7 Ways to Increase Accuracy and Insights in Google Analytics

improve accuracy and insights google analytics

The number of marketing technology solutions available has increased from about 150 (2011) to over 3,800 (2016). This explosion in technology has overwhelmed marketers with data they don’t feel like they understand or control.

A recent study by Conversion Logic and IDG, found that 50% of marketers reported issues with the accountability and accuracy of reports. This statistic on its own is appalling; additionally, the report goes on to also reveal that 46% of marketers struggle with gaining actionable insights from reports.

The imperative is clear: Marketers need to regain control of their data by increasing confidence in the accuracy and including meaningful data sets that lead to decision-making conclusions.

The first place to start is with your web analytics platform. For most companies this will be Google Analytics; so, here’s a list of 7 do’s and don’ts for making sure Google Analytics data is accurate and insightful.

Improve Data Accuracy

Proper Tag Deployment

Often referred to as “self-referral” traffic, gaps in the deployment of your tracking code to your website can wreak havoc on your data by changing the traffic source from the originating meaningful source to the useless “yoursite.com” referral.

Fix this by:

Finding the offending pages via the Referrals report (under Acquisition -> All Traffic). Click on the listing for “yoursite.com” to drilldown one more level to see the specific pages that have an issue with tracking.

The tracking code for these pages should be either added or updated to match the remainder of your website.

Do not fix this by:

Adding yoursite.com to the Referral Exclusion Lists.

This will force Google Analytics to track these visitors as Direct traffic and obscure the issue that you have gaps in your tracking code deployment.


Clean-up Bot and Bad Referral Traffic

Bad bots and misbehaving web apps can drive a significant amount of traffic to your website that will inflate Referral traffic. These aren’t real visitors so don’t count them as such in your reporting.

Fix this by:

Finding the offending site via the Referrals report (under Acquisition -> All Traffic). For example:

bad referral traffic site example

Then create a Referral exclusion filter for your View for this specific site:

exclude bad referral site filter

Do not fix this by:

Adding “fix-website-errors.com” to the Referral Exclusion Lists.

Again, this will force Google Analytics to track these visitors as Direct traffic and obscure the issue that you have meaningless traffic to your site that is, likely, negatively impacting overall performance metrics by inflating visits.


Block Internal/Partner Traffic

Your co-workers, vendors, and partners that work on your website are visiting it CONSTANTLY. These visits add up over time. They can also cause some very strange data anomalies like spikes in traffic immediately before a site launch or conversion paths that include a million traffic sources and pages.

Fix this by:

Finding the IP addresses for your organization, vendors and partners. This can be done by asking IT admins or asking Google What’s My IP?.

Then create an IP exclusion filter for your View:


Do not fix this by:

Excluding geographies where your own organization or partners are known to have offices. This approach will result in blocking the undesired traffic but will also potentially exclude quality visitors to your website from these geographies.


Add Insight Oriented Data

Utilize UTM Codes for Campaign Tracking

Utilizing UTM tracking codes within campaign destination URLs is critical to the accuracy of Google Analytics. It also allows you to improve insights on the channels contributing value for your organization.

Add this by:

Using Google’s URL Builder Tool.


Simply fill-in your destination URL and the values you would like to appear as your source, medium, and campaign name. These three are required but you can optionally include ad content and keyword for paid search.


Connect Other Data Sources

Google Analytics offers data connections to other key Google products. These connections allow a more rich data set to be shared with Google Analytics than can be registered with UTM codes.

Add this by:

There are three core connections that should be established within Google Analytics, including:

  1. Advertising Features – This can found in the Admin for the Property under Tracking Info -> Data Collection and allows for additional visitor demographics to become available in GA:
    enable google analytics advertising features
  2. AdWords – This allows for a richer data set from AdWords to pass to GA including cost, sitelink, and query data.
  3. Search Console (Webmaster Tools) – This allows for Organic search query data from Google’s Search Analytics report in Search Console to become available in GA.  This integration was improved on May 12, 2016 to create a more meaningful data set that ties Organic landing pages, countries, and devices from Google SERP clicks to Conversion and Behavior metrics in GA. Google did not improve this to include keyword-level performance.


Define Goals

Every website has a goal; whether it’s, readership’s time on site, average pageviews per session, contact form submissions, video plays (via Event Tracking), and so on.  These key goals for the users of your site should be translated into Google Analytics utilizing Goal Tracking.

Establishing your Goal Tracking is important because Google Analytics utilizes these Goals to measure the channels and campaigns within the Acquisition reports.

Add this by:

  1. Defining the key goals of the website for your audience
  2. Translate these goals into trackable “website actions”
  3. Create Goals that sync to these actions via the Admin panel for your View:

Enable Event Tracking

Event Tracking allows you to “tag” website actions and pass meaningful data into Google Analytics that isn’t inherently tracked by Goal types “Destination,” “Duration,” or “Pages/Screens per session.”

Event Tracking allows you to measure actions such as video plays, PDF downloads, button clicks, etc.

Event Tracking is a three-tiered data hierarchy that allows you to structure data by:

  1. Category (Tier 1)
  2. Action (1st Sub-tier)
  3. Label (2nd Sub-tier)

For example, if you want the track PDF downloads you could structure your data by:

  1. PDF Downloads (Tier 1)
  2. Name of PDF Downloads (1st Sub-tier)
  3. Page PDF was Dowloaded from (2nd Sub-tier)

This structure would allow you to know how many times all PDFs on the site were downloaded, which specific PDFs were downloaded and what pages that PDF was downloaded from (or which pages produce the most PDF downloads).

Add this by:

Tagging the key actions on your website with Event Tracking code; for example:



Final Thoughts

Whatever web analytics platform you are using, put it to work for your organization.  Start by cleaning-up the garbage data and then move onto integrating meaningful data that you can glean performance insights from.

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