The Top 3 Google Analytics Configuration Issues Impacting your Data (and How to Fix Them)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014 | 9:40 AM

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Good data is important.  How important?  Studies show that inaccurate data has a direct impact on the bottom line of 88% of companies.  In fact, the average company loses 12% of its revenue due to bad data.  As you know, Google Analytics is a powerful product with a wealth of features to help you optimize your results online. However, to unleash the power of Google Analytics’ marketing tools, you must ensure the data collected is complete and of the highest quality. The insights that fuel action in Analytics depend on good data, especially for some of our advanced algorithmic marketing functionalities like data driven attribution.

Since its release two months ago, our popular new diagnostics tool is working hard to ensure you’re getting the best results. Today, we’d like to share insights into some of the most common account errors along with likely causes and suggested solutions. In particular, we’ll look at some solutions for when our diagnostics tool is telling you the following:  “Bad Default URL,” “Clicks and Sessions Discrepancy,” and “No Goal Conversions.”  Read on to understand the impact of these issues as well as their common causes.

Bad Default URL
“Data without quality is useless.”
João Correia, Analytics Strategist at Blast Analytics & Marketing

When you create a Google Analytics account for website tracking, one of the first questions we ask is for a default URL. This is generally the homepage of your website. Diagnostics ensures that you have tagged your default URL correctly for this property, and warns you if this is not the case. Having a properly tagged website is an essential step towards being able to understand consumer behavior.

This warning is generally caused by either missing or malformed tracking code installed on your default URL, or more simply a typo in the URL that was input. If the default URL is incorrect, simply login to your Google Analytics account, click the “Admin” button in the header, and click “Property Settings” to adjust your default URL. If the tracking code is flawed, you’ll want to talk to your webmaster and ask to have the tracking code correctly installed

Beyond the default URL, we also check for tracking code health across your site. We look for pages that have missing or malformed tags. And we continually run these checks, ensuring new pages you launch in the future also are properly tagged. 

Clicks / Session Discrepancies
"Diagnostics helped me identify and fix an AdWords data discrepancy in my account.  Without the tool, I may have never even realized that my data was inconsistent.  This is a great tool!"
Monika Rut-Koroglu, Digital Analytics and Optimization at FXCM

Google Analytics offers rich capabilities that help users share data with linked AdWords accounts and gain unique and powerful marketing insights. It’s common to expect the number of clicks you see in AdWords to match the number of sessions you see in Analytics; but this is not always the case. This discrepancy can slow down meaningful analysis, and is a situation that can and should be rectified.

The most common causes of this issue have to do with your configuration settings. For example, when you send ad clicks through a third party that redirects to your site; the third party will often times drop vital tagging parameters which are mandatory for Analytics and AdWords to associate clicks and sessions. Other examples are having AdWords auto-tagging disabled, and redirecting users to mobile sites while unintentionally dropping tagging parameters.

Fixes for these issues can vary; we have a detailed guide to walk users through this or you can follow prompts in Google Analytics when we identify specific actions for you to take. If you have a third party who uses redirects and drops parameters, talk to them to resolve the issue. If auto-tagging is disabled on your AdWords accounts, consider enabling it

No Goal Conversions
“[Google Analytics Diagnostics] is a great idea... Just discovered it the other day on my iPad. Helpful to let me redefine my goals better and find out what's not working.”
Sherri Matthew, Harpist and Small Business Owner

Google Analytics goals offer valuable ways to identify, track, and help you drive more valuable outcomes. Sometimes goals can break, and stop this critical stream of insights from reaching you. We run diagnostic checks to ensure your goals continually identify a steady flow of high value customers, and we warn you if this flow breaks.

The most common cause for goal breakage is when a goal is based on a URL that changes. If your webmaster updates the URLs on your site, and the URLs in the goal settings aren’t updated accordingly, this will cause your goal to stop tracking. The second most common cause for goals breaking is if the event tracking on your site changes and the events listed in the goal aren’t updated accordingly.

If you’ve had a goal break for these reasons, visit the “Admin” section via a link in the header of your Google Analytics account, and click “Goals” to correct your goal configurations.

More About Diagnostics
Google Analytics Diagnostics scans for problems every day (with some exceptions). It inspects your site tagging, account configuration, and reporting data for potential data-quality issues.  Only users with Edit permission can see and respond to diagnostics messages. Diagnostics honors the first response to a message; for example, when a user ignores a message, it is ignored for all users.

The tool currently scans for dozens of issues, and dozens more are planned. Just keep an eye on your account over time - it will notify you if and when new issues or opportunities are detected.

- Frank Kieviet and Matt Matyas, Google Analytics Team

Enhanced Google Analytics Audience Capabilities Come to Apps

Wednesday, September 17, 2014 | 12:00 PM


Good news for mobile app developers: Audience Demographics and Interests Reporting and Remarketing are now available for apps in Google Analytics.  Just one of the improvements for audience segmentation and remarketing we're announcing today, these changes should make it even easier for all our advertisers to reach their high-value customer segments. 

In-App Audience Demographics Reporting and Remarketing

Good analytics are especially important to app developers. At Google I/O, Hovhannes Avoyan, the CEO and Founder of PicsArt , had this to say: 

“We need analytics to help us understand who our users are, how they interact with our application, how our application performs. With all that knowledge, we want to apply different monetization strategies to different kinds of users.” 

Now developers can see just how different user segments engage and monetize with In-App Audience Demographics Reporting

And it's more than just data. Analysts and developers can blend audience demographic and behavior data into detailed audience lists to be targeted with in app remarketing campaigns. In short, all the great remarketing capabilities for Google Analytics users on the web are now available for apps as well.

New In-App Audience Demographics Reporting

Segmentation and remarketing lists get an upgrade
Creating remarketing lists for apps and web is now even easier with recent upgrades to both segmentation and audience building. A streamlined creation flow for creating audiences allows users to go from segment to audience within clicks (plus a few bonus admin features like list renaming and automatic list sizing).

New Audience Builder Experience, now supporting App lists
If you prefer to stand on the shoulders of remarketing giants, Analytics power users have developed and shared audience definitions that import via template links or from the solutions gallery. This simplifies things dramatically for new users. A process that could be complicated and time-consuming can now be done with 6 clicks in under 1 minute. Give it a try: import our Engagement Pack of Core Remarketing Lists.

On the segmentation side, users have told us they wanted segments to be more discoverable, easier to manage, and more intuitive to build. We've been listening, and have made interface improvements, adding a simple “Add Segment” button within reports, a new segment-selection interface, hover-over segment definitions, and a 1-click action dialogue to Share, Edit, Copy, Remove, or Remarket to a segment. 

New Segmentation Experience: fewer errors for better analysis

Measure remarketing performance with the new Display Targeting report
Once you’ve found a segment, created an audience, and activated your remarketing campaign, close the loop by measuring the performance of those audiences across all remarketing campaigns . Enter the new Adwords Display Targeting report in the Acquisition section to see all your active remarketing lists, along with impressions, spend, behavior, and conversion rates under the “Interests and Remarketing” tab.

New Remarketing List Performance in Display Targeting Report
You can learn how to update your SDK to enable these features in our Help Center or get started now by creating some remarketing lists. We hope that these improvements make your audience segmentation and remarketing-- in apps and on the web-- more intuitive and more effective. We’d love to hear from you! Please leave questions or feedback in the comments, and stay tuned for more audience-related improvements. 

Posted by Dan Stone, Product Manager, and Kanu Singhal, Technical Lead from the Google Analytics Audience Team

New Benchmarking Reports Help Twiddy Boost Email Open Rates by 500%

Wednesday, September 10, 2014 | 12:00 PM

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If you’ve ever wondered how your website is performing compared to the competition, our new Benchmarking reports in Google Analytics will help you find out.

Analytics users can now compare their results to peers in their industry, choosing from 1600 industry categories, 1250 markets and 7 size buckets. Benchmarking leverages the footprint of Google Analytics and can help you set meaningful targets, spot trends occurring across industries and answer a whole array of questions: Which channels should you be investing more in? How does your mobile engagement compare to your peers? How unique is your audience?

The new Benchmarking reports display acquisition and engagement metrics — like sessions and bounce rate — by Channel, Location, or Device Category dimensions. To ensure total data transparency, the number of properties contributing to the benchmark is displayed once you choose the industry, market and size. A helpful heat map feature makes it easy to see areas of strength and opportunity, and where to devote more resources.

Benchmarking in Action: Twiddy Finds a New Email Marketing Opportunity, a vacation rentals company in the Outer Banks-- a popular summer getaway destination-- has been using Benchmarking reports to help focus its marketing resources. A look at their peer benchmarks by channel showed that Twiddy was doing many things well during its peak summer booking season. Still, “it was clear we were missing a huge opportunity in email marketing,” reports CMO Ross Twiddy. His team used Google Analytics data to revamp their email marketing and improve the flow and process.

Email opportunity: Visitors from email spend nearly twice as long on site as the average, but user sessions generated from email are 82% below average and new users from the channel fall 91% below similar sites.

Twiddy even used Google Analytics to choose the best-selling messages for their email campaigns. Their analysis helped them zero in on the factors that were most consistent in repeat bookings: the price range, location, rental type, and even vacation week that would be most likely to convert with for each customer. "We launched an email last week based on our findings, and it shattered our email marketing records: a 48% average open rate and a 40% clickthrough rate,” says Ross.

Twiddy is happy with the new visibility they’ve gained: “The Benchmarking reports were powerful enough for us to reallocate time, budget and resources towards running down the deficiency. We can’t wait to start testing the reports out more broadly during the next peak booking season.”

Get Started with Benchmarking

Benchmarking reports can be found in the “Audience” section of the reporting interface and are rolling out over the next few weeks to all Google Analytics users who have opted in to share their data anonymously. If you want to join in, simply check the “Share anonymously with Google and others” box in the Account Settings tab of your account admin page. This is only the beginning for benchmarking within Google Analytics. We’ll be expanding these capabilities in the coming months, both incorporating conversion metrics and adding support for mobile apps. For more information on Benchmarking reports, check out our Help Center.

Posted by: Nikhil Roy, Product Manager, Google Analytics

U.S. Cellular reveals true impact of digital media on sales with Google Analytics Premium

Wednesday, July 23, 2014 | 10:24 AM

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With 10.6 million cell phone customers and retail stores in 400+ markets, U.S. Cellular needs to reach a lot of people with marketing messages. That's why U.S. Cellular uses many marketing channels -- online, in-store and telesales -- to drive mobile phone activations.

U.S. Cellular was challenged though. They didn’t know how many of their offline sales were driven by their digital marketing. This made it harder to adjust their media mix accordingly and also to forecast sales. To fix that situation, U.S. Cellular and its digital-analytics firm, Cardinal Path, turned to Google Analytics Premium and its integration with BigQuery

Part of Google Cloud Platform, BigQuery allows for highly flexible analysis of large datasets. The U.S. Cellular team used it to integrate and analyze terabytes of data from Google Analytics Premium and other systems. Then they mapped consumer behavior across online and offline marketing channels. Each transaction was attributed to the consumer touchpoints that the buyer had made across various sales channels. 

The result: U.S. Cellular got real insight into digital’s role in their sales. They were surprised to find that they could reclassify nearly half of all their offline activations to online marketing channels.

U.S. Cellular now uses this complete (and fully automatic) analytics framework to really see the consumer journey and forecast sales for each channel. Their team has the data they need to make better business decisions. 

“We’re now in the enviable position of having an accurate view at each stage of our customer journey," says Katie Birmingham, a digital & e-commerce analyst for the company. "The Google Analytics Premium solution not only gives us a business advantage, but helps us shape a great customer experience, and ultimately ties in to our values of industry-leading innovation and world-class customer service.”

Posted by: Suzanne Mumford, Google Analytics Premium Marketing

Rooms To Go Improves the Shopper Experience by Integrating Google Analytics Premium with BigQuery

Tuesday, July 15, 2014 | 10:56 AM

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Rooms To Go, a home furnishing retailer, simplifies the shopping experience by offering completely designed room packages. When the company wanted to better understand how its customers purchase its different furniture and decor variations and add-ons to streamline online customization options, it turned to its agency -  LunaMetrics - who integrated Google Analytics Premium and BigQuery. This approach helped to identify which items customers commonly buy together, leading to smarter and easier customization for its users.

The Google Analytics Premium integration allowed Rooms To Go to:
  • Better understand what their site visitors were purchasing
  • Organize the data and isolate the products that were frequently purchased together in order to discover customer buying patterns
  • Expand functionalities of the website to accommodate these customer patterns—for example, making it easier for users to add extra dining chairs when purchasing a dining room set

Overall, this strategy helped Rooms To Go create a better user experience for its customers, and the company expects an increase in sales because of it. Read the full case study on Think with Google, and learn about being a Google Analytics Premium customer here.

Analytics Pros helps Avvo Gain New Insights with Data Import

Tuesday, July 01, 2014 | 9:00 AM

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Companies use many systems to run their business. These may include multiple web advertising networks, CRM and content publishing systems, point of sale systems, inventory databases, etc. Integrating the data from these systems with Google Analytics provides a better understanding for how your customers behave on the web. 

At the 2014 Analytics Summit we announced the new Data Import. Data Import helps unify data from your different business systems, allowing you to organize your data the same way your business is organized. This will allow for more accurate analysis and bringing together previously disparate datasets into one complete picture. Using Data Import, you can upload your brand’s existing data into Google Analytics and join it with GA data for reporting, segmentation and remarketing.

By using the Data Import functionality in Google Analytics Premium and with the help of Analytics Pros, consumer legal services brand Avvo created clear, accurate data, which continues to impact decisions across their organization. While Avvo already had a successful and fast-growing business, the lack of visibility into advertising success made it hard to align key revenue opportunities with actual site usage. Read the full case study here.

“We’ve been very pleased with the results that were realized using Data Import in Google Analytics to analyze client behavior on our website. This exercise has given us better insight into valuable data that will ultimately impact how we segment the market for legal services.” 
- Sendi Widjaja, Co-Founder & CTO, Avvo, Inc.

Data Import also now supports a new Query Time mode that allows you to join your data with historical GA data. With this mode you can:
  • Enhance existing, already processed GA data with imported dimensions and metrics.
  • Upload calculated values after a transaction occurs, like total customer spend, last transaction date, or a loyalty score.
  • Correct any errors in data you have uploaded to GA in the past.
Query Time mode is currently in whitelist release for Premium users. For more information, contact your Premium account manager. You can learn more about Premium here.

Illustration of a new Google Analytics report with data from multiple sources 

We are also introducing a new version of Cost Data import that provides more versatile support for importing historical data. Additionally, cost data  can now be uploaded directly  through the Google Analytics web interface (previously, data import  required using the GA API). Note: Users of the original cost data import  must migrate to the new version. Details can be found in the cost data migration guide.

How to get started using Data Import
For more information, read Data Import on the Google Analytics Help Center. Also check our new developer Data Import guides that will get you up and running in no time. Some features are currently not rolled out to all users. If you’d like to join the beta for full-access, sign-up here.

Posted by Nick Mihailovski, Jieyan Fan, Richard Maher, Rick Elliott and the Google Analytics Team 

Segmenting Brand and Generic Paid Search Traffic in Google Analytics

Thursday, June 26, 2014 | 11:09 AM

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Many advertisers with paid search campaigns advertise on queries mentioning their brand (e.g., “Motorola smartphone” for Motorola) and also on generic searches (e.g., “smartphone reviews”). Because the performance metrics for ads shown against brand and generic queries can be vastly different, many advertisers prefer to analyze these two groups separately.  For example, all else being equal, searches containing the advertiser’s brand name often have higher clickthrough-rates than those that don’t.

Automatic classification

To make analysis of brand and generic performance as easy as possible, we’re introducing a new feature which automatically identifies brand-aware paid search clicks tracked in Google Analytics. We use a combination of signals (including the clickthrough-rate, text string, domain name and others) to identify query terms which show awareness of your brand.  You can review our suggested brand terms and then accept or decline each of them. It’s also easy to add additional brand terms that we’ve missed. 

With the resulting list of brand terms, we classify your paid search traffic in GA so that you can split your “paid search” channel into two separate channels: “brand paid search” and “generic paid search”. This can be done both for Multi-Channel Funnels (for attribution purposes) and for the main Google Analytics channel grouping. See this straightforward step-by-step guide to get started.

Industry feedback

Back in 2012, George Michie from the Rimm-Kaufmann Group, a leading online marketing agency, called analyzing brand and generic paid search together “the cardinal sin of paid search”. We showed him a preview of our new solution and here’s his reaction:

"I've been arguing for many years that advertisers should look at their brand and generic paid search separately. There are massive differences in overall performance - but also in more specific areas, like attribution and new customer acquisition. 

Google Analytics now makes it a lot easier for advertisers to segment brand and generic paid search into separate channels. I'm sure this feature will help many more advertisers measure these important differences - and more importantly, take action on these new insights."

Getting started

Finally: note that this feature works for all paid search advertising, not just Google AdWords. It will roll out to all users in the coming weeks.

To get started, use the step-by-step guide to set up separate brand paid search and generic paid search channels. We’ve already suggested brand terms for every GA view with sufficient paid search traffic.

Posted by: Frank Uyeda, Software Engineer, Google Analytics