February 15, 2017

A Complete Guide to Accurate Google Analytics Reporting

Published: 15 February 2017 

When you’re running a website for your business, one of the most important things is to always track your data. After all, how do you know who your customers are and how your website is performing if you’re not looking at data? One of the best ways to do this is to use Google Analytics. However, for those who aren’t used to running their own reports and analysing data, the whole process can seem a bit overwhelming. This guide will tell you what you need to do to ensure your Google Analytics reports are as accurate as possible.

Verify Tracking Code Installation

This is an all too common problem. People often have an incorrect tracking code, or don’t even have a code.

To find out if you’re using the right tracking code, install Google Tag Assist to your Google Chrome browser. Once installed, visit your website, select Tag Assistant and reload the page. You will then be able to see this result:

Source: Business2community

If there are no mistakes, your GA code is working correctly.

Create different views

For accurate reporting, Google recommends you create three different views per property. These are reporting view, test view and unfiltered view. This means you can preserve your unfiltered data and make sure you don’t lose any valuable data.

To create a new view, log in and click Admin > View > Create New View.

Source: Search Engine Land

Select which data should the view track, and give your view a name and time zone. Once this is saved, change the name of the unfiltered view. This can be done by navigating to the Admin Overview page and then to View Settings. Once here, you can change the name of the unfiltered view under the View Name box. Make sure you hit save and you’re done!

Filter your IP address

To get the most accurate report, you’ll have to ensure your own IP address is being excluded from site visits. To do this, you need to filter your IP address.

Finding out your IP address is simple. First, access Google through the device you use most commonly. Next, simply Google “what is my IP address.” The result will display your IP address.

Once you know your IP address, you can exclude it from the data in reports. To create a filter, simply navigate to the menu and click Admin > Account > All Filters > Add Filters. Now you can name the filter. Remember to be descriptive if you’re filtering multiple IP addresses. Once the filter has been named, navigate to Filter Type > Predefined. From the drop down menu, select exclude, traffic from the IP addresses and that are equal to. Now you can enter your IP address into address boxes. Finally, click the Save button and you’re on your way to having more accurate Google Analytics data.

The downside to this is it isn’t completely foolproof. If you or your employees are working from home or are working in a cafe and connected to a new network, they will have another IP address. If you’re often working away from the office, this method will not be that useful.

Exclude self-referrals

Self-referrals will occur if you have a subdomain, such as your blog. Google Analytics will automatically track subdomains. This means your reports will reflect that people are visiting from your own website, rather than from sources such as Facebook Ads or Google AdWords.

If this is a problem you’d like to avoid, you need to include your subdomain on a Referral Exclusion List. To do this, navigate to Admin > Property > Tracking Info > Referral exclusion list.

This list should not be used to exclude spam or bots.     

Exclude bots

Spambots are a big problem when trying to accurately interpret how much traffic you’re getting to your website. If your website is being targeted by bots, you’ll notice an unusual spike in traffic. This may only be shown in raw data, and not a filtered view. If you’re getting fake referral spam, it can often completely overtake the Top Referrals Analytics report. When businesses view the report, it looks as if traffic is increasing, when in fact it’s not, it’s caused by referral spam. You’ll often notice spambots cause an increase in bounce rate. If your bounce rate is unusually high, chances are it’s not caused by human behaviour.

Fortunately, Google has the answer to this problem. All you have to do is navigate to “View” in your settings. Next, check the box that allows you to exclude all hits from known bots and spiders.  

Annotate changes

Source: Analytics Market

Sometimes you make changes which will alter your data. If you forget that you made changes, you’re not going to know why your data has suddenly changed. This is where an annotation comes in. Google Analytics allows you to record when you make changes.

To do this, you first need to view a data graph from one of your Google Analytics reports. Click on the arrow below the data graph, and then click Create New Annotation. This allows you to document your annotation. When accessing your data in the future, you’ll be able to see an annotation mark, which can be clicked on to see the description. This will help you record what changes you made and how that has changed the website traffic.

Missing Analytics Code

Users on your website will only be tracked if the page has the GA JavaScript present. If a page is missing this, it will appear as if the user has left your website. Users can also be recorded as a new viewer if they click a link from that page.

To find out if you have pages that are missing this code, you can use tools such as Screaming Frog.


Sampling can be one of the big problems on Google Analytics. This will generally not be a problem for smaller websites, or those who generate less than 50,000 sessions.

When Google Analytics generates its data, it will be based on a certain amount of visits, rather than every visit. The default sample size is 250,000. This can be a huge problem if you’re getting sample data that is only a small percentage of your actual visits. If your data is being sampled, you will be able to see a yellow box on the top right of your Google Analytics interface. This box tells you how many visits the report is based on, and what percentage of visits that is. If your percentage is under 10%, you can comfortably know this will be an inaccurate representation. However, if the percentage is about 80-90%, chances are it will be pretty accurate.

There are a few things you can do if you have problems with sampling:

  • Google Analytics Premium: one of the benefits of Google Analytics Premium is the ability to export unsampled reports. These reports can have up to 100 million visits. This is a great option for those who heavily rely on Analytics data for their business, but are constantly having a sampling rate lower than 50%.
  • Date range: sometimes all you have to do to fix your sampling percentage is alter the date range. If you’re looking at a long timeframe, consider shrinking this until you have under 500,000 visits.
  • Standard reports: Google Analytics’ standard reports are never sampled, and will not feature the yellow box with a sample message. You can often get the same data from the standard report, and it will be far more accurate.
  • Tools: there are various tools available to help manage your data. Consider Analytics Canvas or Google’s BigQuery. These tools will help take care of your data and produce accurate reports.

This tips will help you to produce a far more accurate Google Analytics report. This will allow you to make more informed decisions and make changes to your campaigns.

Ben Maden

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