Google Analytics is a powerful tool that can strengthen your website and marketing strategy — but only when you use it correctly.
Getting started with Google Analytics is fairly straightforward, and generating reports about how visitors interact with your website is easy. However, you could miss out on valuable data if you use the wrong data or account settings.
Mastering Google Analytics takes time — nobody is an analytics expert straight out of the box — but the first step toward success is avoiding easily preventable errors. Below, I’ll review seven of the most common mistakes I see business owners make in Google Analytics.
1. Not adding code to every page
Google Analytics collects all kinds of useful information about your website. It tracks which pages get the most traffic, whether visitors from ads make purchases, the types of browsers visitors use and much, much more. All that data is sent to Analytics via a tracking code you get upon creating your account.
It’s your responsibility to insert that code snippet within the header of each page of your website. Fail to do this, and Analytics won’t receive data for what happens on that page. Novice marketers sometimes place their tracking codes on only their most popular pages – either they don’t know any better, or they think only those pages matter. But that’s a narrow view on the bigger picture of marketing. Without a full set of data, you can’t possibly optimize your website’s strengths and weaknesses.
2. Not setting up Goals
Want to know whether your SEO or advertising efforts are paying off? A great way to do this in Google Analytics is by setting goals, which lets you quickly see whether visitors are taking desired actions on your website. Want to see how many visitors make purchases, request quotes, hang out on your site or visit specific numbers of pages? You can do all that, and more, by setting the right goals.
There isn’t a good reason for not setting goals. You’ll need this information to make sure your marketing efforts are worthwhile. Goals fast-forward the optimizing process and save you loads of time. You can even assign goals monetary values to directly compare marketing costs with results.
3. Not linking Search Console
The Google Search Console offers important data about how your site performs in Google’s search results. You can add your website to Search Console and view its performance from that interface, but it’s also important to link Search Console with your Google Analytics account. This lets you see more clearly how organic traffic translates into activity on your website.
Once you’ve linked with Search Console, you can run Analytics reports to learn about search engine rankings for various keywords, impressions and clicks in the search results, top SEO landing pages, and more.
4. Not linking AdWords
If you advertise with Google AdWords, you should be linking to your Analytics account. While AdWords offers the ability to run reports, it’s also important to link Analytics with your AdWords account.
Linking these accounts offers you additional insight into the browsing behavior of your advertising traffic. You can create remarketing lists based on goal completions, or use Intelligence Events to get alerts about unusual behavior on your landing pages. Mainly, it’s easier to make decisions about your marketing strategy when all of your data is accessible in one place.
5. Looking at aggregate data vs. channel specific data
Acquisitions reports in Google Analytics allow you to see which online channels deliver the most traffic to your website – examples of channels include social media, organic search, display network and email. Google Analytics also lets you see how effectively each channel drives conversions.
Remember, though, that each of these default channels represents aggregate data from several traffic sources – which means it doesn’t tell the whole story. Consider social media, and how the results of your Facebook marketing might be completely different than your Instagram marketing. Fortunately, Analytics lets you focus on specific traffic sources within each default channel so you can get more clear data.
6. Looking at data points vs. trends
A common question among business owners we talk to is whether or not a conversion rate is “good” or “bad”.
That sounds like a straight forward question, but it’s not. First of all, that question implies that there can be a single “good” conversion rate. Sure, there are better conversion rates than others, but if you’re looking at a single data point at a single point in time, then you’re missing the bigger picture.
Instead of looking at single data points, zoom out and look at the trends over time. Is your conversion rate or bounce rate improving over time based on your optimization efforts? That’s the more important question to answer and to continually work toward.
7. Not setting up cross-domain tracking
Cross-domain linking is one of the lesser-used features in Google Analytics, because most businesses have just one website. However, for businesses that have two sites – such as ecommerce sites with online shopping carts on different domains – then cross-domain linking allows Analytics to collate data from both sites. If your website has an associated secondary domain, then you can see how cross-domain linking would be vital for optimization.
Optimizing your website and marketing approach would be difficult without the insights gleaned from Google Analytics. But if your Analytics account isn’t properly configured – or if your view on data is too narrow — then you won’t get the information needed to make important decisions. Google Analytics is a complex tool that nobody masters right away. Take the time to do it right, though, and you’ll never know how you lived without it.
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