26 Mar Fixing Self-referrals in Google Analytics
From daily dealings with new client websites, the most common indicator that we see when Web Analytics programs (Google Analytics, Omniture, etc.) are not installed correctly are when we find self-referrals in reports. What this means is that, when viewing the ‘Referrals’ reports in any of these reporting suites, we’ll commonly see that the client’s website appears as a referrer of itself. For example, a new clients website might be www.newclientwebsite.com and when looking at a referral report, we’ll see that www.newclientwebsite.com appears on the list of websites which refer traffic. There can be a few things that cause this.
Self-referrals in Google Analytics
Missing Tracking Code
Most commonly, self-referrals are a result of your tracking not being installed on every page of your website. For example, if you forgot to add tracking code to an interior page of your website, users who visit that page and then return to another page (which does have the tracking code installed) will trigger your Web Analytics software to think that there has been another referral by your own website. In these cases, simply adding the tracking code to missing pages will correct the issue. SiteScan is a useful took which will help you easily determine which pages on your website are missing or have incorrectly installed Google Analytics tracking codes.
Cross domain tracking
Another common cause of self-referrals is when your website utilizes multiple domains. For example, many eCommerce website utilize 3rd party booking engines which often exist on other domains. In these cases, your visitors are double-tracked when the click through to your shopping (or 3rd party domain name). Setting up cross domain tracking is fairly straight-froward and is outlined by google here. Fixing this type of issue is really important as a vast majority of all your sales will be incorrectly tracked, leaving you without any data on which campaigns, traffic sources, etc lead to sales on your website.
Getting your Tracking In Order
Unfortunately for many businesses, Web Analytics are usually treated as an after-thought with little real concern. Businesses who take this approach miss out on the most valuable marketing tool of all, one that allows them to measure the results of their marketing campaigns. Getting your tracking in order should be treated as a priority and a necessity. Once accurate tracking is in place, Web Analytics reporting will empower you to make decisions based on real numbers, as opposed to guesses.