Many times when I enter a new Google Analytics account, I notice a few things that are simply wrong. And the business didn’t notice it... for years.
Not their fault at all because they just didn’t know. But the data becomes unusable and it’s frustrating to “start over.”
Luckily, you’re here because we don’t want you in the same situation. Start off the right way and take an hour to double check how your Google Analytics is set up. It’ll save you so much time in the future.
Scenario 1: There is no data in your Google Analytics reports.
When you open up your Google Analytics report, head on over to the Audience Overview report from the left nav menu. If your reports are looking as empty as an abandoned house, there is something wrong. You should at least be getting traffic from your own visits.
- You didn’t replace your tracking ID into your Google Analytics or Google Tag Manager snippet.
- You didn’t place the snippet in the right place.
- You placed the wrong snippet, most likely an outdated version.
Download the Google Tag Assistant extension to check on your current setup. Find out the errors that are mentioned as you browse through your website. There should at least be a page view tag that fires every time you load a new page.
Also, check in the Developer Console to see where your snippet is placed. Search for “analytics.js” or “gtm” in your code. Is it placed as towards the beginning of the <head>, and the <body>?
Follow these instructions for the proper Google Analytics setup here.
Scenario 2: Your referral traffic is inflated because of your own website.
One of the most powerful features of Google Analytics is that you can find out where your visitors come from. Head on over to the Acquisition > All Channels > Referrals report to do a quick double-check. Use the search bar to the right of the report and enter in your domain(s).
Do any of them show up? If so, this is a big no-no.
- You didn’t tell Google you own multiple domains.
- You could be missing a page view tag somewhere.
Make sure you’re excluding your multiple domains in the Referral Exclusion list in the Admin Settings. Remember to exclude the “www” as it will only filter based on your main domain, not your subdomains that don’t have the triple w.
Double check with the Google Tag Assistant that a page view tag is firing on every page on your website. In order to avoid having to click through every page, check for the landing pages associated with your domain referrals. Head over to the Referrals report and filter based on your domain. Then, set the Secondary dimension to Landing Pages. Then, you’ll know which pages need some page tags!
Scenario 3: Your Google Ads and Search Console reports are empty.
When you’re clicking through all the reports, you notice some data missing from the Google Ads and Search Console.
Common Mistake: You didn’t link up the other Google platforms to your Google Analytics account.
Google Analytics doesn’t do the linking automatically for you, but you can quickly set it up in just a few steps within the Admin Settings.
Turn on Google Search Console by going to your Admin Settings. Find Property Settings and toggle on “Search Console” towards the bottom of the page. You’ll be prompted to add your Search Console account.
As for Google Ads, it will be right under Product Linking under Property, the section below Property Settings. Add a new Link Group and make sure you’re the admin to your Google Ads account. You’ll be able to add your account in just a few clicks.
Scenario 4: Campaigns are not showing up in the All Campaigns report.
When you’re starting to put your brand out there, of course it’s great to track all your efforts outside of your website. That’s where UTM parameters come in. But sometimes, you might not even see it in your reports.
- You didn’t use all three UTM parameters for the tracking URL: source, medium, and campaign.
- Page view tag is missing on your landing page.
You’ll need to follow the rules of Google Analytics. Set your utm_source, utm_medium, and utm_campaign in all your custom tracking URLs. Only apply them to your own landing pages and Google Analytics will automatically relate the referred user to the UTM parameters. Check out this article for more info on UTM parameters.
Double check with the Google Tag Assistant to make sure a page view tag fires as well for your property tracking ID.
Scenario 5: Campaigns are not under the right Default Channels.
You’re tagging your external campaigns, but it’s being categorized under the wrong bucket. Or you simply just can’t find it.
- You didn’t use the right medium assigned to your target channel.
- You didn’t set up your Channel Settings yet.
Double check which medium you are using. Go to the “All Campaigns” report and filter by your campaign name. Then, add a Secondary Dimension to see which medium keyword was used. Do they match the default settings shown in this doc here?
If you want to make special keywords to create new buckets, follow these instructions to set up your Channel Settings to fit your business.
Scenario 6: You are seeing really, really low bounce rates.
Normally when you see bounce rates close to 0%, you’d be jumping up and down because the content is so good. But that’s sadly not the case. A bounce rate is considered when a user doesn’t do anything after landing on your page and exiting the website.
Common Mistake: You’re firing events or duplicate page views once the page loads.
And this can be misleading because it’s telling Google that the user did engage when s/he really didn’t.
Check with your Google Tag Assistant to see what’s actually firing to widdle it down.
Remove automatic event tags based on page load.
Double check to see you only have only one tracking snippet: Google Analytics snippet or Google Tag Manager snippet in both the <head> and <body>.
Scenario 7: There are too many landing pages that are (not set).
How is it possible that someone can “land” on your website and technically not even be on a page?
- You’re firing an event instead of a page view. If your page view tag fires after an event like a video play, Google Analytics think the first hit alert is the so-called user interaction and not the page view.
- You’re filtering out the landing page from the View. You could be tracking the events, but Views are filtered based on certain pages. So if the page is left out, it will be set as (not set).
Find out which pages are missing. Create a segment based on Page equals (not set). Then, apply it to the Events report and figure out where that action occurs on. It’ll help you widdle down which pages need some tagging or maybe even added in the Filter View settings.
Scenario 8: You have more pages showing up than you even created.
When you’re viewing the All Pages report under Behavior, you’re noticing 50% or more rows than pages that you even made. How is that possible?
- Google Analytics counts all your Query Parameters as a “new page.”
- The URLs are not consistent with case capitalization.
Exclude Query Parameters in your view. Other than the main parameters that give you value in Google Analytics, some can be additional for 3rd party platforms and more. Make a list of them and enter it into the Admin Settings > View Settings > Exclude Query Parameters. This is case-sensitive, so make sure you’re using all the capitalization variations here as well.
Set all your URLs to lowercase. Go to your Admin Settings and head over to “All Filters” under the right Property. Add a new filter, choose lowercase, and then Request URI, and apply to all Views.
Scenario 9: You’re seeing weird, political phrases in your data.
Sadly, sometimes you might be a target for spam. And you’ll randomly notice weird phrases floating around in your Language report.
Spam is one of the things that sadly comes with having a website. But there is a way around it to help you maintain clean numbers in Google Analytics.
Common Mistake: Thinking the spam is real traffic to your website
The solution is based in Google Analytics’ Filter settings for future incoming data. Find more in-depth information of how filters play an important part in your initial setup here.
Review these 5 reports to get you in tune with what to filter out:
- Service Provider
- Campaign Source
Lastly, make sure you turn on the built-in feature for Bot Filtering in your Admin “View Settings.” Check off the box that states “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders.” Here’s a great step-to-step guide on all the technical pieces.
Scenario 10: Your goals aren’t set up.
When you’re a beginner to Google Analytics, most likely you have yet to dabble into “segments.” But the basic Google Analytics set up just gets you started with page tracking. You can see which pages users visit and all the other fancy metrics, but how do you understand your website’s value?
Common Mistake: Not knowing to set up conversion tracking to add real value to Google Analytics data
Head on over to your Admin Settings and set up your Goals under the View column. There are several options on how you can create them, but here’s my guide to getting you started with the basics.