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Is the data in Google Analytics misleading you?


More than 50 million businesses make use of Google Analytics, which clearly indicates most business leaders make use of the data in the tool to review their campaigns. If your data is not accurate, it would have an impact on your decision-making. Here are some common causes for misunderstanding the data or incorrect data in your performance reports:

Is the data in Google Analytics misleading you?

1.Bounce Rate:

Most marketers consider bounce rate as a negative parameter. A high bounce rate is not exactly good and is perceived as lack of interest in your site but this number is not exactly what most people think it is.

Google defines bounce as a single page session on your site which means that the user exits your site after viewing just 1 page. This part is understood well by most business leaders but a lot of them seem to have a common misunderstanding that bounce rate is calculated from total page views.

If you are one of them, then consider this example. the total page views is 10,000,000 in a month and the bounce rate is 50%, the you would have concluded that there were 5,000,000 exits with just 1 page view but have made a mistake and you are overestimating bounces.

Bounce rate is calculated from unique visits which is also called sessions and not total page views. Consider the same example but ignore the page views. You do not need that and you only need the total number of unique visits. If the total number of visits or sessions is 6,000,000, then your bounce rate of 50% indicates that you had only 3,000,000 bounces and not 5,000,000.

Bounce rate = Number of visits with 1 page views (also called bounces) / Number of unique visits (also called sessions)

Bringing the denominator on the right hand side of the equation to the left hand side, you will get Number of Bounces = Bounce rate * Number of sessions

From the example figures:

Number of Bounces = 6,000,000 * (50%) = 6,000,000 * (50/100) = 3,000,000

Very often, this number is overestimated by many business leaders because of the lack of understanding on how google calculates bounce rates.

2. Total Visitors and page views:

The total number of visitors and page views in your Analytics report are probably overestimated.

If you have not filtered the internal traffic i.e. the people who visit your website from your own company, they are going to add more weight to the number of visitors and page views but have no impact on conversion in most cases.

The other important issue to address is the fake traffic sent to your website. These are the fake hits sent by spamming bots to your website or landing pages. You can make use of the ‘Bot filtering’ feature in Google Analytics to filter to fake traffic but this will not be 100% efficient. The other techniques that can help you fight this type of fake traffic is by making use of your server log and blocking IPs and referrers.

Finally, there are bots that don’t visit your website but make use of your property ID in the tracking code to send fake traffic to your analytics account directly. To prevent damage from them, you can make use of the Google Tag Manager to hide the property ID.

The spam referrers, ghost traffic and internal traffic are going to inflate your number of total visitors and page views.

3. Unique Page views:

People often do not understand that Google makes use of cookies or signed in Google accounts to recognize unique page views. If a visitor is not logged into Google and uses 2 different devices or browsers to access your website, then Google will count consider both visits from the same user as unique page views unless you have your authentication system for user management and you have set up your own user id in Analytics for tracking users who are signed into your website. For this reason, the number of unique page views is also slightly inflated.

4. Referral Traffic:

Have you ever noticed the spike in referral traffic from one of your social media like facebook appear just after you have launched a campaign? This is because you have not added the UTM parameters in the URLs for your campaigns. UTM parameters let Google match the traffic with the right source. When you’ve not added the right UTM parameters to your URL, the traffic that must have been assigned to your ad campaign in facebook instead gets assigned to the referral traffic from facebook.

This problem is not limited to facebook and your incorrectly configured URLs in campaigns such as email, social media and websites are also going to cause referral spikes in wrong sources.

5. Average Time on Page:

Google Analytics takes into account the exits from the page when it calculates the average time on page. It calculates time on page as the difference between the time stamps on hits.

Time on Page = Time when the user entered the next page - Time when the user entered the page for which the metric is being calculated

If you have no custom events set up, when there is an exit from the page, Google wouldn’t be able to calculate the time the user spent on that particular page.

Example: In case you have a blog and the user reads the entire article and leaves the page after a long time without visiting another page in your website, Google Analytics still wouldn’t be recording the time the visitor spent on the page.


Did this article help you in understanding Analytics better? Request a free consultation from us to know how you can improve your digital campaigns and track them more efficiently.


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Deepak Selvan
CEO - VizConn

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