5 Mistakes Webmasters Make When Using Google Analytics (and How to Fix Them)

Published by Papa Whale Webmaster

How to avoid the traps of Google Analytics … and the 5 mistakes many Webmasters make.

Google Analytics is the ultimate tool for Webmasters wanting to know which pages and content are performing the best, which campaign is more efficient, how their users behave, and so on.

It’s an incredibly useful tool for interpreting data. But if you’re not using Google Analytics properly, this data can pile up and become meaningless.

And we don’t want that to happen.

So without further ado, here are 5 mistakes webmasters can make when using Google Analytics — and here are some tips to avoid these pesky, common traps.

1- Not setting any trackers; or simply setting them wrong

Trackers are super useful when you want to know the efficiency of one’s campaign. Google Analytics allows you to track an array of different parameters, such as: Campaign Source, Campaign Medium, Campaign Term, Campaign Content, and, of course, Campaign Name.

Trackers are even useful for external campaigns, like:

Social Media

Without trackers, all of your social traffic would fall flat into one big category; one with without any distinction between campaigns. They help shed light on which campaign may have benefited the most from any one particular source of social traffic.

Email

Trackers tell you which element of your mailing campaigns has the best click-through rate (CTR).

For example…

  • Was it your your image?
  • Or was it your CTA?
  • How many readers did you attract with your email signature?

This info is always nice to have.

Banner Ads

Knowing which format, design or spot works best when it comes to your ads is a fundamental component to its success. And you can’t gauge any of this without the appropriate trackers.

So now that you know why you should be using them, let’s explore how.

Google Analytics provides you with a tool that allows you to create them quite easily. It’s called the Google Analytics URL Builder. It’s free and oh so simple to use.

Please note: Webmasters should be mindful when establishing one’s trackers. URL parameters are case sensitive, so use uppercase and lowercase sensibly.

Protip: If you plan on your campaigns lasting many months—or even years—then it’s a great idea to have the date of the campaign events in your trackers.

And just a reminder, trackers are used for external campaigns, not internal. You should never use UTM parameters to track internal campaigns because each time a link containing a UTM parameter is clicked a new visit is generated, therefore inflating your visit count along with skewing a whole other array of data.

2- Comparing Apples and Oranges

When you compare metrics, make sure that those metrics can actually be compared one to the other.

For example, you might be tempted to compare devices with types of traffic. Your email traffic can come from Desktop or Mobile, so if your mobile traffic increases and your mailing campaign traffic decreases, just realize that one doesn’t have anything to do with the other. Therefore, comparing different variables and metrics that aren’t always the most relevant ends up being counterproductive.

The same can be said when it comes to the date.

A Monday should never be compared to a Saturday; just like a sunny Sunday in July is not the same as a snowstorm one Wednesday in January. After a while. You will begin to get a feel for traffic patterns and habits. Like when your traffic typically increases … and when it goes south.

Be realistic, compare the right metrics with the others.

In fact, one terrific way to gain greater insight regarding traffic inclinations is to increase the amount of data you’re capable of receiving. And then wait a good amount of time before analyzing your results.

3- Only thinking black and white

A long average time spent on a page is great, a high bounce rate is bad, a high number of opens via mailing campaigns is good … and so on, and so on.

But wait, not so fast…

While the longer your user stays on a page is generally regarded as a good thing, it could also mean that your users have difficulties navigating your site. What can be viewed as good may simply hide a deeper, underlying UX problem.

Same with high bounce rates; this could mean that your user is finding the content they were looking for right away, simply not requiring them to navigate to any of your other pages.

Bounce rate defines a single-interaction on your page. Like we said, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a user is disinterested in your content just because they leave quickly!

However, by adjusting your idea of what qualifies as an interaction and what isn’t — you can make sure that your bounce rate actually reflects something pertinent by working on what type of interaction and user experience you wish to shoot for.

There are 2 types of events that you can set up so your bounce rate really reflects what you want:

  • Interaction Events
  • Non-interaction events

Select what counts and what doesn’t.

As for the opens of your mailings, of course you want your subscribers to open them. But if it’s followed by no clicks, or worse, unsubscriptions … then a high open rate may mean that your subject is good but perhaps your content is not up to par? Or maybe your readers feel that your mailing topics are no longer a reflection of the content they initially subscribed to.

So before jumping to any conclusions, widen your perspective.

4- Confusing metrics

One of the first mistakes a beginner makes when he or she first begins using Google Analytics is mixing up the metrics … the cold hard data.

Not realizing the difference between terms like Pageviews and Unique Pageviews, visits and visitors can really throw off your analysis.

Below are the definitions of pageviews and unique pageviews.

A pageview is defined as a view of a page on your site that is being tracked by the Analytics tracking code. If a user clicks reload after reaching the page, this is counted as an additional pageview. If a user navigates to a different page and then returns to the original page, a second pageview is recorded as well.

A unique pageview, as seen in GA’s Content Overview report, aggregates pageviews that are generated by the same user during the same session. A unique pageview represents the number of sessions during which that page was viewed one or more times.

In most cases, it’s the number of unique pageviews that matters. Focusing too much on overall page views can inflate your data

For an entire glossary of Google Analytics terms, click here.

5- Having a short-term view

With Google Analytics, simply focusing on the daily fluctuations—and not on the long-term picture and tendency of your users—is not a winning strategy.

Look at trends, not short-term fluctuations.

Spikes in web traffic occur all the time; therefore, they are not an accurate gauge of failure or success. Campaigns sometimes take a little while to take off — don’t predict a failure based on the day after results.

Same applies with attributing daily success to immediate changes. Oftentimes, a bump will be caused by a novelty or fluke; not a real trend.

But after you’ve established traffic patterns and trends, having a long-term view means you can adjust your strategy. Once you’ve assessed the results, think about the future and your next winning strategy for a healthier long-term big picture.

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