March 1, 2021
Don't Get Punk'd by Google Analytics
When your web traffic explodes, you're over-the-moon, you call mom, show it to your boss. This is totally reasonable behavior, after all, shooting up like a rocket is sustenance for us webbies.
But wait just one minute. You may have been caught in a Google confirmation bias.
But, before you stick it on the fridge, you need to understand why the numbers are moving. The problem arises with over-reliance on topline statistics like visitors, page views, time on page, etc. These are the numbers that most people in your group understand.
Here's where it goes nuts. Seemingly positive stats may obscure how your site actually performs. Here are a few common examples
Traffic from Inside Your Company
Traffic from your colleagues can make up a disproportionate percentage of your website, especially when staff frequently hits the site for reference. And because your internal traffic will likely use the site more than your average bears, it will distort all of your topline.
Filter out visitors from your organization using the Admin Page of your account. The only information you need is your name, hostname (your web address), and the IP address(es) you wish to block. Find instructions here. https://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1034840?hl=en
The Bot Attack
Bots, which roam the internet seemingly unchecked, can check into your website and mangle your stats.
Look for a large, sudden jump in traffic from a specific referral source. Find the offending URL by reviewing Referral Sources under "Acquisition." The fix is to filter bot traffic by URL or IP Address. Here's help from Google. https://www.searchenginewatch.com/2014/07/31/google-analytics-helps-you-filter-spider-and-bot-traffic/
The Curse of Great Content
This is an instance from our own website. After we posted our page of healthcare social media hashtags, our traffic started to head skyward. This is what we wanted to see from our website, and we couldn't pat ourselves on the back enough.
Then we noticed that our bounce rate moving downward as fast as traffic went up. We decided to do a deep dive into our content. Click Behavior in Google Analytics, then content drill down. And sort your pages by descending order. You'll find the culprit at the top of the list. What we saw was the blog post gushing more than 30 percent of our traffic. So, why are we whining?
We had a great time spent on the page, 5-6 minutes, but then they left the site. Our stats, therefore, were swayed by the popularity of one blog post.
The moral of the story is to find out what's plumping up your numbers by hunting down bots, blocking internal traffic, and adjusting for unnaturally high-performing content.