Google Analytics Doesn’t Provide all of the Answers

Google analytics has become a great source of data about visitors to your website – assuming your configuration is correct. Sometimes configuration issues inadvertently block your view of what is really happening. Common issues can include…

1. Not having your analytics snippet in the correct place. 

 There are many legacy variations of the analytics snippets. In addition, what was the correct installation a couple of years ago may have dramatically changed, depending on if you have an asynchronous snippet, etc. We still run into snippets calling for urchin.js for their Google Analytics, which are quite a few years old. The best place  – currently – to have your analytics code is inside the <head> tag, and right before it ends with the </head> tag. This will prevent interference with other scripts, which we have seen mess with bounce rates, conversion tracking, ROI, sleep schedules, general happiness, and more

2. Filters

Your filters could have been created years ago and for long forgotten purposes. In Google Analytics, check your Admin area (under view, on the right halfway down) to see if you are filtering traffic. Look at the filters – do you know who created them and why they are present? Some have complicated REGEX rules and it can be difficult to decipher. Everyone should have at least one profile with no filters. We usually name this profile with RAW in the name. This system allows anyone to easily see if a filter has “gone rogue” and is filtering out good traffic.

There are also these problems with getting good data, and you did not even cause them:

1. Incomplete data / views

Most businesses are using the free version of Google Analytics, and sometimes experience “sampling” in important reports.

Sampling in Google Analytics (or in any analytics software) refers to the practice of selecting a subset of data from your traffic and reporting on the trends detected in that sample set. Sampling is widely used in statistical analysis because analyzing a subset of data gives similar results to an analysis of a complete data set, while returning these results to you more quickly due to reduced processing time.

In Analytics, sampling can occur in your reports, during your data collection, or in both place.

(Image of sampling)

2. Organic keywords

Years back, Google Analytics allowed you to see the query typed in by visitors. It was so powerful! It allowed you to see quite a bit of information about your prospects – perhaps too much. It has now become standard that search engines, browsers, and analytics itself is restricting this information. If you are new to analytics, you probably have not missed what you do not have. However, if you have been doing this a while, take a second to reflect on what was lost. We are right there with you. Hmph.


3. Referral spam, organic keyword spam, language spam

In addition to losing out on good data, there is often too much noise in otherwise good data. Using fake browsers – bots that can run analytics code, all sorts of things are being inserted into your analytics. Some of the offenders might put

– “Vitally was here” in the list of languages your visitors use

– or make it look like visitors are coming in droves from some site you’ve never heard of (which is either selling SEO or hosting malware).

Spam is analytics has become a major nuisance and we constantly have to deal with it while compiling reports. We see the same offenders across multiple accounts, and create a custom analytics segment to filter them from reports.

Want to try our segment? Click this link and scrub your own view of your account:

(There are other great segments on the Internet too, but we have customized this one for our clients.)


Penguin 4 has Arrived: What We Know [Summary of Search]

It’s been 2 years since the last Penguin Penalty update. The Penguin Penalties were known to destroy site traffic by placing sites – that were formerly on page 1
– onto page 4 or even page 9. Organic traffic would decrease sometimes to less than 10% of previous levels, and devastate revenue.

Penguin is such a serious update for any site relying on organic traffic, that new insights are being gained daily. This update is a little bit different than previous Penguin updates. They appear to get increasinglpaper-182220_960_720_phixry more harsh.

1. Google still cares tremendously about links

We’ve been expecting Google to use social media at some point for authority, but instead they keep using links as a powerful part of their algorithm. Looking at the amount of processing power, education, penalties and heat they have taken… well, we can assume links will be with us for a long time. And Google cares more about authority than popularity, freshness, content, spelling, valid html, or any of the other hundreds of factors they may (or may not) take into account.

2.  It’s now “realtime”

As Google discovers links to your site, they will be judged as good, bad or somewhere in-between. Rankings will fluctuate accordingly. This system is long overdue: Previous penguin updates have meant years of waiting to see if link removal, disavowal, site pruning, 301 redirecting, gaining high authority links, and other strategies would be enough. It was a horribly unfair system for most small businesses, as years of lost traffic was particularly painful.

3. Realtime can mean weeks

Few have done the math and research in this quora thread, but that sounds like it will be a few weeks.

4. Penguin penalties will now be on the page level, not site level

Penguin used to penalize an entire site, impacting rankings for all keywords and on all pages. This was horribly unfair and we saw several clients over the years being penalized after an intruder built pages (and bad links to those pages). Months and years after the intrusion, site keyword rankings (and traffic!) suffered greatly.

5. Bad links no longer penalize – they just don’t count

This is a return to the “old days”, simpler times when webmasters didn’t have to continually audit who was linking to them. One of the worst parts of previous penguin updates was the way that low quality links provided a “double whammy” to rankings: They stopped boosting rankings, and also penalized the site.

6. Disavow files are still recommended

Google still recommends the disavow file is used. It helps Google identify low quality sites, as well as offering protection against a “manual penalty”, where a human at Google has specifically penalized your site. In that case a disavow file can show that you are trying to distance your site from it’s bad links.

Every day brings more insight into how Penguin 4.0 is impacting rankings and traffic. We’ll keep you updated!

Diversify and Conquer the Ever-Changing SERPs [SUMMARY OF SEARCH]

Google is constantly changing their Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs), and recently caused a stir by removing ads from the right side. For years, organic positions have been changing: Traditional “organic text listings” have been shrinking, but ads have always had their place. And ads have increasingly dominated above the fold. With 4 ads on top, and no ads on the side, it’s a big visual change for desktop search, but there are opportunities.


Ad Domination

When Google makes a change, we all know by now that the change has been tested thoroughly – and will help them expand on their already 74.5 billion revenue.


For some queries, it feels like ads are the new page 1. There might be local, images, news, and perhaps some organic. What we see above the fold in these cases feels like an interstitial; something that we need to click past. With organic position 4 sometimes now falling on page 2, it’s another reason why traffic can decrease when rankings stay the same.


Brand Domination8a7dde93-a979-436e-9e94-8bb7ef33be3d

The last several years have seen bigger brands dominate both organic and ppc. Big brands get authority links more easily, and have bigger budgets on the ppc side as well. Google is not the level playing field it once seemed for small business, but is increasingly becoming a way to search for “things to buy from top brands”.


On the organic side, Google’s updates have penalized the cheap link building of smaller businesses – while favoring brands in separate efforts. Now PPC will be feeling a crunch: Fewer spots near the top is likely o increase bid prices, while removing some bargain positions with traffic at ad position 5.



Look closely at the search results your best prospects are seeing. Trust Google’s ever-changing algorithm is making the right decisions – eventually – and use it to your advantage; both organically and in your ad campaign.


  1. Diversify

Check the SERPs for your favorite target keywords and ask yourself: “What content are prospects looking for with this query?” Luckily, Google has already measured for you! There are a variety of research tools to discover what content is getting clicked, linked, liked, shared, visited, etc. But Google is also figuring this out or you- and really has the final say. Consider the types of content Google has chosen for your query:

– Images

– News

– In-depth Articles

– Direct Answers

– Apps


And are images above organic text listings? That’s Google telling what is most important to people conducting this query!


What content you see should be taken into account with your SEO Strategy. Great opportunities abound with image search for most sites.


On the PPC side, bargains tend to match Google’s latest innovations. Inexpensive clicks are best found in the newest kinds of ads: Product Listing Ads, remarketing, video ads, etc. Smart advertisers implement these before the competition arrives. And by diversifying among different types of advertising, marketers can measure, compare and choose the most efficient. And are you using all of the features of PPC? <a href=””>Larry Kim pointed out</a> that, since the change, “now all ads can use call-out extensions, sitelink extensions, location extensions, etc.” That’s a huge opportunity to raise CTR in any position, especially if you implement before the ads next to yours.

  2.  Piggyback

Organic opportunities abound for those watching the SERPS. What sites are at the top of the results? Identify each organic slot as competitor or potential link partner. Those wikipedia pages at the top of many queries can become your next source of great referral traffic. And something Google increasingly references as it scrapes and answers related queries.


In the world of PPC, there are also opportunities to piggyback. See apps in the mobile results? Consider in-app advertising. Any site listed in Google’s top results is worth investigating as a potential advertising opportunity, as well. Consider Google your “advertising research engine” for the best sites.


As more ads and different kinds of ads are introduced, Google still gives opportunities to nimble marketers. Use Google’s SERPs to research both the content and advertising landscape of your best prospects. And then implement before your competitors.

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