This article is for everyone that has Google Analytics installed on their website but especially for those who use data for their business decisions. (All of you should)
Experts at Reflective Data have seen and conducted audits for hundreds of Google Analytics setups, and we must say that the picture could be much better. In fact, there’s hasn’t been a perfect setup, yet.
Okay, most of the companies may not need ALL of the fancy custom features that you can add to your setup but it’s not rare that we see setups where the basics are totally off, too! And I am not talking about small businesses or startups. Major enterprises have things like duplicated transactions, automatic events affecting bounce rates and so on.
At Reflective Data, we work really hard on helping companies becoming more data-driven: our platform gives you a good overview of how people interact with your website with features like form analytics, click maps, scroll maps and on-site polls. Our blog covers topics related to digital analytics weekly and our agency helps companies to get their analytics setup going, improve the setup in place or conduct an audit.
But we (and all of the other great companies) can’t do it all alone. Every company should make sure that their analytics systems are being looked after, periodically.
It is a trust issue
The problem is, that people tend to trust their analytics setups almost blindly. And that is a bigger issue than you might think.
Trusting your Google Analytics or whatever other analytics tools blindly will eventually lead to making false decisions and putting lots of analytics, marketing, and developer resource into waste. You will start fixing things that were not broken and stop doing campaigns that were actually working perfectly good.
There are companies where there’s a whole team for data analysis and many of the most important decisions are being made whatever they dig out but yet there’s not a person who is responsible for making sure the setup is in good health. And it can take many months, in some cases even years till someone figures that something is not exactly right.
The smaller the problem the harder it is to find it. And small problems can have a huge impact, too. For example, 5-10 percent error in you A/B test results can easily flip the results and give you a false positive result. And it is good to have all of the metrics correct, not only the major ones like sessions and page views because you will never know what metric you would like to use in
And it is good to have all of the metrics correct, not only the major ones like sessions and page views because you will never know what metric you would like to use in your next report. Or if a colleague of you wishes to do so, without knowing that bounce rate for example, is actually not entirely reliable.
To make sure you and your team can actually trust the data from you Analytics tool, you need to get it audited, preferably on regular basis.
In-house vs third-party Google Analyitcs setup audit
When it comes to auditing your analytics setup, the first thing you need to figure out is that are you going to hire a third party to conduct it for you, or not.
In most cases, it really makes sense to get someone from outside to conduct the audit. And there are some great experts out there that are happy to help you out. (We are one of them)
Why hire a third-party?
These benefits assume you go with an expert, not the cheapest option around.
We believe when you say that you know your setup the best. But it always good to have some more (expert) eyes looking at it.
Companies or individuals that specialize in setting up and auditing Google Analytics (or other tools) are specialists that know exactly what to look for. They will start by testing your setup against the most common flaws, that your team might know nothing about.
Specialists will also know if something is missing and can give some really good insights on what to improve.
Hiring a third party will mean that the audit will actually get done. Picking someone from your team will usually mean that they’ll do it beside other things, and that is not good for the time or the quality of the end result. We don’t say it’s impossible, but a third party is a safer bet in most cases.
As specialists have their audit procedures figured out, you can expect to receive a nicely structured document that has everything covered as a result of the audit. In most cases, the guidelines for fixes and improvements will also be included.
Why consider doing it yourself?
While hiring a third party is a confident choice for most companies, there are some cases when you should consider doing one on your own.
There can be a budget problem for smaller companies, we’ve seen audits in the range of $500 to $15 000. If you really don’t have the budget, try following some tutorials specializing on auditing the analytics tool of your choice. Here’s one for Google Analytics: Most common Google Analytics issues (in-depth overview)
For some enterprises, handling really sensitive data it would probably make sense to keep everything data-related in-house. Although, these third-party experts are familiar with working sensitive data and most of them are happy to sign any confidentiality contracts needed.
And if you really think that you or your colleagues are interested and able to conducting the audit, go for it. But prepare to spend some time on it, definitely read some tutorials and get familiar with audits conducted before. There are even some templates available on the web. Without a doubt, it is a perfect way to get to know your analytics setup.
How to choose an audit partner?
There are quite a many agencies and individuals providing Google Analytics setup audit services. We suggest choosing someone with a good reputation in the industry. Google, ask around or whatever works for you the best.
Getting your analytics data in a good health is an investment. There is nothing worse than taking actions based on invalid data. Having a confidence that your setup is fixed and accurate, you can start making decisions that will eventually make you tons more money!
Things to keep in mind are:
- choose the one who’s also offering other Google Analytics related services so they can actually fix what’s off
- take a look at their blog, Twitter accounts etc
- don’t hesitate to get a quote
- don’t go with the cheapest, go with the one you can trust
If your Google Analytics setup hasn’t been audited for more than 6 months or if you’re not 100% sure everything is the way it should be, take a look at our Google Analytics Setup Audit service.
In case you feel confident that you’re going to conduct the audit yourself, take a look at this series.