As we work with over 300 clients on their digital solutions at FDS, we have always tied all that they do (SEM, audience targeting, SEO, etc.) back to their Google Analytics (GA). From the very beginning it has been crucial in our business to show results and use GA as a blueprint for all our clients’ marketing. This was a story we told in our reporting and it was a good one because we could see the traffic coming to their website and having conversions. Nothing was more powerful than that to our customers to prove the return on their investment.
Well that has honestly changed in the last year or two and we are now having new conversations with our clients. Small businesses need to be aware of these changes because it impacts how they SHOULD be using their GA.
First off let’s talk about where Google Analytics first got their start. In 1995 a company was formed called Web Depot, a web consulting business. Over the course of the first couple of years their customers had a need to see what the traffic looked like on their website so they could analyze it. In 1997, they created an analytics software called Urchin. Eventually the company had to decide to run with this software system that was helping their clients or stay as web consultants…they chose to pursue Urchin. In March 2005, Google purchased Urchin and rebranded it as Google Analytics.
GA is over 12 years old and there really has not been much updated from back then. It also needs to be said that Google acquired GA to be an analytical TOOL for businesses. It was created to be more of a baseline to understand where traffic was coming from. Was it 100% accurate? Maybe at one time the accuracy was better but things have changed. So, let’s look at the 2 things that might be throwing your traffic’s accuracy off.
- GA cannot read any display ads that are delivered through apps.
More and more traffic is coming out of mobile. If a display ad is delivered through an app versus a mobile site, GA cannot report it because apps do not drop cookies. It will not show as traffic or sessions to GA. If it is delivering on a mobile website, consumers can allow cookie blocking in their settings. As a result, you will start to see less traffic reporting through a mobile device as data is incomplete and missing.
- Secure site vs. non-secure site
If an ad is delivered to a secure website (https://) and the consumer clicks on it and it takes them to the client’s unsecure website (http://), then GA reports this as either direct traffic or Other traffic. It will not count it towards your FDS campaign. More and more sites that ads are delivered on are becoming secure sites and until all sites are secure, this will be another incomplete data issue through GA. You will also see your bounce rate possibly show off as it can be counted as a higher bounce.
In the end, GA should be used as a tool to grab a broad view of traffic, and as I said before, a baseline. Ultimately understanding that if 70% of your audience targeting or display ad traffic is being delivered on apps, then 70% of your traffic will not show up in GA. As the world of mobile and apps continues to thrive, hopefully we will see Google work on a new tool to help us measure all of this.