How To Stop Screwing Up Your Google Analytics


Google Analytics: It’s an absolute necessity for anyone interested in marketing a website online. Undeniably, it’s one of the most used tools for internet marketers, however, it’s probably one of the most misused ones as well. Think of it like a Ferrari – it’s very powerful and there’s a lot it can do, but just because you aced your learner’s exam yesterday doesn’t mean you’re ready to take the wheel.

You’re going to screw something up.

red ferrari

Google Analytics, in case you’re unfamiliar, provides internet marketers with a potentially overwhelming amount of data and insight on a website. Any digital marketer worth their salt should be able to tell you what these metrics mean, and even how to interpret them, but far fewer actually understand where these figures come from. By only having this surface level understanding you open yourself up to the strong possibility of misinterpreting some crucial information.

To help guide your analytics understanding, and help you to become a true master web master, I’ve outlined a few of the key analytics misinterpretations below.

Ghost Referrals

Ghost referrals are a form of spam that can drastically skew your analytics data. Whether you’re managing your personal site, or managing a number of sites for your clients, it’s important to filter out these inaccuracies. Luckily, Google Analytics makes it easy for us to identify these spam referrals.

When looking at your referrals, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is the home page the only landing page visited?
  • Is the bounce rate 100%?
  • Are the referrals coming from just one domain?

If the answer to these points is yes, chances are you’re looking at a spam referral. You can also check in Google Webmaster tools to see if the site is listed as an inbound link. If it’s not listed, chances are the referral is spam.

Once you’ve identified any spam referrals, you can easily filter them out in Analytics by going into conditions, and setting an exclude filter.

New vs. Returning Visitors

new vs returning visitors

The new and returning visitor’s metric is one that is easily misinterpreted, but one that becomes very clear if you understand how the data is collected. Keep in mind: If you manage websites for clients, this metric is definitely something that you’re going to have to explain at some point.

Google Analytics measures returning visitors using cookies. However, this means that if someone deletes their browsing history, is using an incognito tab, or visits your site from another device, they will be tracked as a new user. So, if you’re concerned about having more new visitors than returning, remember to look at the full picture. Examine historical data as a benchmark, and look to other metrics like average session duration, pages per session, and behavior flow to gain a more comprehensive understanding of your visitors.

Bounce Rate

Bounce rate is an incredibly important metric provided in Google Analytics, however – like all analytics figures – it’s important to digest the data within the context of other information.

Bounce Rate is the percentage of visitors who land on your site, but do not click somewhere on your site within 30 minutes of visiting. So, this means that anyone who presses the back button, closes their browser, or types in a new URL will all be recorded as a bounce. As you can see, bounce rate is bad, but it might not be as bad as it seems.

There are many factors that might play in to your bounce rate. For example, if you are a local business who only services a local area, the vast majority of visitors to your site from areas other than your service area should bounce. Luckily, you can easily set up a location filter in your analytics to draw a more accurate picture.

Number of Visitors

Number of visitors is a fairly inconclusive metric on its own. If your visitors increased from 100 to 1000, this really doesn’t help you much unless this visitors are qualified leads. With digital marketing, it’s absolutely about quality over quantity. To provide some context to your number of visitors figure, you need to have goal tracking set up. With goal tracking, you can effectively determine how many of those 1000 visitors are actually interacting with your site on a deep level. This means tracking things like form submissions, newsletter signups, and any other function your site may support. Goal tracking is fairly straightforward to set up in Google Analytics, but remember, when making changes you should always use a test view. You can always remove any filter you set up in analytics, but if you’re not using a test view, you can risk losing some very important information.

If you want to learn a more about who is visiting your site, and how you can tailor your site to increase conversions and drive sales, Google Analytics is an absolute must. Interested in learning more? Give us a call, we’re always up to chat about analytics.


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