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Why Is Google Analytics Inaccurate?

by Russ Henneberry

So you noticed, eh?

Google Analytics is inaccurate.

There’s a reason for that, actually there are several.

Here’s a fairly exhaustive list that I have divided into two categories:

  • Stuff you can fix
  • Stuff you have no control over

Ready to find out why your Google Analytics is inaccurate?  Here we go…

Google Analytics Errors You Can Fix

Let’s start with the things you can do something about.

Here are five:

1 – Failure to tag pages

Google Analytics works by putting a JavaScript “tag” into the code of your pages.

No tag on a page  = no data for that page

If you only have a 5 page website, you can easily check if the script is present manually.  If you have 100’s or 1000’s of pages, it’s difficult if not impossible to check for the Google Analytics tracking code on all your pages.

But there are tools you can use to verify that your pages are tagged and find the ones that aren’t.  Rachel Gerson from SEER Interactive details the use of Screaming Frog SEO spider tool to search every page for the presence of the same Google Analytics code in this article.

2 – Poor location of Google Analytics tracking code

Website owners are concerned about page load speed on their websites, and they should be.

As a result many web developers place code like the Google Analytics tracking code just above the </body> tag so that the visual elements of the website can load before the code executes (presumably increasing page load speed.)

However, placing the tracking code at the end of the <body> code will miss visitors that click quickly through pages on your site before the Google Analytics tracking code executes.

Google Analytics tracking code loads asynchronously and therefore doesn’t slow down page loading.  It’s best to place the tracking code at the top of the page before the </head> tag.

JavaScript doesn’t have time to execute = no data

3 – More than one Google Analytics tracking code on the page

I once had a client that had a 3% Bounce Rate on his website.  I couldn’t believe it.

Turns out he had put two Google Analytics tracking codes on his pages.

2 Tracking Scripts on page = messed up data

4 – JavaScript errors on the page

Google Analytics only functions if the JavaScript code on the page executes.  If you have errors in any of your other JavaScript on the page, the GA code won’t execute.

JavaScript Errors = Stopping of the browsers scripting engine = no data

5 – In-page Analytics is Inaccurate

The Google Analytics Overlay Report is inaccurate for a number of reasons.  Here are three big ones,

  • It doesn’t track anything that doesn’t have an HREF element (a click on a form submit button or play button on a video for example)
  • It doesn’t track pages containing Flash
  • It can’t separate the number of clicks from different links that lead to the same location  (UPDATE:  Big thanks to Aaron Bradley from SEO Skeptic for pointing out that this solution will fix this problem in In-Page Analytics by adding some extra lines of code to your tracking script.)

The solution to this is simple — use Crazy Egg for your Overlay Reporting and you’ll also get the Heat Map, Confetti Map, Scroll Map and List View Reports.

Google Analytics Errors You Have No Control Over

Ok, so these are things you can’t do anything about but they will absolutely help you better understand your data.  So, pay attention. 🙂

Here are 9 ways your Google Analytics data might be inaccurate that you have little or no control over:

1 – Some browsers have JavaScript disabled

Google Analytics tracks information for any visitor that loads the JavaScript tag in the page code.

Browser disabled JavaScript = no data

Yahoo! published data that shows that this problem is minimal.


2 – No cookie

Google Analytics doesn’t track a visitor unless it can accept a cookie.  Cookies are important because they are used to tag a visitor and aggregate that visitors behavior over the course of multiple visits.

No cookie = no data

There are a number of different ways cookies can cause problems:

  1. The visitors browser doesn’t accept cookies.
  2. The visitors firewall blocks or deletes cookies
  3. The visitor deletes cookies manually (Most research ballparks cookie deletion at 30% of visitors over a month.)

There are probably a dozen other ways cookies can be removed.  If you have some good ones, put them in the comments.

By the way, this is one of the reasons that search engine spiders don’t register in your Google Analytics — the spider doesn’t accept cookies.

3 – Cookies time out

Google Analytics uses two different types of cookies:

  • A persistent cookie – This cookie is placed on your device the first time you visit and remains for 2 years or until it is deleted, the browser is re-installed or some other such removal occurs.
  • A session cookie – This is a new cookie that is placed each time you visit.  You receive a new session cookie for each separate visit.

This begs the question:  What happens if someone:

  1. Visits a web page
  2. Goes to dinner for two hours leaving the page open
  3. Comes back and starts browsing

I’m glad you asked.

Google Analytics ends a visitor session after 30 minutes of inactivity.  In the scenario described above, a new session cookie would be placed when the visitor starts browsing again.  This will be considered a brand new session by Google Analyticcs.

Browser inactive for > 30 minutes = messed up data 

Actually, in this data hound’s opinion this isn’t messing up the data.  Thirty minutes of inactivity should warrant a new session.  But it is certainly a special circumstance.

4 – Same device, different user

This one is best illustrated by example,

  1. John visits for the first time and a cookie is set on his computer.
  2. He then goes for a jog.
  3. Jane then gets on the computer and visits for the first time.

These should be counted as two separate visits, but the unique visitor is tied to the cookie and the cookie is tied to the device.

Therefore these will be considered visits from the same “unique” person.

Visitors sharing devices = messed up data

5 – Same user, different device

Once again an example is best to illustrate this,

  1. Jane is standing in line at the grocery store.  S
  2. She starts researching XYZ product on ABC website from her iPhone.
  3. A cookie is set on her iPhone.
  4. She gets home, unloads the groceries and then purchases XYZ product from ABC website on her laptop.

In a perfect world, Jane’s behavior would be tracked as she switches devices.  As it is, the purchase will be attributed to a brand new visit.

Multiple devices = messed up data

And this behavior is more prevalent than you might think.  This is a portion of an infographic we created about the use of mobile in the marketplace,


6 – Google Analytics doesn’t reprocess information

Let’s say you have been tracking data using Google Analytics for two years.

You then decide to set up a Goal Funnel.

Google Analytics will not retroactively apply your funnel to the data it has.  This is just too much to ask of a free service that is processing the massive amount of data that GA processes every day.

In the scenario above, your Goal Funnel will be visible from the time you set it up forward but no data will be available before that time.

8 – Google hasn’t processed your data yet

Google Analytics isn’t real time, although there is some limited real-time data you can get through the Real Time reports.

For all other data, it’s best to assume that Google Analytics is 24 hours behind.  That being said, most small to average websites are safe to assume that Google Analytics is 6 to 8 hours behind.

9 – Google is sampling your data

If you have a very active website and you try to run a report that includes a large amount of data, Google Analytics might use data sampling.

In other words, they will not use the whole of your data — it’s too resource intensive for them to do so and speed is greatly increased when they provide you with a subset of that data.

So, they will run the report you are requesting using a sample of your data.

Learn more about data sampling here.

What’s the point of measuring if the analytics are wrong?

Let’s put it this way — it’s not ideal to build a house using a tape measure that measures a foot at 10 inches.  But, as long as the error is consistent, you can still build a reasonably solid house.

If you can fix the tape measure, do so.  If you have no control over the error, just learn to make the judgments that you can understanding that the data is flawed.

What you have to determine is whether the error you have is consistent.

For example, error from visitors that delete cookies can be assumed to be consistent from month to month and year to year.  It’s not ideal that it happens but, frankly, there’s nothing you can do about it.

Now that you understand the possible reasons why Google Analytics is inaccurate you will see your data completely differently.

What are you seeing in your Google Analytics that is inaccurate?



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Russ Henneberry

Russ Henneberry is the Editorial Director at Digital Marketer. He's worked on digital marketing projects for companies like CrazyEgg, and Network Solutions. You can connect with Russ on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or on his blog.


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  1. sean says:
    June 17, 2017 at 12:03 pm

    I’ve applied as many techniques as I can possibly discover towards getting an accurate Analytics reading but without fail my site never goes higher than 400 views a day.

    My server stats read 4000-5000 views a day (Minus bots). Even if my server stats were slightly inflated the gulf between the two are insane. I have absolutely no idea what’s going on and everything above has been applied to no avail.

    One confused blogger over here.

  2. Chenna says:
    October 12, 2016 at 12:57 am

    In my Google Analytic E-commerce overview Total Transactions count Shows wrong on the date of 04-Oct-2016 Total transactions are 2 only but here count shows 4.

    Affiliation count 2 is actually count proper, but above side Transactions count 4 is wrong count actually date of 04th total transaction are 2 only.
    can u please give some idea what is problem here.

  3. Dave says:
    August 29, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    Great article. Easy to understand. I am looking for more info about google analytics. I have just started a PPC (pay per click promotion).
    The clicks (according to the PPC company) are happening at 4X the rate that Google Analytics say we are having visitors. the PPC company is sending out blast emails & the clicks are off of the emails. But the PPC company says, Google Analytics does not count visitors from blast emails. I thought Google Analytics counted all visitors. Anybody know the correct answer to this??

    • Sean Work says:
      August 31, 2016 at 4:58 pm

      Hi Dave, there could be several reasons for this. First, is your PPC traffic going to a landing page that’s on another domain? Sometimes people will use a landing page provider where the URL of the landing pages is not your domain. Also, if the landing page IS configured to your domain, you need to make sure that the Google Analytics tracking snippet is on that landing page.

      • Jimmy Bollister says:
        November 22, 2016 at 1:55 pm

        Bit Late to the question but also assuming ppc company tagged their links properly.

        • Sean Work says:
          December 1, 2016 at 4:44 pm

          That too. That’s just a good idea in general.

    • Jared says:
      June 1, 2017 at 1:05 pm

      Google Analytics CAN count visitors from emails, however they must be tagging their URL’s properly in the emails using UTM parameters:

      Also, there will inherently be a difference in clicks to sessions when comparing AdWords and Analytics:

  4. Siena says:
    February 18, 2016 at 8:57 pm

    It’s true I see from my stats that google analytics is not accurate; I was thinking it was only me that is having this issue, but coming to your blog help me and now know that it’s not onliny me – a lot of site owners have the same issue. Thanks for awesome post. Thanks Neil for this info.

  5. Lers weber says:
    February 9, 2016 at 12:05 pm

    Good post. My experience with Google Analytics also confirmed that it is very inaccurate. It is great that you listed the possible reasons for its inaccuracy.

    Would you or anyone here suggest an alternative to Google Analytics?

  6. Saul says:
    January 8, 2016 at 3:03 am

    Still not sure about Google Analytics. Since installing it on our site and forum it would “appear” our traffic has dropped like a lead balloon. According to Webalizer we were getting over 1.4 million page views per month but with Google Analytics we are lucky to see 40,000. That’s quite some difference! I know of course Webalizer will track server logs so will include a lot of things Google Analytics leaves out but it’s still somewhat disconcerting to see your stats suddenly take that sort of a dive. I’m also wondering how effective Google Analytics is on a phpbb type forum and in particular one that has thousands of pages of information? I need reliable stats I can give to advertisers and right now I don’t know which ones to use.

  7. Cyril says:
    January 6, 2016 at 1:00 pm

    Hello Russ, hello all 😉
    Many thanks for this article and the very interesting niformation it contains. I’ve read all the comments made since the article has been edited, and I did not find the information I seek : what about the influence of “do not track” browser feature (or other anonymisation tools) on GA stats ? And same thing for visits coming from browsers where Ghostery or Adblock is activated ? I was looking for figures such as the ones from Yahoo about ‘How many people desactivate js’… Do you know some informations about that ?
    Many thaks again for the article (in which I appreciated the way you separated the issues on which you can do something, from those on which you canot), and best whishes for 2016 😉

  8. James Lenfers says:
    December 28, 2015 at 6:10 am

    I have noticed every single month there is a high spike almost exactly 30 days apart. Traffic goes up a little bit, then the next day a big spike, followed by about a 1/3 drop, another 1/3 the next day and a bottoming out.

    Then analytics tracks zero traffic after that, then a little bit, then back to normal looking again until it happens again another 27 days latter.

    The first time I saw this I thought, oh, that is just some post getting temporary exposure then dropping in the google index. It isn’t. This 3 day spike followed by a bottoming out, is not showing up anywhere in my real time data.

    I am not sure what it is, other then the main analytics going through some 3 day routine, 5 days if you count the 2 bottom out days, that looks like more of a estimate adjustment taking place over a 5 day period before it goes into the new month.

  9. Brandon Corbett says:
    July 30, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    I have several clicks on our homepage associated with “events” in Google Analytics. I am trying to figure out why G.A. shows an extremely low click-count under events when both CrazyEgg data and Google’s own In-Page Analytics show a much higher click-count for the same thing.

    • Jared says:
      June 1, 2017 at 1:09 pm

      Can’t speak to CrazyEgg data in terms of click tracking, however In-Page Analytics is an issue because any link on the page with the same href value is counted as the same click. So, if you have a link on the top of the page and one on the bottom pointed to the same page, even if the anchor text is different, In-Page Analytics will show you the same percentage/heat map.

  10. Jon says:
    June 1, 2015 at 11:57 am

    Another issue is that GA will report time on Page as 0:00 if the visitor doesn’t view another page (basically every bounce is a zero time on page), even if they’ve been reading something for 20 mins.

  11. Michael says:
    August 4, 2014 at 2:50 am

    I only just discovered a difference in our traffic stats between a paid service and GA. Given what you have said above, I guess it is just one of those things.

  12. Roger says:
    July 28, 2014 at 9:41 am

    I am also having issues with affiliate partner is telling me a different number of sales through their website than my analytics is showing…

    I am looking for a tool that can check if measurements are done correctly. It can be quite extensive and expensive to check all pages. Making decisions on adspend or if a certain partner is doing different then he tells me is a no go for me. I just want to be certain.

    Are there tools that can check this? So not only if a tag is placed correctly but also if the tag gives the correct data…
    I searched on google and found datakit. They have a tool called qmon. Anyone who know this tool? It is free for 1 million validations…maybe worth a try….

  13. Elena says:
    July 21, 2014 at 7:10 pm

    I updated with “Upgrade to Universal Analytics” which uses a new code and the number of visitors went down. However I do not rely in Google analytic only and, my number of visitors are up. What intrigues me- does this affect how we rank? I bet it does because Google sees less visitors so thinks that we are not as important as we were. I really am worried that their wrong data will affect the search engine.

  14. nardone says:
    June 29, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Good article as I have big differences as well with GA and Statcounter which I also use The problem is that when I want to sign up for a press pass, many events want your GA stats and mine don’t show large enough to attend events. It is very annoying and I probalby need to get someone who is an expert in GA to look at my blog. I like Statcounter but when the businesses you want to work with only use GA, it makes it hard to use anything else.

    • Neil Patel says:
      June 29, 2014 at 8:16 pm

      Nardone, glad you liked the article. Thanks for the great feedback 🙂

      • haroon aejaz says:
        August 12, 2014 at 7:12 am

        this is off topic question. but related to analytics and SEO. i have observed so many dublicate meta descrbtion pages in my website becuase i use in wordpress .. web traffic goes down like 90%. finally i fix it., but these pages still in web master tool and not traffic

        • Neil Patel says:
          August 12, 2014 at 12:47 pm

          Haroon, have you been giving the pages time to get indexed and updated. It may be that you just need to give it time. Let us know how it goes. Keep us posted please.

  15. Sports Backlinks says:
    March 18, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    I’m still not sure what the problem is. Perhaps everything listed in this article. My analytics report typically shows for 30 days what my server logs show for 1 day. It was so far out of whack that I just stopped using it entiirely.

  16. Siew Ann says:
    March 17, 2014 at 5:01 am

    Google Analytics seemed to have missed out on 1 transaction that I had. I don’t have many transactions on my site, hence why I noticed. Any idea what happened there or how I can get Google Analytics to show that transaction under E-commerce Conversion numbers? Otherwise, this affects my total overall % . I’m running on Magento for my ecommerce site. Googly Analytics, however, have not failed to track all other transactions that occured thus far. I would very much appreciate any sort of assistance I can get.

  17. Shannon Lewis says:
    March 11, 2014 at 8:57 am

    I have noticed this happening… example would be best to illustrate it…

    Log into google analytics on Friday, review Thursday’s data. Vistors = 480.
    Log into google analytics on Saturday to gain more insight to Thursday’s traffic and now vistors = 240.

    This seems to happen all the time. When I review yesterday’s traffic, the data is always higher than when I review that same day a few days later.

    Insight as to why this happens?

  18. naga says:
    January 4, 2014 at 5:28 am

    HI, i am using google analytics for my website, its fast growing, GA Showing per day visitors are 700+ everyday, when i am searching for my site growth value, alexa showing only 27 visitors perday.
    Even i gone through my hosting control panel , that figure GA providing is correct. alexa showing wrong figures.

  19. Dan says:
    December 11, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Just what I was looking for.

    We have both GA and Statcounter(visit length set at 1 hour) installed with quite a difference in Unique visitors.

    I realise they track differently but have to give the stats to some advertisers.

    Think its ok to add the 2 together and then take the average as accrding to some of the forums GA under reports and SC over reports!

    Page views for both are actually more consistant, just need to have the answers ready.

    Thanks Dan

  20. satya says:
    November 7, 2013 at 11:32 am

    hi , based on my findings GA – not 100% accurate . I am using combination of Aw stats and GA together .. THis helps me to certain extent , but Is there any other tool , which gives more promising data ???

  21. donOld says:
    October 31, 2013 at 1:09 pm

    One thing I have learned since my original post here is the difference between “visitors” and “hits”. Hits are simply requests made to your server for the resources needed to load (display) a page in a visitor’s browser. A single web page may need many resource files to load (images, text, buttons, style sheets, etc.). I use Fireworks to assemble my pages. Fireworks breaks up my finished pages into 40 or 50 smaller image files and exports them to my graphics folder. When a visitor requests a page, 40 or 50 requests are made to my server for the image files necessary to load the page. In my server logs, this shows up as 40 or 50 page requests but in reality all this activity was initiated by a single user requesting a single page.

    Google Analytics doesn’t track server requests. It only tracks the 1 html page file that contains their javascript tracking code. I now believe this is the main reason why the GA numbers are always much lower than the server-based data programs.

  22. Henrik Hil says:
    October 31, 2013 at 5:57 am

    TagMan wrote that Google Analytics changed refering domain for direct trafic so up to 50% of your trafic are reportes as Google refered trafic. This discussion started back in 2009 and is now started again.
    Other topics that TagMan can be found here:

  23. Nikole says:
    October 27, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    A web advisor placed GA code on several pages of our 1000 page site and now tells me he trusts Google analytics results more than our Website OS. Why would he not realise that visitors enter the site through many pages on the site, not just the index page or the pages he marked;- the site is 15 years old, regularly updated. Google analytics, as he set it up, shows between 2 and 5 visitors per day (!) and website OS shows 200+. Even if some of these are robots, etc. I’m in a state of shock and hate that I have to debate this with him. Isn’t it obvious?

  24. Md. Nasir says:
    October 26, 2013 at 6:10 am

    Great info… I have a small query, my blogger page views shows a huge page views but when I check my analytics there are very few traffic, why this happens? Is there any problem with my Analytics account?


  25. Lumia 925 says:
    May 14, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    i have some problem too
    in alexa, my website growing fast
    but in Google anaytics, visitor and page views every time down 🙁
    thnks for your info 🙂

  26. Barbara Weibel says:
    April 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    I sure hope you can help me. A while back I hired a designer to revamp my webste. Afterward, Google stopped tracking my traffic, so I researched and via Google support pages, realized the tracking code was not in my header. I added it, and weverything went back to normal. That was a couple of years ago. Today, through a series of events I don’t need to bore you with, I discovered that my site had previously used the traditional synchronous code and it was still in the footer. So for the past two years, at least, every page of my site has had both codes installed. Before I do anything, I hoped you could tell me what the implicatins of having both tracking codes active, other than bounce rate. Is it possible that my traffic has been counted twice all this time? And is it safe to just remove the old tracking code from my footer? Appreciate any help you can provide.

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      April 8, 2013 at 6:39 pm

      Hi Barbara. Great questions! In most cases, Google tracks unique URLs, so the duplicate code should NOT result in duplicate hits on your page. That being the case, it should be safe to remove the code from your footer.

      • Barbara Weibel says:
        April 8, 2013 at 8:12 pm

        Thank you so much Kathryn!

        • Kathryn Aragon says:
          April 8, 2013 at 9:36 pm

          Your welcome, Barbara. 🙂

  27. donOld says:
    March 5, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    Last Dec, goDaddy cancelled Site Analytics, a web server stat tool. Site Analytics reported 800-1,000 page views per day. After switching to Google Analytics my page views have dropped to 80-100. Could 90% of my traffic really be from spiders?

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      March 5, 2013 at 2:11 pm

      If I’m correct the Site Analytics program was reporting activity from your server logs is that correct? If so, don’t forget that Google Analytics is a tag based solution that can only register data for visitors that can execute JavaScript and accept a cookie. So, your server log solution was actually more accurate in this way.

      • donOld says:
        March 8, 2013 at 2:31 am

        Thanks Russ. That’s right, Site Analytics was a sever-side app that processed my log files. I am now using GoDaddy’s free analytics program Analog 5.1 (also a server-side log app). In the last 7 days it reports page views to be 6,552. Google Analytics says I have had under 100 hits. All of my main pages are tagged properly at the end of the section as per Google’s instructions. I can’t fathom the discrepency, or how Google Analytics managed to get so popular.

        • Lasse Liukkonen says:
          May 9, 2013 at 2:42 am

          I also think that Google Analytics is missing A LOT of traffic to my website. I am considering If I should remove the whole thing from my pages as I trust and find more useful the logs on my cPanel. However, I am a bit worried if the removal of Google Analytics code would affect adversely in Google Search rankings..?

          Google Webmaster on the other hand is great!

          • T says:
            October 7, 2013 at 3:37 pm

            I’ll 3rd these GA accuracy concerns. I recently implemented GA on a small site as a test case and the data is significantly less than our long-running web server logging tool. Visits alone are off by 700% with GA compared to our server tool. The implementation is quite recent so perhaps it will take GA some time to catch up and stabilize, but if the current data patterns hold I will advise the client to ignore (and will not implement on other sites).

  28. Ankit says:
    February 5, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I also have observed that sometimes Google Analytics doesn’t give the right results. There is always a difference between the visits that are shown by c-pannel tracker and Google Analytics.
    I always thought that it was due to javascript issues, but you have given some other very good reasons for why this difference happens.

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      February 5, 2013 at 11:33 am

      Thanks Ankit!

  29. Brad Cumbers says:
    February 4, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    The important thing, and I try to make sure all of my clients are on the same page, is not to be looking at the raw hard numbers, but to look at the trends and % weightings over time. Use these to base your decisions on – not that you had 2 more visitors today than yesterday.

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      February 5, 2013 at 8:24 am

      Good point Brad. It’s much easier to see trends than to try to tease out any really hard numbers to go by.

    • Henrik Hil says:
      October 31, 2013 at 6:08 am

      The issue here is if you are using sampled data. Please notice that Google Analytices themself says: Sampling reports is relying on that asumption that your trafic patern is distributed identical all days and looking on small segments as conversion will be like findind a neel in the grass.
      I really dont understand big customres there use Google Analytics because the want to save $ 200 daily for the licens for Webtrends or SiteCatalyst. If you miss ONE conversion data you will miss an opportunity for optimization. Is that not $ 200 of value?

  30. Jacob Kildebogaard says:
    February 1, 2013 at 5:00 am


    Great list. As a danish Google Analytics consultant I needed a tool to check the code, so we have developed for this purpose.

    You can free use and scan your site. We check for code on all pages, same UA, same codeversion, and more and provide you with an excel file with all URLs. And all feedback are welcome.

    • Asmitha says:
      March 5, 2013 at 8:53 am

      Is there a limit to the number of pages that can be scanned with gatective?

      • Russ Henneberry says:
        March 5, 2013 at 9:46 am

        I’m not sure, you will need to check with them about that Asmitha.

      • Jacob Kildebogaard says:
        March 6, 2013 at 1:34 am

        Asmitha: We ( currently have a limit on 2.000 pages in the free scan, but we can help making much larger scan if needed. Just mail us, and we will find a solution 🙂

        • Asmitha says:
          March 6, 2013 at 3:30 am

          Thanks so much Jacob! I have mailed you 🙂

  31. Rose says:
    January 31, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you! Kind of. With your help, I realized that plugin overlap caused my GA code to be in there twice. So, I’ll find my TRUE bounce rate in a few days, I guess. I may need some ice cream. On the bright side, at least it was in the head (both times)!

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      January 31, 2013 at 5:04 pm

      Oh wow! Actually I have seen that twice before — now three times. Glad you caught it! 🙂

  32. Dan Coleman says:
    January 31, 2013 at 3:58 pm

    This is a great article. All to often people just assume that GA is working. It’s worth noting that the free version of screaming frog only allows you to check 500 URI’s and the paid option is £99 per year.

    It’s a great tool but if you just want to validate GA tagging you might be interested in the simple PHP crawler I’ve made specifically for this task. It’s a bit rough around the edges and will take you 10 minutes to set up the first time but it’s free and it does the job.

  33. Hannes says:
    January 31, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    Thanks for the post as it is always good to remember the issues of a tracking tool like GA. I have just a little remark regarding your point that In-Page Analytics can’t separate the number of clicks from different links that lead to the same location. With a little change in the tracking code and the admin settings, GA actually can do that. For more information:

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      January 31, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      Thanks for adding this Hannes — I updated the article. Thanks again!

  34. Aaron Bradley says:
    January 31, 2013 at 1:27 pm

    Thanks for this comprehensive look at inaccuracies in Google Analtyics, Russ!

    However, you are in error when you say In-Page Analytics is inaccurate because it “can’t separate the number of clicks from different links that lead to the same location.”

    Until recently that was the case. However, late in 2012 Google introduced “Enhanced Link Attribution” to address different links on the same page pointing to the same target URL (

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      January 31, 2013 at 2:58 pm

      Aaron– thanks a ton for pointing this out. I updated the article.

    • Rick Baker says:
      October 22, 2014 at 5:52 pm

      So I have a customer who is struggling with measuring brand impressions for her clients. Google’s data seems far too low based on what we can see at the server level. Are there solutions that do a better job of measuring this?

  35. Mukesh says:
    January 31, 2013 at 11:32 am

    Most of these issues or problems mentioned here are common to all analytics services (except web-server logs based tools). Also these problems are web issues in general as the same issues can be for other services / tools not just tracking. Are there alternatives that solve all these issues?

    • Russ Henneberry says:
      January 31, 2013 at 2:53 pm

      Totally agree Mukesh, thanks for mentioning this. Any tag based solution is going to have these same problems. You aren’t going to find a solution that doesn’t have error — we just need to learn to live with it and make it as accurate as possible.

      • Henrik Hil says:
        October 31, 2013 at 5:50 am

        Webtrends can track by 3. party cookie as well, can track by user agent tool to so you dont need java enabled. Cross domain tracking is by default therefore very easy.
        Next there is a plugin you can use that will transfer your 1. party cookie to another domain using a paramter in the url.

    • Henrik Hil says:
      October 31, 2013 at 5:46 am

      @ Nicole, Webtrends or SiteCatalyst do NOT sampel data.

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