The Google Analytics Audit Checklist
How to use the Google Analytics Audit Checklist:
Conducting a Google Analytics audit is one of the first tasks you should undertake when joining an organisation as a web analyst or consultant. Google Analytics is a powerful and flexible web analytics tool, but like any SaaS solution it requires time and effort to set it up correctly and fine tune it to meet your specific needs. Using a Google Analytics audit checklist can also help to improve your organisation’s confidence in web analytics data and inform planning to enhance and maintain a high level of data quality.
If you also need to conduct an audit of GTM, view our Google Tag Manager Audit Checklist post.
1. Start with the customer:
Applying a Google Analytics audit checklist helps to ensure you capture the data your organisation needs to know about user behaviour on a website. However, to align metrics to your business model and the customer journey it is important to first create a measurement plan based upon customer goals and your organisation’s business model.
One such framework has been developed by optimisation expert Jonny Longden. The Ecommerce Performance Framework below shows how to align customer goals with your metrics and optimisation focus. This can be used to help define your measurement plan and inform your requirements from Google Analytics.
2. Permissions and Structure of Google Analytics:
Many organisations lack simple documentation of which Google Analytics properties relate to which website and which Google Tag Manager container is used for configuring tags. That’s why it’s a good idea to start your Google Analytics audit by checking the GA or GTM code on each of your websites. You may discover that you haven’t got access to all the properties you need and that some websites don’t have the necessary code for GTM and are hard coded with GA base code.
This may give you the opportunity to recommend migrating to Google Tag Manager for Google Analytics implementation. Staying with hard-coded GA base code will only slow down and hinder a measurement plan.
Another issue to quickly identify is whether each Google Analytics property has separate views for unfiltered traffic (raw data), a test view and a reporting view. This basic structure will help protect your GA data from mistakes with filters and other view related changes. Get your test view set up first and once you are happy with the data quality and the impact of any filters you have implemented, copy the view and create your reporting view.
How to Copy a View
You can now implement all new filters in your test view and compare the data with the reporting view to ensure it as you expect. Only once you are happy with the accuracy of data do you need to add the filter to your reporting view.
3. View Settings:
Go to your test and reporting views to check the View Settings. Here you should check that you have the correct country and time zone, together with your default homepage URL. For example, if examplesite.com and examplesite.com/index.html are identical pages, you can input index.html in the default page field to ensure they are not shown as different pages in your GA reports.
How to filter out Bots in View Settings
Ensure you check the box for “Exclude all hits from known bots and spiders” to filter out such traffic from your reports. If you find you are still getting lots of spam traffic in your reports, you can read our post on how to block spam and bots from Google Analytics to guide you further.
4. Product Linking:
Under Property Settings go to ‘PRODUCT LINKING’ to see if your GA property has been linked to other Google solutions, such as Google Ads, Campaign Manager, Google Optimize and Search Console. Provided you are the owner or have admin rights for other Google products, you can configure product linking for some products, such as Search Console, from your GA interface.
Search Console should be a must for any GA property because it allows you to view search query data with GA data. However, be aware that you can only link one Search Console property to a single GA property. This can be problematic if you are sending data from multiple subdomains to the same property.
5. Goals and Custom Metrics:
To begin measuring conversion rates you will want to set up goals in Google Analytics. GA goals don’t work retrospectively and so it’s worthwhile spending some time creating goals that reflect important events or journeys which generate value to your organisation. By using Custom GA Goals, you can set up conversion funnels based upon URLs for each step in the user journey.
Under ‘Custom Definitions’ you can begin to consider how to create custom metrics to add to your measurement plan. You can configure these in GTM, but as the free version of GA only allows you to create 20 in total it is important to plan which custom metrics you will need. This will also enable you to define which calculated metrics you can then implement in GA.
How to set up a Custom Metric
6. Filters and Referrals:
Garbage in, garbage out is a well-known data analysis phrase. Use filters to improve the quality of your Google Analytics data by blocking hits from internal traffic by gathering office IP addresses for anyone who frequently visits the live site. Don’t forget to Include third-party suppliers who work on your websites.
For traffic coming from other domains (e.g. payment gateway) that are integral to your user journey, go to Tracking info > Referral Exclusion List. Here you can add other domains that you don’t want to be included as referrals in GA data.
To help you in your analysis you may also want to create separate views for important user segments. These often include mobile users, desktop only or add to basket visitors. This can make it easier to analyse such segments because you don’t need to keep creating custom segments or filters in your reports.
7. Tracking Code:
To ensure tracking code is on all pages you can use tools such as Screaming Frog to crawl your site to look for pages with no or incorrect code. Incorrectly implemented or partially removed code will prevent you from measuring all user journeys and so it’s vital to identify when this exists. It’s not uncommon to find embedded applications and iFrames missing code as these are hosted on separate domains.
That’s why cross-domain tracking is another area to examine because it’s often perfectly possible to track the complete user journey even when visitors go between different domains. Cross-domain tracking is often considered difficult, but in most instances, it is not insurmountable. It just requires a certain amount of persistence to get code implemented and testing to find the right configuration.
Where you have multiple subdomains, you should set up your property with different views and apply a filter to append the hostname to the page path. Subdomain tracking is much simpler than cross-domain tracking, but it still requires some planning to get it right.
8. Data Quality (Advanced):
Are you tracking customer verification emails and other email or SMS campaigns by adding UTM parameters to the URLs you use? UTM parameters can be used with many different types of campaigns to allow you to better understand how much traffic is generated by such activity.
For SMS or other types of campaigns you may want to add them to your acquisition channel groupings. The best way to do this is to create a copy of the default channel grouping so that you can test it works correctly before changing the default channel groupings.
How to add a new Channel to Default Channel Grouping Settings
Enhanced ecommerce tracking can be one of the most powerful ways of enriching your Google Analytics data. Has it been implemented and if so, how well has it been completed? These are questions worthwhile examining as there is often room for improvement in either the implementation or the configuration of data layer variables and tags.
Custom dimensions, such as redirect count, session ID and navigation type, can be a useful addition to your Google Analytics data. Again, refer to your ecommerce performance framework to help you identify the kind of custom dimensions that will most benefit your organisation.
9. Data Append (Advanced):
Finally, consider further enhancing your GA data with tracking micro conversions by capturing in-page interactions. Ensure you enable the capture of demographic data to better understand your audience. Also consider implementing User IDs to enable cross-browser and device tracking as this is becoming the norm as visitors’ multi-task with multiple devices and browsers.
You need to invest to get a return. Google Analytics is the same. To get the optimum value from Google Analytics it’s essential to spend time planning and configuring the solution to ensure it fully meets your needs. I can guarantee that the more time you spend setting up and enriching the data you collect in GA, the more value you will get from the tool.
You can download the Google Analytics audit for free. We hope you find it useful and please leave comments or feedback below.
- About the author: Neal (@northresearch) provides web analytics and CRO consultancy services and has worked in many sectors including financial services, online gaming and retail. He has helped brands such Hastings Direct, Manchester Airport Group Online and Assurant Solutions Ltd to improve their digital marketing measurement and performance.
- Neal has had articles published on website optimisation on CXL and Usabilla.com. As an ex-market research and insight manager he also had posts published on the GreenBook Blog research website. If you wish to contact us please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter @conversionupl, see Neal’s LinkedIn profile or connect on Facebook.