Avoiding Google Analytics Tracking Issues

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I love that Google Analytics provides out-of-the-box tracking code when setting up a new property. It helps marketers plug & play for a quick turnaround. Unfortunately, this convenient feature can give you the false sense of reliable data. Just because data is populating your Google Analytics reports does not mean that the data is accurate and reliable.

Here are some Google Analytics Tracking Issues I have encountered over the years. Included with each one is a tip on how to avoid the issue.

Cross Domain Tracking Isn’t Working

When cross domain tracking is not properly configured, your report data will show two sessions instead of one each time a user clicks from one domain to the other. This inflates your website sessions, average pages per session, etc. Proper setup steps to avoid this include adding an additional line of code in the tracking script, as well as tagging outbound links from one domain to the other. Google provides some helpful information on cross domain tracking.

Why Am I Seeing Self-Referrals?

If you have subdomains that are included in your tracking, then you might be experiencing this. A quick look in the Referrals report sometimes shows visitors being brought to the domain from itself. To avoid self-referrals, be sure to add your domain (without the www) to the Referral Exclusion List.

No Analytics Data for Some of My Pages

Perhaps you have analyzed the content reports and seem to think that some pages are not being hit. This could be happening for many reasons. For now, we will focus on tracking code implementation. I have worked with some websites that utilize multiple templates. In my opinion, it is best to apply your Google Analytics tracking code to the header in your content management system (assuming that each template uses the same header). This will ensure that adding a new template will not result in missing tracking code.

Referrals From My Test Environment

This is more of a web development issue than a Google Analytics issue. Any time this is seen, my first instinct is to check all links in the test environment. They should be relative, meaning that they will link to the test version of the destination URL. When the destination URL is an absolute references, you could see website sessions sent from your test environment.

Analytics Pageviews of My Test Pages

This issue is not easily caught. For one, it is easier to catch when you add a filter to display the full URL of each page on your site. There are two options to avoid this. First option is to add a filter that excludes the hostname of your test environment. The second option is to create a second property in Google Analytics for your test environment and have the UA-ID automatically switch between the two environments.

Exclude Internal Traffic

Similar to the previous issue, simply viewing Google Analytics reports will not necessarily tell you if your office’s activity on the website is skewing the report data. Upon setting up your Analytics property, it is imperative to have at least one reporting View with an IP address exclusion filter. If necessary, check with your office’s IT department to determine if you need to exclude one IP address or a range of IPs.

Google Analytics Goals Not Working

So, you are receiving contact forms in your inbox, but Google Analytics is not showing any goal completions. The most common way this issue occurs is by not utilizing the proper setting with the destination URL. You have the option of selecting Equals To, Begins With, or Regular Expression. If your confirmation page ends with a variable query parameter, then you cannot use Equals To. If you have configured your content reports to show the full URL, then you cannot use Begins With and start the destination URL with a forward slash. If you elect the Regular Expression option, familiarize yourself with regular expressions, and test the regex first.

Test Your Setup

Above all else, I cannot stress how important it is to test your Google Analytics tracking code setup before adding it all to the live version of the website. Many marketers make the mistake of using the live website as the testing ground. This is a major cause of Google Analytics tracking issues. Set up everything in your test environment first. If you are implementing event tracking, custom dimensions, or any other advanced feature, the testing time will prove valuable. Seek out Google Analytics support when you know the tracking and data needs are beyond your skill set. Give yourself enough time to set up everything in the test environment. It is better to work through these issues there than after the boss asks for a report.