Google Analytics is one of those things you’d install on your website without even thinking too much about.
You might have done that when you first started your blog to get excited about how many people are actually reading your content.
Or you might have installed Google Analytics on your website when you first opened your business, and just check it from time to time to see the traffic that comes to your website and where they are coming from.
Either way, you depend on Google Analytics to know how your business is doing online and how your audience is behaving on your website or blog. That means that you need Google Analytics to provide you with the most accurate reliable data possible if you ever want to make decisions based on that.
Unfortunately, if you’re have just installed Google Analytics and didn’t do pretty much anything else besides that, then you’re in big trouble.
If you’re thinking “what the heck is this guy talking about? I thought my analytics is pretty much on point. I mean I installed Google Analytics and all. Isn’t that enough?” Well, you’re not the first one to think that! In fact, you wouldn’t imagine the horrors I saw in some of the Google Analytics accounts I worked with that their owners thought were “okay” and correctly set up.
Well, actually you don’t need to imagine. I have collected 9 mistakes that most people do with Google Analytics, especially when they’re first starting out, and we’ll cover these mistakes in depth over this series of posts to make sure that you avoid them and end up making data-driven decisions for your business to accelerate your growth (and isn’t that what we all want?)
No need to worry, though, if you’re already making these mistakes. It’s not too late to fix them ( and I will show you exactly how below!)
Anyway, without further ado, here is the first part of my “Google Analytics Mistakes Series”!
Let’s get to it!
Mistake #1: Not having a measurement plan in place
I believe this mistake comes usually from people who are often told “WTF dude?! you have a website/blog and don’t have Google Analytics?! How dare you call yourself a blogger?!”
So they go home… and can you guess what the first thing they do? You’re right! They install Google Analytics. Without knowing what it does and what to measure!
Here’s the thing: you need to know what to measure before you start using any analytics tool.
The fact is, tools like Google Analytics, can measure a LOT of things! and I mean a LOT! So, to avoid swimming in a sea of data that is completely irrelevant to you and your goals, you need to have a solid measurement plan that tells you what metrics you should keep an eye on to make sure you’re getting closer to your business goals and objectives.
You might be wondering “Alright! I am convinced! I need a measurement plan before I can move further with Google Analytics. But what would that plan even look like?!”
Well, I thought you’d never ask!
A measurement plan doesn’t need to be ultra sophisticated or anything. Simplicity is your greatest ally here.
So, just open an Excel/Google sheet and write down what goals do you have from your website.
Do you want more leads? (ask yourself what is a lead for you. Is it someone who submits a form or sends an enquiry? Is it someone that downloads an ebook from your website? or is it something else? Whatever it is, write it down)
Do you want more traffic? (how much is traffic exactly do you consider to be good enough? what would your goal be in terms of monthly growth for your website traffic? 10%? 20%? Is it general traffic to your website that you’re after? or is it traffic to certain pages of your website? The more specific you are, the better.
Do you want more sales? (is there a payment gateway on your website? what is your target website sales for the next three months? what about month-to-month growth? do you have different targets for different products)
Once you answer these questions, you will easily have a better idea of what exactly do you need to measure with your Google Analytics. Most of these questions, though, will lead you to create conversion goals on Google Analytics, which is something we’ll discuss separately in a new article that is coming very soon.
Do you have a measurement plan for your website? Let me know in the comment section!
Mistake #2: Not Applying Any Filters on Your Data
The second very common mistake that I see all the time, especially with people who are just setting up their Google Analytics accounts. is not applying any filters whatsoever on their data and depending completely on the GA’s default settings.
This is a big mistake.
To put it simply, if you don’t have any filters applied on your account, you can’t really trust the data you’re getting from Google Analytics, and therefore, you will be ill-advised to make any decisions based on that.
You see… Google Analytics measures anything that happens on your website, so, for instance, the traffic you see in your reports can be simply traffic coming from you or your team (or from your mom who is trying to be supportive!)
This can be quite misleading as you might imagine.
But don’t worry, that’s what filters are for!
They exclude all of that unnecessary data that you don’t want to see in your Google Analytics view. Unfortunately, though, they don’t work retroactively (in laymen’s terms, filters don’t fix the data you collected in the past. it will only affect the data you start collecting after applying the filter.)
While we can’t cover everything about Filters here in this post (there are literally thousands of filter customizations you can create within Google Analytics! It’s a ginormous topic!), here are some essential filters you need to apply to your raw data to get a more accurate information that you can base your decisions on.
Pssst… before we delve into the essential filters you need to apply, let me know in the comments if you want me to dedicate a post on just filters in Google Analytics.
Filter #1: Exclude your IP Address
Your IP Address is basically the online address of the network you’re connected to. So, what this essential filter does is exclude traffic from your network which means that any website visits from your computer or any other computer connected to the same network wouldn’t count in your Google Analytics reports.
So, the natural place to start is your office, of course. You need to exclude any traffic to your website that is coming from your office’s network.
Tip: Don’t forget to exclude your home’s IP address if you tend to work from home more often than you’d like to (don’t we all?); or if your office is your home which can make applying filters that much simpler. You know what to do though if you do a lot of work from a certain cafe around the corner (I am looking at you, freelancers!)
Google actually gives a comprehensive easy-to-navigate guide on how to exclude your IP Address from your analytics.
Filter #2: Filter out bot and junk traffic
Did you know that a lot of the traffic coming to your website can be from bots and spammy servers? Who knew? right?!
Well, now you know!
Fortunately for you, excluding this type of traffic is not as complicated as it once was. Now Google does most of the work for you! You just simply need to tick a box and most of your bot and junk traffic will be gone!
To do that, just go to your “view settings” from your admin panel (you can go there by clicking on that “gear” icon at the bottom left corner of your screen); and then you can scroll down until you see this…
After you check that box, “save” and you’re good to go!
Filter #3: Get rid of Redundant Pageviews
“Redundant pageviews? what the heck is he talking about?!”
Well, I am talking about your analytics counting pages like “www.yourwebsite.com/blog” and “www.yourwebsite.com/Blog” as two different pages, even though you and I know that they are on the same page!
You see… Google Analytics is case sensitive and it really needs your help to be able to see every variation of the same page as the same one.
To do this, you need to apply a custom filter that basically forces Google Analytics to treat all URLs as “lowercase” so it doesn’t get confused with inconsistent capitalization of any page.
“So, how do I do this? this sounds pretty complicated…”
Not at all, I promise.
Just go to create a new filter as you did for the first filter we discussed here, and name it descriptively as usual.
Then select “custom” as your filter type. Then, select “lowercase” from the options below, and for your “filter field”, select “Request URI”.
Note: “Request URI” is what comes after your domain name, for instance, if you have a URL of “www.example.com/blog“, your Request URI would “/blog”.
So, have you installed these filters? what other filters you feel are essentials that I missed out on? Let me know in the comment section!
Mistake #3: Having Only One View on Your Google Analytics Account
The final mistake that we’ll discuss today is having the only view for all of your data on your Google Analytics.
What’s wrong with that?
Quite a lot, actually.
Having the only view doesn’t allow any leeway for making any mistakes or trying any things with your data because it will have a permanent effect on your tracking and how you measure everything on your website.
For instance, what if you want to test whether a new filter works in the way you want, and ended up not working as you intended? well, during all of that test time, your data has been affected by that filter and you cannot get that unfiltered data back.
Sounds scary, right?!
So, it is best to have at least three views for every account property you have (in most cases, that’s your website).
The first view should be the unfiltered “all website data” view since you started applying analytics on your website. This is the base upon which you will be building the other views around. So, in case you miss anything up in the other views, you will still have that one untouched.
The second view is your “clean data view”. this is basically the one that you’ll use most of the time. This would have all the tested (we’ll talk about this next) and verified filters and goals on it. The clean data view will help you make decisions for your business based on the most accurate data you have.
The third essential view that you should have is the “Test view”. From its name, this where you’ll test any new filters or goals and where you will do most of your experimentations. Once you finish testing a new filter or goal within this view, then (and only then!) you can apply it to your “clean data view”.
While these are the essential views you should have, you can definitely have more! For instance, you can a view that only contains data that relates to visitors in the U.S and another one for India. That can be really helpful if your company has regional managers! you can have a view for each manager with data for the countries that she’s managing.
There is quite literally a lot of views ideas that can be beneficial for your business based on your needs and objectives. So, try and create some views that could really take your analytics to the next level; and if you don’t have the essential three views that we’ve just talked about, what are you waiting for?! Go and do it now!
So, how many of these mistakes are you making? if already avoided these mistakes, what other mistakes did you see a lot of people doing when installing Google Analytics on their websites?
Let me know 👍
From the early years of his career, Omar has been working with entrepreneurs and SMEs to help them create marketing strategies that work in the digital age. He then went on to specialize in digital advertising, analytics, and content marketing. He’s currently one of the lead writers at IIB Council and manages its CDM Program as well.