As an agency that has managed hundreds of online campaigns, we are obsessed with making sure that attribution tracking is set up properly. This led us on a quest to discover the reasons why most marketers don’t follow best practices and, therefore, don’t have good data upon which to base their marketing efforts.
But first, why does lead attribution matter?
Website attribution is critical to understanding how people came to your website, what content they visited, and what ultimately drove visitors to make a purchase or become a sales lead. Properly attributing credit where credit is due will not only help you have a better understanding of what’s effective, it will also help you make better decisions about where to spend your budget. For example, your website may have generated 100 leads in the past week. How many of them came from paid advertising versus organic search versus referrals from other sites?
Below we listed some of the obstacles to tracking visitors’ actions on your website, so you can better understand what hinders tracking within Google Analytics. We have also listed some correctable items to review on your website and in your Analytics account.
Using Google Analytics for Attribution
Within Google Analytics, there are certain items to consider when reviewing your reports to ensure you understand the data.
By Default, Analytics Does Not Show Referral Data
There are certain tools and channels out there that simply won’t pass referral data to Google Analytics, which is very frustrating for marketers and website owners. The reason that data isn’t available is because Google simply can’t determine where it came from. The following traffic will be treated as ‘direct / none’ rather than a referral – For clarity, direct traffic generally refers to visitors who know the website and have the website bookmarked or type the website name in the search bar. It is best to track the actual source rather than have it default to direct traffic.
- Links in PDF documents (Adobe files such as adobe file.pdf)
- Links within Mobile applications (except for ads)
- An HTTP to HTTPS redirect (non-secure to secure website or vice versa)
- 302 Redirect (temporary redirects to another page on the site)
- Some browsers don’t pass referrers (if the user has updated their privacy settings)
Users Spending Too Much Time on Your Website
If a user visits your website and then simply leaves the page open in the background for more than 30 minutes, once the page is re-loaded it will look like a new direct user. In addition, if a user visits a website page and then doesn’t return to the site again for more than 30 days, their tracking cookie is reset and again they are counted as a new user, rather than an existing visitor.
Google code is incorrectly installed – with too many properties
If a website contains several Google Analytics codes with different properties on the various pages, Google will not be able to accurately track data and record it to the properties. It is best to set up one instance of Google Analytics that is on the entire website. Setting up Analytics on the entire website includes the whole domain, any sub-domains and additional cross-domains. Then, if desired, you can set up different views for different sections of your site (i.e. specific region or product-focused pages). The number of properties should be consolidated to the few that are necessary.
Website Attribution Tips
Outside of Google Analytics, there are certain website settings that could also be causing attribution issues. The following are a few examples of linking considerations on website pages:
- If the link goes to another page on the same company website (domain or sub-domain) that has the same Google Analytics code on the page, the destination page should open in the same tab, not a new tab.
- If the link goes to another website, such as a Marketo or Pardot page (form registrations, etc.), that also contains the same Google Analytics code on the page, the destination page should open in the same tab. As a note, the website/domain should be set up as a referral exclusion and/or cross-domain tracking.
- If a page contains a link to another website that is not affiliated with your company and has a different Google Analytics code on the site, the destination page should open in a new tab (blank). Links for social media, vendors, partners, or any other domain fits in this category.
- If the link destination opens a specific file, such as an Adobe pdf, Google doc etc., the document should open in a new tab (blank) as currently, Google Analytics code cannot be loaded on these types of documents.
In addition to the linking methods mentioned above, if a website links to your site from an unsecure site (HTTP), often the source information is not passed because of security issues. The visitor will then be listed as direct traffic, even if it was a referral.
With these best practices in mind for Google Analytics and website links, the data should become a bit clearer and more accurate. Although it is inevitable that data will still be mis-reported (or shown as ‘direct / none’) within Google Analytics, reviewing your website and Analytics setup will improve your data.