Google Analytics is a marketer’s lifeblood in understanding performance and making decisions based on website or app usage data.
In my ten years of working with clients, about half of the new clients I work with have GA (Google Analytics) not configured correctly.
Typical issues stem from implementing duplicate tags, setting up a tag manager, cross-domain tracking and much more.
Whether you’re launching a new site, redesigning an old one, or integrating multiple websites, here are five ways to check if Google Analytics is working.
1. Perform a Google Analytics tracking audit
One of the first steps to take in this process is to develop clear documentation of:
- What accounts, properties and profiles Google Analytics needs to flow into?
- What GA tracking tags should I use on all pages? Do some GA tags need to be used for specific parts of the site (eg blog, microsite, internal knowledge base section)?
- How are tags posted across the site? Through manual insertion into global CMS modules or through a third-party tag manager?
- What events (eg, button clicks or form submissions) are tracked on the site Which need accurate tracking?
Performing this exercise allows us to identify pages where Google Analytics tracking code is activated versus none at all.
Frog scream And other crawling tools allow us to identify these issues at scale.
Here are the steps you need to take in Screaming Frog to run this type of crawl to identify which pages of your site may be missing Google Analytics tracking code:
Step 1: Click Order > habit > Search.
Step 2: Depending on whether you are running Google Analytics tracking through the tag manager or through direct insertion of the script, it will add the unique identifier from the respective system (eg GTM – ######, UA – ###### ## # – #, G – ##########) here so that Screaming Frog is browsing all the subdomains in the site to see where it can’t find that identifier within the source code.
Step 3: Put in your domain and click Start.
This will crawl subdomains on your site that are linked from your root URL.
If you have mini-sites that aren’t linked to your main site, Screaming Frog will likely not crawl those pages.
The result of this crawl will show you what percentage of the site’s pages do not contain your tracking code.
2. Identify the duplicate tracking code using Chrome’s GTM/GA debugging tool
One common mistake marketers make is inadvertently posting tracking code across a site too many times.
It often happens during CMS (Content Management System) migrations, domain consolidations, or redesigns due to lack of documentation of existing legacy analytics requirements.
Chrome browser GTM/GA debug tool It allows us to quickly see which GA and GTM tags are being activated on the page as we move from page to page.
Here’s how to use the GTM/GA debug tool to see if there is a duplicate tracking code.
As you test this on your site, make sure you only see one page view from one GA account that gets activated when you go to each page.
If you’re noticing multiple pageviews firing on a single page load, you’ll know that you’re at least calculating analytics data twice and likely throwing out all the other metrics you track in GA.
3. Explore real-time Google Analytics reports to see if page views are being activated
With Google Analytics real-time rendering, you can run quizzes on your site to determine how many people are there at that particular second.
If you are not sure if your Google Analytics code is working correctly, go to the GA homepage.
Click At present in the left navigation and browse the site and content reports to test the tracking on different sections of your site.
Since tracking issues tend to occur when navigating to specific subdomains or navigating across domains, use GA’s real-time reporting functionality to see if you can identify individual user activity on the site.
4. Investigate Google Tag Manager
Tag managers allow marketers to manage the launch of all their tracking scripts from one place.
One of the biggest benefits of using a tag manager is that if you put your own tag management code on every page on your site, you can easily insert tracking scripts without having to constantly hire an IT or developer.
Google Tag Manager is the most popular solution and it is a free tool for all webmasters.
Another problem often encountered by marketers occurs when they use a combination of a tag management system as well as manually inserting scripts into individual pages or sections of a site.
This is common because tag management systems are often introduced after a site has manually implemented tags for some time.
This creates redundancy in tracking scripts and requires a thorough audit to move everything into one organized tag management system.
If you’re using Google Tag Manager, here are the steps to “preview” the scripts being fired on your site.
Step 1: Sign in to Google Tag Manager and click sreconsidering.
Step 2: Type the page on the site you want to test.
Step 3: See which tags are activated and which are not activated on this particular URL.
Within this “preview” mode, Google can also track scrolling and clicks.
So, if you are looking to use event tracking on button clicks, this will let you know if the clicks trigger event tracking scripts on the site.
5. Use the Chrome developer tools to identify which scripts are activated in your browser
The Chrome Developer Tools allow us to collect information in a linear visualization about the various content that is loaded on a page.
To see if Google Analytics is running on your page, go to any page on your site in Chrome browser and right-click.
Click check up.
Then go to network tab.
Press refresh in your browser and watch to see the different content and scripts that load on the page.
From here, type “collect” or “gtm” into the search bar to see if the Google Analytics code has run.
This also gives you a second chance to make sure that your Google Analytics tracking code is loaded only once (similar to #3).
Additional consideration related to GDPR, privacy tracking and content management systems
In some content management systems and tag management systems, there is the ability to configure tracking based on local privacy laws such as GDPR (EU General Data Protection Regulation) or CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act).
If you’re having tracking issues, you’ll need to explore how opt-in/opt-in functionality affects your pageview, event, and conversion tracking data.
There are several tools you can use to diagnose on-site GA tracking issues.
As a marketer, your biggest opportunity is to get comfortable with Chrome developer tools, tag management systems, and crawling tools to ensure that you can audit your tracking codes based on your organization’s goals.
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