Become great at Google Analytics Audits
Get a structured approach to diagnose and fix any account so you can trust your data and make the most of your digital marketing dollars.
Google Analytics audit
By Fred Pike, Managing director @ Northwoods
Course length: 2h 38min
Some of the companies that train their teams at CXL:
Google Analytics helps you make more money… but only if your data is trustworthy
When Google Analytics (GA) is set up properly, it gives you insights that help you make better decisions:
Decisions that can boost your sales, reduce acquisition costs and bring in better leads.
Unfortunately, most Google Analytics setups are critically flawed.
Since bad data is worse than no data, this means the world’s most popular analytics tool is leading most businesses astray.
This course will show you how to take any Google Analytics account, find what’s broken and fix it. So you know you can trust your data (or your clients’.)
Get ready to become a more well-rounded digital marketer. And learn the skills no data analyst should be without.
Get a lesson preview
After taking this course, you’ll…
- Know the key areas to check in Google Analytics to ensure accurate data collection
- Understand why things break in Google Analytics and learn multiple ways to solve those problems
- Use the “Outside-In Approach” to find issues that most experts miss
- Develop the mindset and discover the tools you need to troubleshoot issues in Google Analytics
- Concisely communicate your findings and solutions to your stakeholders
Data collection is what makes or breaks any pipeline. You can have all the ETLs and patches in the world, but if the source data is corrupt, you can’t do much about it. Fred’s course walks you through the ins & outs of data quality assurance from collection to processing. This is absolutely necessary content for anyone working with GA.
CXL has helped me tremendously in my journey to become the best digital marketer I can be.
It has opened my eyes to the capabilities of tools like GTM and Google Sheets. You guys have humbled me by teaching me that there’s so much more to learn!
CXL is just the best place to grow for a marketer. I learned more in a few months via CXL than what I learned in 8, 9 months on my own.
Here’s what Fred will teach you…
Google Analytics is a great tool — used on 70-80% of all websites — but its data can be really suspect.
And unless your account is properly set up and maintained, you’re losing much of its value.
Because you can’t make good decisions based on bad data.
But it’s not enough to simply find issues — that won’t solve you or your client’s problems. To be a great analyst, you also need to know how to fix those issues.
That’s why this course focuses not just on diagnostics, but remediation as well.
This course will give you a structured approach to remediation so you don’t fall into the common trap of causing more damage than you fix.
Get a complete, structured approach in 14 lessons
Using real-life examples, we’ll go through many Google Analytics implementations to understand how they’re set up, where they’re broken and what to do to fix their problems.
And to help you become a more well-rounded problem solver, you’ll learn multiple approaches to fix a given issue.
We’ll look at plenty of bad examples and explain why they’re bad. So you don’t have to make the same mistakes.
Most importantly, you’ll develop an expert mindset for approaching Google Analytics.
Along the way, we’ll have some fun exploring how different companies are tracking their websites. Even without access to their accounts, we’ll explore how to use the developer console and some great chrome extensions to see what is going on behind the scenes.
Plus you’ll learn to ensure your Google Tag Manager setup is clean, which is also crucial for trustworthy data.
70–80% of websites use Google Analytics… and they all need an audit hero like you
You don’t get accurate data in Google Analytics by accident. You get accurate data with a proper setup and routine maintenance.
Which means every single website needs someone with a reliable approach to diagnosing and fixing issues in their account.
If you’re an agency, Google Analytics audits are a high-value introductory offer that can lead to bigger contracts.
If you work on your own business’s website, a structured approach is essential to ensure your team can make smart decisions.
In other words, once you master the process you’re about to learn, you’ll have an indispensable skill that over 70% of online businesses need.
This course is essential for you if …
- You want a structured way to evaluate a Google Analytics property
- You want to know exactly where to look for problems
- You want to know how to fix the problems you find
- You are responsible for assessing the quality of Google Analytics data
This course is NOT for you if…
- You’re a very experienced Google Analytics practitioner who has seen and fixed a lot of different problems
- You don’t regularly work with Google Analytics, or have just a basic skill level
- You don’t rely on Google Analytics data for improving your business
Skills you should have before taking this course
You need a good understanding of Google Analytics to be able to audit a property. This course will be much more meaningful if you have worked in Google Analytics before and understand the basic concepts.
Some material may be review for certain students, but we’ll explore these ideas from unique angles. Regardless, intermediate students will learn a lot and dramatically improve their skills.
After this course, you’ll want to run some Google Analytics audits on real properties to take your skills to the advanced level.
Fred got his start with spreadsheets using VisiCalc, the very first electronic spreadsheet. Fred is the CFO at Northwoods, where he continues to use spreadsheets regularly. He believes that spreadsheet literacy – being fluent in the language and usage of spreadsheets – is something everybody should have. Spreadsheets are the common language of data – you can download just about anything to a spreadsheet. Once there, and with the proper skills, you can work data magic.
Fred also leads the Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager team at Northwoods.
Your full course curriculum
Google Analytics audit
Get introduced to some key chrome extensions and the developer console. These are the main tools you'll use to run audits.
- How to begin to use the developer's console to see all traffic being sent to Google Analytics.
- The four Chrome extensions that will be absolutely crucial to your audits.
- Quick tip: how to preserve navigation in the developer's console.
Let’s get started by looking at the preliminary documentation about the property you’re going to audit.
- Discover where to find basic information about the property and immerse yourself in the data.
- Learn which filters to look for. If some basic ones are missing, you'll know you may have a challenging audit ahead of you.
- Learn how to use Google Tag Assistant to discover how data is being sent to Google Analytics.
Next you’ll learn to check key setup elements of the Google Analytics Property and View.
- Verify some important settings in the Property view: default URL, referral exclusions, custom dimensions, Google Search Console, etc.
- Verify view settings and the existence of specific views. A proper Google Analytics setup includes at least two different views, and specific settings within each one.
- Verify that that raw view, if it exists, does not have blocking filters applied. The raw view is your safety net, so you don't want to restrict the traffic going to it.
Now you’ll see how to go outside of Google Analytics to ensure that page view information is being sent accurately. When a visitor lands on a page, we'll ensure that one — and only one — page view is sent.
- Learn how to use dataLayer Inspector+ (a Chrome extension) to verify accuracy in reporting page views. Page views are fundamental Google Analytics dimensions — you need to make sure they're right.
- See examples of under- and over-reporting of page views and learn what can cause those issues.
- Look at a case study of a property that was only reporting about 30% of page views. You'll be a hero when you run across instances like this and remediate the issue.
Continuing with our focus on accuracy, the hostname filter is one of the best ways to ensure Google Analytics is reporting visitors who actually visited the site you're auditing.
- Discover which hostnames are valid. If you're setting up a hostname filter for accuracy, you should be accurate in which hostnames to include.
- Review why the raw view should not use the hostname filter. (Skip this at your own risk!)
- Discover how the hostname (dh) is set in a Google Analytics hit.
Let's dive deep into IP filters to see if they are set up correctly. We’ll do this with Google Tag Assistant’s recording feature.
- Learn to decode a CIDR IP address and ensure Google Analytics is properly filtering that address. Plus, how NOT to do it. Bad examples abound.
- Use the recording features of the Tag Assistant to verify that the IP filters are working properly.
- See how to deal with properties using Anonymize IP.
So far, we've focused on the accuracy of data being sent to Google Analytics. Now our audit switches focus: making sure traffic is being reported in the right channels (which it almost never is).
- How traffic ends up in different channels, and how to audit Google Analytics properties to ensure the rules are being applied.
- Learn how to customize the channel groupings for the property you're auditing to better reflect the unique traffic of that property.
- Look at some of the many ways traffic can inadvertently end up as "direct" and how to move traffic to the right channel.
Stepping back into auditing accuracy, we’ll check to ensure the relevant snippets (GTM, analytics.js, and/or gtag) are on every page of the site we're auditing.
- With two different tools, you’ll learn to crawl your audit property to look for analytics tags that should and shouldn’t be there.
- Learn to look for utm_ parameters on the site you're auditing because they can throw off your session accuracy (and break traffic sources).
In an ideal world, Google Analytics will report all the results for one specific page in one line. As part of our audit, we'll test if that's happening. Way too often, it's not.
- Discover the main reason one specific page is broken into multiple lines (query parameters) and how to fix them during your audit.
- Uncover one more issue that can cause page-reporting issues, the trailing slash, and how to audit and fix it.
- Learn when to use the lowercase filter and why you should never use it in the raw view.
Google Analytics Events are the heart and soul of a good Google Analytics implementation. How good are the Events in the website you're auditing?
- The only thing worse than no Google Analytics events is too many. You'll explore an example of a site with way too many events, and how they cleaned it up.
- Learn the minimum type of events every website should have
- Learn to think like the website owner: What user interactions are most valuable to track and why?
Goals are almost as important as events. What does the property you're auditing want visitors to do?
- As with events, you don't want too many. You’ll learn to verify that the goals make sense for the property you're auditing.
- Learn why you want to be stingy with goals and extravagant with events.
PII in the website you're auditing is a major problem. Google can even delete all your data if it finds PII in your account. So let's ensure your audit finds any PII that may exist.
- Learn where and how to look for PII and how to look for it. (It can be hidden and hard to find.)
- Learn at least one approach to mitigating PII using GTM, so PII never gets sent to Google.
- Not all PII is truly PII — but you’ll see why you should probably treat it as if it were.
EEC implementation can be messy. We won't look at the details of implementing Shopify, WooCommerce, etc., but you'll learn how to audit some significant EEC setup issues in Google Analytics.
- Verify that the Ecommerce checkout funnel is configured correctly, so that the site properly reports drop-offs between steps.
- Using dataLayer Inspector+ and GTM/GA Debug, you’ll learn how to discover if the EEC data is being captured correctly.
Congrats — you’re just about ready to call yourself an audit hero! Now let's look at some resources to help you continue learning.
- This is the beginning of your journey — not the end. You'll continue to learn lots from the sites you audit. You'll run into issues you never knew existed. And you'll have fun figuring out what the heck went wrong!
- CXL and CXL Live are great. Let's also look at some other channels where analytics nerds hang out as well.
- Standing on the shoulders of giants: A quick review of my personal GA/GTM heroes — the people who helped me on my journey and from whom I continue to learn.
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