Is Your Google Analytics Data Inaccurate & Letting You Down?
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Are You Getting The Right Information From Your Analytics?
There's nothing more annoying than logging into your Google Analytics account and worrying that you're not getting the full picture; imagine seeing website data that you believed to be correct, only to find out you're getting sold a lie.
Google Analytics by default tracks session information for all countries and while this is fine if you're a large organisation that operates throughout the world, being a smaller local business operating in a single country means that the data Analytics data you're provided with can be very misleading.
The following article will serve as an essential guide on how to gain more accurate insights from your Google Analytics account. Please note that this advice should only get taken by businesses operating in one or a small number of countries; if your business is worldwide, then I do not recommend following the information provided here.
First Things First - Checking Your Analytics Account
The first step is to log in to your Google Analytics account and identify which countries are filling your account with invalid data.
To do this set the date range to the past year and select the following:
Audience > Geo > Location
Selecting the above options should bring up something that resembles the following:
Be sure that you've set the date range to the past year (or as long as possible) before continuing; the information presented here is invaluable in determining where your website is getting 'false' visits from (similar to referral spam and ghost traffic) these countries.
The United States, in particular, stands out here, but why? Well for one, this is Analytics data taken from the Hilsden Digital Analytics account, and I can tell you now we only operate in the UK.
So, what do we see here and what should we be looking for?
The Bounce Rate is 100% for the United States.
The Avg. Session Duration for the United States is 00:00:00
While I'd anticipate the bounce rate of a foreign country to be higher, I'd never really expected to see instant bounces from all of the traffic coming from this location - so that's strike one.
The nail in the coffin here is the Avg. Session Duration for two reasons; if this were real traffic, I'd expect to see a high bounce rate and a short amount of time spent on the page before the user realised they were on a site located in a different country to them. Secondly, the combination of both these metrics being maxed out helps me understand that these sessions were so fast (instant, in fact) that it would be near impossible for a human to behave in such a way - strike two, spam traffic ahoy!
Problem solved, right? Wrong. The next step is to take the information we have regarding the spam referral traffic and create a filter in Analytics to remove it from future reports.
Now we can begin by setting up some filters to help increase the clarity of information provided by our Analytics account reports each month and you have two choices here: you can set up an 'Include' filter in your Google Analytics account to show traffic coming from the UK and the UK only.
Alternatively, you have can set up an 'Exclude' filter and choose which countries to omit from your Analytics reports.
Setting Up Your Include Filter In Google Analytics
To set up an 'Include' filter do the following:
Admin > View > Filters
This should take you to the filters overview screen; if you don't have existed filters, the screen will look slightly different to this, though you should still have access to the 'Add Filter' button.
Hit the 'Add Filter' button.
Select 'Create New Filter' > Name The Filter > Set The Filter Type To 'Custom'
After You've Selected 'Custom' > Select 'Include' > In Filter Field Search For The Word 'Country' And Select It
Type The Country You'd Like To Include or Exclude into the 'Filter Pattern' field.
Hit 'Save' and finish.
Which Filter Should You Use?
For small, UK-based businesses I'd recommend creating an Include filter for 'United Kingdom' as this will save you the time on having to exclude multiple countries every month.
For larger businesses operating in multiple countries, I'd recommend the 'Exclude' filter as this allows you to throw out trash data and keep the information from visitors in countries that you want to get more information on.
Why Are These Filters Helpful?
Put simply: they increase the accuracy of your Google Analytics data and enable you to start making better decisions about your website be that conversion rate optimisation or adjusting the layout of specific landing pages.
What Do The Improvements Look Like?
Typically you'll get a more accurate representation of your bounce rate, avg. session duration, page visits and important site metrics (so you're less likely to see higher bounce rates in excess of 80%). Here's the example from one of our client's Analytics accounts to give you a better idea:
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