Dirty Data – 5 ways you are messing up your Google Analytics Data

Google analytics

Collecting data in Google analytics is a piece of cake. Everyone knows that all you have to do is slap on a piece of the Google analytics javascript in your code and you are now up to your eyeballs in data. This is where most businesses go wrong. Collecting data is the simple part. Making sense of it is a whole different ball game and even worse if you are making mistakes in tracking and analysing your data correctly.

In this blog post, We will talk about 5 ways you could be sabotaging your Google analytics data. Ignore them at your own peril because if you do so you will not be getting accurate information to steer your business decisions.

Using GA “out of the box”

Google analytics is extremely powerful but I’ve noticed quite a few businesses think that just adding the tracking code will be all thats need. Sure the graphs and charts are all visually appealing and who doesn’t want to know how many visitors hit their site. But in order to harness the full power of Google analytics for your business,you have to customise it to track the data and answer the questions in line with your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Incorrectly deploying code

This can be a big problem because you will have sections of missing data and other issues. Some of them are caused by-

a) Issues with code formatting syntax

Always copy paste your GA code directly from the account admin section to avoid issues with trailing whitespace. If you paste it from word editor, this issue could arise causing your account to not track the data correctly.

_gaq.push(['_setAccount', ' UA-65432-1']);    // wrong
_gaq.push(['_setAccount', 'UA-65432-1']);     // correct

Your syntax has to be accurate and case sensitive or else the calls will not work

_gaq.push(['_trackpageview']);   // wrong
_gaq.push(['_trackPageView']);   // wrong
_gaq.push(['_trackPageview']);   // correct

b) Code not present on all pages – 

If the GA tracking code is absent on parts of your webpages, you will not be able to accurately track the behaviour of visitors on that page. The best way to avoid this is to embed the code in the header of the site. This way, if you are using templates, the header gets called on every page on the site.

c) Not maintaining Unfiltered & Staging analytics profiles 

An unfiltered profile is one with no filters/segmentation added.  If you apply filters incorrectly you can lose data. Thats the reasoning behind having a staging/test profile to test your filters before adding them to your main analytics profile.

No Goals/Conversions set up

To know how your business is performing online, you need to have the answers to how many visitors are buying/signing up. This ties in with my first point. If you are using GA “out of the box”, then you are not getting any value out of it. Setting up goals eg. Form submissions or checkouts (if you are an ecommerce site) will allow you to pinpoint which part of your funnel needs most attention.

No Campaign Tracking

Campaign tracking allows you to see which campaigns are generating visits to your site. If your Google analytics is attached to an adwords account, you won’t need to add additional tags to it. However, if you are running a campaign to drive traffic via an email newsletter and you don’t use a campaign tagged url, your reports will not show the effectiveness of the newsletter visits.

A campaign tagged url looks like this


The tags – utm_sourceutm_medium, and utm_campaign should be used for every link you own to keep track of your referral traffic. utm_term and utm_content can be used for tracking additional information:

  • utm_source: Identify the advertiser, site, publication, etc. that is sending traffic to your property, e.g. google, citysearch, newsletter4, billboard.
  • utm_medium: The advertising or marketing medium, e.g.: cpc, referral, email.
  • utm_campaign: The individual campaign name, slogan, promo code, etc. for a product.
  • utm_term: Identify paid search keywords. If you’re manually tagging paid keyword campaigns, you should also useutm_term to specify the keyword.
  • utm_content: Used to differentiate similar content, or links within the same ad. For example, if you have two call-to-action links within the same email message, you can use utm_content and set different values for each so you can tell which version is more effective.

To build your own campaign url, you can use Google’s url builder.

Internal traffic being counted

If your website is used by your internal team  and external consultants for whatever purpose – from simple browsing to performing actual tasks like putting a sale through, you want that data to be excluded from any reports you generate. To prevent these visits from skewing your data, you should add a filter to exclude their  IPs or IP ranges.

Bonus (& Extremely Important) – Not Understanding Business KPIs

This is the third time I will be reiterating what was said earlier in the post, Using Google analytics out of the box will get you nowhere. If you do not know the reason why you are collecting the data and what answers you want out of it, then you will be lost. Start with understanding more about the business and its objectives. Identify the goals for each of those objectives and use that to come up with your KPIs.

Next time, I will be writing about some other mistakes you make when it comes to data – Interpreting it correctly.