If you’ve spent any amount of time in Google Analytics, you will know that it can contain an abundance of data. That being said, it is easy to get lost in this sea of data if you are looking for the wrong thing! You will inevitably be swimming through data for hours on end, only to end up lost and frustrated.
- Browsers and extensions can block tracking.
- Cookies can be deleted or blocked by the end-user.
- People can use multiple devices, or multiple people can use the same device.
- Losing internet connection can prevent hits from being received.
Rather than aiming for accuracy, assume consistency in your analytics data. A well-configured analytics implementation will be consistent over time. Instead of relying on Google Analytics for accurate counts of usage or conversions, focus on directional trends, rates, and ratios.
With this in mind, here are 3 questions that should not be answered using Google Analytics. Trying to do so will inevitably cause doubt and frustration from analysts, managers, and senior leadership.
- How many people saw my site?
Google Analytics doesn’t count people. Unless your site requires visitors to login, and you’ve identified every one of them with a user ID in GA, your “Users” metric will be at best a rough approximation of actual people. A session or pageview also doesn’t mean that someone actually saw your site. It could have been loaded in a background tab without ever being looked at. Rather than looking to GA for an absolute count of users, look instead at trends over time and comparisons between segments. Is there any seasonality? Does traffic peak at a certain time of the month? Are users increasing YoY?
- How many new customers did I get?
If you have configured conversion tracking in GA, don’t take the number of goal conversions at face value! Aside from conversions being missed due to the accuracy issues mentioned above, you could also have duplicate or spam conversions. If you’re looking for a real count of customers, look to your CRM or backend customer database as your source of truth. The data within Google Analytics can instead be used to evaluate campaign effectiveness. Relatively, what is the ratio of conversions between organic and paid? Which channel has the lowest cost per conversion?
- How much money did I make?
Even with a comprehensive ecommerce implementation, your measures of transactions and revenue in GA will likely differ from your backend records. In fact, we wrote an entire blog post covering 7 reasons why your sales don’t match GA transactions. Instead, use Google Analytics to segment and understand your audience. What similarities do repeat customers have? Which channel has the highest return-on-investment? Where can you find more high-value customers?
Next time you dive into Google Analytics, ensure you are asking the right questions of Google Analytics to make the best use of your time.
Are there any other questions that commonly cause frustration for you? Let us know how you have dealt with them in the comments below!