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How reliable is the data & insights we can gather from Google Analytics?

Google Analytics measures web visitor engagement for millions of websites across the world, 29,134,826 to be precise, and that number is only growing! 

But exactly how accurate is Google Analytics and the data gathered? And can it be trusted? 

Google Analytics, or GA as the pros like to call it, is an invaluable tool for SEO and UX. Google Analytics allows you to track users’ information from your website as well as how they navigate once they’ve landed, which pages, buttons or posts they engage with and the overall volume of traffic to the site.

Why is tracing all this so important you may ask? Well as our resident data expert Chris Hirlemann says, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”.

How can you expect to understand your customers’ journey if you are not tracking the crucial data! But why might your data not be accurate 👇

 

Implementation 

The setup process to Google Analytics, or implementation, is often the phase where you may unknowingly create more problems than you hope to solve. Making sure your Google Analytics account is implemented on your site correctly is imperative for collecting correct data. 

A lot of problems that people and businesses run into with Google Analytics is a result of improper implementation. One that comes up a lot is tracking codes that have been added twice to each page, that will dramatically shift your traffic data! (Our Data team see it allllllll the time)

Another thing to watch out for is data sampling which can occur in ad-hoc reports when sessions are over 500K at the property level for the date range you are using.

If you are struggling with the setup of Google Analytics then check out these Five Common Google Analytics Setup Mistakes

 

No Cookies 

Not the tasty treats, but we like where your head is at!

We mean website cookies, and unfortunately, they are one of the problems you simply can’t fix. Any website visitor with their cookies disabled will fail to be tracked by Google Analytics, so no data is recorded. 

So what are cookies and how do they work?

When a user visits a website a cookie is created, these cookies track behaviours of the user such as movements, button or link clicks, log in details and much more. 

Something that’s become more significant in impacting data collection is GDPR, which requires sites to receive consent from users before the site can allow cookies to be dropped. The ICO made a clarification that Google Analytics is one that should be consented to before cookie drops. 

However, cookies are vital if you are looking to gain any visibility on how your customers interact with your website if you know what to look out for you can begin to make steps to improve the customer experience. Measured and managed!

One big problem you can run into with cookies though is session timeouts – after 30+ minutes of inactivity on a website, Google Analytics will send a new session cookie if the page is reloaded or active again.

 

Spam

Spam is another serious issue that can have an effect on the accuracy of your Google Analytics data. Ghost referrals are sent by spammers to your GA account without them even visiting your site and are picked up and documented as traffic.  

This is obviously a big problem as it can skew your traffic data. Luckily there are workarounds within Google Analytics to filter out this spam traffic. You can find this in “Bot Filtering” with GA settings.   

 

So, is Google Analytics data correct? 

In a nutshell, YES! Google Analytics data is correct and you can rely on it to make business and marketing decisions. However, that is only on the grounds that you have the implementation working correctly on every page of your website and that you have the appropriate measures in place to protect yourself against spam or bots.

A quick and easy way to make sure your Google Analytics account is working is to use the “Real-Time” feature found within the standard reports section. If you navigate to “Overview” you will be able to see the current visitors count to your website. If no data is displayed in real-time reports then it’s probably fair to assume that the tracking hasn’t been implemented correctly. 

Our Giants would agree too, Luiza, one of our GA experts would say that data in Google Analytics is 98% accurate when implemented correctly! 

And of course, we asked our Head of Data, Chris Hirelmann his thoughts on the topic: 

“Google Analytics is not going to be perfectly accurate, it never has been. It was always a great source of insight and could when set up properly, be very accurate.”

Factors that Chris suggests will help impact the accuracy of your Google Analytics includes:

  • Has the tag been added to all pages?
  • Does the browser loading have anything that blocks tracking intentionally?
  • Does the browser/device/page have anything that somehow blocks the JavaScript tag or the http response that sends the hit data? (less than 0.5% of real users have JavaScript blocked)
  • Is there anything that will stop/or change the cookies?
  • Google allows you to opt-out of Google Analytics using an extension – be aware of that.

 

There are many hurdles to overcome with ITP and GDPR compliance which can render Google Analytics almost useless (making other sources like Google Search Console vital). And it’s certainly becoming harder for businesses to have a clear line of sight on what happens on their site. But, user privacy is an important thing and we can all respect that.

Although, as Chris says “it does feel a little like the latest rules are a little like taking a shop owner and blindfolding them so they can’t even see how many people are in the shop, which aisles they visit the most… the most basic things that any physical store manager would need to keep an eye on.”

 

Anyway, if you’ve got any queries about your Google Analytics, want it to be set up correctly or want someone else to manage it for you then you should enquire about our award-winning data & insights team!

Just get in touch with us today. 

Need help with your data, insights & tracking?

Get in touch and let us know you read this blog. Someone will get back to you in a jiffy.

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