Peter Drucker famously said, “What gets measured gets managed.” But what if your measurement data is incorrect? What if you’re not measuring correctly or completely? What if there’s a whole pile of things you think you’re measuring when really… you’re not?
The fact is that a lot of the people relying on Google Analytics are relying on bad data. No, not because Google Analytics is awful. Because their configurations are broken.
And if your configuration is broken? Well, you’re likely managing the wrong things and making poor choices based on incorrect (or incomplete) data.
What’s a Google Analytics Health Check?
In the past, we’ve covered setting up and using Google Analytics fairly extensively. If you haven’t already, you can read our Google Analytics 101 and Google Analytics 102 guides. More recently, we covered segmentation and how to do it right.
Still, things go wrong. Problems arise. Errors come up.
A Google Analytics Health Check is a series of checks that help you answer the following three questions:
- Am I collecting all of the data I need?
- Can I trust the data I’m collecting?
- Is anything broken or tracking / reporting incorrectly? Why?
A checklist will guide you, but this is an exploratory mission.
If you’re an agency or freelancer, this is especially true. Since you might not have had control over the Google Analytics setup stage, you might not know what to expect. Unexpected or irregular issues might arise that you hadn’t even heard of. As time goes on, add these types of issues to your checklist.
Step 1: Property Settings
Within the Property administration panel, here are the questions you should be asking yourself…
- Is the default URL set up correctly?
- Are your referral exclusion settings configured correctly (e.g. you use PayPal to process payments)?
- Is enhanced link attribution turned on?
- Have you enabled demographics and interest reports?
- Is Google Webmaster Tools linked properly?
- AdWords Integration
- Is it configured correctly?
- Is PPC data showing in Google Analytics?
- Are the resulting clicks and sessions being recorded properly?
Step 2: View Settings
Within the View administration panel, here are the questions you should be asking yourself…
- Are your Views set up correctly?
- Is eCommerce tracking turned on?
- Is site search tracking turned on?
- Do you have your “Virgin View” and “Working Views” configured properly?
- Are you doing country filtering?
- Is your default page and time zone configured properly?
- Filter Creation
- Is the office IP address filtered out?
- Are the IP addresses of your affiliates filtered out (agencies, freelancers, etc.)?
- Is your home IP address filtered out?
- Are the IP addresses of remote employees filtered out?
- Are your Goals set and tracking properly?
- Have you configured your custom and default channel groupings?
Step 3: Common Issues
1. AdWords Account Not Connected
- What It Is: You can sync your AdWords account to your Google Analytics account to monitor impressions, clicks and cost.
- Solution: Admin > Property > Product Linking > AdWords Linking.
2. AdWords Auto-Tagging Not Used
- What It Is: Auto-Tagging adds a unique ID to the end of the destination URL. Using this, you can calculate your advertising ROI by combining that data (campaign, keyword, cost per click) with Google Analytics Goals.
- Solution: Admin > Property > Product Linking > AdWords Linking.
3. Time Zones Not Matched
- What It Is: Your Google Analytics and Google AdWords accounts should be in the time zone your campaign targets.
- Solution: Admin > Choose a View > View Settings > Time zone country or territory.
4. PPC Keyword ID’s Visible on Landing Pages
- What It Is: When PPC keyword ID’s are visible on landing pages, they are harder to analyze because Google Analytics thinks they’re two different pages.
- Solution: Admin > View Settings > Exclude URL Query Parameters (e.g. OVKEY or OVRAW).
5. Bing Tagging Not Set
- What It Is: If you don’t tag Yahoo and MSN paid traffic as Bing traffic, the traffic will be recorded as organic.
- Solution: Ensure your Bing adCenter landing pages are using a tag that includes ?utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=bing.
6. Manual UTM Tags Not Used
- What It Is: Adding manual UTM tags ensures your channels are being properly credited. Offline marketing, newsletters, social media, affiliate links, etc. all need these tags.
- Solution: Use the Google Analytics URL Builder.
7. Site Search & Category Search Not Enabled
- What It Is: Site search and category search show user intent, and provide additional keyword lists for PPC and search campaigns.
- Solution: View Settings > Set Site Search Tracking to ON > Enter the parameter(s) that indicate(s) a site search > Enable categories > Enter the parameter(s) that indicate(s) a category search > Apply.
8. Not Tracking “mailto”
- What It Is: You can easily track when (and which) email links are selected on your site.
- Solution: Use an Event push in your email links.
9. Homepage Filter Not Used
- What It Is: If you don’t filter your homepage correctly, you could end up tracking multiple homepages (e.g. / and /en/ and /fr/).
- Solution: Admin > All Filters > + New Filter.
10. Log Spam Not Filtered Out
- What It Is: If you don’t add a filter to remove staging traffic or traffic from developers, you’ll be acting on false data.
- Solution: Admin > All Filters > + New Filter > Filter this traffic out by hostname.
11. Error Pages Not Tracked
- What It Is: Broken pages are low hanging fruit, if they can be identified easily.
- Solution: Add your Google Analytics code to 404 and 500 pages.
12. Duplicate eCommerce Data Not Filtered
- What It Is: Duplicate data occurs when a visitor (a) refreshes the page, (b) uses the “Back” button, restores tabs from a closed browser, etc.
- Solution: Use a transaction ID and time stamp when tracking eCommerce transactions. If you’re especially tech-savvy, you can handle this server-side.
13. Bounce Rate of Less Than 10%
- What It Is: Start by looking at pages where entrances are greater than 100 and sort them by bounce rate. If your bounce rate is less than 10%, something has gone wrong.
- Solution: Ensure you haven’t added two scripts to the page. If not, visit the site and look for other issues that could be impacting your data.
Every good conversion optimizer has a Google Analytics health checklist of some sort. Here’s a look at part of Peep’s checklist…
Annie Cushing of Annielytics checks Google Analytics health using an audit…
For now, here’s a look at some of the items on her free checklist…
If you don’t have the time (or interest) to perform your own site audit, you can use an app.
4 Common Tracking Issues
1. The Basics
Starting with the basics, here’s a list of common tracking issues that Google has publicly published…
- Using incorrect snippet and/or viewing the wrong account or view
If you track multiple websites and/or have access to multiple Analytics accounts, you might be using the snippet from another account and/or view. Make sure you are viewing the correct account and view. See Finding the Tracking Code for additional information.
- Extra whitespace or characters
Be sure to copy the snippet and paste it directly onto your website using either a text editor or an editor that preserves code formatting. Don’t use a word processor to copy the snippet from your account. Doing so can add an extra space or change the quotation marks in the tracking snippet, which requires precise formatting in order to work.
- Customization errors
If you are making customizations to the tracking code, make note of the following:
- function names are case sensitive and should have correct casing
- boolean values (e.g. true or false) should not be enclosed in quotes
- Incorrect filter settings
Incorrect filter settings can affect the data you see, and can inadvertently filter all of your data from your reports. In most cases, this occurs when users apply multiple “Include” filters. For details, see the article on Include and exclude filters.
- Other scripts on your page
2. Missing Pages
To identify pages that are missing your Google Analytics code, you can look for irregularities in your data. Or, you can use a tool like Google Analytics Checker.
Once you’re sure every page of your site has the code, you need to ensure it’s the latest (asynchronous) code.
This means that instead of Google Analytics loading synchronously, it will load asynchronously to avoid blocking resources that load later on the page. Essentially, it enhances the speed that the tracking code is loaded.
Click here for more information on asynch.
3. Different Data in Your Shopping Cart Tool
If you’re in the eCommerce space, you’re likely using some sort of shopping cart tool. So, what happens when the data showing in your shopping cart tool is different than the data showing in Google Analytics?
Essentially, there are four possible issues…
- Your Google Analytics eCommerce Tracking is not properly installed. Read this thorough guide to setting up eCommerce Tracking to ensure you’ve done it correctly.
- Time zone. If your shopping cart tool and Google Analytics are configured to report in different time zones, you may have mismatched data.
- Time of day. If you set up your eCommerce Tracking in the middle of the day, transactions that occurred before will not appear in Google Analytics, but will of course appear in your shopping cart tool.
- Cancelled transactions. Transactions with no value ($0) and cancelled transactions do not appear in Google Analytics.
4. Cross-Domain Tracking
You’ve seen cross-domain tracking mentioned a few times now. What is it exactly? Chris Mercer from SeriouslySimpleMarketing.com explains…
For example, your checkout process might be on a different domain. Unfortunately, Google Analytics uses first party cookies, which can only be read by the domain that issued them. So, in order to do cross-domain tracking, you need to share cookie information with the different domains involved.
An alternative to the Google Analytics resource Chris provides above is Optimize Smart’s Google Analytics Cross Domain Tracking – Complete Guide.
3 Common Google Tag Manager Issues
Now, there’s a good chance that some of you are using Google Tag Manager. Of course, there are common tracking issues associated with it as well. Here are the top three…
- Tag Isn’t Firing – There are a number of reasons your tag might not be firing. You have unpublished changes, your triggers are too specific, your triggers are configured incorrectly, etc. Find a full list and begin troubleshooting here.
- Wrong Filter Settings – When you apply multiple include Filters, you can accidentally end up filtering all of your data out of your reports. Read up on how to properly use include Filters (the hit is discarded if the pattern does not match the data) and exclude Filters (the hit is discarded if the pattern does match the data).
- Unpublished Container – Before adding the tag, be sure you published the container. Changes you make to a container will not be saved until you publish the container. For more information on publishing containers, click here.
Without a Google Analytics Health Check, you’re analyzing data with both of your eyes closed. [Tweet It!]
Don’t be one of the many people making important business decisions based on bad data from a broken Google Analytics configuration.
Here’s what you can do to get your Google Analytics back in shape…
- Create a Google Analytics Health checklist that you can use to evaluate your setup.
- Go through your Account, Property, and View settings and ask yourself the questions above.
- Review the 13 most common Google Analytics issues and check to ensure you’re not making them.
- Review the 4 most common tracking issues and check to ensure you’re not making them.
- Review the 3 most common Google Tag Manager issues and check to ensure you’re not making them.
- Run through your checklist annually. As time goes on, new issues can arise.