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Friday, April 13th, 2012

Critical Issues with Google Analytics

 

Over the last couple years we have gained some clients that require work done on their Google Analytics account. When we dive into the audit of their account there are many things that we look for right off the bat which will help provide the best information available for their website statistics. These checks will look into whether or not the new asynchronous code is being used, going over the profiles and filters to exclude or manipulate the data, the common scenario of self referred traffic, as well as the goal and ecommerce tracking section of the account. We will look into these troublesome areas that we find with our clients to hopefully help them avoid some of the tracking issues that we have seen in the past.

What does the Asynchronous Code Offer You?

Google Analytics came out with a new asynchronous code back towards the end of 2009 which offers some new tracking features that the old code did not. Now with the new login page and the new analytics version, the face of Google Analytics is changing from when it first started out. Some features that the new code offers are: faster load time, the use of event tracking, and real time statistics.

Properly Setting up Profiles and Filters

Regardless of using the old or new Google tracking code, here are some quick tips regarding profiles and filters. For all of our clients we like to create 2 separate profiles of which 1 will have all the filters, goals, etc. while the other will be a fresh raw profile. Having a second raw profile can be very valuable when troubleshooting any analytics problems.

One of the first filters we like to setup in Google Analytics accounts is a filter to exclude internal traffic, which is usually based per IP. We at StepForth grab our internal IPs as well as the client’s IP addresses and then exclude them from our primary profile.

You can see the benefit of this when troubleshooting errors by having the raw profile, especially when having problems with filters. For example if one of the filters that was created is corrupting the data in the account, you can always check the raw profile to verify the data is different. Then going through the filters one by one, using real time tracking, you can troubleshoot them to find out which,if any, are causing your account to have issues.

Does Your Own Domain Show up as a Referral Source?

Every once in a while we get a client that will have their own domain name showing up under their referral sources. This is usually because the cookie is not tracking properly and is going back and forth from the site to make it look like it is the original.

The first area to check for these types of errors would be your sub domains. If you are using sub domains on your site then you will have to modify the Google Analytics code to tell the cookie the correct referral information. Best practice for this would be to make the properties of ‘_setDomainName’ to ‘.yourdomain.com’.

The second check we have for self referral problems is: Does the site pass information on to a third party site? If this is the case, the same Google Analytics code from your site needs to be on that 3rd party domain which can sometimes be difficult. Examples of this would consist of sites using 3rd party shopping carts, iframe content, etc. The Google help document that goes over all types of cross domain tracking is very helpful for most self-referral problems.

A tool that we like to use very often is from Analyticspros.com and is called a ‘Health Check’. This tool is in its beta stages but still produces great information about domains that are not tracked properly and causing cookie integrity problems. Here is a link to their Health Check tool.

Google Analytics Goals & Ecommerce

Knowing the conversion statistics for your website is the most important data which tells us how worthy each traffic source is. Google Analytics has the ability to check conversions as goals whereas examples would be a Contact Form Submission, A Downloaded File, etc. There is the option to associate a fixed dollar amount with these goals but we find that not many sites require that figure.

Websites that sell products definitely want to know their conversion data as well as how much revenue is produced from their sales. This is where we would recommend the setup of Ecommerce tracking from Google Analytics which allows us to track many variables such as total price, product SKU information, shipping information etc. To enable this type of tracking a more advanced set of code is required on the ‘thank you’ page of the shopping cart to collect the information.

 

Overall, knowing exactly how efficient your website is by properly setting up your Google Analytics account is vital. At StepForth we have participated in many scenarios where we have had to setup or recommend many of these types of steps to extract the best data from a client’s analytics account. If you would like more information regarding Google Analytics and your website, please contact us here at StepForth.


5 Responses to “Critical Issues with Google Analytics”

  1. Marc Nashaat

    Filters are definitely a must, you can also set filters for ranges of ip addresses (as in many cases people have dynamic ips), as well as use cookie filters.

    With the cookies you basically set up a new page with some google provided js. Then you visit that page from every device you want excluded from inclusion in your reports. Not entirely necessary but does provide that extra layer of assurance.

  2. Ross Dunn

    Thanks for the insightful feedback Marc! A great addition to our article. Cheers!

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