Counting Zeros – Basic Google Analytics Troubleshooting

I’ve been spending more time in the Google Analytics Product Forums – it’s a great way of staying sharp, many of the questions and issues are similar to the ones my clients face, and it’s nice to be able to contribute to the community there.

One of the most common questions I tend to see there is something along the lines of ‘Why can’t I see any data’. Here’s some tips to get started, if you’re staring at a bunch of zeros:

1. Is your tracking code installed correctly?

Check to see that the Google Analytics tracking code (GATC) is actually on the page and deployed throughout your site. Use a tool like Screaming Frog to scan your site to verify that you have a near as damn it 100% deployment of code.

The Analytics Helper extension for Chrome is a quick way of seeing if there is GATC code on the page.

If you see code, then check to see whether it’s firing – I use Google Analytics Debugger all the time. That will tell you exactly what’s being fired off. Top tip – the Debugger tool uses the Developer Console to display results; when it’s open right click on the console and select ‘Preserve Navigation’ – that way you can look back over a series of calls to GA.

2. Do your UA-XXXXXXXX-X numbers match?

Pretty basic this one, but check that the GATC UA number on the website matches that of the profile your’re looking at. That’s the number which appears in your GATC on your website – compare it with the UA number beside the profile name in the main accounts list in your GA interface.

3. What filters are in place?

If you suddenly see data flatline, but the code’s still on the page and firing, then check out any recent filters you’ve configured. A poorly constructed regular expression, or selecting ‘exclude’ rather than ‘include’ can kill your data. I recommend always have a test profile where you can experiment with new filters before launching them on your main reporting profile – remember, if you break your data, you can’t go back and restore it.

4. Have you been patient?

If you’ve just installed the code then take a deep breath and wait – in the support documentation Google says it can take up to 24 hours. It’s usually faster than that, but there can still be a time lag. Check the Real Time reports – they should show data immediately (assuming that the Tracking Status Information says ‘Tracking Installed’).

If you’re expecting a low volume of visitors anyway, then there may simply be no visits to track – assuming you’ve filtered out your own visits on your main reporting profile use your test profile, or another unfiltered profile, to check that your own visitor data makes sense.

 

Want to learn more? You’re welcome to talk to me about GA, we can also meet up at the forthcoming Digital Knowledge Day 2013 – Stockholm 10th April, Sweden.

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Google Analytics IQ Exam – Revising and Passing

I recently left my previous job at Malmö University and started a new role as an analyst with Search Integration – this is an awesome opportunity for me, Search Integration are a great company and the hook for me was being able to work 100% with web analytics. A huge bonus is being able to work with Brian Clifton, whose book ‘Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics‘ got me into the field of web analytics in the first place – definitely a Matrix moment!

Part of my new journey with Search Integration was to formalise my Google Analytics knowledge by taking the Google Analytics IQ test. I’m happy to say that I passed first time, with a score of 94%. There’s already some great posts about the IQ test out there – for example, I recommend checking out the very candid ‘How to  fail the Google Analytics Exam‘; but I thought it would be useful to share my insights about taking and passing this exam.

Passing the Google Analytics IQ Test
You can find a good description of what the test is like here, so I won’t bother going over that ground again. Here’s my top tips for passing, and getting maximum benefit from the exam:

1. You need to be familiar with Google Analytics, and using it on a regular basis, before taking the exam. You need to have a basic understanding of implementation and, crucially, interpreting the GA reports – this will give you a strong foundation to build on; otherwise your revision is going to be very abstract. Despite having worked a lot with GA I was very glad that I had revised – there were definitely areas I needed to brush up on.

2. Google’s IQ exam presentations are great. Watch them several times and make notes. I’d put aside at least 2 full days to go through them. Incidentally, right click on the links and open them in a new tab to get the full screen view – I noticed a few people were missing this on some forums and squinting at the preview size. My approach was to watch the presentations, pausing them often and referring to the Google Analytics help site and Brian’s book as supplementary material.

3. Use the awesome Google Analytics Test site – it’s an unofficial community driven labour of love led by Eric Fettman. I would say that most of the questions are harder, and require more lateral thinking, than the GA IQ itself. Beast yourself on their site. To get maximum value from the questions pay attention to the answer sections – for all the questions, not just the ones you got wrong. I found the site particularly helpful in identifying my weak spots.

4. Don’t get cocky. My revision was good, and I’ve a lot of experience in using Analytics but there were definitely a few questions which got me scratching my head. I made sure that I was particularly confident with the following sections:

– Cross domain, and sub-domain tracking
– Attribution rules (and dudu’s blog has one of the best visual explanations I’ve seen)
– Adwords integration with GA
– How cookies work in GA
– Ecommerce tracking
– Filter functionality

Really, the subject is so broad that it’s hard to point at particular subjects and say you must understand these more than others. However, a big epiphany for me – in my journey as an analyst – was really getting to grips with what a visit is, and how Google Analytics measures them. Also, really work hard at understanding the difference between a dimension and a metric – this will pay back big time.

5. As my driving instructor said to me, ‘don’t learn to drive to pass the test, learn to be a good driver’. Aim to exceed the level of the GA IQ test with your revision and you’ll not only feel very confident as you answer the questions, but also as you continue to use it in your job – which is the whole point.

My revision benefited from the following resources:

– The IQ Exam presentations
Brian Clifton’s book and blog
The Google Analytics help site (this gets better and better – good explanations, often with examples)
The Google Analytics Developer site (I love this site, but you don’t need to dive too deep into it – it will help with GATC customisations and cookie understanding; the dimensions and metrics reference guide is also awesome))
Google Analytics YouTube channel (check out the web analytics TV – benefit from web ninja wisdom and lots of real world cases)

There’s a ton of good analytics blogs, but here’s a start:
Advanced Web Metrics
Occam’s Razor
Google Analytics Blog
Lunametrics
Analytics Talk

I guess my main take away is to make your understanding of Google Analytics as real world as possible – if you’ve got a access to a range of accounts representing different types of websites then you’ve got a great start. Otherwise pay particular attention to the examples and demonstrations in the resources I identify above.

Good luck, and feel free to get in touch (via comments below) if you’ve got specific questions, or comments, about the IQ exam.