A post about a comment

Lots of blogs still have sad, neglected little sections exhorting people to “Leave a Reply. Want to join the discussion?  Feel free to contribute!” at the end of each post, even thought all the conversation’s (mostly) long since moved on to other places.

So if you do go to the bother of paying attention to what someone’s written, and then take the time to leave a considered comment, only for it to be deleted… well, that’s annoying.

Which is what happened to me a couple of months ago. The good news is I have my own blog as an outlet for this sort of thing, and I’m screenshot-happy, so my comment wasn’t lost forever.

So anyway. A ticketing supplier put out a post titled “Google Analytics Dashboards – What’s On Yours?” (the lack of link is deliberate). I do a lot of work with ticketed venues (theatres, arts centres, museums, etc) and Google Analytics is very much my bag, so this was right up my street.

It wasn’t a bad post, but a couple of things caught my eye. The main thing was this table…

Google Analytics traffic sources table

Being the eagle-eyed type, I noticed a few issues with the data in that table, so I left the following helpful (I thought) comment…

The traffic sources screenshot is interesting. At a guess, I’d say there’s an issue with cross-domain tracking that’s not been solved properly. Revenue from direct traffic is unusually high, which would be fine on it’s own, but revenue from organic is weirdly low. The two together point to a problem. Usually you see this when the website’s domain has been added to the referral exclusion list in GA, but the tags on the pages aren’t behaving like they should.

Also, the 4th line of that table – it’s been redacted, but I’d guess that’s a self-referral. It’d explain why, of 6,000 sessions, none are from new users.

So my guess is that a lot of revenue is being incorrectly attributed to ‘direct’, making a mess of any ROI calculations and meaning that other marketing channels aren’t getting the recognition they deserve.

I tried to phrase it gently, or at least in a ‘huh, isn’t that interesting’ way. Thing is, this is one of the most fundamental, but also very common, errors that I come across when auditing Google Analytics accounts. I won’t go into it here but it’s not good, causing double-counting of sessions and ruining marketing attribution.

It’s really not the kind of thing you want to be showing off in a blog post where you’re trying to claim how great you are with analytics.

There were two more issues with the post.

One was very minor. The Google Analytics Shopping Report (an enhanced ecommerce feature) was referred to as the Checkout Funnel, which is a different report. Like I say, no biggie

The other was more major. The post ends with “if you would like some help getting these up and running, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.”

As you’ve probably gathered, doing that would be a mistake. If you want a hand with your analytics then you’d be much better off getting in touch with someone who knows what they’re doing.

To be honest, I didn’t expect my comment to be published. I thought maybe they’d correct the errors I pointed out and drop me a line to say thanks for helping them to avoid looking like idiots. You’d have thought that would have been easier. Ah well.

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.