5 Reasons Your Google Analytics Data May Be Misleading

Google Analytics is the main source you should be looking at to measure your marketing efforts – both digital and offline.

The problem with Google Analytics is there’s not many people who know it well, and more often than not, your web developers input to it is just to add some tracking code to your website….and very often that’s not done correctly either, particularly if you have third party booking engines.

There’s a few things I notice across many installations that may be causing your numbers to be wrong, which may lead to you making the wrong decisions.

Here’s my Top 5 Reasons Your Google Analytics Data May Be Wrong :

1. Spam Referrers Are Inflating Your Visitors & Bounce Rates

Spam referrers? Sound scary? Don’t worry they’re no hurting your website, but they are hurting your numbers. Spam Referrers are like the plague to any digital marketer. They are websites that abuse the Google Analytics interface by sending rogue data into accounts across the internet, to try and get you to have a look at them, and even worse, fool you into thinking you are getting lots of referrals from the sites, and try to get you to take out advertising on them.

The only consolation is it’s not just your site – it’s almost all websites they are affecting!

To check if this affects you, have a look at Acquisition -> All Traffic -> Referrals.

If some of those sites look sketchy, your numbers are being inflated.

2. You Haven’t Filtered Out Internal Users

Do you or your staff go onto your website a lot? What about checking prices, or looking at a weather widget on your site?
Those are counted as visits like everyone else but your own team’s behaviour is very different to external visitors.

Internal users should be filtered out, otherwise your bounce rate will be inflated, as will your visitor numbers. If you are tracking KPIs such as conversion rates, removing internal users will increase the conversion rates a bit, making your numbers look better!

3. You Can’t See Revenue Numbers

How much is an email enquiry or booking worth to you? If you can’t see numbers for bookings on your site you’re not tracking what you’re getting back from your online investment. Would you treat an employee like this and let them ‘work’ away in the corner for years without knowing their output?

Treat your website like an employee. What’s it giving back to you, as I’m sure it wasn’t cheap!

Unfortunately there are still a lot of booking engines that don’t really cater for this, so as their clients you should put pressure on them to support ecommerce tracking, and ideally enhanced ecommerce tracking so you can see a lot more information!

4. Where’s The Revenue Coming From?

If you can see numbers and conversions on your website, what traffic source is driving them? Is it articles on your local tourism body’s website, or a paid membership to an association directory? This is one of the most common setup issues that is missed out completely. If you can’t ask this and you need to justify a listing in a directory site next year to your boss, you’re going to struggle.

If this isn’t set up correctly your visitor numbers are probably incorrect as well, as when someone visits your website, then jumps across to a third party booking engine, they may well be viewed as a completely new visitor, rather than tracking what they’re doing across one visit. An easy way to potentially double your visitor numbers without realising.

5. Not Being Aware Of What You Can Track

Not sure about what you can track? I have a client where we track all of the stuff below :

  • Phone call clicks
  • Email clicks to different departments
  • Ecommerce Revenue and where it came from
  • Clicks on reserved phone numbers only shown in ads
  • Requests for Information via specific forms

What would happen if these aren’t tracked?

You won’t know what’s driving the leads and may give the credit to the wrong team, or the wrong marketing campaign.

Imagine if you spent thousands on print advertising and it wasn’t driving any revenue, or thousands in pay per click online advertising that did the same? You’d want to know so you can optimise it, or cull it (but don’t do that too quickly without analysing the data correctly!! Ensure you have the right context around it).


6.  Bonus – How’s Your Social Media Doing?

Spending hours on social media?  Check if it’s getting your extra revenue and how much traffic it’s driving to your site compared to other channels by looking at Acquisition -> All Traffic -> Channels.

If your gazillion followers aren’t driving revenue you may have to change track a bit, or at least just consider that time like a brand awareness campaign (which could be compared to a Google AdWords Display campaign in a very loose way…but that very much depends on your audience).


As a second bonus tip, ensure you own your own analytics account and have full admin access! To check this, log in with your main account, Go to Account, Admin and click User Management. If you can’t add users, or create Filters in the View settings, then start to ask questions.

Sometimes agencies set up Analytics accounts under their accounts, so they can’t give you admin access or you’d see all their other client’s data! If you can’t get admin access you can’t set up filter and other good stuff yourself….you may not even be able to link different Google properties together.

This is like only having access to your bank account through your accountant.

I hope this has helped you understanding the power of Google Analytics.

If you’d like to know how to tackle all of the above and much more, jump on board an Analytics course today and discover how to correct all of the above and a whole lot more!

Head over to the Google Analytics Workshop in Queenstown page to find out more.



Darren Craig

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Natasha - March 7, 2017 Reply

Thanks Darren,
It turns out >40% of my visitors are from ghost spam – all outside my hostname. Shocking!

Darren Craig - March 7, 2017 Reply

Yes it’s a very unfortunate position. I’ve seen it being as high as 70% There’s a fix you can do that will eliminate most of that data.

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