Check Website Tracking Code Setup
First, make sure the Google Analytics tracking code is in place on all pages of the site that should be tracked. This sounds like a no-brainer but it’s easy to assume the code is properly in place when it isn’t! Missing tracking code can throw off metrics throughout your analytics account in many ways. If the code is not in place at all, no sessions will be tracked. If the code is missing from a page on the site, not only will you see no data for that page, but users may be tracked as “exiting” the site from the previous page.
So, how can you verify the Analytics tracking code exists on every page? One way is to manually look at the code on your pages, but that task takes significant time for large sites. Other than asking a developer to check, you can use a tool like GA Checker to crawl your site and look for pages missing the code. Another approach, using one of my favorite tools, Screaming Frog, is described in this post.
On pages where you find the code, double-check it contains the tracking ID for the correct Analytics property. This check can be automated with Screaming Frog, as described in the post linked to above.
GA Checker can also show the presence of the Tag Manager code on a site, which is helpful as many sites are now using Google Tag Manager to implement the Analytics code. Again, you’ll want to ensure the Google Analytics code is set to show up on all desired pages from within the Tag Manager interface. For more information, see our article on implementing Analytics with Google Tag Manager.
Check Goal Tracking Setup
Once you’re certain that all your pages are being tracked correctly, you should familiarize yourself with what your client is tracking – specifically, how they track leads through the site. Goal tracking helps to show the ultimate value of a website and each traffic source, however, improper setup can too easily end up providing faulty data.
To see all the active Goals on a website, select Admin from the top navigation bar in Google Analytics. On the next screen, choose your desired account, property and view from the dropdowns. Select “Goals” under the View you want.
Once on the Goals page, you’ll see all Goals the client has set up. The far right column will show you which Goals are active and which have been switched off. From here, you can select specific Goals to see how they are being tracked.
We have selected the Contact Us Goal as an example.
From the Goal details, we can see the Goal is set to track when a user reaches a destination URL. In this case, a “thank you” page seen after someone submits the Contact Us form.
When checking Goals, confirm the destination pages being tracked are indeed the proper “thank you” pages for their respective forms. Watch for cases where a destination URL may not have been entered properly, resulting in a Goal tracking zero conversions.
In addition, watch for cases where a Goal’s setup may catch more conversions than it should. For instance, say that this Goal was set up to trigger on any URL beginning with /thank-you. However, multiple pages fit those criteria:
- The Contact Us thank you page: /thank-you-for-your-inquiry/
- The Employment thank you page: /thank-you-for-submitting-your-application/
With this setup, both Contact Us and Employment submissions would be caught under the net of URLs beginning with /thank-you, resulting in faulty conversion data. To prevent this, we want to ensure each destination “thank you” URL fits only one specified Goal.
Understand Past Events
After you’ve checked for accurate tracking code and Goal setup, look at data from previous periods. Reviewing past metrics will help you understand how events such as site redesigns, periods of heavy advertising and email marketing campaigns have impacted traffic and conversions. Watch for upward spikes or sudden drops in traffic, review traffic sources and talk with your client to learn what external actions had the biggest impact.
- When were major updates to the site launched?
- When were email marketing campaigns sent out?
- When have online advertising campaigns run?
- When did offline activities (presence at trade shows, speaking at conferences, etc.) occur that could have driven people to the site?
The graph showing sessions per day will help to pinpoint major changes in site activity. When looking at how stats have changed over time, you may note that sessions dropped to zero for a few days, as in the below example.
In this case, the analytics code had dropped off the site during an update, with the issue not being caught until several days afterward. While you unfortunately cannot fix the problem of missing data retroactively, you can talk to your client to see if they know the reason for the drop and even work with them to ensure the problem does not occur in the future. For this instance, adding an extra step to the development process to ensure that all necessary tracking codes are in place before pushing updates would help to prevent future problems.
If your client hasn’t made annotations in the past, start adding these to the Google Analytics View to mark key events. See this article for a walkthrough of setting up annotations. The annotation example below helps to explain a major spike in traffic by noting an ad buy that involved taking over display ad space on a couple of local news sites.
When reviewing past data, annotations help you understand the reason for the increase at a glance without having to dig into traffic sources to find out where extra sessions came from. In addition, if a client wants to run a similar campaign in the future, you can easily pinpoint the date of a previous campaign to determine the results from that timeframe.
Getting ready to manage and report on digital marketing campaigns for a new client starts with assessing the setup of their Google Analytics account and ensuring they are receiving proper data about those who visit the website. Focus on accurate Goal tracking to ensure clients are correctly measuring data that relates directly to leads and sales. After ensuring proper tracking setup, review past data to understand events that contributed to major changes in data. These steps will help to build a foundation both to show proper data in the future and to apply knowledge of a client’s past efforts to future recommendations.