Letter to the Ed: 0% bounce rate and other Google Analytics bugs
I’m about to throw my computer out the window, but I thought maybe I’d write to you first. Google Analytics seems to be bugging – I’ve got 0 per cent bounce rates, wild swings in data year-on-year … what’s going on!?
Well, I’m glad you wrote in, Anonymous Analytics User. Throwing your computer out the window would certainly be a fast solution, but sadly it won’t get you better data.
So let’s talk about troubleshooting.
To better understand Google Analytics setup and common issues, I sat down with Castleford digital strategist Chas Lang to hear his thoughts. He helped me cover the following:
- Common issues with new Google Analytics set-ups
- Important settings all users should implement
- His pro tips
Alright, take it away, Chas!
What are common issues with GA, and how do I fix them?
Chas told me that he sees three common issues with first-time GA users:
1) 0 per cent bounce rates
“While we should be striving to have low bounce rates, something that low rings alarm bells,” Chas said.
A good 90 per cent of the time, this bounce rate is caused by having the tracking code on your website twice. Sometimes this can happen if you have multiple plugins on your CMS that allow you to enter your tracking number – this duplicates the code and skews the data.
- To fix this issue: Check you haven’t duplicated your tracking code anywhere on the site.
2) Data that seems wildly different to last year’s
Ever look at GA data year-on-year and see that it’s suspiciously varied? Chances are, you’ve forgotten something that happened last year.
“One thing that is hard to pick up on until it’s too late is new clients not leaving annotations on Google Analytics,” Chas told me.
“It’s important to leave annotations, especially in big companies where there may be multiple people in a marketing department.”
Annotations can inform the future version of you what was going on at a particular time of year. For example, maybe you unveiled a massive free product promo in your newsletter one month, but you’ve forgotten about it a year later. The data will look totally different when you compare months, but an annotation could save you the stress of investigating why.
- How to fix this issue: Always leave annotations for yourself in GA to record when important or unique events took place.
Why is it important to get Google Analytics set up properly?
You can still get data results out of a poorly set up GA, so why bother with all the finicky stuff?
“It’s all about quality of data!” Chas exclaims.
“If you’re not tracking properly, we can’t make good comparisons down the track, so it’s hard to tell what’s working and what needs to be improved or changed.”
Take Castleford, for example. As an agency, it’s important that we can show clients that our strategies are achieving their goals. But while our strategists could look at bad or corrupt data and explain it directly to our contact person, that contact person may often present the same figures to their boss, or their boss’s boss!
“Things can get lost in translation and if data is corrupted, good results can look like bad results, and that can affect decision making down the line.”
What settings should I turn on the moment I start GA?
Chas recommends these small settings changes to help improve the quality of your data.
- Turn on benchmarking: While this shares your data with Google, it allows you to see benchmark data for websites of a similar size within your industry. It’s good to know what competitors are doing – where you may be excelling, or falling behind.
- Filter your traffic: You can create filters for Google Analytics views based on IP address, location, etc. Unless part of your target audience includes your own staff (which sometimes happens with sales-oriented companies), there’s no need to track your own traffic! So go ahead and filter your own IP address, and if you work with an agency like Castleford, filter theirs, too.
- (But keep an unfiltered view): An unfiltered view is a good fall back if you accidentally set filters you regret, because you’re not getting that data back!
- Exclude hits from known spam bots and spiders: This is a View setting in Google Analytics, and a useful one to turn on. Spam bots and spiders won’t hurt your site, but can corrupt your data.
- Link to your AdWords account: You can link your Google Analytics to AdWords and turn on remarketing. This may not be useful right away, but it doesn’t cost anything, so you’ll be thankful for the data if/when you need it.
- Consider creating goals: You can create goals in Google Analytics to easily receive a snapshot of your conversions. Going further, you can also set up goals based on where visitors are coming from, and the journey they take through your site.
Juicy goss time: What are your pro analytics tips?
Chas is a professional strategist, so he’s got to have some insider tips, right?
Oh yeah, big time.
Tip 1: Set up thank you pages – turns out they’re super important
“While this doesn’t directly relate to Google Analytics, it’s something important that is often overlooked,” he said.
A thank you page is displayed after a visitor takes a desired action, like filling out a contact form. They are redirected to url.com/contact-thank-you, or something similar.
This serves two key purposes. The first is simple: It lets visitors know their form was successful, that their business is welcome, and it’s an opportunity for you to deliver an extra message, such as when they can expect to hear back.
The second reason is incredibly important, so pay attention.
Thank you pages let you track form submissions. Because a submission is the only way to get to a thank you page’s URL, you know that every unique page view here is someone that filled out your form – you could even set it up as a goal, if you wanted. But without this, you’re in the dark.
Tip 2: Be curious
“A bit of curiosity never hurts,” Chas said.
Unless you’re actually changing settings, you can’t really break Google Analytics. So even if you don’t have much experience with the platform, it’s always worth poking around to pull out some really valuable – maybe even unexpected – data.
If something looks off, or you’re just interested to learn more, always be curious.
Google Analytics is easy to set up, but there are a few key tricks you can do to have a more complete set of data. High-quality data can greatly influence decision making, so it’s worth the time spent getting it right.
And with that, I say goodbye to Chas. With a bit of luck, and just a hint of analytics magic, you won’t need to throw your computer out the window ever again.
At least not because of analytics, anyway.