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Is your Google Analytics data leading to the wrong decisions?

If you are basing marketing decisions on GA data, odds are stacked against you. That’s because 8 out of 10 Google Analytics accounts have configuration issues, incorrect revenue tracking being one of the most common.  Use the steps below to check yours now.

The problem

Universal Analytics is not an accounting tool and will never match your accounting system 100%. That said, you can take steps to improve accuracy to acceptable levels considering you’re using it to make business decisions.

Incorrect revenue reporting is a critical issue. If you’re using analytics to track performance of your various marketing channels your attribution will be wrong. You may be crediting a channel with too much or too little revenue.  You could be pushing more budget to a channel that doesn’t deserve it or there is a channel that you should be pushing more budget to.

Image 1 - GA BlogReported revenue, can you trust it?

Also, because this is a very visible metric, and readily comparable to the backend, you run the risk of casting doubt on GA data.  This will make it difficult to get buy-in for any more advanced projects you want to run or action. For instance, if you’re running split tests (please don’t make changes live without testing their impact on sales) having your fundamental metrics questioned will make it difficult to maintain interest, produce credible reports and, influence change.

Checking it, and fixing any issues, should be put at the top of your to-do list.

Aim for a 5% threshold

All tracking and measurement tools will be different and will never match exactly so don’t expect your backend to match analytics 100%.   

Expect a variance of 5% or under – if your variance is over 5% be prepared to roll up your sleeves and investigate further.

How to compare revenue between the back-end and Google Analytics

1) Head to your back-end accounting system and set the data range to the last complete month.  Make a note of the total revenue.

2)    Next, head to the Conversion reports in your Google Analytics account:

  • If you’ve implemented Enhanced Ecommerce you’ll find the report in Conversions > E-commerce > Sales Performance
  • If you’re still using the default standard ecommerce tracking then you’ll find these reports here Conversions > E-commerce > Transactions.

Match the dates and take note of the revenue.

Here is a screenshot from the Google Analytics demo account, which uses Enhanced Ecommerce:

Image 2 - GA Blog

3) Once done, calculate the percentage difference between the sets of numbers – if variance is over 5%, there may be an issue.

At this point you can check other months or repeat the process on smaller date ranges to try and pinpoint when the numbers diverged.

We’ve put together a handy calculator for you to drop your numbers into:

Check your revenue tracking with our calculator

Enter your revenue as tracked in your CMS and Analytics.
Over 5% variance? Get help.

A number of things can go wrong with your tracking.  If you’re using a tag manager, the debugging steps will be specific to the one you’re using.

Two scenarios to consider:

  1. Analytics is reporting more revenue – you may be duplicating transactions.
  2. Analytics is reporting less revenue – analytics may be missing transactions.

Usually, these issues are caused by one or more of the following:

  • Your analytics tracking code may not be firing quickly enough
  • The tracking code is in the wrong place on your confirmation page
  • Customers can revisit or reload the confirmation page meaning the analytics tracking code is fired again
  • Incorrect data is being passed to your analytics tracking code
  • If you’re using a tag manager, the conversion tag may not be triggered correctly

Incorrect revenue tracking is what is known as an audit flag.  It suggests there may be other fundamental issues with the implementation and configuration of your analytics set up.  Under these circumstances, it’s best to contact a Google Analytics-certified agency such as AWA digital to discuss a more comprehensive healthcheck of your analytics.  There may be other problems impacting the quality of the data you’re basing business decisions upon. Get your free sample template of the healthcheck report you’ll receive here.   

Things to consider:
  1. Make sure you’re comparing like-for-like (is tax or postage included in one revenue figure but not the other?)
  2. Make sure dates / times are the same – we’ve seen apparent issues between platforms which turned out to be time-zone differences.
  3. Do your payment gateways return the user to a confirmation page?
Under 5% variance? Well done, sort of…

Congratulations, your revenue tracking looks to be in good shape. However, this isn’t a fire-and-forget task. Put a process in place where this is checked regularly – particularly after a site release.

The frequency will need to be whatever makes sense for your organisation.

Whose responsibility is this?

Governance or ownership of analytics is frequently forgotten.  Historically this was wrongly put in the developer’s domain. If you’re reading this, and you use analytics, you might be that champion. The point is, make sure that the responsibility is assigned, along with regular checkups at key milestones.

If all else fails

80% of all analytics accounts are set up wrong.  If you’ve found a problem with your revenue tracking and want it fixed, you suspect you have other issues with your configuration or you just want reassurance that everything is tracking as it should (and you’re tracking everything you should – these aren’t the same thing!) then get in touch with John, our Head of Analytics.  

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