Resolving Google Analytics reporting issues

head-against-brick-wallThere’s been an increase in issues with Google Analytics reporting ever since the Display Advertiser support feature was introduced. The first place that I look when Google Analytics reporting stops working is the tracker code. Debugging tools are commonly used to identify and solve these tracker code errors but since the solution is dependent on the mechanics of Google Analytics, I wanted to first discuss how the Google Analytics tracker works.

How does Google Analytics work?

The Google Analytics tracking code is composed of a JavaScript file, which is embedded into a page. Once embedded, this JavaScript file (aka, the ga.js or dc.js file) is executed when the visitor browser requests the page. As part of the execution, the JavaScript file requests a single-pixel image file called the __utm.gif, which is responsible for transmitting key parameters to Google Analytics, like the browser size, image depth, etc. Additionally, information on the visitor session and ad campaign is stored in a cookie and transmitted via the image file whenever it is available. Google Analytics processed the parameter data and displays it within 24 hours of being collected.

So why is my Google Analytics reporting not working?

In most cases, reporting is not working because of a malfunctioning tracker. There are several debugging tools that can be used to investigate this issue but my favorite is Tracking Code Debugger, an extension by Google for the Chrome browser.

Assuming that Google Analytics is already reporting some activity (if not, then read how to verify your web tracker setup), the next step is to install the debugger tool. Once installed, you’ll need to follow these two steps:

1. Click on the debugger icon to turn it on (the red “ON” will be displayed).

tracking-debugger-on-state

2. Next, select View > Developer > JavaScript Console (or Open Apple + Option + J).

enable-javascript-console

NOTE: Make sure that the console filters are set to ALL.

If everything is working correctly, then you’ll see the following for your site (below is the output for my blog):

google-analytics-debugger-data

From the above, the tool is reporting that I’ve got a single tracker running on my site. Also, the campaign source is currently set to Facebook. The most common situation is one where there’s more than one tracker on the page. If that was happening, the above information would repeat. In that event, you’ll need to remove one of the trackers.

What techniques/tools have you used to resolve reporting issues?

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