3 Worst Google Analytics Mistakes (and their easy fixes)

In the process of developing and launching Conalytics, we have worked with several Google Analytics accounts. Here is a list of the common mistakes companies make with their GA implementation. Don’t worry, we won’t leave you high and dry; we’ll tell you how to fix them.

Mistake #1. Not enabling Demographics and Interest Reports a.k.a. Display advertiser features

If you are a digital marketer or responsible for increasing conversion rates for your company, you need to know your audience. Demographics and interest reports from Google Analytics provide valuable information about visitors to your site: gender, age, interest categories and in-market segments. Google can’t determine this information reliably for 100% of your traffic but what they do provide is extremely useful in understanding the behavior of your audience. You can see conversion rates, bounce rates, pages/visit, products viewed and purchased — all broken out by age and gender.

For example, here is the goal conversion report by age and gender for Diffen (my previous startup):

conversion-rates-by-demographic

We found that older readers were more engaged with our site (and also more profitable. Adsense publishers can also see AdSense eCPM metrics in GA). Younger readers and women were less engaged. So we know what type of content to create so it resonates with our audience.

The Easy Fix

To enable demographics and interest reports, you need to do 3 things:

Step 1. In your GA dashboard, go to web property settings, scroll down to Advanced settings and turn this setting on.

ga-demographics-reporting

Step 2.  Update your privacy policy (details here) so that you disclose to your visitors that you have implemented GA’s advertising features, that their non-personally identifiable data is being collected, and how they can opt out of Google Analytics tracking.

Step 3. Update your tracking code (details here). If you are using Universal Analytics (analytics.js), add a line of JavaScript

ga('require', 'displayfeatures')

before you ping the tracker via

ga('send', 'pageview');

 

Mistake #2. Not setting up goals

On Conalytics, we show this picture to users who don’t have any goals set up in Google Analytics:

shameonyou

 

If you have a website, chances are you want people to do something on your site. What is that thing? If you are not measuring it, you are not doing your job.

Watch and explore your data like a hawk. Be prepared for unexpected insights. If you don’t know why your numbers are moving, you’re not doing your job.

Elliot Shmukler, growth hacker at LinkedIn and Wealthfront.video, slides

Google Analytics has very strong support for goals, measuring conversions and analyzing conversion rates by any dimension (geography, demographic, device, browser/OS, product category, SKU, even custom dimensions). Without setting up goals it is impossible to know your conversion rate.

The easy fix

Goals in Google Analytics are set up at the Profile (View) level. There are 4 kinds of goals you can set up:

  • Goals based on number of pages visited in a session (aka one visit)
  • Goals based on time spent on the site during a session
  • Goals based on reaching a particular destination page (e.g. purchase-confirmation.php)
  • Goals based on an event (see Event Tracking below)

On the GA website, head to Admin -> Views -> Goals.

ga-setup-goal

 

If you choose Destination as your goal type, the destination page you specify can be an exact path, regular expression or the beginning of the path. e.g. /thank-you.php?ref=campaign1 and /thank-you.php?ref=campaign2 can both be captured either by using thank-you.php in the regular expression or selecting all pages that begin with /thank-you.php.

Goal Values

If all goal completions have the same value you can assign a specific monetary value to this goal. This is useful when you have micro-conversions that are assigned an arbitrary value. Some goals (like signing up for your newsletter) may be more important to you than others (like staying on the site for > 2 minutes). Assign goal values that make sense for your business.

Goal Funnels

For goals that are based on reaching a destination URL, you can set up a funnel. A goal funnel is a list of preceding pages. The typical use case for this is e-commerce sales. e.g. first the user visits a product page, then a view/edit cart page, then the checkout/payment page, and finally a purchase confirmation page.

goal-funnel

 

When you set up your goal funnel, you get sweet, sweet data on where people are dropping off. Like so:

funnel-visualization

Mistake #3. Not tracking events

There are two kinds of goals you want to set up: macro-conversions and micro-conversions. Let’s say you are tracking traffic for an e-commerce site. The main goal that even unsophisticated GA users tend to care about and often track is the number of purchases. This is a macro-conversion. But this isn’t the only conversion you care about. Are there other things that people can do on your site that are still a win for you? Think hard. They can follow you on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest. They can sign up for your newsletter. They can sign up for an account and add an item to their wishlist. After they have made a purchase, they can share it on their Facebook or Twitter feed. All of these are micro conversions. Once you start thinking about micro conversions, it’s not simply about tracking any more. Now you’re thinking about how to engage with your visitors, how to give them opportunities to start a relationship with you that goes beyond the “one-night stand” of buying something.

Google Analytics allows you to track everything that happens (aka events) on your site. Users clicking a link, starting to fill out a form, submitting a form, hovering over a menu, playing a video, scrolling down to read comments — all these are events that can be captured and sent to GA for aggregated analysis.

Events have a category, an action and can optionally be assigned a label and monetary value.

Events can be tied to goals. i.e., a goal definition can be the occurrence of events of specified categories or actions. Events can also be assigned a monetary value. For example, if the user makes a purchase worth $250, you can fire an event to GA that  logs it as eventCategory: transactions, eventAction: purchase, eventLabel:Galaxy Tab and eventValue: $250. If your goal is tied to eventAction: purchase, you can configure it so that the event value “flows” to goal value.

Using monetary values for goals and events has a side benefit: Page Value. Page value measures the contribution of each page on your site. This report by Avinash Kaushik will show you the bounce rates and page values for your top landing pages.

The (not so) easy fix

There are three reasons I think this fix is not so easy:

1. Firing events requires JavaScript or the use of a tag manager like Google Tag Manager, which is not without a learning curve.

2. It can be hard to figure out what actions are important enough to track and what notional monetary value to assign to them. But this is a very useful exercise and I strongly recommend you and your team do this.

3. There are nuances to event tracking, like determining the scope of the event (is it hit-level or session-level) and figuring out if it’s a non-interaction event (does not affect bounce rate calculation).

The JavaScript syntax for firing events (detailed event tracking guides are here for analytics.js and here for ga.js) is:

For analytics.js:

 

var eventCategory='Videos', eventAction='Play', eventLabel='Good Will Hunting', eventValue=4;
ga('send', 'event', eventCategory, eventAction, eventLabel, eventValue);

 

For ga.js:

var eventCategory='Videos', eventAction='Play', eventLabel='Good Will Hunting', eventValue=4;
_gaq.push(['_trackEvent', eventCategory, eventAction, eventLabel, eventValue]);

I hope this helps. Conalytics looks for these and other common implementation problems before we analyze your conversion rates six ways to Sunday to bring you actionable insights. It’s free; you should try it.