Three Google Analytics Gotcha’s – Misleading Reports

Web Analytics is a vital part of my everyday work, in fact, it’s the driver behind most decisions I make. For the most part, I use Google Analytics for all the sites I manage (Omniture is used along with GA in some cases). Most people who spend a lot of time working in Web Analytics will back me up, when I say there can be a lot of anomalies in the data presented. The following are just 3 examples from Google Analytics. These have come up in conversation with clients and other people in the industry over the past week, so I thought, why not stick them in a post.

1) Top Content vs Top Content by Entrance Sources

The following stats are from the Top Content report for an article on one of my sites:

It’s doing ok, generating a few pageviews over the pat month (its an old article so is a little out of date, so nice its still driving a little traffic). When I look at Entrance Sources for this page I get:

It’s now got page views of 619, hurrah, I got more page views. Well ..

The Reason: The reason for this is top content when viewed by “Entrance Sources” is how many pageviews on your site, started with that article. In the above I know the article was viewed 539 times, but generated a further 80 pageviews of other articles. Nice little metric to see what content is driving people to view other articles.

2) Visits to Purchase

This one is a really misleading report. If you view the screenshot below:

You will see it’s actually “Visits to Purchase (from start of last campaign)” – simply, right. If you ever looked at this and thought “Multi touchpoint funnels are a myth, near all my conversions are after 1 visit”, or better still, if you segment this by New vs Returning visits, you will see Returning Visitors actually have a large % of conversions in 1 Visit. How is this possible ? How can a Returning Visitor have purchases in the first visit ? hmmm

The Reason: The important part of this report is in the name “from start of last campaign”. Google Analytics counts a campaign as all traffic bar direct. For example, consider these purchase cycles:

One visit: Google PPC (conversion)

5 visits: 1st visit: Google PPC > 2nd visit: Bing Organic > 3rd visit: Google Organic > 4th visit: Facebook Referral (conversion)

I know, I know, Facebook would never convert, but more importantly, both of these would show up as 1 visit to purchase (i.e. Visits before last campaign). Pretty rubbish ? If you want a way around this just read my previous post here and use similar segments for “Visit Counts”. Email me if you need more help.

3) Bounce Rate

Lastly, a really straight forward one, but something people do get confused at. You CANNOT view your bounce rate under the “Top Content”, “Content by Title”, “Content Drill Down” reports. Those reports show you total pageviews for each URL i.e. people who arrived at that content from other areas in your site. Calculating bounces on these reports would give you an inaccurate figure. For example:

In the “Top Content” report you may have:

– index.html (1,000 unique pageviews) / (50% bounce rate)

This would lead you to believe you are losing 500 hundred visitors on this page (people leaving the site). But you can only bounce on a landing page i.e. only viewed one page. You can only calculate total bounces of any URL via the “Top Landing Page” report.

There you go, plenty more in GA, but the above are some to consider.

About Kieran Flanagan

Online Marketer who implements both inbound and paid strategies to help companies grow internationally. Lover of content marketing, SEO, analytics, CRO and strategy. A highly motivated marketing geek high on data crack.