It is well known that you have to be super careful when making decisions based on web analytics. It is so easy to make web analytics mistakes. Common mistakes such as not having analytics code installed properly are well known. 14 years of analyzing websites has exposed us to many of the possible mistakes.
In order to avoid problems the most important thing is to use common sense. If something doesn’t make sense, start digging to find the problem. If you dig deep enough you will most likely find the problem. Of course, in many cases there is no problem and there really is something curious happening on your website. But you still have to make sure the data is true.
I was recently reviewing one of our clients’ web sites and saw a big rise in people who sent in forms. We have a goal which is set to measure all pages that have the word thank in the URL to do this. Our webmaster knows that the thank you pages for contests or sweepstakes do not have the word thank in the URL so they won’t be counted as Conversions.
I was happy to see the rise in conversions but I was skeptical and started digging. Sure enough, I found that the thank you page for a sweepstakes had the work thanksgiving in it because it was a thanksgiving sweepstakes. Since the word thank is in thanksgiving, Google Analytics picked this up as a goal completion.
To avoid this problem in the future we sent out instructions that the word Thanksgiving should not be excluded when setting up Goals. There are always potential pitfalls when analyzing websites so keep your wits about you when analyzing and don’t take anything at face value.