You have done the work to create a good analytics setup – but could you still be missing some data in Analytics? Conversions, for example, measured by your other systems like Google Ads show discrepancies to Analytics. And worse: Some of this missing traffic may not even be known about by the account holder or even be possible to detect. These problems occur often, so we will explain the likely causes in this blog post.
Browsers Block Tracking
There are internet browsers that block some or all tracking by default. Website visitors who use these browsers would have to activate tracking manually in order to be included in Analytics. Those browsers include Firefox and Safari. Apple is protecting users from “cross-site tracking”, in which users can be identified again and again when they visit websites on which a corresponding third party cookie is integrated. The new Edge browser from Microsoft contains a new Tracking Prevention feature that blocks third party trackers and, at the Strict setting, also many ads.
According to Statista, around 10% of all users used Firefox as their standard browser in September 2019, around 7% Safari and 5% used Edge, hence, deviations of around 22% are realistic in Analytics.
Changes to Your Website
You have made changes to your website and now tracking no longer works? The errors here can be as specific as an HTML element that has been changed or removed. The classic example is: After a relaunch, the tracking codes were not migrated across. Therefore, it is best to test and debug tracking implementations before going live with the new website.
Cookies are Denied
Especially in Europe: Here, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires that consent for cookies be given for most cookies to be used. Cookies, which are absolutely necessary for the operation of the website, do not require any active consent of the user – the user just has to be informed. On the other hand, the user can decide whether or not to allow marketing, targeting as well as performance cookies (e.g. Google Analytics) to be used.
We assume that about 50% of the installed advertising blockers do or can block Google Analytics. Since the use of advertising blockers lies around 15-20%, depending on the region, your data collected in Analytics could deviate as much as 10% from the real result.
Tracking Code Implementation Errors
In outdated recommendations for the correct installation of the Google Analytics tracking code, it is often recommended to implement the tracker at the end of the source code to increase the page load speed. However, we now know that due to the late execution of the tracking code some user transactions are not captured at all by Analytics. The reason is that users may have left the page before it was fully executed. Therefore, we recommend the asynchronous tracking code from Google: One part of the code goes into the head, the rest into the body. Overall, it is estimated that switching from the old tracker to the new asynchronous code resulted in “data improvements” of 5 to 20%.
Dark traffic is not a problem of missing data but rather of misinterpreted data. How does this happen? Suppose your colleague sends you a link via mail: If you follow this link, Google Analytics evaluates the site access as direct traffic.
You will never be able to fully identify the proportion of dark traffic, but by using UTM parameters, creating a direct traffic segment report in Google Analytics, and optimizing untagged campaigns in your social media, you will have a much better understanding of where your traffic comes from.