Maximizing Google Analytics Despite Its Data Nuances
Google Analytics is a must if you own or manage a website. It can be used to measure who is coming to your website, where they are coming from, and then how they behave once on your website.
In many senses, it is a digital marketers dream. It allows you to track your marketing campaigns, learn from your successes, and then optimize your future campaigns.
However, Google Analytics is not perfect. It cannot track where your traffic comes from exactly, and sometimes it represents data in a way that is hard to understand or can be misleading.
To make sure you’re getting the most out of your Google Analytics data, read on about our tips and fixes of Google Analytics’ most common nuances and how to fix them!
Dark traffic can be thought of as ‘hidden traffic’. It shows up in your Google Analytics as ‘direct traffic’, but it’s actually a mix of email traffic, social traffic and organic traffic.
As much as 50% of your ‘direct traffic’ could actually be traffic from other sources.
This happens because analytics platforms, like Google Analytics, have a hard time tracking where every traffic source comes from. Any piece of traffic that they can not track 100% gets labeled simply as ‘direct traffic’.
Setting up UTM tracking links will fix the problem, Google even provides their own free one.
Make sure you tag your links before they go live in your campaigns. Once that is set, your traffic be tracked correctly.
Hidden Social Traffic
Probably the biggest nuance in Google Analytics is that it hides the majority of your Facebook and Instagram traffic.
This problem stems from the fact that the way Facebook (which also owns Instagram) and Google track visitors to your site are very different.
If you compare the number of clicks Facebook says you get on your adverts, compared to the number of referral hits you get from Facebook you will notice that they are different.
This happens because Facebook sends your users to an in-app browser. This prevents Google from accurately being able to track the visit.
To solve the problem, use Facebook’s Google URL builder, that will allow you to accurately track all your Facebook referral traffic.
Ghost Spam Traffic
Ghost spam traffic is traffic that is recorded on your website that isn’t actually a real person, but instead a robot that crawls your site looking for an email to send you spam.
You can identify Ghost Spam Traffic from three factors:
- If the source of traffic is already on a list of ghost spam sources
- A non-valid site is listed as the host name
- Non-existent screen colours or resolution specs (e.g. 0x0, 790×0, 1×1)
To stop ghost spam traffic, make sure Google’s ‘bot filtering’ is turned on.
To do this, in Google Analytics click on the ‘view settings’ button and scroll down to ‘bot filtering’ and then select the setting, ‘exclude traffic from known bots and spiders’.
Last Touch Attribution Bias
Last touch attribution is when Google gives the credit for a conversion to the last touch point before the conversion.
Social touchpoints often are not sales drivers. Organic and paid search, along with email, are.
Typically, a person following your social media channels will see a product of yours they like and click on it to check it out. They generally will not purchase the product there and then, but instead carry out a research phase of the buyers’ journey, where they compare your product to that of alternatives on the market. If they do decide they want to purchase your product they will then do a Google search click on your search ad or organic listing and make the purchase.
The problem with this is that Google Analytics will attribute all of that conversion to the click on the search ad or organic listing although it was actually the social post that initiated the sale.
Unfortunately, this error is not 100% fixable. Google Analytics does not let you track individual visitors to your site due to privacy concern.
The best way to deal with this is just to keep in mind the Last Touch Attribution Bias and know that there are many touch points before the last that a buyer takes before converting on the last.
Digital marketing has a massive advantage over traditional marketing due to the very fact that it is trackable. However, you should always keep in mind that analytics platforms are not perfect. Remember these four common Google analytics nuances when analyzing your website, and you’ll be on your way to digital marketing success.