Google Analytics has become vital to today’s highly aggressive digital landscape. It’s a web analytics service offered by the search engine giant designed to provide statistical and analytical functions for search engine optimization (SEO) and digital marketing purposes. It presents valuable data that enables businesses to understand their visitors better, among other benefits.
But while the platform offers robust data on visitor behavior, there are cases where Google Analytics could present you with inaccurate information. Without proper knowledge, you could be basing your campaigns and other strategies on false information. From cookie rejections to session timeouts, we’re looking at some known factors that could affect your Google Analytics accuracy.
Reasons for Google Analytics Inaccuracy
Inaccurate data analysis could lead to crucial disadvantages, such as ineffective SEO. To prevent this problem, brands work with expert SEO service providers to get accurate Google Analytics data and implement effective strategies.
Various factors create inaccurate Google Analytics reports. The following are some of these issues and how to deal with them. Note that you’ll need a coding background for some of the steps provided. It’s best to coordinate with an expert and present the following steps.
1. Incorrect Google tag embedding
The Google tag (gtag.js), formerly the global site tag, is a web tracking script that allows you to send data to various Google products and services, particularly Google Analytics, Google Ads, and the Google Marketing Platform. Through this function, you can measure the effectiveness of your website and ads. Plus, it enables you to adopt new features on your website without adding new code.
While the Google tag can help you improve data quality, improper installation could create accuracy issues, particularly duplicate page tracking and missing script installation. This issue could occur more if you use a WordPress GA plugin and have additional embedded gtag.js in your code. Unfortunately, determining the number of site visitors will be difficult when any of the two happens.
If you have duplicate scripts, one sign to look for is low bounce rates on most pages. You can use Google’s Analytics Debugger extension to locate them. On the other hand, Google will alert you if you have missing scripts on your site. However, you can also use Google Tag Assistant to diagnose and troubleshoot issues on specific pages. If none of the options work, try re-installing your analytics script.
2. Issues with cookie collection
Cookies are data files that contain small pieces of information that make online users identifiable. They’re vital for Google Analytics to determine and tag unique visitors. Plus, they can help specify the number of sessions online users conducted and what prompted them to visit. Without data from cookies, it would be impossible for the platform to gain insight into user behavior, leading to a misleading and inaccurate report.
Various things can cause such an issue to occur. Visitors may not accept cookies. Some because they have a firewall that blocks or deletes them. There are cases where visitors delete cookies manually. Unfortunately, when these factors happen, there’s not much that you can do.
You can, however, urge visitors to accept cookies more. You can do so by launching a more trustworthy cookie consent banner. Some websites hide the option to decline or make the text too small for visitors to see. Never do this because vigilant online users will consider this a red flag, prompting them to visit other sites instead. They will go to websites that respect visitors and provide the option to decline cookies.
3. Same user on different devices
Browsing on multiple devices is something that most online users do. Some might browse products and accept cookies on their smartphones, then purchase the item later on their computer. Unfortunately, this particular behavior could create discrepancies in your Google Analytics reporting. If you miss this factor, you could read inaccurate results from the platform.
The good news is that Google now offers Cross Device reports. This feature allows you to organize data regarding multiple devices into a cohesive analysis. With this report, you can better understand your visitors’ actions, like when they use other devices at each step of their buying or conversion journey.
4. Skipping spam and bot traffic filters
Most internet traffic comes from bots. Some are good bots or crawlers designed to do essential web tasks like indexing web pages. Meanwhile, bad bots distribute malware and false data to hack a website and its users.
Fortunately, Google Analytics 4 provides bot or spam filters. These features can automatically filter out bot traffic for all tracked web and app properties.
If you’re using Universal Analytics or the previous version of Google Analytics, you must configure the filters manually. First, create a new view and set up a custom filter. Then, program it to exclude Filter Field: Request URI and Filter Pattern: Bot Traffic URL.
After configuring everything, validate your results using the Verify This Filter function. Repeat the process for other suspicious URLs and IP addresses.
5. Improper goal setup
Goals play a crucial role in your Google Analytics reports. For one, they help you determine how often users complete an activity while visiting your site. These include making a purchase or filling out contact forms. They also tell you where users come from and what content they interact with most before taking action.
Setting up goals is vital to gaining accurate results from Google Analytics. Getting this step wrong will make it impossible to evaluate the effectiveness of your campaigns.
Fortunately, it’s easy to determine if you need help with goal tracking and reporting. For example, a user submits a form, but their information doesn’t appear in your inbox or third-party management tools. Once you notice this issue or any similar problems, you can reconfigure your goals in your Google Analytics account.
6. No internal traffic filters
Team members or partners may spend too much time fiddling with your website. Unfortunately, this behavior could produce inaccurate results since Google Analytics may consider their actions as unique visits.
The best way to keep internal traffic away from your data is to exclude it from your corporate IP addresses and known personal IP addresses of your employees. Additionally, you can refer to Google’s instructions for excluding internal traffic from your report.
7. Session stops or timeouts after 30 minutes
It’s vital to remember that the Google Analytics tracking session restarts after 30 minutes of inactivity. When that happens, the platform will have no recorded interaction during that period.
Session timeouts are an issue that you shouldn’t overlook. Most online users often pin or bookmark a tab for later visits. Because of this behavior, the platform might count the same user twice or more, creating inaccurate results.
Meanwhile, you can counter this issue by codifying custom cookie timeout sessions using a particular code snippet. The first is “_setSessionCookieTimeout,” which sets a custom new session cookie timeout. The other is “_setVisitorCookieTimout,” which creates a custom Google Analytics visitor cookie expiration time.
Create More Accurate Google Analytics Reports
Google Analytics offers many advantages thanks to its intelligent analytics and innovative features. While the platform provides many benefits, it’s important to remember that a hundred percent data accuracy is not always guaranteed. Fortunately, by understanding all the issues mentioned above and fixing them, you can mitigate various problems and attain insightful data results.