13 04, 2016

Four Ways that a Google Analytics Session Could Break

By | 2016-10-31T10:36:49+00:00 April 13th, 2016|Categories: Google Analytics|Tags: , , , |

Google Analytics provides great tools for data collection and reporting. One of the critical aspects of analytics for your business, though, is ensuring that you have clean data.

An issue that I come across occasionally is a lack of session continuity. This means that a visitor’s session on your website is split into two or more website sessions. When this happens, your website session totals, site usage metrics, and traffic source attribution are all filled with incorrect data.

Beyond those reporting metrics, eCommerce websites rely on data analysis that includes Multi-Channel attribution models, total sessions per transaction, and assisted conversions. Broken sessions makes this reporting unusable. This can hurt eCommerce website marketing, because so much is dependent on proper traffic source attribution. Picture this: A new visitor comes to an eCommerce website and begins shopping. At some point, the website session being captured by Google Analytics breaks, and a new session begins during the visitor’s same shopping visit. Once a purchase is made, the marketing channel that brought the visitor will be considered an assisting source, not the actual source. Depending on the website’s attribution model, this could hurt analysis that will lead to marketing budget decisions.

If you are not confident that your visitors’ website sessions are maintained from beginning to end, then you have some work to do.

Here four ways that a Google Analytics session could break:

1) Session Timeout

There is a 30 minute session timeout, by default. Once that mark is hit, the session ends. If a user kept a tab open in their browser with your website, and resumes activity in the browser, then a new session will begin. Google Analytics will note that it is the same user with a new session. You have the option of adjusting the timeout marker, anywhere from one minute to four hours. This can be done in the Session Settings section of Tracking Info configurations for your Google Analytics property (see screenshot below).

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2) Missing Google Analytics Tracking Code

Every now and then, I come across a website that has not applied consistent Google Analytics tracking code across the entire site. Google Analytics data collection is based on its JavaScript being installed and readable. If a page on your website is loaded, and the JavaScript is not present, then there will be no data capture. Consequently, the previous pageview will mark the end of a user’s session. If the user clicks from the non-tracked page to a page with the Google Analytics JavaScript, then a new session will begin. Just like with the session timeout, your data will show one user with two sessions.

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The best way to avoid missing code is to apply the Google Analytics JavaScript in your website template. Every time a new page is created with your template, the Google Analytics code will automatically be in place. If you use multiple templates on your website, be sure to apply the Google Analytics JavaScript to each template.

3) Cross-Domain Tracking Error

Anyone who intends to set up cross-domain tracking knows that the most valuable aspect of the setup is maintaining session continuity between the two domains.

The industry I most frequently see cross-domain tracking is Higher Education. Many institutions utilize multiple domains, and there is an obvious relationship between the content across those domains. Perhaps from the institution’s standpoint, content, data collection, and reporting are segregated by departments. However, the website visitors have a unified experience across all of the content during their website sessions.

Cross-domain tracking with Google Analytics can be tricky, which is why even Google recommends using the linker plugin to make life easier. Validate your tracking code setup in a test environment. If at all possible, never use your live environment to test your tracking code. If, while testing, you notice that the source/medium changes when clicking to the second domain, then there is an issue with the tracking code.

4) Conflicts with Other Scripts

A very talented JavaScript developer once explained to me that, with the broader use of scripts on websites these days, there is potential for some scripts to conflict with each other and cause one or both to break. The best way to catch this is to validate your tracking code setup in a test environment. Not only should you make sure that the Google Analytics reports are showing data, but you should also verify the appropriate Google Analytics cookies, and use your browser’s developer tools to check for any script errors.

Get More Reliable Data

Guarding against the above issues helps ensure that your website’s Google Analytics tracking is as accurate as possible. More specifically, these issues skew website session totals and sometimes source/medium attribution, which then skew conversion rates and other helpful KPIs. The goal of analytics is to make informed decisions that improve your business. Make sure your data is reliable, for that purpose.

30 04, 2014

Great Google Analytics Dashboard Shortcuts

By | 2017-08-08T08:18:29+00:00 April 30th, 2014|Categories: Google Analytics|Tags: , , , |

If you are like most people who are new to Google Analytics, you have not yet broken the surface of possibilities that Google’s dashboards can provide. Google Analytics can help shine light on your website’s traffic sources, seasonality, Google AdWords spend and revenue, social media impact and user behavior. The most difficult art about Google Analytics can be sifting through the mountains of information and metrics and gleaning important trends and risk factors that help your business adapt and grow.

What Are Google Analytics Dashboards?

solutions-galleryDashboards help give you a high-level overview of your properties by displaying multiple reports as widgets on a single page. With one dashboard, you can monitor many metrics at once (such as traffic sources), so you can quickly check the health of your site’s traffic, popular referral sources, organic traffic growth and user engagement by traffic medium. With another report, you can view the impact of your paid search campaigns by tracking revenue, eCommerce conversion rate, keyword data and spend analysis…all on one page.

Each profile in your Google Analytics account displays a default dashboard that is pre-populated with a few widgets. You can add new widgets to a dashboard by clicking Add to Dashboard at the top of any report, or by clicking +Add Widget from the dashboard menu. Click the gear icon in the top corner of each widget to see these customization options. To view and manage your dashboards, use the Dashboards menu on the left, found under the Home tab.

You can create up to 20 dashboards for each of your profiles, and each dashboard can contain up to 12 widgets. Dashboards are available only in the view in which you create them.

But What If You Don’t Know Where To Get Started?

Google has made this process easier through its powerful Google Analytics Solutions Gallery. More proficient Google Analytics know how to effectively create their own custom dashboards, with key metrics and comparison data while newcomers to Analytics don”t know where to get started. The new Solutions Gallery takes custom dashboards created by Google Analytics experts and expert marketers and release them (for FREE) to the masses.

Whenever you find a shared dashboard that you think would be helpful, all you have to do is click on the link while logged in to your Google Analytics account, choose the property you want to add the dashboard to, and you now have a pre-built and powerful dashboard!

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2014-04-30_13-42-55There are 16 different filters that you can apply to the Solutions database so you can easily find the dashboard or bundle that is right for your business. This includes acquisition, conversions, display advertising, organic search, engagement and many more. You even have the ability to find pre-made segments, custom reports and goals to make tracking your success and analyzing your data even easier.

2014-04-30_13-44-52Make sure to look at the reviews from each importable dashboard or bundle to see how successful they have been and use customer satisfaction to drive imports. The gallery will keep track of dashboards you have previously used and imported as well which makes it easier to re-use dashboards that work well for your business or clients.

Save Time With Bundles

A couple of great finds in the Google Analytics Solutions Gallery involve bundled sets of dashboards which can be helpful to use right out of the box or customize to your liking. One such great example is the “New Google Analytics Starter Bundle” which incorporates over 20 reports, segments and dashboards that give even new Google Analytics users a leg up on the competition.

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Another great bundle is the “Device Segments” bundle which includes custom advanced segments to see how traffic sources, campaigns and pages perform depending on devices (tablet, mobile, desktop). All of these bundles can be easily by simply searching for “bundle” in the “search for solution” search box.

Customize, Customize, Customize…

The last step to help fully utilize these new dashboards in your account is to customize them so they are right for your business. Some of the dashboard’s widgets may contain dimensions or metrics that don’t apply to your business. If you cannot track revenue in Google Analytics, you can edit the widget or dashboard to focus on tracking conversions such as registrations, signups or contact form submissions.

Customizing each dashboard and segment is super simple.

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From your dashboard, mouse over the “edit” pen in the upper right corner and click to open up the “widget settings” pane where you can customize each widget to only show dimensions and metrics you want to see or care about. The same thing applies for advanced segments.

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Open the Segments drop-down at the top of your analytics window and select one of your imported segments, then click the cog in the upper right, then click edit and voila! You now can customize your custom advanced segments. The same is true for custom reports to help alert you to drops in traffic or revenue or erratic behavior on your site.

In Conclusion

The Google Analytics Solutions Gallery makes diving deeper into Google Analytics easier and more painless. Almost every option of analysis and trending can be found in the gallery and the option to import your own exists if you wish to share your own knowledge and give back. Save time, energy and frustration and make use of this wonderful and free feature today! If you are working on a very complex Google Analytics setup or configuration don’t hesitate to contact Beacon today!