Quick ‘n Dirty Google Analytics Debugging Session

Mastering the technical side of web analytics can be pretty daunting – especially given most web analysts rely on developers for implementation, debugging, and sometimes general QA. For those analysts, it would be great to have a short guide that helps debug some common issues.

“My bounce rate increased to close to 100%!”

This one can be tricky. I actually posted something on this 1.5 years ago. It even has a nifty flow chart! Not much has changed since then – even with the release of Universal Analytics. Something to also keep in mind is that there are spam sites that crawl your page and inflate visits/bounce rate. One of the more obnoxious crawlers is semalt.com. Keep an eye on those suspicious referral sources. As a temporary stop-gap you may want to create a filter to exclude those sources from your Google Analytics reports.

“My bounce rate dropped to 0%!”

This means you are sending multiple consecutive server calls to Google Analytics. Typically this happens when you have multiple instances of GA on your website. This can also happen if you fire an event on page load. If it’s from an event, ensure you have set the “non-interaction” property to “true”. See the Event Rule documentation for more information on both Classic and Universal Analytics. Additionally, if you have a redirect make sure your redirect isn’t executing any JavaScript on the page. In other words, use a 301 or 302 redirect instead of a client-side redirect.

“eCommerce data isn’t showing up in my Google Analytics reports.”

I’m going to assume you’re populating the addItem and addTrans fields with valid data. If you’re not seeing anything being sent to Google Analytics, make sure you have added your trackTrans call after addItem and addTrans methods.

If you’re using Universal Analytics, there is an additional snippet you will want to add – it’s very easily forgotten because it’s only a few lines in the documentation:

ga(‘require’, ‘ecommerce’);

This line MUST appear before you call the addItem and addTransaction functions. In an effort to slim down their library, Google uses this method to supplement the pieces they trimmed in the standard library. Also remember to send the data via ga(‘ecommerce:send’); after the addItem and addTransaction methods. Here’s what it looks like in order:

ga(‘require’, ‘ecommerce’);
ga(‘ecommerce:addTransaction’,{…});
ga(‘ecommerce:addItem’,{…});
ga(‘ecommerce:send’);

Still not working? Check your filters to ensure that your test transactions are not being filtered out in the QA profile. Also, if you have multiple accounts on a page then the eCommerce data will only apply to the last account on the page (unless specified otherwise).

“My custom dimensions and metrics aren’t appearing in the reports.”

Custom Variables, Dimensions, and Metrics are not server calls. These are attributes that are applied to a subsequent server call. What that means is when you set a custom dimension it isn’t physically sending anything to Google Analytics. Instead, it is waiting for you to take another action so it can apply that attribute to some server call. So make sure you sequence these properly!

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