Quick Tips for Improving the Quality of your Google Analytics reports

posted by 5 years ago in Guide
google-analytics

For the past ten years, Google Analytics has been the go-to freemium web analytics service across the world. In 2013 Econsultancy.com reported that 56 percent of businesses rely exclusively on Google for web analytics!

Being a big fan of the platform for a number of years it often surprises me how many businesses misinterpret the data. From Users to Sessions, Bounce rate and Conversions more often than not if you are not looking at your target audience.

So here’s our quick tips for improving the quality of your Google Analytic reporting.

  1. Robots vs. Humans
  2. Spam Referrals and Events
  3. Visitors vs. Colleagues
  4. Geo-location: Worldwide vs. Target Country
  5. Custom Segments
  6. Create an Unfiltered View
  7. Further reading

 

1. Robots vs. Humans

Back in December 2014, cyber-security firm Incapsula, published a study stating that over 50 percent of all website traffic was generated by robots. But in some cases that number is much more severe with websites averaging 1,000 visits per day exceeding 80 percent!

So what can we do about this? For starters quietly Google announced a much welcome feature last year to their Analytics settings – Bot Filtering. To get there follow these instructions;

  1. In the top navigation menu go to Admin
  2. On the the right-hand View column go to View Settings
  3. From here you’ll find the Bot Filtering option
  4. Click and save. Done!

By doing this you are simply excluding all website traffic from known bots and spiders. Whilst a great feature, this unfortunately does not get rid of bots completely.

A good way of understanding the extent of your “bot” traffic is by drilling down into the Network report. This can be found under Audience > Technology > Network in the left-hand sidebar. At first glance this report may seem meaningless but if you are to add the following filters it can tell a very different story.

google-analytics-advanced-filter

You may be wondering why this is relevant? But a means of getting an indicative view of bot traffic you have to filter the typical behaviour of a bot as;

  • They generally come through as New Sessions due to the fact that bots cannot carry cookies
  • They rarely record any time on a website
  • And most of the time the bot will be recorded with a 100% bounce rate

By applying this filter on a friends website over the first six months of this year our findings were as follows (click to enlarge);

bot-filter-google-analyticsIn this particular case, the website received over 6,000 visitors to the website from potential bots which worryingly “generated” £190.44? And if you notice the number of rows in this table, this traffic was generated by over 4,000 service providers!

For this particular website the next steps would be to look at applying filters for these bots.

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2. Spam Referrals and Events!

Spam is generally associated with emails and blog comments. But in recent times it has found its way onto Google Analytics in the form of event and referral spam. So if you navigate to the Referrals report (located at Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals) the likelihood is you’ll find something not too dissimilar to this list;

referral-spam-google-analytics

To tackle this issue you would need to create a filter e.g.

referral-spam-filter-google-analytics

In the example above we have used regex (regular expressions) that apply rules so you don’t have to create a filter per spam website. So if you had a list of spam you want to exclude you would follow a filter pattern such as spam\-domain\.com|anotherdomain\.com etc. Due to the complexities of regex we often have to use “\” in front of special characters as they can sometimes have a different meaning in this case the characters “-” and “.” have special meanings. The pipe symbol “|” on the other hand is like telling Google “filter this domain OR this domain OR etc.”

You can find the filter settings as follows;

  1. In the top navigation menu go to Admin
  2. On the the right-hand View column go to Filters

Similar patterns of Spam can be found in the Events report (located at Behaviour > Events) of which too can be filtered out as above but rather than choosing the Campaign Source to Exclude we choose Event Category.

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3. Visitors vs. Colleagues

Whilst your colleagues are of course humans they’re not the types of visitors you want contributing towards your reports. Often is the case the if you do not block your office’s internal IP address you could end up seeing exaggerated metrics. This could be down to a number of things e.g. developers testing pages on the live website, colleagues reading the latest blog post you published. All this could lead to a higher Average Session Duration and lower Bounce Rate.

So if you’re in an office that has an internal IP address, ask your IT department and add it as per the following example. You can find the filter settings as follows;

  1. In the top navigation menu go to Admin
  2. On the the right-hand View column go to Filters

If you do not have an IT department but know that you do have a static IP address. you can quickly search “what is my ip address” on Google and they’ll answer that question for you.

ip-address-filters

Please note: when applying an IP filter this way ensure that you use regular expressions to do so. Then simply means applying a “\” in front of a “.”

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4. Geo-location: Worldwide vs. Target Country

If like us your business is commercially exclusive to one country then you’ve got to dig a little deeper than the default reports that Google offers. For example, if we look at the key metrics for businesscomparison.com over the past couple of months we can make the following observations that in some cases could prove key to measuring success;

  • Bounce Rate as a whole is over 60% but actually if we look at the UK only, it is closer to 30%
  • Avg. Session Duration looks to be under 2 minutes when in fact our audience is almost 3 minutes
  • And lastly there’s a 10% difference in Conversion Rate between Worldwide and UK stats!

Of course in some cases we welcome visitors from around the world to read blog posts like this but when reporting to a Marketing / Commercial Director you may want to focus in on what matters.

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5. Custom Segments

If you want to look at all the default reports but hone in on a particular country without having to create multiple custom reports – you can do so with custom segments.

custom-segments

By clicking on the All Sessions icon (as per the screenshot above) you’ll find a feature that offers an incredible amount of ways to view your data out the box. But for the purpose of this we want to create a segment that filters out all traffic out-with the UK as per the next screenshot.

custom-segments-uk-only

Once saved you are able to view all reports for UK Only visitors.

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6. Create an Unfiltered View

Before having a play with filters it’s always wise to do so in a filtered view. Google Analytics allows you to replicate a view that you can apply all your filters. This can be done within the View Settings within the admin section of your account.

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7. Further Reading

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