A health check on your Google Analytics account and ways to apply the best practices and fixes - especially for Shopify stores.
In this tutorial series, we are going to make a health check on your Google Analytics account and apply the best practices and fixes. Google Analytics (aka GA) means a lot for Shopify stores, but for the most part, we find it sad that they don’t use it. The reason behind this is that it is not working properly.
Once a Shopify merchant told me:
"I never check Google Analytics because reports are always wrong - most of my sales are shown as DIRECT or REFERRAL and it doesn't help me."
Even though I was surprised to hear that, it was a helpful insight. I have realized that merchants think that Google Analytics on Shopify just doesn't work.
That's not the case! Google Analytics is probably the most important asset that your business has. It should just be configured correctly. That's why we are here, right? Let's get started with the most common issue we observe. And surprisingly enough, it is quite an easy fix!
This tutorial covers both Universal Analytics (UA) and Google Analytics 4 (GA4). Before we start make sure to have Google Analytics 4 set up on your Shopify store. It is the new version of Google Analytics that has countless benefits and it is the new and default version of GA.
"Direct Traffic" on Google Analytics
Are you seeing a major increase in DIRECT traffic? Your conversions & sales might be increasingly more attributed to DIRECT traffic or your own domain and properties.
One of the great features of Google Analytics is that it shows us where our users are coming from. You can also measure the performance of your marketing campaigns in this way. You will see that traffic and sales are attributed as: Organic search, paid, social, referral, and direct. The question normally arises around referral and direct.
What is Direct Traffic?
Direct means that users arrive at your website either by typing your website URL into a browser or through browser bookmarks. Unfortunately, that's not the only case. Google Analytics marks the unknown traffic as Direct Traffic as well. So direct traffic is actually the traffic that is not attributed to any other potential channel such as Organic, Paid, Social, etc.
And obviously, that's mostly the case. You would love to have 30% direct traffic, that would show you have strong brand authority. However, only a small portion of that 30% is actually Direct Traffic that you would imagine.
Think about this, most probably you google "Amazon" to visit Amazon.com. This will counted as "organic" because it comes from Google. So it is totally not natural to have a huge amount of direct traffic.
What causes the Direct Traffic problem
As mentioned above, Analytics will attribute the "unknown" traffic as direct. We have to help Google Analytics so that there is no unknown traffic.
On our observations, the following cases mostly cause the Direct Traffic issue:
You have some pages that are missing Google Analytics code.
You are using multiple domains and cross-domain tracking is not set properly.
You have some redirections that you are not aware of.
You don't have proper UTM parameters on your Facebook Ads or other channels. This is one of the most popular cases.
Your Google Analytics pixel is installed on your website twice.
There might be other reasons as well. However, these are the most common issues and are quite easy to fix. We have provided the solutions in the next sections of the tutorial.
"Referrals" on Google Analytics
Referral traffic on Google Analytics means that someone clicked a link on another website and landed on yours. Unlike direct traffic, we can understand more about the referral traffic and learn where the users are exactly coming from. In this way, we will define and fix problems.
Common Referral problems
Very often we see PayPal.com, Stripe.com, Klarnapayments.com on our referral list. There is something wrong with that. We clearly know that Stripe is not sending us that traffic. Kindly check the report below. Do you really think Stripe sends 90% of the sale?
As the sales are attributed to Stripe, the real source of these sales won't be visible. So you will not know which campaigns performed best and brought the sales.
To check this yourself, follow the path below and see your own referrals.
Google Analytics > Acquisition > All Traffic > Referrals
If you only see organic referrals, that's great :) If you have problems here, you will find the fix below.
Social Media Referrals:
Can social media sources be referrals? Technically, yes. But it mostly happens because of the wrong setup.
If you haven't set up the UTM parameters property on your Facebook Ads (or others), you might see them as referrals on your reports.
It is not good because ideally, you want to see them as "Paid" so that you understand which campaigns or ad groups are performing the best.
Check the report below. Is it really a referral from m.facebook.com or is it just an Ad that has brought that amount of traffic?
You might see your own domain(s) on the referral list. You might own a few different domains/websites and their traffic to each other might be counted as referrals.
Another common case is you might have another URL version of your website. For Shopify merchants it is store-name.myshopify.com.
So we only talked about the problems & causes so far. Let's get started with the fixes!
How to fix Direct and Referral Problems
These are the best practices that will not only fix direct and referral problems. Your Google Analytics reports will be working much better after these points. We strongly recommend you give attention to each point because we observe these errors even on enterprise websites.
- None of the pages are missing the tracking code.
You’d be surprised how many times we run into this issue. Especially with custom landing pages. Check if all your pages have the Google Analytics tracking code - and Google Tag Manager if you are using that.
We see this problem with Shopify merchants that use the custom page or landing page builders.
Steps to be taken to detect/fix this problem:
- Download "Google Tag Assistant" Chrome extension. We will use this extension in the next part of our tutorial series as well.
- Get the list of landing pages you use for all of your Ad platforms.
- Visit your website and enable the extension.
- You should be seeing your Universal Analytics ID here for ALL PAGES. There should ONLY be one tag that starts with "UA-". If you are using multiple just like below, that's another problem. We will be fixing those problems using this extension in the next set of tutorials.
- Make sure to visit as many pages as you can - especially the landing pages from your Ads and custom pages you have created.
2. Cross-domain tracking is configured correctly.
If you have two or more related sites in the same GA property, then you need to take care of the cross-domain configuration. In the case of Universal Analytics, you may prefer using Google Tag Manager.
Make sure to add "myshopify.com" or another page builder URL base in case you have one.
In Google Analytics 4, setting up cross-domain is very simplified and no hard-coded tagging is required as in the previous version. Just follow the simple steps below.
Step 1. Login to Google Analytics > Click "Admin" on the left bottom corner
Step 2. Click on Data Streams
Step 3. Select the property for which you want to set up cross-domain tracking
Step 4. Click on the More Tagging Setting under Additional Settings
Step 5. A new overlay will appear, click on “Configure your domains”
Step 6. Click on Add Condition and choose a simple match type - ‘contains’
And insert all domains (by clicking ‘Add condition’ every time) that use that particular GA tag.
3. Proper UTM Setup for your Ads
More often than not, we see wrong UTM parameters set up on Shopify merchants. And wrongly set UTM parameters causes Wrong Referrals and Direct Traffic issues. We have prepared another tutorial only to cover the Ideal Setup. Please check our article for Ideal UTM Setup on Facebook Ads for Shopify Stores.
4. No UTM tags on internal links used.
UTMs are for external links only and it would totally break the attribution if used internally. Because when Google Analytics sees a new UTM link, it will simply overwrite the previous source.
Some stores have a website hosted outside of Shopify domainname.com, and then their store on shop.domainname.com. So they use a UTM link from the main webpage to the Shop and that is completely wrong.
Make sure to remove UTM from all of your internal links.
5. Multiple Google Analytics Pixel
If you have the same Google Analytics code twice on your website, that will cause a lot of trouble in your reports. We have touched base on this case in Part 3 of this tutorial series.
The most common case is www & non-www and HTTP & HTTPS redirections. Let's make a real-life scenario.
Our website URL is https://analyzify.app/ and all of the following versions are being redirected to https://analyzify.app/
If we advertise using https://www.analyzify.app/ the UTM parameters and sources would get lost during the redirection.
There is nothing wrong with these redirections. In fact, it is exactly how it should work. You should just use the same version all across the web and in your ads - not a version that will be redirected.
It is almost impossible to fix these issues fully because there are things you can't control. However, applying the best practices will help you to get the best out of your reporting. Data Analytics tracking is a complex concept and there might be a lot of things you are doing wrong. Make sure to follow the rest of our article series because each fix will help the other.
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