Google Analytics is a great tool to use for website owners – it gives you lots of interesting information to help you improve your site, can track revenue and a whole slew of other things, all for free. But sometimes it can be a little difficult to figure out why it’s not working properly, even for the Google Analytics team.
Case in point: I have a client who I’ve been working with for about three weeks, trying to get Analytics to properly track their site. They use NetSolutions storefront, so it’s easy to add the Analytics code to the site, as they have it built in to their store. We just added the client’s UA number to a field and the code is automatically added in the footer.
Of course, one of the first couple of things I did to try figure out why it wasn’t working was to verify the UA number (it was correct) and that it was populating the code on every page (it was). I called in JumpFly‘s dedicated Google Account rep for help, since that about exhausted my troubleshooting options.
After some back and forth with Google and the Analytics team, they finally asked if there was a potential redirect on the site, since the “gclid=” portion of the URL was being stripped off of the destination URL from Google Search, and they couldn’t think of anything else that was wrong. (Basically the “=GCLID” holds all the visitor information for analytics to track; if it gets removed, Google Analytics attributes the visitor to no source or Google organics.) Sure enough, if I seached for the client’s ad, clicked on it, and checked the destination URL, there was no “=GLID”, therefore Analytics couldn’t attribute the source properly.
And that’s when I figured out that the client’s webmaster, in order to improve natural rankings, had changed the client’s site to use more search-engine friendly URLs – instead of a “category=##” URL, it was now using actual names, like military.asp or movie.asp. He had done the right thing in creating automatic redirects so old links didn’t go to dead pages, but it’s not something we were notified of, so we had no idea it was happening.
Now that we know, we can fix the URLs to the correct pages so the redirect stops happening, and Google Analytics can properly attribute traffic to the correct source. At least, that’s the hope.