6 Misleading Google Analytics Metrics

Google Analytics is a measurement tool that companies commonly use to track their website’s traffic and performance data. This program offers countless metrics that can be used to analyze virtually any aspect of the website that is being tracked. Although many of these metrics are relatively straightforward to understand, there are some figures that may actually be telling a different story than what you’d see at first glance.

Google Analytics can be easily misunderstood either because the metrics themselves have flaws or the method for interpreting a metric is incorrect. Here are six frequently used metrics that you may be viewing and incorrectly comprehending:

  1. Site Speed
    Site speed is an important indicator for user experience. A website’s site speed should be high so that users are not spending their time waiting for the website to load. Google Analytics automatically takes a very small sample (one percent of visitors) to determine your site speed. This means that outliers can have a large effect on the speed that you see for this metric. You can adjust for this in the “Tracking Info” section of Google Analytics. You can also set a larger sample size in “Tracking Info” to find a more accurate representation of your site speed.
  2. Bounce Rate
    Bounce rate is a metric that is easily misinterpreted on Google Analytics simply because a high bounce rate is generally received as negative statistic. However, this is not always the case. Google Analytics defines a bounce as any instance in which a visitor leaves a website after solely viewing the entry page. Consequently, even if the user immediately found what they were looking for and then left the website, it is still tracked as a bounce.In some cases, the user could be leaving your website to follow the company on social media or engage with your company in another way, which should definitely not be considered a bad thing. In the end, extremely high bounce rates can be a sign of negative performance, but there are certain instances in which a high figure is more positive than it may seem.
  3. Exit Rate
    Similar to the bounce rate, a high exit rate is often categorized as a negative metric. There is a misconception that a high exit rate indicates that the viewer did not find or like what they saw on the page and decided to look elsewhere, therefore “exiting” the page. People often fail to realize that an effective page on a website is designed to provide viewers with what they are searching for, thus resulting in a very high exit rate as it is achieving its purpose. When analyzing a website’s exit rate, consider what the page is trying to accomplish and ensure that the accompanying information is present, but not difficult to locate.
  4. Average Time on Page
    This metric is often misunderstood because the metric itself is somewhat inaccurate. Generally, longer amounts of time for this metric are viewed as a good thing because it shows the amount of time a visitor is actively engaged with the content of the page. A longer average time on page figure means that users were viewing your content for a long time. However, Google Analytics has no way of telling if the users have additional tabs open and are actively engaged with a different page within their browser window. In the majority of cases, this leads to an exaggerated number for this metric.
  5. New and Returning Visitors
    The process in which Google Analytics tracks new and returning visitors is also flawed and can collect misleading numbers. Visitors are tracked using technologic “cookies,” meaning that anyone who has deleted their browsing history would be falsely categorized as a new user when they visit your website again. Also, if a user who has visited your website before visits from a different computer or device, he or she will again be counted as a new visitor instead of a returning visitor. Overall, people like to see a high number of returning visitors as it indicates good retention. Although, remember that Google Analytics may be categorizing a large number of your visitors as “new” when in reality they are repeat visitors.
  6. Referral Traffic
    A majority of people view referral traffic as a sign of the amount of backlinks to their website, but this metric incorrectly includes a lot of non-referral sources too. For example, clicks to your website that originated from social media, email campaigns and even other pages on your website can be categorized as referral traffic by Google Analytics even though they technically are not. There are settings that you can change to make your referral traffic numbers more precise, but in the end, it is important to understand that this number will never be completely accurate.

Overall, Google Analytics is an extremely useful tool that can help benefit your website and business strategy in a variety of ways, but it is critical that you consider the bigger picture when reviewing some of the data. Remember, high bounce rates and exit rates are not always bad, site speed and referral traffic can be altered to be more accurate and some metrics are just not fixable at all. The best way to combat these flaws is to regularly review your website to ensure links are properly working and content is valuable, relevant and capturing.

For more information on cracking the Google Analytics puzzle, contact the digital marketing gurus at Zest Social Media Solutions.