Google Analytics is a powerful tool… when implemented correctly. I can’t even count the number of times we've had enquiries from and spoken to companies who don’t trust the data in their reports because it's incorrect or incomplete. And it all comes down to wrong configuration and setup.
Checking and amending correctly the very basics of your analytics setup will provide you with data you can rely on and an accurate foundation for further more advanced configurations, like Enhanced Ecommerce tracking.
So here's a list of questions you should be asking whilst checking your Google Analytics (GA) property and view settings. This is assuming you're on Universal Analytics (analytics.js) so not all setup options may apply if your site is on Classic analytics (ga.js).
I'll also cover a few common setup issues at the end.
GA property settings
Go to Admin > Property > Property Settings.
Is your default URL set up correctly?
The default URL is used in Content and in-Page Analytics reports to display page previews.
Do you have a correct default view picked?
By default, this will be the first view created at the time of initial GA setup. If you're using AdWords Express or Google Play, then you want to check the view here is the one you want to connect to either of the services.
The default view will also show you all the custom and advanced segments you've created in other views.
Have you set your industry category?
Pick whatever matches your property most closely if you want to be included in the benchmark reports.
Have you enabled demographics reports?
Demographics and interests reports give you additional insight into your users. Recently I explained how to set this up in Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager V2.
Do you need enhanced link attribution?
Enable this if you have pages with multiple links that take people to the same destination or a page element that has multiple destinations, eg internal search.
This will help with identifying which particular elements or links were clicked.
In addition to enabling this in the property settings, you also need to add a line of code to your GA tracking code, or, if using GTM, toggle Enhanced Link Attribution to true in your pageview tag under Advanced Configuration settings.
Should you link with your Search Console?
Link your Search Console site with your Google Analytics property to see Search Console data in your GA reports, and access GA reports directly from the Links to your site and Sitelinks sections in Search Console.
GA view settings
Property settings sorted?
Great, now go to View > View Settings.
Is your view name descriptive?
Use easy to understand naming to describe what the view is for, eg excluding admin, domains included, ecommerce data only.
Have you set your default URL?
Similarly to the property settings, make sure you use the correct default URL here to improve your Content and in-Page Analytics reports.
Have you set a correct time zone?
The beginning and end of each day for your reports is calculated based on the time zone you have set. If you need to update this, you may see a flat spike in your data caused by the time shift.
Do you need a default page?
Setting a default page is useful when you have two separate URLs loading the same homepage. Here you can configure those pages to be considered as the same URL. This will affect your reports so make sure you do this correctly
Should you exclude URL query parameters?
Specify any parameters you don’t want to see in your reports. I've found a blog post from Lunametrics useful for understanding when and how to exclude URL query parameters.
Is your currency correct?
Especially relevant for sites with ecommerce tracking for making sure that the reports show your order values and revenues in the currency you operate in, and not in $ that it converts to by default.
Have you ticked bot filtering option?
Whilst this option doesn't help with eliminating all of the spam referrals, ticking this box will exclude at least a few of them. To get rid of all of your fake referrals, here's a thorough guide on how to exclude them with two filters. Get yourself a cuppa if you're going to clean up your data.
Does your website have a search function?
Enabling the site search is useful for understanding what your website visitors are looking for. It should be pretty painless to set up if you have a query included in the URL, and we've covered the steps to set up internal site search tracking in one of our blogs.
Other common setup issues
Here are also a few very common setup problems that I keep coming across again and again.
Have you got an unfiltered view?
It's good practice to have an unfiltered view that you keep clean from any filters and customisation. This way you can always double-check your data if anything goes wrong in another view.
Is your bounce rate less than 10% whilst your pageviews have doubled?
This may be happening due to pageviews firing multiple times. You can use Tag Assistant plugin for Chrome to check if that's true.
Are you getting referrals from your own domain and your payment gateway?
This is skewing your data so checkpoints 3 and 4 on how to exclude referrals from your domain and payment provider.
Tracking multiple subdomains in the same view?
By default, you see only request URI in your reports without a domain, which isn't very helpful if you are tracking more than one domain in the same GA view. You can improve this by adding a hostname to URLs with a custom filter. Check Google's guidance for how to do it.
Are you filtering out internal traffic?
To minimise your data being skewed by internal colleagues or partner companies you may be working with, exclude their IPs with the help of filters.
Are you on top of website traffic changes?
OK, so this one isn't quite about the problem with the setup but if data has an important role in your business, you can make your analysis more efficient.
Google provides you with the ability to set up alerts for important changes in your data, but our software does the work for you. Instead of trawling your data for hours or spending further time on configurations, you can set up alerts and personalised reports within minutes.
Have you experienced other setup problems that aren't covered above? Let me know and I'll include them.
Image Credit: Images courtesy of vectorolie and ratch0013 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net