Join Brad Batesole for an in-depth discussion in this video Debugging and validating Google Analytics setup, part of Marketing Tips Weekly.
- Hi, and welcome to another episode of Weekly Marketing Tips. I'm Brad Batesole, and this week, I'd like to talk about some simple methods to debug and validate your Google Analytic setup. I've seen a lot of questions surrounding this topic, mainly people curious if their bounce rate is accurate, or if they've got Google Analytics set up properly on every page of their site. Now, for most of us, Google Analytics is the foundation for our digital marketing strategy. It provides the complete view we need on who's visiting our website, what they're looking at and whether or not they're completing a particular action.
When's the last time you took a minute to really confirm that things in Google Analytics are running well? Perhaps you've been hustling to get new changes to your site up, you've launched new product, you've been building out ad words, and so on. During any of those interactions with your code, it's possible something got messed up. With Google Analytics being so important to our foundation, it's really good that we take time to make sure everything's operating smoothly. We're going to run through three methods of debugging, and we're going to use three tools to do this.
First, we'll look at your analytics within Google Analytics itself. Secondly, we'll use a debugging plug-in for Chrome, and finally, I'll show you a cool way to check your site with Screaming Frog SEO Spider. The first thing I'd like to do is, come into Google Analytics and within the Audience Overview report, I'm going to look at a high level overview of everything that's going on. What I want to do is bring in a large date range, likely from when I installed these analytics, or when the site was launched.
I'll go up here and add 2014 to my date range. I'll hit Apply, and we can see the chart changes. Now, you can look at this daily, oftentimes weekly will give you a little better view. Then, here in the % New Sessions, the first thing I want to look at is bounce rate. When things go wrong with Google Analytics, the bounce rate metric tends to display itself incorrectly first. And so, when you click on bounce rate, you'll notice right away that we see this bounce rate hovering in the 40 to 50%, which seems accurate for a site of this nature, we get a little dip here, and then things continue to dip until there's this very low period for quite some time where the bounce rate is about 4 to 5%.
This is, clearly, very inaccurate. This site does not have a bounce rate of 5%. One thing that I would do is, compare that against something, say, page views. So, here we can see that the page views metric stays fairly similar, if not, it gets larger when the bounce rate goes down. That indicates to me that there's a problem. You'll see here, over on the far right hand side, these metrics swapped places. This is when I implemented a fix for this particular website. I noticed a problem, and we fixed it.
And, like we expected to see, the bounce rate came up, the page views dropped. So, what you want to start doing is, looking at some of these metrics at a very large view and seeing if any of these spikes or significant drops seem like they're out of place for you. If you didn't have a marketing campaign running, or if this coincides with the launch of, say, a new site, well, you've got a place to start looking. One thing I really recommend is that you always annotate: you add in an annotation, a note within the charting on Google Analytics that lets you know when you made changes.
It's much easier when you come back to see if any of those impacted your data. To learn more about that, check out Google Analytics Essential Training, here on lynda.com. Let's say you do identify a problem, or maybe you don't. What's next? From there, I like to install the Google Analytics Debugger extension for Chrome. The easiest way to find this is, just do a Google search for Google Analytics Debugger, Chrome extension. It'll bring you to this page, and then, you'll simply choose the add to chrome option.
This will bring a console onto the screen for you with some additional information in it. Now, what you need to do is, the first thing is, refresh the page after you've enabled the console, and once you have the extension running. As I scroll to the top of this, you're going to see that we see some data around the debugging script. So, here I can see ga pushing processing setAccount, and then the account number, that's your Google Analytics account number. And, you can see some additional data, we can see the tracking beacon with sent, and we can see what information was sent to Google: the Account ID, Page Title, the Host Name, the Referring URL, and so on, and so forth.
For example, if you've upgraded to Universal Analytics, then you should just have the analytics.js script running, and you can get rid of all the older tags you were using. What's great about this tool is, you can navigate around the site, and you'll see the information change in this console log. So you can verify that information is being sent. So, if you have a page that you're not seeing data on within Google Analytics, you can come in here and see if you're getting any tracking information displayed. If nothing shows up in the console around Google Analytics, then the tags aren't set up properly.
From here, I would go through the site, I would check various pages, and I would continue looking at this console log. I might click on some links that I've used in email campaigns to make sure that the tracking data is being properly applied, and that refers source is being associated correctly. From here, let's say that you want to look at your whole site to understand what is going on. The first thing I would do is, I would take down the actual Google Analytics ID that you're using, and it's UA- any string of numbers, and then hyphen, it'll have another string of numbers.
That far string is the view, so, one, two, three, and so on. I'll copy that and then I'm going to open up Screaming Frog. Okay, I've got Screaming Frog SEO Spider open, and you've likely heard me talk about this before if you've been following along in these marketing tips. If you don't have Screaming Frog installed, just do a Google search for Screaming Frog SEO Spider, and they've got it for Mac, Windows and Linux. There is a free version, I'm using the free version right now. I think it gives you up to 500 URLs, but it's definitely worth paying for if your site is much larger.
Within Filter 1, I'm going to paste in the Google Analytics ID that we're using, and from the drop down, I'll choose Does Not Contain. This means I want to see all of the pages that aren't showing this Google ID. I'll choose OK. We'll enter in the URL at the top of the screen: wisdompets.com, and choose start. Now, depending on the size of your site, this could take awhile. You'll notice in the upper right hand corner, the progress bar lets us know where we're at, and now we're at 100%.
So, here on the right hand side, I can scroll down. I'm going to arrive at a section labeled Custom. When I select this folder, it's going to bring me into a table view to show us anything that does not contain metric that we applied. You'll see that here in the filter bar at the top. So, these two pages, wisdompets.com/seminar.htm, and the one below it do not have the Google Analytics tracking data. If that was important to me, I would want to go in to those pages and make sure that the tracking data was applied.
If you're using Google Tag Manager, this will not be accessible for you. Instead, you'll have to do a search for the Google Tag Manager ID, and that's usually GTN- and some set of numbers. What's interesting is that you can use regular expressions within this Does Not Contain box. So, you can enter this as does not contain Google Analytics ID, and if you use a pipe symbol, that will act as an "or," and then simply use the container ID that is associated with whatever container is hosting your Google Analytics data.
You'll go into Tag Manager, look for the container that is storing your Google Analytics code, copy down that container ID, and then you can come into SEO Spider and either paste just the container ID, or you can do the Google Analytics ID, or the container ID. And, that search will do the same thing: it will show you any pages that don't have that information associated. Take a minute and do a quick audit of your site, and see if you can find any anomalies. Thanks for checking in this week. As always, I'd love to hear from you.
Let me know what you've found out after you debugged your analytics. You can reach me on Twitter @bradbatesole or via email, email@example.com. I'lll see you next week.
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