When it comes to audits, a Google Analytics audit is one of the most powerful to make sure you are getting accurate data. If your data is inaccurate, it becomes worthless, and there’s nothing worse than data you can’t use. Leveraging data at a big scale can help your business grow to new heights.
There are three main questions every business owner should ask themselves when they analyze their Google Analytics data:
- Is my data tracked with integrity inside Google analytics?
- Can I improve how I collect data to generate higher quality insights from it?
- Are we really tracking what matters to help our business grow?
In this article, we’ll tackle the question of data integrity because, as I said, bad data is worthless. You don’t want to make business decisions based on erroneous conclusions. That’s the biggest caveat with data, either drawing conclusions with too little data or making decisions based on inaccurate data.
Google Analytics health check 101
The key behind a business leveraging quality data is what we call Google Analytics health checks. Making sure your analytics are well set up and implemented is key. Here are a few questions you might want to answer:
- Do we have all the data we need?
- Are we using useless reports?
- Is the data collected legit?
- Is our analytics broken?
- Are there holes in our analysis?
- Can we fix errors in our analytics dashboard?
It’s pretty obvious that the most important part of Google Analytics is to track your data correctly. If your data is not accurate, then nothing you tracked is worth checking out. Trusting your data is the first step in leveraging your Google Analytics correctly.
If you have a CRO agency like SH1FT, it’s essential to do a Google Analytics health check before you start working with a client. By running your checkup, you’ll make sure the data you are tracking is correct. If the data is wrong, you’ll be able to fix it to get as much accurate data as possible.
There are two big problems when it comes to having inaccurate data for most companies.
- By having wrong data, no one will trust the data. Most people won’t be convinced that the changes you are proposing are worth the effort.
- You also risk not making good decisions since the data is erroneous.
Since those two resolved would mean a lot for businesses, it sounds like a good tradeoff. Your highest priority should be to make sure your data is accurate because it will lead to a better adoption (respect da data) and more correct decisions that will actually lead to growth.
Since auditing a Google Analytics account can seem tedious, I’ve decided to share with you guys our process at SH1FT to make it simpler. It’s by no means the most complete Google Analytics health checkup, but it’s a really good one.
If you truly want to do a complete Google Analytics health checkup, you should go ahead. This article will give you an initial audit process but you can go deeper and ask yourself some more granular questions about data integrity, quality and maturity. Being a data-driven marketer requires not only technical knowledge of platforms such as Google Analytics but also strategic thinking.
Without further due, let’s get down to brass tacks and tackle your essential Google Analytics health check and improve your data integrity, quality and maturity.
Simplified GA set up
When it comes to Google Analytics, you can do a lot of things to simplify your life for the long run. The goal here is to not try to fix every problem as they arise but rather to not have problems so you can grab a drink by the ocean.
A great tool that can help is the Google Analytics Debugger which is essentially a Chrome extension where you can have access to crucial information for your Google Analytics health check. You can figure out if you have double-tracking, events are well tracked or if there are bounce rate issues related to the events you set up earlier.
To use the Google Analytics Debugger tool, just install the chrome extension, activate it and open it while you are on your website. You will then need to hit on Inspect.
All you need to do is the following:
- Turn the chrome extension on from the address bar
- Refreshing the page you want to analyze
In a way, it’s similar when you want to inspect a page’s HTML structure to find some code or improve SEO. For our Google Analytics audit, we’ll just go inside the console tab.
From there, you should see that information is being sent directly to Google Analytics. There will be tons of information in the console but take close attention to what is being sent to Google Analytics. The first piece of data being sent should the pageview which looks like this:
From there, you can switch pages inside your website and see if the events are still sent to Google Analytics. For instance, if you reach your checkout, does it still get sent to Google Analytics? The goal here is to make sure tracking is well set up. Is there also an event set up for your pop up or does it say non-interactive?
For your information nonInteraction = 1 means that the event we see is not considered interactive and won’t be counted inside your bounce rate. You can also check the different subdomains that you have to see if they are under the same Google Analytics property or not. For instance, you might have a website like we have consulting.sh1ftdigital.com, where we don’t have the same Google Analytics ID for tracking purposes.
In our case, by having our data fragmented, we won’t be able to track the actions of our customer in the format of a customer journey. It might be beneficial for us to set it with the same Google Analytics ID if we want to know what people do and if they go back and forth between our websites.
In other words, we have no way of making a direct connection between visitors to our main domain and our subdomain. Fragmented data can be rendered useless in certain occasions. For example, a website that sends people to buy on a third party platform loses tons of interesting insight of visitor behaviour.
You can definitely take a look at this with access to the client’s Google Analytics, but, oftentimes, you’ll need to do it without access. It’s why we love using the GA debugger tool or the GA checker. It’s not a very long and complicated process which gives us an even more important reason to proceed. In general, I prefer the GA debugger tool as it’s more trustworthy.
What I’ve just shown you is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the GA debugger tool. There is a plethora of actions you can act upon when it comes to eCommerce websites. For example, you can track multiple things inside your pages to see which events is being sent to Google Analytics.
Hot tip ?️: If you want to analyze someone else’s website you can in a very short time with this tool. It can be an awesome way of finding bottlenecks and problems to resolve. After you’ve made your point, you might gain access directly to the account in question to run a Google Analytics audit.
The essence of a strong GA audit
If you have access to your client’s Google Analytics account, it’s time to do a more deep-dive audit inside this account. It’s the best path to find ways to improve your Google Analytics account and improve how data is collected. Again, inaccurate data has no value if we want to learn from it.
Here are the four things we’ll cover today:
- Google Analytics account set up
- Traffic filters set up
- Funnel & goals set up
- Extra GA tips to have better insights
Setting up your Google Analytics account correctly
This step is often forgotten but it’s a very important part. You should set up you Google Analytics account in order to align your organization with how your business functions.
To access your data, you just need to click on Accounts, then Web Properties and then Views. In general, inside your Google Analytics account, you can control the access you give to people and to which properties you send your data. You then have views which are where you’ll see your reports.
At SH1FT, we love setting a few different views when we work on a new account:
- Main view: it’s where we look at our accurate data to draw conclusions, figure out where we should put our focus on and such.
- Testing view: we are testing new ways to analyze the data from filters and configurations before we send it to the main view.
- Raw data: all our data is here and we don’t modify it to get a general view of what is happening. It’s also our data backup in case we mess up one of our other views.
The first thing we generally do is to look at the views you are using inside your Google Analytics. Our goal is to make sure in our Google Analytics audit that you have at least the 3 views mentioned above as we consider them the basic package.
When it comes to your business, it’s important that you personalize the views based on your goals and functioning. Let me give you a simple example, if you sell internationally, then you might want to have a different view for every single country.
Apart from a strong Views configuration, you should consider the following tips to make sure everything is set up in your Admin dashboard:
- Are all the clicks & sessions recorded properly?
- Did you set up UTM tags in your PPC for Google Analytics?
- Is your Google ads integration set up correctly?
- Did you set up enhanced eCommerce the right way?
- Have you enabled site search & category search?
- Is the time zone set up correctly?
- Have you installed the Google Search Console accurately?
- Did you enable demographics & interest reports?
- Are the default URLs set up correctly?
- Have you activated enhanced link attribution?
- Have you excluded certain referral traffic such as your payment gateway?
These settings are generally easy to set up initially, so you most likely will have everything well done. I would just double-check as part of the Google Analytics audit since forgetting one thing can always happen. At SH1FT, it’s always the first step we take when doing anything from our conversion rate optimization agency.
What about GA reports?
After making sure everything is set up correctly for our Google Analytics audit, it’s time to look at the reports. The essence of reports is to apply a bunch of different filters to see your data from different angles. In general, you can easily use common sense to see if something is wrong.
The best way to go in my opinion is to analyze the most common reports and see the type of errors you might encounter. This includes the audience, acquisition, behaviour and conversion reports.
Google Analytics report #1 – Audience
To see your Google Analytics audience report, just head over to the audience then overview. You’ll first be able to see a dashboard with the following metrics:
- New users
- Page Views
- Avg. Session Duration
- Bounce Rate
- Number of Sessions per User
At this stage, you can check to see if your data makes sense. For instance, if you have more new users than users then there’s a big problem here. Maybe you are getting a bounce rate of 100% which could be due to double tracking.
You can also make sure that your number of Page Views is larger than your amount of sessions as it wouldn’t make sense the other way around.
Next on the list is setting up demographics by just turning it on. You can easily switch it on inside your Admin section. Just go under audience and then demographics. You’ll be able to see in this report the hostnames. A little advice is to make sure the domains appearing aren’t random, if they are, I would advise to restrict them. After clicking enable demographics, you’ll have access to data (it should take up to 24 hours).
To verify that all your subdomains are added to your reports, I recommend going in audience, then technology, network and then hostnames. You should see all your subdomains and if you don’t, there’s a problem. If there are subdomains that aren’t yours in the report, you can add a restriction to make sure they don’t appear.
Another quick is to look at mobile & browser performance issues. Most companies have problems there that can easily add more money to their pocket rapidly with little effort. As an agency, it’s one of our favourite parts of our Google Analytics audit because our goal is to bring more sales to our clients.
To find this report, just go inside audience, then technology and then browser & OS to view it at a high level. You might realize that one browser gets a lot of traffic but has a tiny conversion rate. You can get more information on a browser by clicking on it and then you should see all versions. There you’ll be able to choose where you should put your efforts to level up the results quickly.
As you can see in the example above, some browser versions have visitors spending on average under 20 seconds which is significantly less than other browsers. In this instance, it might indicate that there is a problem since in most of other browsers, people spend more than 3 minutes.
You can do the same thing to verify your mobile versions to see if they yield great results. Just head over to audience, then mobile and then overview. You’ll then be able to see the difference in conversions between mobile, tablet and desktop. If you see a big drop in conversions between devices categories, it might be because your website has issues you should resolve.
Google Analytics report #2 – Acquisition
With Acquisition reports, we’ll again start by exploring our data with a common sense lens. Here, we’re mostly looking for issues with campaigns and how we’re tracking and attributing them.
Go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source / Medium and then select “Medium,” and just see if things make sense. Does your social, email, or CPC traffic look super low? Direct (none) looking way too high? It’s a common problem, and one usually caused by lack of proper campaign tagging.
From a high level, does the data from your traffic sources make sense?
This is a small first step in what will eventually be a much more time consuming process of auditing all of your external campaigns. But viewing at a high level lets you see what channels you’re possibly tagging incorrectly. Later on, I do recommend doing a full audit and tracking all of your manual tagging with a spreadsheet. This one is awesome.
Another issue to look for in Acquisition reports is self-referrals. I touched on this with the GA debugger above, but having issues with sub-domain and cross-domain tracking is super common. To find this out within your dashboard, go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium. Then, use the search filter and type in your company name:
A quick test to see if you have cross-domain or subdomain tracking issues
If anything shows up, then you might have sub-domain or cross-domain issues. Here’s how you set up cross-domain tracking in Google Tag Manager.
Google Analytics report #3 – Behaviour
The first thing we always want to check with the behaviour report is to see if we are abiding by Google Analytics’ terms of service. You should double-check if you aren’t collecting identifiable information that goes against the term of service. Anyhow, it’s always good to know the rules.
Specifically, we can see if you’re accidentally collecting personally identifiable information from your visitors. To see that, just head over to behaviour, then site content, then all pages and you’ll just need to type “/@” in the search bar. If you are collecting some personal information, you’ll see @ symbol in URLs. If you see nothing, then you are jet set.
The next problem to look at is the query parameter fragmentation. Google Analytics will normally split your pages into multiple rows with the same parameters which aren’t good. It’s better to see all the data of one of the website pages rather than have 10 versions of it all segmented. Here’s an example of query parameter fragmentation in one of our client’s account:
You can see this report in the same place you found if you were collecting data you shouldn’t (behaviour, content and all pages). If you have an eCommerce with products or you write multiple pieces of content, you most likely have this problem to resolve. It’s a fairly important thing to resolve because it’ll be hard for you to analyze your Google Analytics data. Here’s a guide to resolve it.
On your list, you should also take a look at your landing page report (behaviour, site content, landing page). You should try to look for any extremely high or low bounce rate or metric that doesn’t make sense at all. If you happen to see one, it’s time to investigate inside your landing pages directly.
To resolve those, all you have to do is set up your events correctly. You probably didn’t set up your events correctly in the first place. There are a lot of implementation errors easily fixable. Read this article to do it right this time!
As a last step, you should set site search if you haven’t do it prior. You just have to head over to your Google Analytics account inside the Admin panel and click on view settings then site search. You’ll then just have to select the right query parameter, one that verifies people have searched on your website.
Setting up site search changes based on what & where people can search on your website, but it’s still easy to set up. Just keep in mind that site search is lowercase sensitive. It means that “Facebook ads” and “facebook ads” are two different searches. Since we don’t want that, you can resolve it with this article.
I’ll just add a little segment on setting up your Google Analytics event. I won’t write a complex guide because every business can set up different events. An event is essentially an action taken by your visitors that has a meaning for your business. For example, it can be buying, watching a video, and so on.
You can quickly do a Google Analytics event in your behaviour report. You just have to head over behaviour and top events. At SH1FT, we usually mastermind with our client and our team to find the most important events on a webpage.
Google Analytics report #4 – Conversions
When it comes to your conversion section of Google Analytics, it’s mostly about making sure you’ve set up everything correctly. At SH1FT, we firmly believe that Google Analytics without goals isn’t worth much. You need to analyze your data knowing what your end goal is otherwise you cannot accurately compare what’s best.
Don’t worry, it’s fairly simple to set up goals in Google Analytics. If you haven’t done it yet, I urge you to do it so you can start gathering extremely valuable and relevant data for your business. Here’s a quick guide from Google themselves.
The first thing we always do when starting on a new clients Google Analytics account is to make sure their eCommerce reporting software shows the same data their Google Analytics does. If they aren’t the same, it might be time to figure out this issue.
It’s extremely common to see this problem inside eCommerce Google Analytics accounts. To be fair, you might not see the exact same data but having a 95%+ accuracy is the bare minimum for us to work inside your data with confidence.
If you aren’t getting the same results from your Google Analytics and your eCommerce reporting software, it’s probably caused by one of the four following causes.
- You haven’t correctly installed Google Analytics inside your eCommerce service provider. You should take a look at Google’s guide to make sure you have done it well.
- Your refunds & chargebacks might not appear inside your Google Analytics account.
- Setting up your Google Analytics in the middle of the day which makes it that you can’t track the sales from the beginning of the day.
- Using two timezones inside Google Analytics & your eCommerce reporting software. This would create data that doesn’t seem the same.
Broad strokes of a Google Analytics audit
I hope that this article has been able to bring you closer to a very accurate Google Analytics audit. It’s definitely a bare minimum audit, but it can bring wonders for your business. I’d like to also add that every business will have different reports based on many factors out of our control.
The goal of a Google Analytics audit is to make sure everything makes sense inside your account. Do you see some discrepancies? Do all the metrics make sense? Every time you see something weird, it’s about spending the time to resolve the issue.
You’ll also probably always have different things that appear because you might change your website or certain things in it. It’s why we always recommend prioritizing the problems you are trying to solve. If you have a problem with your goals & events, it might be important to resolve them as fast as possible because your data won’t make sense without it.
This Google Analytics audit could have been super long, probably 5 or even 10 times the length. This shows how many things you can do inside a Google Analytics account and how many people are underutilizing it.
You might have forgotten to filter your own company’s IP from your data or some of your marketing campaigns not well tracked. Either way, take an eagle view and resolve the big problems before you get into the nitty-gritty stuff.