This post is dedicated to all of those hard working webmasters out there who have enough to worry about as it is without the marketing staff breathing down their necks about campaign tracking and revenue analysis and all sorts of other stuff.
Look, I’m a code monkey, too. I understand the dilemma. No one likes to ask permission from fifteen different people before they make the slightest change to a site.
But here’s the thing: Google Analytics is script-based, and it collects live traffic and conversion data. If it’s not on a page, and someone visits that page, they don’t get counted. It’s not rocket science (but I’m no rocket scientist, so I must defer to someone who is).
So if you know that the site you’re working with has the Google Analytics script on it, then think twice before you make any major changes. Here’s a quick list of what to consider…
- Are you adding any new domains or subdomains to the site?
- Are you adding any new major sections to the site (subdirectories, navigation options, etc.)?
- Are any key conversion pages being altered?
- Are filenames being changed in any way?
Item-by-item, here’s what can happen if you don’t keep Google Analytics in mind when making the above changes:
1. Are you adding any new domains or subdomains to the site?
Google Analytics uses first-party cookies to track visitors, as we’ve discussed in depth several times before. These cookies are set for the website domain only. So, naturally, if you add domains, modifications will need to be made. If you add subdomains, modifications will need to be made. And, God forbid, you change domains altogether… well, in any of these situations, communication is key. Make sure you are conferring with your marketing staff, and if you’re lucky enough to have a Google Analytics Authorized Consultant like ROI Revolution on retainer, now would be a good time to give them a ring.
2. Are you adding any new major sections to the site (subdirectories, navigation options, etc.)?
Adding entirely new sections to the site without adding the tracking code can be disasterous, especially if marketing is starting up a big ad campaign to drive traffic to these new areas. Always add the Google Analytics script to new pages. Better yet, use a standard included file. Then you’ll never forget.
If you don’t, then the profile’s data will almost certainly be ruined. You have a huge potential for self-referrals—that is, referrals from your own website—and the untagged pages won’t be counted at all. So the marketing department won’t have any idea how that big, new, expensive campaign that they’ve launched is performing.
Add the script to the new pages and chances are you won’t get any frantic phone calls from marketing during your lunch/WoW break.
3. Are any key conversion pages being altered?
Be extremely careful when you’re dealing with your site’s conversion pages. These are the “Thank You” pages that follow high-value lead submission forms, or the receipt pages that follow a shopping cart process. If you can help it, don’t rename these files. Any conversion pages on the site are most likely set up as goals in Google Analytics, and this means that Google Analytics is matching a specific filename. You alter this filename, and you break the conversion tracking in Google Analytics.
If you do need to change the filename for whatever reason, please update the goal in Google Analytics. Again, if you’ve got a support plan with a GAAC, this is when you call up your friendly neighborhood Google Analytics specialist and tell him or her to update the goals for you.
4. Are filenames being changed in any way?
Sometimes it’s really no big deal if you’re modifying the architecture of your site. As I said in number 2 above, so long as you add the script to every new or modified page, you’re good. In some cases, though, this can cause problems. For instance, depending on the match types of your goals, you may break the Funnel Visualization report. You may also make it very difficult for analysts to examine historical data for a specific page (it’s called foobar.php now, but last week it was foobar.html). If you change certain filenames, alert your analytics people and find out if this may affect the data being collected. It may be possible to create special filters to help ease this sort of transition.
Bottom line: keep everyone in the loop, and your data won’t suffer. Better yet, you won’t be the one that marketing comes to when they’ve got a SNAFU. It’s as simple as that.