Google Analytics Audits
There are many benefits of a Google Analytics audit that may not seem obvious from the outset. By investing in an audit, you can get the full story of what your data is telling you. Did you accidentally add duplicate analytics code at some point, and your data is over-reporting? Did you accidentally perform a site-wide change that resulted in under-reporting? Both situations are dangerous and can lead to misinterpretations of data that are disastrous for your business. Accidental changes resulting in reporting errors are more common than you think, and a Google Analytics audit will help reveal these facts.
Some companies offer industry-leading Google Analytics audits designed to assess your GA account from the ground up. From Google Analytics to Google Tag Manager, GA audits should assess whether or not your implementation is working for you. Do you wonder whether or not your data is accurate? Have you run into situations where your data accuracy is called into question by other staff members? Your pain is understandable. It’s maddening to be confronted with this, but you don’t have the skill set to do anything about it. Nor are you familiar enough with analytics to find someone to perform an audit for you.
At the end of the day, as a business owner, if you are unsure of how your Google Analytics implementation is affecting your website, you are flying blind. Are you embarking on a website redesign or a new marketing campaign launch? Making sure that your Google Analytics implementation is accurate is the first step towards being able to trust your data.
What is a Google Analytics Audit?
If you’re here for the first time, you may have never realized that Google Analytics audits exist. But they do! You may be wondering, “What, exactly, are Google Analytics audits?” If you have been flying blind for a while, you likely have no idea what your measurement strategy is, and what it may have been in the past. Developing an accurate data measurement strategy is critical to achieving the confidence and reliability of your analytics data for making future SEO decisions based on data. Setting proper analytics goals, and achieving them, requires a professional who is not a stranger to Google Analytics. You must know subtleties between why a profile may be sampled, and whether or not it has complete data.
If you don’t have confidence in your analytics data, you are lost. You must ensure that your data is complete, accurate and you are receiving measurements that will let you make the right decisions later. If at any point your data failed, or your SEO strategy failed, you can look back on this and assess what is going on, with suspicion.
But, if you have no confidence in your existing data, making such a decision can be close to impossible. That’s why a Google Analytics audit is important, especially for companies who may not have complete control over their data.
What Should a Google Analytics Audit Include?
With a Google Analytics Audit, your auditor should examine, in-depth, your analytics implementation from the ground up. You should receive an in-depth deliverable with actionable, realistic, and attainable audit action items your team can implement. An audit with “I checked this” on every item is a rip-off and does not reveal anything. Your deliverables should have detailed explanations for every item, and action item beyond a simple “I checked this” statement. These action items should all be designed to ensure accuracy in your data, so you can be confident in your SEO decisions from the moment you make them. Any audit report should be so much more than just “checked this,” or “checked that.” If your audit has only those two words throughout the findings, that is not a good sign.
When you are looking for a Google Analytics Audit, first and foremost, you should be concerned about what the analytics practitioner will be covering, and what they plan on going through during the audit process. All of this information should be discussed with you during the sales and discovery process. At the end of the process, they should leave your analytics with an overhaul that will be accurate from the audit implementation forward (assuming no other catastrophic issues exist). Cutting through the fluff has its benefits, and this task begins with accurate data. Uncovering such issues may be surprising (maybe even a little deflating depending on your personality) at the start, but they will pay for themselves later.
So what, exactly, are the benefits of a deep-dive Google Analytics audit? Let’s take a look at these in further detail.
The Benefits of Google Analytics Audits
There are many benefits behind having a Google Analytics Audit done. First of all, this audit is, in general, fully specific and razor-focused on your Google Analytics account. The audit will scrub your Google Analytics account for errors, best practices you may not be following, and uncover any inconsistencies in your data. You can also expect issues like duplication of your analytics implementation and inflated data being caused by corrupt plugins to be uncovered.
These audits will allow you to see the entire story behind your data, and what it’s actually telling you, rather than what someone’s interpretation of the data is telling you. This is always a good check that will reveal errors your data may be revealing that you weren’t savvy enough to spot.
Get the Full Story Behind Your Data
By giving your developers the full view of all Google Analytics factors impacting your site’s performance, you empower them to be able to make changes that are beyond their purview. Part of the analysis includes the existing page load time of pages as they have been accessed over the past months. The analysis may also uncover spam and bot traffic, whether or not you’re using annotations (you are, aren’t you?), various peaks (or valleys) in data and what they mean, and more.
By performing a deep dive into these factors, you will better understand the full story behind your analytics data and what people are really doing on your site. Without the full story, it may be downright impossible to make accurate decisions based on this data. That’s why having the full story is necessary on a regular basis. It can change the course of your SEO strategy especially if you have been relying on the wrong data for some time.
Identify Penalties Affecting Your Site
Yes. Site changes affecting your Google Analytics implementation can make it look like you have a penalty. Did you redirect a ton of pages but did not keep track of them? These redirects can result in a penalty if you’re going against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. They can also show a great traffic drop that’s not a penalty, especially if any of these redirects were delivering significant traffic.
The traffic drop will show up in your Google Analytics.
Did you do anything else with your analytics implementation that could have resulted in a loss in traffic? Maybe you accidentally eliminated Google Analytics tracking code in a recent website overhaul, despite all of your best intentions. Perhaps you are using an outdated tracking code that is no longer attached to the right profile. Maybe you changed domain protocols and forgot to set up a Google Analytics profile for your secure site.
Does any of this sound familiar, and like something that you may have accidentally done? Don’t beat yourself up over it, it does happen. That’s why Google Analytics audits are critical to the long-term health of your website.
Uncover Possible Bot Traffic and Data Inconsistencies
Did you know that bot traffic can skew your analytics data beyond repair? Yes, bots can hit your site and look like real traffic. There are programs that emulate traffic, and in some cases can be entirely randomized. It would be almost impossible to identify that aspect of your traffic unless you know what to look for.
But, if you have reason to suspect a potential issue with your traffic, your auditor can take a look at some of the issues surrounding said traffic in your analytics implementation.
There are other things at play that can cause issues with your Google Analytics, including Google Tag Manager.
One example of a program that is designed to fake traffic is Diabolic Traffic Bot. Among faking traffic coming from search engines, this program even passes lists of referrer URLs – so you can make the traffic look like it’s coming from huffingtonpost.com, CNN.com, or any site you want to. Other bots are available that allow you to emulate clicks from any search engine you want. The possibilities are endless.
To the untrained eye, this traffic will look no different than the traffic that you normally see coming from your Google Analytics account.
Seemingly Small Changes Can Have a Big Impact
What if you decided to add a tag or two to Google Tag Manager, but it was already in use elsewhere? Perhaps you decided to create a UTM parameter for tracking ads, but someone else on your team has already chosen to use the same parameter URL when creating internal links that are not entirely relevant to the rest of the site?
It’s not always small changes that cause issues, but big changes too. What if you wanted to perform some large scale sitewide changes, but 6 months later, you have no idea where the traffic improvement came from? This can be as simple as adding a small note to annotations in GA to explain what the change was, and when it occurred. This type of information is powerful.
But, you wouldn’t know about annotations unless you were more of an advanced user of GA. As a rule, if you are managing a team, any sweeping on-site changes should be noted in GA annotations. If these changes are not noted, you will be at a disadvantage because these seemingly innocuous changes can cause major issues with your data reporting. And if they are not in your annotations, you’re left wondering.
Did you know that the location on the page of your Google Analytics tag can determine whether or not you are reporting correct traffic? It’s true. Depending on when the GA tag fires, you could be over-reporting on your traffic. This is also a tactic implemented by more unscrupulous people to over-inflate their results, which is also not a good thing.
Google Analytics audits can help you catch these issues and much, much more. Before they become a problem. And if they are already a problem, your auditor should also be able to guide you on the correct path to solving them.
What Does a Google Analytics Audit Involve?
As a tool, Google Analytics is complex. It’s not always a set it and forget it approach, so don’t think that you can get away with just setting it up at the outset. On the contrary, there are subtle changes and improvements you can make that will help tweak the performance of your GA implementation and what information it reveals. What the audit involves does vary significantly depending on the size of your website. If you have a large website consisting of thousands of pages, you can expect a more in-depth audit, versus a smaller website only numbering in the hundreds of pages.
Using more than 50 data points, I am able to go over various sections of your GA implementation and point out issues that may be impacting your data, whether they are small or large. Is this really necessary, though, you may be asking? YES! Although you may also be questioning that since I am selling the audits, you may think I’m going to say yes every time. Not true. You may not need a Google Analytics Audit if:
- You have 100% confidence in your data,
- You had a Google Analytics audit in the past 6 months and it helped you repair glaring and subtle issues every step of the way,
- Your SEO person in charge of Google Analytics is already a data analytics master,
- You are 100% confident that nothing strange is amiss in your analytics implementation.
If none of these are true, and you have some doubt in the accuracy and legitimacy of your Google Analytics data, I can help you uncover these issues and more.
Your Google Analytics Audit covers (but is not limited to) the following:
- An overall check assessing the health of your Google Analytics implementation,
- UTM tagging check for marketing campaigns, whether it’s PPC or SEO,
- Suggestions for improving your data reporting,
- Making sure your goal tracking is in the right place,
- Assessing your site’s page speed performance,
- Identifying issues with URL parameters causing incomplete and inaccurate data,
- Making sure your profiles are correct and that you don’t have anything set up incorrectly that will impact the reporting of your data,
- And much more.
Gain More Confidence in Your Google Analytics Data
Did you know that incorrect placement of Google Analytics tags can result in over-reporting or under-reporting? Duplicate GA tag placement can also result in duplicate data. Outdated tracking code can reference an earlier installation that is no longer valid, messing up your reporting for months. This is especially true if little to no oversight occurred on your GA implementation.
Ensure Accuracy of Measurement, Configuration, and Data Integrity
When it comes to data reporting, how do you know that your data is accurate? How do you know that your GA implementation is configured correctly? And how do you know that your data can be relied upon? These and many other issues are the goals of my audits – to help you ensure this accuracy so that you don’t rely on false information to make SEO decisions.
During any Google Analytics implementation, especially if you have colleagues who are not quite as experienced in Google Analytics as you would like them to be, mistakes can be made. And this can affect everything mentioned above, including reporting accuracy. Usually, with data errors, you make incorrect decisions, and these can wreak havoc on your GA reporting.
If you’re ready to tighten up your Google Analytics data tracking, and ensure accuracy in your reporting data, a Google Analytics audit is a great solution for solving your problems. You deserve to know where your money is going for your marketing efforts. Data accuracy, integrity, and certainty in your reporting is just as important as your online marketing. Why shouldn’t you get the most accurate data you can afford?