The Future is Now

The filmmakers and storytellers often portray our future filled with nano-technology, retinal eye-scans, robotic helpers around the house and virtual reality ads on every corner. And they are not wrong. As we can see by the rise of the smartphone face-recognition feature, virtual reality ads and build-in retina scans, the future technology is no longer impending – it is now. And what all this current and future technology based on is essentially data – and on the fact that it’s accurate, to be exact.

All areas of our lives starting from launching an ad campaign to landing an Intercontinental plane relies on the delivery of the precise information. The more accurate the data is, the more reliable are the results we get. No one can argue with that, right? So what happens when the provider of that data, it’s source and cradle, is faulty?

Data Accuracy (or it’s absence) in Google Analytics

In Data We Trust

In the whole head-to-toe marketing process the received web-analytics data accuracy is usually the last thing you’d consider double-checking. It’s concise, it’s reliable, it’s proven to serve over and over again. Or is it?

In the light of the latest events, the famous giant of web-data sourcing and analyzing – Google Analytics, has been said to have a number of imperfections, causing your and millions of other accounts to base their Marketing Strategies and Conversion Optimization on the data that does not correspond to reality. A big part of feeling safe in the way your web-analytics operate is to be sure you’ve set up your Google Analytics right – so make sure to check this article on how to do it.  

In this piece, we will review the reasons why the collected data can be inaccurate, dividing them into two categories –  those you can do something about, and ways to fix it, and those you are not in control of, yet have to be aware of to utilize the collected data accordingly.

Awareness is Half the Solution

When the problem doesn’t seem to have a possible solution, being aware of it already gives you the advantage in the form of knowing what to expect and what to watch out for. This is what we mean when it comes to cookies (the HTTP ones, not the ones you dropped in your milk glass by accident this morning).

When you visit a website – any website – more often than not you will encounter a banner message or a pop-up window asking you to accept the website’s cookies. What it means is it’s asking permission to tag your visit and record information about your activity on the website.

Now, this is where the inaccuracy number one comes in. There are a number of browsers, like Firefox, that automatically block the tracking, disabling you to see any activity from the visit. The exact same thing happens when users utilize AdBlockers or configure their browsers to block cookies by default.

Inaccuracy number two comes from the way Google measures time sessions. As you probably know by now, the Google Analytics code only registers an action performed on a given website.

What it results in is the gap in the time being counted – if your visitor starts a page, spends 15 minutes reading an article and then closes the tab, Google counts it as if your visitor bounced from the website during the first seconds. And that can create a huge discrepancy in monitoring your visitors’ behaviour flow. You can minimize the impact of this factor by using Google Tag Manager and setting time triggers, which will provide you with more precise data on the session duration and bounce rates.

Another important part in the process of cookies being tagged is Javascript enabling. If the user has chosen to disable it in the browser settings, there’s no way we can track him either. Now add all those users willingly pressing the “NO” button when asked about allowing the cookies to use their information, which brings us to a vast number of users being unaccounted for in our user experience statistics.

When Details Matter

Another inaccuracy causing misalignment within the Google Analytics performance is a code misplacement. When you want to monitor activity, created by your page visitors, you or your developer embed a special Google Analytics tracking code. This special tag is a powerful tool, allowing you to see how your visitors act on your page before it even has a chance to get fully loaded.

That’s the case if you place the tag correctly. When building a page, it is advised to place the Google tracking code prior to the <head> tag, so that when the browser renders the page, the Google Analytics tracking element loads before anything else on the page does. However, some developers suggest that placing the tag higher and prioritizing it among other page elements, like menu and visuals, slows down your overall page speed, which is a leading factor in assessing the user experience.

It wouldn’t be much harm in placing the Google tracking tag just before closing the <body> tag element for example, if it wasn’t for the fact that it does do lots of harm. By placing the Google tracking code lower, we allow other page elements to load faster, which is sometimes precisely enough for the user to find the required link and move away to another page, leaving the current one without the visit being acknowledged.

The third Google Analytics inaccuracy comes from its Geo-location services. Did you know that the IP address everyone is so concerned of revealing and tracking is actually not assigned to any physical, real-life location? The whole geo-targeting advertisement industry bases its conclusions and decisions on approximate findings, brought by the independent companies, which assign sorting out tons of data to the hands of their human employees. Find out how Geo-targeting has been failing its users in the article here.

The Powerful Tool

Even after naming the gaps in the accurate work of the most popular and powerful analytics tool of today, it’s important to remember that even though it might show omissions, it is still one of the most useful tools to enhance one’s website’s performance we have today. Thanks to the amount of data it tracks, collects and processes, you get the most accurate map of how your users behave once they visit your website on average.

To summarize the points indicated above, make sure you are aware of how the cookies impact your statistics, pay attention to the Google Tags and Geo-location accuracy, and keep an eye on the new reports, showcasing Google Analytics misconfigurations, and how to fix them.