Here at the ROI Revolution blog, we usually strive to provide you with helpful how-tos and the best examples on making your Google Analytics accounts lean, clean, and useful. Today, we’re going a different route in the hope that instead of teaching by example, we can show what not to do.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you our top five Google Analytics FAILs. These are real life examples that our intrepid Google Analytics support staff have encountered in the line of duty. They are not pretty. You have been warned.

utm_nooverride FAIL

1. There Can Be Only One: utm_nooverride=1

We’ve talked at length about utm_nooverride before. We’re big fans of using the utm_nooverride query parameter to make sure that branded and email traffic doesn’t overwrite more important long tail referral data.

But there’s really only one parameter value to use in this situation. One. It’s one. The only one is one. Does that make sense?

No? Ok. Well, see the screenshot to the left? That’s what you shouldn’t use.

First of all, you should never see the utm_nooverride parameter in your Google Analytics reports. Secondly, you should spell it correctly. Third, don’t pass “2” as a value. It doesn’t work. Just follow Shawn’s instructions in his three-part series on using utm_nooverride and you won’t FAIL.


2. You Are Not Selling Medium Green T-Shirts

At the very least, you’re not selling only medium green t-shirts, right? Well, maybe you are. Who am I to judge?

The example provided in the Google Analytics Help Center article on e-commerce is just that: an example. But I’d be lying if I said that I hadn’t seen people cut and paste that example script right onto their receipt pages, then called it a day.

Google Analytics can’t figure out what you’ve sold unless you tell it. You need to roll up your sleeves and find the variables that contain a visitor’s transaction data. Then pass that data to Google Analytics. It’s like a relay race, except you’re passing product names and revenue figures.

Place a test order. If you view your receipt page’s source code and you don’t see the correct order total or the products you purchased (or if your code says you bought a medium green t-shirt), then you’ve got more work to do.

ecomfail.jpgYou’ll probably also want to check out the values you’re passing. We’ve seen some pretty hinky stuff show up in the Google Analytics e-commerce reports because someone threw too many numbers into the revenue or shipping fields (see left).

Start by checking out Caitlin’s article about de-stressing your Google Analytics e-commerce setup. If you’re still mired in FAIL, you can always hire us.

Hit the jump for three more epic Google Analytics FAILures.

3. Google Website Optimizer and Google Analytics Aren’t That Close

Yeah, we know that Google Analytics and Google Website Optimizer renewed their vows last year and that you can view A/B experiment in Google Analytics. But they’re not inseparable. They like their space. They are their own individuals. It’s a healthy marriage.

Google Website Optimizer FAILSo don’t go mistaking your Google Analytics account number with your Google Website Optimizer account number. They may look similar, but you should always be sure to differentiate.

If you get them mixed up, you’ll start seeing some pretty odd pageviews in Google Analytics (see right) and your Website Optimizer experiments will tank.

And while GA and GWO live their own lives (are you as sick of this metaphor as I am?), they want to be treated equal. So if you’re using a customized Google Analytics script, you may need to make a few changes to your Google Website Optimizer script. Shawn talks about these modifications in detail in his article on installing Website Optimizer if you use Google Analytics, and Jeremy’s world-famous Google Analytics Report Enhancer script lets you customize your Google Website Optimizer scripts in the browser before plugging them into your source code. It makes the whole process FAIL-proof.

4. Let Your Visitors Come As They Are

Be a gracious host. If your website’s visitors are coming to a page with a redirect, be sure to let Google Analytics figure out where they came from. Otherwise you’re going to miss out on the referring site, any keywords they searched for, and whether or not they clicked on one of your ads.

The way that you redirect your visitors will impact how they get tracked. If you use 301 (permanent) redirects, then the HTTP referrer—essentially, the URL of the webpage that linked to your site—gets passed on to the new page. This means that Google Analytics can figure out how the visitor got to your site. 302 redirects or JavaScript/meta redirects don’t do this.

But there’s another issue. If you’re using Google Analytics link tagging and the query string doesn’t move along in the redirect, you’re losing valuable intelligence. Make sure the query string shows up on the new page after the redirection. Otherwise: tracking FAIL.

5. You Want to Track Your Website

It might seem pretty obvious to most of you, but when it comes to adding a Google Analytics tracking code to your site, it’s very important that you actually track that site’s traffic.

Check out the tracking codes below for a site called The site’s fake, but these are all FAILs I’ve actually seen before. Can you figure out why these tracking codes FAIL? Leave a comment and tell us how to fix them.