5 most common tracking mistakes
Digital tracking is the key to ensure that you are not spending money on the wrong channels or inversely not withdrawing money from the right ones. Therefore, it is essential that your tracking is setup accurately.
Personally, I’ve faced almost all of the below mentioned errors and it’s been a learning & iterative exercise to get the data accuracy back to acceptable levels. This is common because people implementing the tracking are techies with low business knowledge and teams with business knowledge have little or no technical skills.
So, where do most setups go wrong:
Untagged referral traffic
- Certain referral sources are unable to pass on referral data to tracking tools. These include Word or PDF documents with links, https clicks to http site, clients like Outlook. If UTM tags are not set up here, they’ll show under Direct Traffic
Fix: Tag all untrackable visits with a UTM Tag using the Google URL Builder
Wrong Tagging — Misuse of upper & lower case letters
- Google Analytics detects “email” medium only, so if it is set as “Email”, it will allocate it to “Other” channel. utm_medium=email
Fix: Make sure you always get your syntax right. Or create a Tag Book — An automated file that can help reduce human errors.
Self Referral traffic
- This is traffic that might have originated from your site, but comes back after visiting an external link. One example is when e-commerce sites re-direct visitors to thank you page after sending them off to payment gateway pages. This traffic is reported as referral traffic, when in reality it isn’t
Fix: Include these external domains in the referral exclusion list in Google Analytics
Site upgrades that lead to removal of tracking codes
- Websites that continuously go through upgrades may have seen this more often. The moment a new code base is uploaded on the production server, the tracking codes are removed. This has caused more data loss then any other errors in my experience. A small change can go unnoticed for days and thus lead your teams in a completely wrong direction.
Fix: Create a solid QA process document that ensures all tracking codes are checked before site goes live. Use tools like Chrome Tag Assistant to check if tracking codes have been removed.
Wrong placement of tracking code
- In order to improve page performance like load times, engineering teams might at times move around the code on the page. Now, the code exists on the page, but it does not fire at the right time. Thus, it’s difficult to diagnose this problem with a Tag Assistant. One example is that the e-commerce tracking code if placed above the GA tracking code, will not fire on the Thank you page
Fix: The GA tracking code should always be placed before the closing </head> While other GA tracking codes like e-commerce should be placed before closing the </body>
While the above are the most common mistakes, I’ve come across. There are a few more things that you can take care while setting up your tracking. These include:
Capturing the right e-commerce variables
- For example instead of sending the value of the transaction after the discount code was applied, the value that gets passed is the original sales price of the product.
- This can lead to a major mismatch in the data from the analytics platform and the backend.
Fix: The implementation team must consist of both business and engineering folks.
Ensuring you know which Keyword data is hidden (For GA users like me): A major issue while analysing the success of your SEO efforts.
- This happens anytime you search using Google and you see a http instead of an https, the resultant website will not get the keyword you had searched for. Thus, the keyphrase will appear as not provided. Keyword data is also hidden for the following reasosns:
- Anyone using the search box in Firebox
- Anyone using the omnibox in Chrome
- Anyone logged into a Google Account when searching
Fix: There is no direct fix for this. However, there’s a lot you can do to deepdive into your keywords and understand what searches are bringing visitors to your site. One way is to connect your Google Webmasters account to adwords. More details here. Also, there’s a very interesting post by Avinash Kaushik that gives an in-depth understanding of how to solve for this issue.
Hope you found the above article useful, please don’t forget to like it and share it with your colleagues who might be facing similar challenges.