3rd August 2017

Nail your Google Analytics setup: Part two

Nick Buckingham
Head of Experience and Product Design

Each organisation has different goals and needs, and therefore will have unique requirements when it comes to their Google Analytics setup. However, there are a number of common setup mistakes that we see again and again. This is part two of a troubleshooting guide to help you make sure your analytics platform is providing you with data you can trust and use.

If you haven’t read it yet, check out part one on data collection.

Data accuracy

Is your data trustworthy? We analyse data and see the aggregated results, for example a huge spike in sessions on your homepage — great news! But is this due to a huge overnight increase in interest or is it because your intranet has been launched on a subdomain with the same URI? You probably don’t want to be the one who starts bragging about your marketing achievements based on erroneous data.

Issue #1: You haven’t configured the Referral Exclusion List correctly

This is particularly important if you have cross-domain tracking set up. Whenever someone arrives on your site from another source, Google counts that as a referral and triggers a new session. This makes sense if someone has arrived from a link on another site that is not yours. 

This can cause problems with your data if that source is another site of yours, for example a third-party payment processor or a microsite. By adding these domains to the exclusion list Google knows not to trigger a new session for these visitors.

Note: Cross-domain tracking can be complex so should be carefully considered before implementation.

Issue #2: You haven’t set the correct time zone

This is a fairly basic requirement but it’s important to just make sure that the time zone matches your other Google accounts. This is especially important for AdWords campaigns.

Issue #3: You aren’t using three views for each property

This is extremely important for the accuracy of your data. Every property you are tracking should have three views:

  • a Master view where reports are done,
  • a Test view where new settings and goals are tested first to see if they correctly set up,
  • and an Unfiltered view with just the raw data as a backup. 

This last view is crucial because when filters are applied to a view, it irrevocably alters the data, so if a mistake is made it will ruin all your reporting data.

Issue #4: You haven’t excluded internal traffic

A filter should be used to exclude all internal traffic (including staging and developer). Internal visitors are likely to behave very differently to your external users and can skew your data, particularly conversion rates. 

If you would like to track how internal users are using the site, then set up a new view with an include filter to just see internal traffic.

Issue #5: You haven’t excluded spam traffic

Depending on the amount of traffic on your site spam can account for anything from less than 1% of traffic to over half. Either way it is a good idea to filter it out because, much like internal traffic, they are not real users and so any data that includes spam can be skewed.

Issue #6: You haven’t prepended the hostname

Prepending the hostname adds the whole URL to the data which can help make your reports more readable. It is absolutely critical if you are tracking across different subdomains or domains. Without this filter it is impossible to distinguish between the different URIs of subdomains e.g. site.co.uk/ and sub.site.co.uk/ would be treated as the same page.

That concludes our list of common issues with regard to data collection — I hope you’ve found them useful. The next part will cover data cleanliness to make sure that your reports are easy to analyse.

If you need help with your web analytics don’t forget that Deeson can assist you. We offer a range of health checks to help you get the most from your digital platform including an analytics and conversion audit. This can help pinpoint the vital areas where you could improve your data and the quality of your traffic. If this is something you’re interested in drop us a line and we can chat about your needs.