A recent estimate put the total number of websites using Google Analytics at over 27 million. That’s not surprising. Google’s web analytics service is invaluable to sites and businesses across all industries. It provides crucial data that companies can use in many ways. That includes getting the best SEO services and improving sales conversions.
Almost all of the companies and clients we work with use Google Analytics. The unfortunate thing is that the vast majority of them also run across the same issues and problems. The following are just five of the main problems we see daily. They can all damage the efficiency of Google Analytics data but are also mercifully simple to solve.
Missing or Incorrect Analytics Code
Getting started with Google Analytics is very simple. You sign up and then get some Google Analytics Tracking Code (GATC) to paste onto your pages. One of the main problems we see all the time is when parts of sites are missing that code.
When some pages or elements of a site are missing the GATC it has many negative impacts on the data generated. It can cause under-reporting of traffic. It can also produce an inaccurate report of the journey visitors take around your site.
GATC is most often missing from sub-domains. Sites use sub-domains for things like blogs or FAQs. They’re as much a part of your site as any other page, so should still form a part of your analytics. To make sure they do, you’ll want to use a crawler or similar tool to turn up all the URLs that are missing your GATC.
Sites firing incorrect tracking code is another issue we come across daily. You often need to deploy code in both the head and body of your pages. It’s easy for webmasters or site owners to overlook this on occasion. Google Tag Manager is a handy tool that’s designed to help avoid that.
It simplifies the process of both adding and editing tracking code across your pages. If you do use it, though, make sure to remove any existing hard-coded tags. Having both in place will lead to your code firing twice and causing double-tracking.
Failing to Exclude Your Own IP Address
You and other staff within your company will likely use your own website on a regular basis. Ensuring things are running smoothly and checking on new content are just two reasons why.
If Google Analytics isn’t told otherwise, it will include your own visits within the data for your site. That can lead to over-inflated traffic stats and other website usage metrics. You don’t want that, as it damages the accuracy and utility of your data.
That means you need to filter your own internal traffic out of your Google Analytics reports. Whilst many forget to do it, it is really simple. All you need to do is head to the admin settings of your Google Analytics account. From there, you can set things up to filter out your own IP address.
It’s also a good idea to exclude the IP address of partners and agencies you work with. As a creative marketing agency, we spend lots of time on the sites of our clients when working with them. Keeping a copy of your unfiltered data can also be quite useful. It works as a backup to refer back to if you think you might have gone over the top with your filtering.
Not Excluding Bots, Spiders or Internal Referrals
It’s not just you and your staff who can skew your Google Analytics data. Traffic from bots and search engine spiders can also have an impact. That traffic will be recorded by Google Analytics but is of no use to your digital marketing efforts.
Traffic from spiders or bots will falsely inflate your traffic stats. It will also deflate your conversion figures and generally cause a nuisance. It’s a good job, then, that it takes just one click to exclude that traffic from your Google Analytics reports. In admin settings, you will find a check-box to ‘exclude all hits from known bots and spiders’.
While in your admin settings, you might also want to check out your internal referral exclusion list. This is where you can exclude self-referrals from your reports. You’ll want to do this if you need to track the sources of your traffic.
It may also be worth your while to add the third party payment services you use to your referral exclusion list. Customers are often taken to a payment site and then returned to yours during the checkout process. Google Analytics can count that as a referral. Popping the payment site on the exclusion list will stop that from happening.
Too Much “Other” Traffic
Let’s stick with the issue of tracking the source of your web traffic. Another problem that many sites suffer is having too much traffic grouped in the “other” channel on their Google Analytics reports.
That’s instead of it falling within the “paid ad”, “organic search” or other categories that would be more helpful to you. This can rob you of handy data about which channels are working for you. It may also mask the effectiveness - or otherwise - of your ads and campaigns.
The most common cause of this problem is if your ad or campaign has errors in its tracking URL. Unlike the other problems we’ve talked about, this one will need a manual fix. The improved accuracy of your data, however, makes the extra time and effort of the fix well worth it.
Goals Related Problems
It’s often a good idea to set up goals in Google Analytics. They help you to track micro-conversions and observe visitor behaviour. You’d be surprised at how many sites and businesses overlook this entirely.
You can set up goals in Google Analytics yourself. This is great for tracking things like email list subscriptions or completions of contact forms. You can also choose to trust Google’s Smart Goals with the job.
Smart Goals will measure explicit conversions. It can then give you an extra source of information as regards the success of your ads, campaigns and site in general. That will help you with marketing optimisation across the board.
Nick is the co-founder of Accelerate Agency a Google Analytics and SEO agency in Bristol. He has over 10 years of experience helping clients generate more leads through online marketing.