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10 ways NOT to use Google Analytics

Author's avatar By Matt Trimmer 08 Oct, 2018
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Don't fall foul of these common Google Analytics mistakes

Google Analytics is a fantastically useful tool for businesses of all sizes. Rather helpfully for all the SMEs and SMBs out there, it's also free. That means anyone can start using Google analytics to study their web traffic in an attempt to tease out insights, to use to improve their sites.

This openness and low barriers to entry mean it's easy to launch yourself into Google Analytics before you actually have a handle on exactly what you are using for and how you should use it for your business. There's nothing wrong with getting stuck in and learning on the fly, but it can leave you vulnerable to making mistakes that could affect your bottom line. This post will introduce you to some of the basic mistakes people often make when setting up and using their Google Analytics. If you want to know the key ways of avoiding these mistakes, you can download our Google Analytics Fast Start guide, which is free for all members.

Mistake 1. Not upgrading to Universal Analytics and not using Google Tag Manager

Google Analytics is a wonderful tool – it allows you to see how visitors arrive at your website and what those users go on to do. However, its ‘Achilles’ heel’ is poor customisation when setting up tagging. Missing code from pages, duplicate code, incorrect code configuration on pages when, for example, the user’s journey spans different domains or sub-domains can and does cause the Google Analytics data you collect to be corrupted. Attempting to make decisions on such poor data will obviously lead to poor decisions. So, we recommend that all businesses check they are using the latest versions of these tools.

Mistake 2. Not having control of your Google Analytics Account

Audit who has access to your Google Analytics account now! Your Google Analytics Account contains commercially sensitive information about your website and you need to make sure past employees and past-contracted agencies no longer have access.

Mistake 3 - Not having duplicate, cleansed views.

Because of the way Google Analytics collects processes and reports on data, it’s impossible to get your data reprocessed. This means it’s important to have a number of views created when you sent up Google Analytics. This allows you to change the appearance of different views through the process of creating data processing filters. A good example would be a filter to remove all traffic from the office – that is staff visits. Because you are filtering and filters act on hits, it’s also a very good idea to ensure you have some unfiltered views – so called raw views.

Mistake 4 - Not enabling demographic data or remarketing.

Google Analytics identifies through its DoubleClick integration a high percentage of your audience’s demographic qualities such as age, sex, interests and what they are shopping for. I don’t think I’ve every met a marketer who hasn’t simply dribbled when seeing this data about their own site for the first time. So make sure you switch this on for your site and study you own audience demographics.

Mistake 5 - Not using or misusing campaign tracking.

Google Analytics does a really good job of tracking inbound traffic to your site generally by identifying direct, organic, cpc and referral traffic out of the box. If you want more detail you need to use campaign tracking or more specifically the URL builder.

Mistake 6 - Not measuring conversions.

Google Analytics is built upon the concept of conversions. Its menu system and core reports are ordered around the ABC model  - Acquisition, Behaviour, Conversion.  The theory goes, you must acquire your audience, they behave ideally to the point of conversion where they have completed a task but more importantly (from the website’s perspective) an objective has been achieved that has benefited the organisation.

Mistake 7 - Not abiding by Google’s Terms of Service.

Let’s face it, Google Analytics is an amazing bit of kit, and it’s free – wow. So lets at least pay some respect to Google’s Terms of Service.  First of all, Google wants you (or your organisation) to have a privacy policy and comply with it

“You will have and abide by an appropriate Privacy Policy and will comply with all applicable laws, policies, and regulations relating to the collection of information from Visitors. You must post a Privacy Policy and that Privacy Policy must provide notice of Your use of cookies that are used to collect data. You must disclose the use of Google Analytics, and how it collects and processes data.”

Mistake 8 - Not using event tracking, custom dimensions & metrics or the user ID.

Google Analytics has two features for understanding how users interact with content or objects on a page  - event tracking and enhanced e-commerce internal promotions. If you are an online retailer you should seriously consider using enhanced e-commerce deployed via Google Tag Manager, but be warned deployment needs careful planning and strong, experienced development resources. Amongst the many really useful analysis reports enhanced e-commerce provide, there is a number that focus on how internal pieces of content impact sales. You can find out more about internal promotions in our free guide to the top 10 Google Analytics mistakes.

Mistake 9 - Not understanding the Google Analytics data model.

You need to understand how Google Analytics collects data, processes it and reports it. Understanding hits, sessions and users is fundamental to interpreting Google Analytics reports properly and then enabling you to create more meaningful custom reports and applying more useful unified advanced segments.

Mistake 10 - Not acting on data.

So good for you, if you have upgraded to Universal Analytics and deployed Google Analytics using Google Tag Manager. You’ve cleansed your data and duplicated a number of views, filtering out the noise and your using event tracking and a number of customer dimensions which allow you to really segment your data. Now begin to define your key performance indicators (KPIs). Begin in a dark room and ask yourself  “What’s the purpose of this website?”, “What are its objectives?”, “What key metrics would indicate whether I’m achieving these objectives?”. By asking yourself these questions, you should begin to gain a clear picture of the key performance indicators you should be monitoring on a weekly or daily basis to ensure you meet your clearly defined objectives.

Author's avatar

By Matt Trimmer

Matt Trimmer is Principal Consultant & Managing Director of ivantage - a specialist training company for digital professionals. Matt enjoys training in Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager and Search Engine Optimisation very much because of the 'wonderful and interesting' people he meets and technologies he comes across. Matt is one of the world's leading experts in Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, Search Engine Optimisation and Digital Marketing and travels all over the world educating and enlightening digital professionals. Matt Trimmer became a Google Seminar leader in 2009, listed on Google.com with only 14 others authorised to train exclusively for Google's Seminars Success programme. You can connect with Matt via LinkedIn and follow on Twitter

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