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Why Is My Google Analytics Inaccurate?

Amanda KoehlerAmanda Koehler/Digital Marketing Lead
September 10, 20194 min read

How to Fix 5 Common Inaccuracies in your Google Analytics data.

Google Analytics yields an abundance of rich, actionable data that can guide an organization’s entire digital strategy.

But, as it turns out, numbers can lie. Read on as we identify the most common Google Analytics inaccuracies and show you how to correct them -- before misinformation leads you into poor decisions.

1. Reports show no data

Several GA reports can come up empty. The most common are Search Console reports and Google Ads reports. Both require integration of Google Analytics and third-party tools.

Example of Search Console integration to be enabled

How to fix it:

2. Website changes result in significant decrease in traffic.

Websites change constantly, from small tweaks to major updates in design, layout, and domain or URL structure. Often, especially with larger websites, site managers miss necessary steps to maintain GA tracking. This can cause days, weeks or months of data loss. The losses go on until someone notices.

Graph example of Google Analytics

How to fix it:

  • Verify that your Google Tag Manager or Google Analytics code snippet is on every page of your website.
  • Check your Google Analytics regularly, so you catch traffic anomalies.
  • Set up alerts in Google Analytics that send email notifications of any sudden drops in traffic.

3. Spammy data appears in reports.

Spammy data can appear in many reports, but it most commonly infests your referral traffic list. Some common spam referrals are Semalt, event-tracking.com, and buttons-for-your-website.com. Google won’t penalize you for spam in terms of your SEO rankings, but the bots mess up your data.

Example of spammy data on your Google Analytics

How to fix it:

  • Create a new view in Google Analytics and apply filters to that view.
  • Use filters to exclude traffic from certain sources you see in your reports, and verify that these filters do, in fact, exclude that spam traffic from your reports.
  • Set up a segment that matches your filter, so you can look at your main GA view to see traffic without the spam.

4. Your own website is a top source of traffic.

If your own domain appears in the list of referrals, something’s wrong. This internal traffic, known as a self-referral, is extremely common, especially with larger websites. A self-referral blocks you from seeing the original traffic source and medium, the true landing page and the path users followed to get to your website.

Example of your website showing up as your top source traffic

How to fix it:

5. Your bounce rate is low. Really, really low.

Everyone wants a lower bounce rate. But if your overall website bounce rate drops below 40%, you may have an issue.

The bounce rate is the percentage of users who leave your website after viewing a single page, or after a single hit was sent to the server. Say you have published a compelling blog post that draws 1,000 readers. If all of them leave your website immediately after viewing that great post, your bounce rate is 100%. The post succeeded, but the bounce rate made it appear to fail.

Bounce-rate numbers can lie of the other side of the ledger, too. Let’s say that winner blog post includes an embedded video that autoplays. The user need not interact with that video in any way, but the autoplay reads as a second user interaction in GA. So your GA falsely indicates that the user did not bounce, even though the user visited only one page on your site.

How to fix it:

  • If you find a very low bounce rate, check your events. Make sure that any events that occur automatically are set as “non-interaction” hits.

We like Google Analytics. GA gives marketers a wealth of data. But it’s a lot to absorb and to manage. If you have trouble understanding, analyzing and acting on your GA data, you’re not alone.

At Northwoods, we like to clear away the GA fog and make those numbers comprehensible and useful. One place to start: Understanding, recognizing and correcting these five common GA errors that lurk in the tool’s statistics, graphs and tables.

Not sure your GA account is up-to-date? We offer free analytics evaluations to determine what you’re doing well and where you can make improvements. Request an evaluation here.

Amanda KoehlerAmanda Koehler/Digital Marketing Lead

Amanda Koehler is certified in Google Analytics and Google AdWords.  As our digital marketing lead, she focuses on creating marketing strategies for customers like Wildeck, Heartland Advisors,  Curative Care, Snap-on and many others. Through research and data analytics, Amanda helps clients meet their digital marketing goals.

Connect with Amanda on Twitter | Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn | Read Amanda Koehler's Blogs

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