to be effective, make sure your data isn’t being skewed by some of the common issues we often see.
In order for Google Analytics to work at all, you must first paste the tracking code onto every page on your site. Common problems include:
Multiple instances of the code
To clarify, this is when there are multiple instances of the code for the same Analytics account. If your bounce rate is very low (<5% or so) then this is a sign that individual visits are being counted more than once - the number of page views will also be artificially high though the number of sessions will be accurate. To check for this, right click on a page on your site and click view source. Then using the find function (ctrl+f or command+f on a mac), search for ‘i,s,o’ or your analytics account ID. This will highlight all versions of the tracking code on the page.
Missing from individual pages
Sometimes, individual pages or groups of pages have the tracking code missing. The most obvious symptom of this can be seen in the ‘referrals’ section of Analytics. If your own website is appearing as a source in the list of referring sites, then this is the most common cause as the tracking of a user is interrupted as Analytics thinks they have left the site. When they continue to browse on to a page containing the tracking code, GA thinks it is a new session. This will also mean that your total number of sessions is inflated.
A very common issue (and unfortunately unavoidable) is that of spam traffic. This most commonly takes the form of referral spam whereby spammers send fake hits to your analytics account which shows up in the list of referring sites. It also takes the form of organic traffic with spam referring keywords or language spam, where the language is recorded as being a spam word or phrase. This means that the data in your Analytics account is heavily skewed, usually with poor bounce rates and low time on site.
You can add a filter to block the traffic, however by the time you do this it is usually too late as you can only add them after the attack has begun. Instead, in order to properly analyse data in your account that may have been affected by spam, you will need to build a segment to exclude it.
In order to properly analyse your traffic, you need to be sure of where your traffic is originating from, whether it’s organic, from paid advertising, social media or another channel. When carrying out paid digital marketing campaigns, including emails, (or any online campaign where traffic is sent to a site from another source), the most common form of tracking is to use UTM tracking, where you add parameters within the URL specifying the source and the campaign. This is then pulled through into Google Analytics allowing you to fully analyse how successful your campaign was.
There are two main problems we see with attribution:
There is no tracking
This means that it is difficult to apportion if traffic has come from your campaign as it will usually be counted as referral traffic or in the case or emails, direct traffic. This means that it will be amalgamated with all the genuine referral and direct traffic. Any ads setup through Google Adwords are automatically tracked, as are most emails sent through email marketing tools, however other ads such as on social media will need UTM tagging added to the URLs.
Inconsistent UTM Tracking
When tagging campaigns, it is important to remember that the data is case sensitive, therefore having one ad as ‘Facebook Ads’ and another advert as ‘Facebook ads’ will result in multiple entries in Google Analytics, again making it difficult to fully analyse all your data.
Google Analytics is a powerful tool but it is dependent on the quality of your data. If you would like any help with your Analytics, feel free to give us a call on 01233 467800 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.