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10 ways you’re misusing Google Analytics

Google Analytics stumping you, fix these issues now

It’s great that you’ve got a Google Analytics account set up and ready to go on your website, but are you misusing the Google Analytics metrics and is it actually set up correctly? I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve had new clients who have a Google Analytics account because ‘it’s just one of the things you do’ but other than log in and view the ‘overview’ or ‘real-time’ tabs, don’t look at any other bits of data, or even worse, misread it

This data is invaluable, it tells you who your audience is, what they’re wanting and what tweaks and changes you can make to your website to make it dynamite, and likely, more sales.

My marketing career spans over 10 years, and within that, these are my top 10x ways that I’ve helped people identify how they are misreading and misusing Google Analytics.

1. Ignoring what Platform Your Audience Uses

Audience > Mobile > Overview

This section gives you a massive insight into what platform your audience is using to view your website, however, do you know what to do with it other than saying ‘great, 75% of people are viewing my website on their mobile’?

You’re not alone, most people say this (but with different metrics) and do nothing, but if the majority of people viewing your website are on mobile devices, why the heck aren’t you making this easier for them? 

When making your website, you shouldn’t be making it for you, but for your audience so if they’re on mobile, make it mobile-friendly first, desktop second.

2. Thinking a High Bounce Rate is a Bad Thing

Behaviour > Overview > Bounce Rate

Page Bounce Rate means someone has gone onto a specific page and come off it quickly aka bouncing off the page. Yes, the Bounce Rate on some pages should be low, but on other pages where you want the user to only be on for a short while (e.g the contact page to get your phone number to call you) then its OK to be high.

Where you should worry though, is if its a page of content and you would expect people to be reading for more than 10 seconds, then yes, this page should have a low Bounce Rate. If it’s not, maybe look at the search terms that bought your audience to it. They’re not getting the information they want so you can either tweak your content or tell Google you’re not relevant for those terms.

3. Not Having a Privacy Policy on Your Website but Still ‘Using’ Google Analytics 

Google Analytics, when used correctly is a very powerful tool, but to use it, you have to abide by Googles terms of services:

You will have and abide by an appropriate Privacy Policy and will comply with all applicable laws, policies, and regulations relating to the collection of information from Visitors. You must post a Privacy Policy and that Privacy Policy must provide notice of Your use of cookies that are used to collect data. You must disclose the use of Google Analytics, and how it collects and processes data.”

This means point blank, you NEED a privacy policy and it needs to say ‘yes, you track what people look at and generic information about their persona and behaviours through Google Analytics’. Not doing so is actually breaking the law.

4. Not Enabling the Advertising Features within your Account

Admin > Property > Property Settings > Under Advertising Features, set Enable Demographics and Interests Reports to ON

Google Analytics is a wealth of data and information, but to tap into its full potential, you need to set it up to track the data you actually care about.

Once you’ve enabled the Advertising Features, you can get a deeper understanding of your audience by Age, Gender, and Interests and work out your user personas. With this information, you can then better target your content and ad spend to ensure you’re not wasting money on those not interested in your products and services.

5. Not Enabling your Goals/ Conversions

Conversions > Goals > Set up Goals > New Goal > Set up depending on what your goal should be, but Google can provide you with a ‘template’

This is one area that so many people get frightened by, but it’s SO useful; it’s like having someone (in a non-creepy way) standing behind your audience and looking at exactly what they do on your website e.g:

  • How many click the ‘call us’ button
  • How many download a white paper
  • How many spend X amount on your store
  • How many people viewed a page for a set amount of time
  • How many people went to 3+ pages 
  • How many people viewed a video your hosting
  • How many people fill out a form
  • How many get to the ‘thanks for signing up to our newsletter’ page

This data is gold dust to help you work out where your audience is dropping off. If your goals aren’t being hit, you need to work out where the issue is and change the process and by setting up conversions, you can see this.

6. Including Yourself in the Metrics

Admin > View> All Filters > Add Filter > Give the filter a name (can be anything, I use the IP address) > Leave Filter Type as predefined > It should read: Exclude + traffic from the IP addresses + that are equal to and enter your IP address

“Woohoo, page X has been viewed 30 times and they’re all local to me, great, someone in my area is really interested in what I’m selling so they’ll get in contact soon I’m sure….” um no, I’m afraid not, it’s just you or anyone else in your team you’ve told to look at that page tracking your own data *doh*. It’s a simple mistake to make, but an even easier one to fix- you simply tell Google to exclude your IP address.

How you view your website is very different to how your audience will view it, so why combine your metrics together?

Tip: if you don’t know your IP address, just Google search ‘what’s my IP address’ and it’ll tell you.

7. Too Many Include/Exclude Filters

Admin > View> All Filters > Add Filter 

Filtering, what a wonderful thing, it allows me to home in exactly on what I want to see, clean up data and make things organised and specific…. however you need to SET THE FILTERS UP to do this.

But on the flip side, don’t set up too many filters as you’re setting yourself up to exclude lots of interesting data you might actually want at a later date. You should ALWAYS still keep an unfiltered view that never has any filters applied to it, so you always have access to the raw data should you need it.

8. Duplicates of the Same Page in Analytics Reports

Admin > Account > Property > View > Filters > New Filter > Create Filter > Filter Name e.g “Force Lowercase” > Filter Type “Custom” select “Lowercase” > Filter Field “Request URI” > Save

We can’t control exactly what our audience will type, sometimes they might type things ‘correctly’, other times they might have cap locks on accidentally, but each time they type it slightly differently, it makes a new URL case variation, creating a new line in Analytics reports e.g:


By creating a Custom Filter, you can force it to group all URLs to lowercase and reduce Google Analytics reporting duplicate pages.

9. Spam and Bots Affecting Your Readings

Admin > Account > Property > View > View Settings > Bot Filtering (tick the box)

No one likes spam (the tinned stuff) but I’m actually talking about online spam and bots that are blooming useless when you want to view your Google Analytics Metrics. 

Spam and bots can cause random spikes and anomalies in your data so your best bet is to tell Google you’re not interested in it, that way, it filters out “all hits from known bots and spiders” automatically for you.

10. Having a Search Bar but Doing Nothing with It

Admin > Account > Property > View > View Settings > Site Search Tracking > set to ON

If you have a search bar within your website, have you thought about tracking what people type within it? Doing so will show you what ‘key terms’ and search queries your audience is looking for. 

It’s another clever way of working out what your audience wants from your website, and if they’re searching for items you don’t yet have, then it shows you what you NEED to be adding. 

By adding new content relevant to these search terms, then you’re adding new content that Google Search results will also pick up and display to others searching for it, increasing your chances of getting new audience members.

So there you have it, my top 10 ways you’re misusing Google Analytics. A lot of it is logical when you think about it, but without having the time to stop and work it through, its areas that can easily fall through the gaps. By utilising Google Analytics and it’s metrics, it provides you with a roadmap of what areas you can and should improve on your website and why and you can’t argue with data.

Photo by Franki Chamaki on Unsplash