Google Analytics Basics: Confronting Data Trust Issues

By | July 19, 2016

Time and again I hear clients say, that they don’t trust the data they’re seeing in Google Analytics. While most of the time it’s simply a matter of not knowing how to accurately read GA data, sometimes there really are problems that need to be solved before data is trustworthy. Now this isn’t to say that this happens to everyone, in fact the situations are often the exceptions and not the rules, but if you find that something just isn’t adding up, it may be one of these problems.

Symptom #1: You see a significant drop in traffic

Situation: Hypothetically, your traffic is trending as usual… then one day, for one page, there are no visits. Perhaps you think, well it’s an internal page, rarely do we send direct traffic there, so you let it slide. But then, a week later you revisit your GA data for this page’s traffic stats and you still have zero visitors.

The culprit: Chances are pretty good that the GA code got removed by accident or got stepped on in some way that deactivated tracking for that page. This is the most likely of the problems on this list to occur.

How to confirm: Thankfully, this problem is also the easiest problem to spot and fix. However, if you don’t tend to get a lot of traffic, this symptom might not be as obvious to spot, so check your GA regularly and be diligent when making changes on the back end. To confirm that removed or deactivated code is the problem, look at the GA code on the page.

Don’t freak out. Do this instead: Fix or re-place the GA code on that page.

Symptom #2: Your Conversion Rate is listed as something other than what you know it to be

Situation: Your online conversion rate is 1.5%. You know this to be true, but Google Analytics reports your conversion rate to be 1.67%. This makes you question the validity of all the other data in GA.

The culprit: Google Analytics help tells us, “In Analytics, the Conversion Rate indicates the percentage of visitors that convert on at least one of the goals you have defined for that profile.” That’s just an analytics-speak way of saying that GA is capable of tracking multiple goals, and if you set up multiple goals, your conversion rate is an average of the various conversion rates for each goal you have set up. When you’re setting up your account, remember this if you want to track the activity of more than one action on your site.

How to confirm: It’s not fun, but go into GA and calculate by hand the conversion rate for each goal you have set up. Chances are that GA is reporting the correct conversion rate for the compounded value of all the goals.

Don’t freak out. Do this instead: Knowledge is power. Once you know this, it should set your mind at ease. Set up at least one goal that is primary conversion goal for your site, and simply look at this metric when you want a direct answer to your conversion rate question.

Symptom #3: You suspect the data you see is not your own

This is a special case. It’s a much deeper and more pervasive issue than the other two. So, I’m going to hand it over to some experts, who wrote a great post on how to identify Rogue sites, and what to do if they’re influencing your data.

Now remember, these situations do not happen to all accounts. Tracking data properly is important, and plays a huge part in delivering the data trust you need to feel comfortable moving forward with conversion rate optimization plans. If you think that something doesn’t quite add up, start with these 3 common situations and hopefully you’ll find a resolution by the time you’ve made it through the list. Still think there’s a problem? ASK FOR HELP! There are great resources in the Google Analytics Help files, from Google Analytics partners to great website optimization firms.

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