Updated July 27, 2017

Bad Google Analytics Source DataWe have a client that recently came on board with us after having installed Google Analytics themselves nearly a year ago. Back then, they were skeptical about our services: “Do people really need help setting up Google Analytics? It’s so easy!” We had to agree that, yes, for a lot of sites, this is true: configuration is easy. Sign up, take the script, put it on all of your pages, and then sit back and start collecting data.

Unfortunately, its simplicity can be a little deceiving. There are a lot of little ifs and buts with Google Analytics. If you set up your Google Analytics profile incorrectly, it can mean huge repercussions for your data, weeks, months, even years down the road.

So when Client X finally hired us, we hopped right into their account and audited their Google Analytics profiles. What we found just further confirmed what any Google Analytics Authorized Consultant already know: setting up Google Analytics is not always a cakewalk.

Here’s what happened, and let it stand as a warning to ye who may venture forth in similar fashion. Our client has a single site with multiple subdomains. For those playing along at home, this requires the addition of a parameter to tell Google Analytics how to assign and manage cookie data.

Client X neglected to add this necessary parameter. What this meant for them is that whenever a visitor moved from subdomain to subdomain, the visitor’s cookie data was mismanaged and their referral information was getting screwed up. Click here for an illustration.

 

For a site like Client X’s, this is a huge deal. They rely on sub.domain.com for all transactions on the site, and they get a ton of repeat traffic. Because the Google Analytics cookies are persistent, because Google Analytics uses only first party cookies, because direct visits (when the user comes to the site via a bookmark or by manually typing the URL into their browser) never overwrite other referrals… those incorrectly cookie’d visitors are going to be registering for a long, long time. And aside from taking down the Google Analytics script and running something that will devour all of your visitor’s cookies, there’s not an awful lot that can be done about it.

Yes, Google Analytics is easy to set up for the average website, but it is imperative that you make sure your configuration is in tip-top shape before you put that simple six-line script on your site. You might be collecting bad data that will be extremely difficult to fix…

If you’re not sure whether your site is “average” or not, join our Google Analytics online training course.