How to Track Errors in Google Analytics to Avoid Bad Business Decisions

how-to-track-errors-1Google Analytics is an excellent tool for tracking all types of user interactions on your website. One of the most important ways to use the tool is to track errors, as this will help you avoid making bad business decisions. You should be looking for two types of errors: those due to poor implementation of Google Analytics and errors on your website itself.

Errors in Google Analytics Data

Custom Campaigns

It is necessary to track custom campaigns to see how referred traffic is arriving at your site. Sometimes, Google Analytics will fail to track the data correctly, usually because of an error in manually-added parameters. By using the Google URL Builder Tool, you can correct the mistake.

Cross-Domain Tracking

Errors across multiple domains and subdomains are especially problematic. To resolve these cross-domain tracking errors, you have two options. One is to turn to the AutoLink plugin, which will allow Google Analytics to see links that include every domain you specify and count every link containing those domains as cross-domain traffic.

The other option is to use Google Tag Manager. With Link Click / Form Submit tags, Google Analytics will know when a user clicks the link or submits a form. Alternatively, you can use AutoLink Domains, which are easier to set up but less flexible than Link Click / Form Submit tags.

Locally Hosted analytics.js Code

Unless you are a highly-experienced developer, it is a bad idea to try locally hosting analytics.js code — the risk of error is too great. A better option is to allow Google to deliver the script and save yourself a lot of trouble.

Low Bounce Rate

A low bounce rate may seem like great news, but a bounce rate of less than 20 percent is most likely due to a tracking error. To find the cause, you should check a few places.

First, look to see if you have included the same code snippets twice for the same property. This can happen in WordPress if the Analytics plugin has the same property ID as the code snippet added to the theme settings. In this case, remove one of the snippets or modify them for different users. Another reason may be that Google Tag Manager is installed with a code snippet also installed on your site. This will again lead to two triggers.

Yet another reason could be embedded iframe content with Google Analytics code firing a page view. Since a bounce is a session where a user only visits a single page, iframes will make Google Analytics count every user as viewing at least two pages, turning every bounce into a non-bounce.

If neither of these are the case, it could be that a popup or chat window is sending an extra trigger to Google Analytics. You need to set them (as well as any other events) as “non-interaction events.”

Errors on Your Website

Sudden Loss of Traffic

If you are accustomed to receiving plenty of visitors every day and notice any period of time with zero visits, there is a good chance that your site went down. Use other data to confirm your suspicions and check with your web developer or hosting company to determine the cause. Possibilities include a down server, expired registration, and a site hack. To avoid zero traffic going unnoticed, you should either check your Google Analytics account every day or create a custom alert under “Intelligent Events” for no sessions in one day.

404 Page Sessionshow-to-track-errors-2Check if users have been unable to access pages by searching for “404” in your “All Pages”report. By setting a timeframe, you can see how often the error is occurring. You also need to find out how users are arriving at these pages — for instance, if they coming via an organic search this means old URLs are ranking that you should have taken down, unlinked, or redirected to a new URL. Under “Previous Page Path,” you can find pages with broken or outdated links leading to a 404 page, and remove or change these links.

Google Analytics Notifications

Every time you log in to your Google Analytics account, check notifications to view the list of possible errors on your website. You will find them under the bell icon at the top right corner of the screen. Bear in mind, not all these notifications will be errors, but most will serve as a good starting point to check for problems.

A common error is “redundant hostnames,” which means that although users are accessing the same page on URLs with and without “www.,” there are two different versions of this same page. This may impact your SEO, as Google will see the two versions as duplicate content. Luckily, it is easy to fix: all you need to do is set up a default for the domain, either with the “www.” or without.

It is also common to receive a notification for a drop in conversions. If you have set up Analytics Goals to track forms, this error means you have received no form submissions. This could be because the form is broken due to a plugin.

Only ridding your site of errors and ensuring your Google Analytics data is completely accurate will you be in the position to make the best decisions for your business.


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