Analytics 101: 6 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

Today’s post is written by Bruce Clay Inc.’s very own Google Analytics-certified Sean James. In this post, Sean outlines the mistakes you may be making with your analytics and how those mistakes can throw off the success of your Web campaign. Through these simple steps, you can help ensure your analytics are set up and run well to create a solid foundation for measuring ROI.

Mistake No. 1: Not using analytics tools to measure the success of your online campaign.

Building a site and having your site optimized for search engines or starting a PPC campaign is only the beginning of an adaptive process. Mining the data of your site and making changes based on your findings is another key component that can mean the difference between having a business and having a successful business.

Ask yourself this question: How is my site performing? If you don’t know the answer, you’re just one of a large percentage of people who are not utilizing some of the most important tools of the Internet marketing trade. By not using an analytics tracking tool for your site, you have already made the first mistake that you can not afford to make.

Magnified Dollar
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Mistake No. 2: Not using the most current version of Google Analytics tracking code.

If you select Google Analytics as your analytics solution, make sure to install the most current version of the tracking code. When new analytics features are created, they may not be retroactively compatible with anything but the latest version of the tracking code. At the time of this writing, the asynchronous snippet is the most recent version of the Google Analytics tracking code.

The additional benefit of making the switch from old to new is to improve the overall performance of your site’s page load time. For more information on the Google asynchronous snippet and how to install it, read “Google Analytics Tracking Code and Page Speed,” a feature article in August’s SEO Newsletter by Bruce Clay, Inc.

Mistake No. 3: Not defining or tracking goals.

Understanding and defining what your goals are is the critical first step to measuring the success of your online campaign. The following definition of goals with regards to analytics is straight from Google:

“Goals (with a capital G) are a way to measure business objectives for your website in Google Analytics. Goals must correspond to a measurable action performed by your website’s visitors, for example, a visit to a ‘thank you’ page. This combination of a business objective and a measurable action make up a Goal.”

Set up your website’s goals right the first time in analytics. There are innumerous ways to track goals in Google Analytics, but some are more accurate than others. Google Analytics offers a wealth of resources on setting up goals in the Analytics Help section and in the Google Analytics blog.

Mistake No. 4: Not testing your goals once they have been set up.

Never, ever assume that once your goals are set up in Google Analytics that they will work. Test your goals and make sure that they are tracking how and what you had intended them to track. This extra precautionary step could prevent you from potentially loosing valuable data necessary for the success of your Internet venture.

Mistake No. 5: Not defining KPIs for your Internet marketing campaigns.

Are you beginning an SEO project, a PPC campaign or running split-testing for pages of your site? Each campaign can have different key performance indicators based on what type of Internet business model you are targeting. A KPI is a metric that helps you track how you are doing with your objectives/goals. By defining your site’s KPIs, you will also be able to evaluate the return on investment for each type of Internet marketing campaign that your company decides to engage in.

Mistake No. 6: Not mining your analytics data.

Even after having analytics installed, many companies choose to ignore the hidden treasures buried within their analytics data. As a measurement of comparison, it’s safe to say that analytics can be the silent CFO of your company, providing you with valuable insight into the inner workings and ROI of your online business. By mining the data of your website, you can find answers to questions such as:

• Who is my target audience(s)?
• What are they looking for on my site?
• Did they find what they were looking for?
• Why did they come to my site?
• How did they find my site?
• What did they like about my site?
• What can I improve on my site?

Having a system in place that tracks your website’s metrics and someone who understands how to decipher those metrics can be the difference in making or breaking your business. If you look at any Fortune 500 business model that has a Web presence, you would be hard pressed to find one company that does not track and measure the success of its online campaigns with some form of analytics reporting tools.

Learn from the success of business models that have proven track records, and don’t make the common analytics mistakes that will cost you.

Sean James joined Bruce Clay, Inc. as an SEO Analyst in 2009. He is also a Google Analytics-certified professional. You can reach him on Twitter @_SeanJames.

See sjames's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (12)
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12 Replies to “Analytics 101: 6 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make”

Useful and informative post thanks. Analytics is a powerful tool when used correctly as you suggest. Another important feature to use in conjunction with analytics is website optimizer in which you can test and track conversions with alternative page elements.

Sean James

Thank you for your comment. Excellent tip about website optimizer. For anyone that would like more information check out the link below for a great top level overview of conversion and website optimizer.

Excellent article. Google Analytics can assist a site in numerous ways however only a handful of people use its advance features to their advantage.

Thank you Ahmed for the compliment. I agree with you whole heartedly that only a handful of people will take advantage of the advanced features that Google Analytics has to offer. I guess that some people overlook things as priority. Personally having owned businesses my goal was to take advantage of every opportunity that I could to succeed.

Two more things I remembered.

If you have a profile where you are filtering the IP of your business or the home IPs of employees, it’s a good idea to schedule on the calendar a monthly check of those IPs. Often employees won’t have a dedicated IP on their home network, and a power outage can cause the modem to pick up a fresh IP after it’s been offline for a couple of hours.

Make use of the annotations feature in Google Analytics. If CNN mentions your website in plain text in the sidebar of an article but can’t provide a hyperlink, put a note for that day in GA. Six months later when you’ve forgotten when that happened, or a new employee is looking at the site, it will be an explanation as to why there was sudden jump in traffic from both direct and organic traffic.

Thank you again for the input Keri.

I think a prequel to this post would be helpful to many people as well, covering Analytics setup. Some points I would have:

1) Install analytics on all of your applicable pages as early as possible, even if you don’t have time/knowledge to examine your stats for a while. When you’re ready to look at them, you’ll have historical data.

2) Immediately create several profiles. One that will never, ever have any filters in it, then several others you can add filters and goals to as time goes on. One profile can exclude all of your internal/employee traffic. Another profile can be a testing ground for all of your goal tracking.

3) Make sure your code is not on any development or testing server. I’ve seen this happen, multiple times!

Keri, excellent recommendations! All sound advice and great idea for a prequel. Thank you for reading the post and for submitting your feedback. Have a great weekend. :)

Thanks for the insightful post and timely reminder! As an internet marketer, my greatest enemy is lack of focus and always chasing the next big thing :) I must admit that I haven’t looked at Google Analytics for a while. It’s time to start optimizing my sites!

Thank you for the kind words. Writing this post was a great reminder for me as well.  I can definitely appreciate what you mean by chasing the next big thing. Analytics can be kind of like fishing in a sea of statistics to find a number that means something. Companies are getting a better perspective on the fact that real people need to be able to make sense of data as well. The next big thing that I see coming up is visual analytics. Visual analytics tools will take the work out of mining data and empower people to find actionable insight without having to be an analytics expert. I like any tool that will accurately simplify complex tasks.

The BCI blog is lucky to have you such an expert-rich group of pros behind it. Good to see you on the blog, Sean, and a super important topic. :)

Thank you for the compliment Virginia! We miss you terribly at BCI.
I agree that the topic is so important because no business can afford to pass on the opportunity for easy wins. As you know too well, internet marketing can be a game of inches. When you understand and identify your sites Key Performance Indicators you can leverage your analytics data to gain miles of insight.


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