Ask these questions to test the health of your Google Analytics

This is the fifth in a series of articles on growth hacking, which I’m going deep into with a minidegree in Growth Marketing from the CXL Institute. Read more: What is growth hacking? | How to run a successful growth marketing experiment in six steps | How to identify the best channels for your next growth marketing campaign | What the FUD?

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Analytics are complicated. And rightly so: There are many different factors in channels that go into influencing people to visit your site, engage further and potentially become a customer — or at least sign up for your newsletter.

But when was the last time you checked up on your Google Analytics? Just because it set up and seems to be working doesn’t mean that it is accurate and reliable. Mini analytics configurations we never set up correctly to begin with or did not evolve alongside new features and functionality.

If you want to do growth hacking right, you have to measure it. And if your measurements are off, at best, you’ll be aimlessly hacking away with little to show for it. At worst, You’ll be acting on the wrong information and potentially doing harm to your business.

A proper analytics configuration gives you what you need to confidently make both marketing and site optimization decisions.

During his session on Google Analytics, Peep from Conversion XL shared a few key questions. I’ve riffed a bit here, but the gist is the same: Use these questions to begin evaluating the health of your Google Analytics. It’s by no means comprehensive but it gives you the structure to get started!

#1: What are the business-moving metrics?

When it comes to your website, the reason for analytics isn’t to just show you who comes to your site and how long they stay. Those are mostly just vanity metrics, in service of the real goal of analytics: to track the metrics that influence actual business outcomes…so you can improve those metrics and make your business better.

To do proper tracking, you must have your goals, funnels, event tracking and ecommerce tracking set up correctly. Not every site needs all four of these; But at the very least, you should have goals set up so that you can track how are you doing at getting potential customers and existing customers to complete the goals that move your business forward.

  • Goals: Goals are conversions that tied to business objectives. It could be a completed purchase, a newsletter sign-up or
  • Events: Events are things that impact the user journey but aren’t directly correlated to a conversion, such as a video of you.
  • Funnels: Funnels tracks event completions to help you visualize how well you’re doing at moving prospects towards conversion.
  • eCommerce: eCommerce tracking allows you to attach an actual cart value to each visit so that you can optimize with an actual dollar figure attached.

#2: Does it collect the data we need?

Once you know which critical milestones you want to be tracking, you can work backwards to see if the installation is collecting the data you need. It’s quite possible that something is broken or that you have not fully set up the right tracking functionality.

And don’t go overboard. The goal isn’t to collect everything under the sun. You want to be very strategic and tracking the data that moves your business. Since analytics configurations can capture everything in a firehouse, you can always go back and create a new view if you determine you need something additional.

#3: Do we trust this data?

If something doesn’t look right, then it probably isn’t right. And just because something appears on the dashboard in your analytics doesn’t mean that it is true. It’s important to be skeptical And listen to your intuition. If anything seems off, investigate further!

One of the easiest ways to determine level of trust is to cross-reference data from your analytics system with the data source elsewhere. For example, if an advertising campaign says that it sent 1000 visitors to your website but you only registered 200, then that’s something to investigate. You can also look for any dramatic outliers, such as a page with no bounce rate or a segment that seems to convert far more highly than another.

#4: Where are the holes?

At the outset, this one can be quite tricky. But as you dial into your essential business metrics, holes may appear. You may realize that you are unable to view data in your analytics from your Facebook ads, for example. The more specific can be with the milestone metrics you want to track, the more control you can have over patching gaps in your analytics configuration.

One way to identify holes is to view your analytics through the lens of your corss-channel marketing plan. Are there any areas that you don’t have visibility into that will directly impact how you can evaluate the performance of your plan? Start there!

#5: Is anything broken?

Not everyone is an analytics maven and that can understand how the sausage is made. The idea isn’t to know how things work. Rather, it’s about having the confidence to understand when something may be broken and not registering correctly.

As I mentioned earlier, it comes down to understanding analytics and not hesitating to investigate something that does it doesn’t quite seem right. The worst thing that could happen is that you waste a little time or maybe look a little silly. But in my view, thoroughness is never silly. There’s an added benefit here, especially when working with contractors: Vigilant customers always get a little bit more attention than those that are hands-off…

#6: Do I have the right reports?

The final question is to make sure that you have set up the right reports for your specific business needs. Since you can share reports with other people on your analytics configuration, these reports can provide a shared baseline for everyone.

And as you can imagine, share reports can influence others and increase the visibility of the work that you were doing as a conversion-minded marketer.

BUT…Shared reports can also magnify mistakes in analytics configurations. Setting up your reports should be the last stuff that you do, once you are certain that things are good to go.

Finally, be sure to revisit your settings and general configuration set up every few months or so. That way you can catch anything that may have changed or shifted. You can’t predict what the ghost in the machine will do so you have to check in every once in a while!

Audit your analytics with this checklist and these guides

As you move from answering the foundational questions to identifying specific things to fix in your analytics, use this checklist from Annielytics. It features a long list of specific settings to verify so that your analytics is set up correctly.

Annie’s spreadsheet is so helpful!

For more reading on Google Analytics, check out these ConversionXL guides to Google Analytics 101 and Google Analytics 102. Proper analytics configuration is one of the best investments you can make!