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Troubleshooting Google Analytics installations just became a little easier thanks to an enhancement rolled out to Google Tag Assistant - available as a Google Chrome extension.

Tag Assistant Recordings allow you to record interactions you make with a website and then review what data Google Analytics recorded. If your account hasn't been set up properly or if data is either not captured or in the wrong format this great new feature should be a huge help.

The extension is only available for Google Chrome - you can download it here. Once configured click onto the tag assistant icon at the top right hand side of the browser, click "check this page" and then when ready hit "record".

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In a number of previous articles we've talked about the problem of spam referrals appearing within Google Analytics data. This problem now appears to be growing exponentially and without taking steps to exclude this data from your reports (changing your tracking / configuration within Google Analytics or using advanced segments to remove this data) your reports and any insights derived from them could become meaningless - or worse still highly misleading.

We're hopeful that Google will roll out a solution soon as for some unfiltered views we are now sometimes seeing that well over 50% of the traffic is spam - in a few cases equating to over 50,000 visits within a relatively short time frame.

Spammers are now also getting smarter - solutions previously described to use your website hostname as a filter are now encountering problems and maintaining lists of referrals to exclude requires ongoing proactive management with new sources appearing regularly.

In the meantime we've started work on a list of spam referrals, automated traffic and other suspicious referrals that you may want to exclude. This list won't be fully comprehensive but we'll endeavour to keep it up to date based upon what we encounter. We're hoping to publish this later this week.

Solutions such as that proposed by LunaMetrics (see link in the following article) may become increasingly essential to maintain the integrity of your reporting until such a time as a solution is available via Google.

Changing spammer tactics include:

  • Adopting legitimate source names (but perhaps adapting them via adding a subdomain)
  • Changing the hostname
  • Using minor misspellings so they appear legitimate e.g. theguardlan (rather than guardian) or Inked.in (rather than Linked)
  • Using new referral sources
  • Use variations of the top level domain (e.g. .org or .info)
  • Dropping suspect metrics - e.g. a 100% bounce rate or 100% new sessions can raise a red flag and so spammers appear to have changed tactics to often avoid these

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If your site uses a site search facility you will probably want to know what your users are looking for. This kind of information can be particularly helpful in two areas:

  • Mining for keywords – it’s likely that people will use the same search terms on your website as they are using in a search engine so knowing what they are looking for can help you create keywords lists for better targeted paid advertising campaigns as well as SEO
  • Optimizing landing pages – visitors might use the site search on a landing page if they are having issues in finding relevant content. This can flag potential navigational issues with your site.

By default site search is not enabled in Google Analytics and so you will have to do this in the Admin section of the account for every view you might have created.

To do this simply go to View Settings and switch Site Search Tracking on. You will need to specify the query parameter search terms are associated with.

Bounce rate is a key engagement level statistic that many website owners rightly pay a lot of attention to. If you are unfamiliar with the concept then a bounce occurs if someone lands on your website and then leaves without any further interaction (e.g. clicking through to another page). The bounce rate is simply the percentage of visitors that leave.

In practice a bounce can be a little more complex depending upon how you've configured Google Analytics. If you have a standard setup then a bounce occurs when someone leaves at a landing page without viewing any additional content.

With more advanced tracking however - for example if you've implemented virtual page views or event tracking - things get a little more complex. If a virtual page view is generated e.g. by someone downloading a file from a landing page then that additional interaction will adjust the bounce rate.

Google have announced a re-branding of Google Webmaster tools as "Google Search Console". The change follows an announcement earlier this month that the "search queries" report has been updated to become "search analytics". The new "search analytics" report makes it easier to segment data by device, pages, countries and search type.

For further information on the launch of Google Search Console please click through to the Google Webmaster blog

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