There is a difference between Knowledge and Understanding.Knowledge typically means to know facts while Understanding is the application of Knowledge to the mastery of systems. In short, you can know a lot while understand very little.Google Analytics is one such tool, which can make even experienced analysts scratch their head at times.Given the humongous advantages of Google Analytics, it finds its way easily in all sorts of Data Analysis that modern day corporates use, along with other CRMs such as Hubspot.We, at Inbound Mantra, rely equally on Hubspot as well as Google Analytics, for our daily analytic needs, and to our surprise, Google Analytics has given us some hard nights of sleep.Here are some reasons why Google Analytics is not that friendly :-

1. Campaign Tracking CodeEver found your campaign conversions being tracked under “Direct”, and you spent hours digging the reason behind?

Well, you’re not alone. It happens.

The good thing is that you can rectify this issue by using Google URL Builder Tool. It lets you add "Parameters" to give you an extended URL, that you can use in your Campaigns, and Google Analytics can identify where your visitors came from.

2. 20 Goals Limitations

Well, this is some issue, that Google needs to address soon. If you have more than 20 Landing Pages on your website, you’ll really have to think hard on how to track all the conversions.There are two ways to tackle this issue:

  • Google Analytics lets you make 25 views for a property, and under each view you can create 20 Goals. So, by simple mathematics you can track upto 500 goals, which is more than enough. But, one major flaw is that you will never get the total count of goals at one place, you’ll have to switch views, and add them manually.
  • Another method is to categorize similar goals (similar URL or same Thank You Page), create a trigger in Google Tag Manager and use regular expressions to specify Page URL, that covers all conversions under that category.

3. Session Expiry

  • 30 Minutes Expiration

A visitor visits your website, browses few pages in 2 minutes, leaves the tab open and takes a break of 30 minutes or more, comes back to click another link on the already opened tab, and guess what?Google Analytics will count it as a new session. By default, a session ends after 30 minutes of inactivity on a website. However, this can be adjusted to as long as 4 hours depending upon your requirement.To adjust Session Expiration time, just go to Admin Panel> Tracking Info> Session settings

  • End of Day Expiry

Suppose a visitor opens your website at 11:55 PM on the 24th of November and leaves your website at 12:05 AM on the 25th of November. The first session ends at 11:59:59 PM on the 24th of November, and the second session begins at 12:00 AM on the 25th of November.This is a major issue, as it will show unnecessary extra traffic on your website, especially if majority of visitors visit your website around midnight.4. Self ReferralSuppose a visitor who has spent more than 30 minutes on your website, and is now continuing his 2nd session (as explained in 3rd point), what would be the source/medium of that new session?Google Analytics will trace that session as “referral” and "source" assigned would be your domain name. That is the reason you might have seen “yourdomain.com/referral” in Aquisition> All Traffic> Source/MediumThere’s a simple fix for this issue, just go to your Admin Panel, Click Tracking info under property, select Referral Exclusion List, and add your domain name, and subdomain (if it exists) there.

5. Average Session Duration

Average Session Duration gives some insight on how much time visitors spend on your website, but this metric should be used keeping it’s limitations in mind.Average Session Duration should be an average of all the sessions on a website, but it’s not. It’s an average of averages, that gives a lot of misinterpreted data.For Example - Suppose 3 Sessions from "Direct" channel last for 2, 3, 7 seconds respectively, and 4 sessions from "Referral" last for 1, 4, 5, 10 seconds. So, the average session duration for "Direct" channel is 4 seconds, while that from "Referral" is 5 seconds.Hence, the Average Session Duration that Google Analytics shows will be the average of 4 & 5, i.e. 4.5 seconds, while actually it should be the average of 2, 3, 7, 1, 4, 5, 10, that comes out to be 4.57 seconds.

6. Dynamic IP Filter

Google Analytics traffic is adversely affected by your own visits and your team member’s (Internal Traffic), especially in the early stages of website, when external traffic is usually low.You can exclude your Internal Traffic from being tracked, by creating an advanced filter in Google Analytics, and add your IP address in the exclusion list.But what if you have a Dynamic IP? If you know the range of your Dynamic IP address, you can still use regular expressions in advanced filter to exclude your traffic, but if you don’t know the range, other methods are really not that feasible.

7. Goal Tracking with Webhosting on multiple softwares

Suppose your website is hosted on multiple softwares, like Wordpress and Hubspot, add to that you have some landing pages created on Instapage and Unbounce.Goal setting can give you some unbearable headaches, as you can't follow the same steps to create triggers in Google Tag Manager.Here are some tips to create triggers in different cases:

  • Hubspot/WordPress - Specify Page URL and Form ID in Google Tag Manager trigger, give a category, action and label to your event in the reference tag, and use the same nomenclature to create a custom events goal in Google Analytics and track your conversions.
  • Instapage - Add an event success code in Javascript, create a custom event trigger in Google Tag Manager, provide event category, action, label in the reference tag, and use the same nomenclature to create custom events goal in Google Analytics
  • Unbounce - Add an event success code in Custom Javascript, Google Analytics will automatically fire events based on the category, action, label specified. Create a custom events goal in Google Analytics and mention the same Category, Action and Label to track goal conversions.

Although Google Analytics is not as attractive and easy as other CRMs, but the amount of insights it can provide is unmatchable.It takes time to understand every aspect of GA, but once you master it, you’ll have some important data to develop your future strategies, that’ll ultimately lead your strategies to yield some fruitful results.

State of Inbound 2016