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What to Check When Taking Over a Google Analytics Account

Published December 26, 2014
Doing any kind of web work for a client starts with getting your hands dirty in their data. You need to know how much traffic an existing site receives, how much time users spend with the site, what pages they view and how many users convert to leads or sales for a business. But, before you can uncover any of that information, you need to make sure your client is receiving the right data in the first place.
Often, they’re not.
As a digital marketer, it’s your job to review any account you’ve been tasked with to ensure you are seeing accurate data and that you understand how past changes to the site and marketing campaigns are reflected.
Where do you start?

checking google analytics implementation

 

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.

 

viewing goal setup in google analytics

 

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.

 

seeing a list of goals in google analytics

 

We have selected the Contact Us Goal as an example.

 

checking a goal setup in google analytics

 

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.

 

analytics tracking code missing from a website for several days

 

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.

 

how to use google analytics annotations

 

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.

Conclusion

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.

ALSO IN THIS BLOG

When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:

 

 

It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.

 

Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.