Niche Presents: Digital Marketing 201
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Troubleshooting the Most Common Google Analytics Problems – Digital Marketing 201

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This post is focused on Universal Analytics. With the move to Google Analytics 4 and sunset of Universal Analytics in Summer 2023, you can learn more about Google Analytics 4 in a few of our other posts. Getting Your Institution Ready for Google Analytics 4, Setting up Data Streams in Google Analytics 4 and Setting up Events in Google Analytics 4.

Part of the 201 series, a deeper dive into various topics for enrollment marketers.

Marketers use Google Analytics to keep a pulse on their website traffic, monitor user behavior, optimize their digital marketing efforts and ultimately analyze ROI to make important business decisions. Since Google Analytics can play such a big role in the decision-making process,  it is crucial that it is set up correctly and tracking the correct data. However, there are a handful of things that can go wrong with Google Analytics setup ー which is why it is important to be aware of them and solve them sooner rather than later. Even if you resolve a particular issue, the historic data that has already been captured will not update to reflect the recent adjustment. This means that as time goes on you could be missing out on more and more data and potential insight. To see the full picture of your website data, we would suggest tackling the issues below as soon as you notice them. 

All Google Analytics troubleshooting starts with Google Tag Assistant. This Google Chrome extension will be your best friend. It is free, easy to use, and does not require any technical skills. With just a few clicks, it helps validate all the tags on a particular website and shows which tags are firing on a page while diagnosing issues and offering solutions. You can add Google Tag Manager to your browser and get instructions on how to use it here.

Here are the top Google Analytics issues we run into with our partners and some helpful tips on how to diagnose and ultimately solve them.

Google Analytics Not Installed

  • What does this mean?

Just because you have created a Google Analytics account, it does not mean your job here is done. Until you place a corresponding Google Analytics tracking code onto your site, you will not see any data flowing through. 

  • How do I know if I have this issue? 

When you run Google Tag Assistant on your site you will likely get a message below. Also, if you or your team has not implemented a Google Analytics-generated code onto your site yet, this will be the case.

  • Solution?

To implement Google Analytics on your site you will need to create a Property as well as a View within your account. You can think of Property as a data source i.e. your website and View as a representation of that data including filters, graphs, and tools that can help you both visualize and manipulate that same data. Once you set these up, the last step is to add the unique code generated by Google Analytics to your site so that it can start collecting data. We recommend following Google’s detailed instructions when setting these up. There are multiple ways to implement Google Analytics and, depending upon your website setup, you might need more specific instructions. Click here for instructions on how to install Google Analytics

Multiple Google Analytics Tags Detected

  • What does this mean?

This means you have two, or more, different Google Analytics tags (tracking codes) installed on your site. This can cause improper data tracking and therefore result in data discrepancies including the number of sessions, bounce rate, the average number of pages per session, etc.

Keep in mind, you may still have multiple instances of Universal Analytics tag, which start with UA, on your site. This is often the case for users who have multiple subdomains to their site and prefer tracking those separately. However, you will always want to make sure you only have one instance of Classic Analytics code (ga.js) installed on your site. 

  • How do I know if I have this issue?

Google Tag Assistant comes in handy when diagnosing this issue. Once you run it, you might see something similar to the picture below; a message that multiple Google Analytics tags are detected and the list of tags showing different Universal Analytics (UAs) that are being fired.

  • Solution?

Stick to one Google Analytics property. Track different information using separate Views, filters, and/or audiences rather than Accounts or Properties. 

Same web property ID tracked twice

  • What does this mean?

This error suggests that you have the same Google Analytics tracking code in your website script more than once. This causes every web page to fire multiple instances of Google Analytics code each time it loads. This causes metrics like pageviews, bounce rate and pages per session to be tracked incorrectly in your Google Analytics.

  • How do I know if I have this issue?

With Google Tag Assistant:

Once you run Google Tag Assistant you will see the yellow “error” indicator next to the Google Analytics tag. Once you click on it you will see that the same thing is being tracked twice. 

With Google Analytics:

Another way you might diagnose this issue is simply by looking at the performance metrics within your Google Analytics. Unnaturally low bounce rates typically suggest this. If you see bounce rates that are between 0-30% across most of your sources, including paid traffic sources that typically average 60-70%, you likely have this issue. We would still suggest running Tag Manager to confirm this is the case. 

  • Solution?

Because you have the same thing tracked twice – the solution here is simple – remove one of them and make sure that your remaining setup is correct. What we typically see with our partners is a Google Analytics tracking code input in both the header of the script and in the body of the script. If this is the case, remove the code from the body and make sure that there is only one instance of the code right after the <head> tag of each page you would like to track. You can find the code in your Google Analytics account by navigating to Admin > Property > Tracking Code. 

Missing HTTP Response

  • What does this mean?

This error suggests that you haven’t installed Google Analytics properly onto your site and therefore there is no data collection taking place.

  • How do I know if I have this issue?

You may notice that when you look at the Google Analytics View you’ve set up there is no data and all the metrics show up as zeros. Another option to test this is by running the tag assistant which will present you with the red “error” indicator next to Google Analytics tag and the message below if this is the problem. Tag Assistant can pick up that there is a code, but since it hasn’t been copied or implemented properly it is not being fired and therefore not collecting any data. 

  • Solution?

It is recommended to reinstall Google Analytics on your site if you come across this issue. To do so, you would remove whatever Google Analytics code you currently have on your site and copy a new line of code from your Google Analytics account. Follow the instructions linked above if you need further assistance installing or locating the tracking code. 

Lana Bogdanov is a Digital Marketing Coordinator at Niche, managing traditional and for-profit college clients' digital marketing campaigns.