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  • Writer's pictureGeorge Nenni

Your Google Analytics Reports are Wrong

Google Analytics (GA) can be a wonderful tool for measuring the quantity and quality of dealership website traffic. When properly configured, GA can help dealers measure every traffic source down to the campaign and keyword level as well as measure traffic quality and conversion metrics. However, for many dealers and agencies, the data they are reviewing in Google Analytics is incorrect since the proper setup and processes have not been implemented. If the inbound traffic is not properly tagged or goal tracking has not been properly configured, the data in Google Analytics will be wrong.

What does this mean, and why is the data wrong? There are many reasons, with most related to campaign tracking and goal creation. The bottom line is make sure your GA is properly configured so that the data can be trusted. Here are the some of the most compelling reasons to make sure GA is set up properly:

1. Direct Channel Traffic– For many dealers, the Direct channel is their largest or one of their largest sources of website traffic. What does Direct traffic mean? In the purest sense, it should be anytime a shopper types a dealer’s website address directly into the browser. However, this category always represents much more. Direct traffic is any source where Google cannot determine the traffic source, and simply sees click traffic “directly” to the website. This could include someone clicking on a website link from a text message or email where the URL is not tagged with source information. For most dealers, the Direct channel is dramatically overstated. The biggest contributor to this overstatement is email campaigns. Dealers or agencies are launching email campaigns with links to the dealer website where the links do not include UTM tagging. UTM tagging is a standard for adding web address suffixes that help GA properly categorize the traffic and allow the dealer to measure the performance of individual campaigns.

2. Other Channel Traffic– Somewhat related to the challenges caused by Direct traffic, the Other channel is created by a different problem. When an agency or dealer attempts to UTM tag their website traffic, but doesn’t quite get it right, the traffic flows into the Other channel. A dealer’s Other channel can contain Facebook, Display, Email, and other mis-tagged website traffic. Without proper tagging this traffic ends up in the “miscellaneous folder”, and the dealership will lack visibility into the performance of each campaign. With UTM tags, there are several elements, the most popular being Campaign Source, Name, and Medium. Of those three elements, the biggest cause of UTM tagging issues is mistakes made in the Medium choices. The reason is because the Medium is a reserved field that allows Google to properly categorize the traffic into the proper channel. Best practice is to only choose Mediums from the list of approved Mediums that will properly sort traffic into Google’s default channel groupings.

3. Organic Search Traffic is Understated– What is organic search traffic? Those are the clicks that come from Google, Bing, or other search traffic where the shopper clicks on a search result that is not from a paid listing. It is a dealer’s most natural source of traffic, and typically a dealer’s highest-quality source of traffic. So, why am I claiming that it is overstated? For all dealerships, the most common search term is their dealership’s name, and 100% of the time you search for a dealership’s name, the dealer’s Google My Business listing appears on the upper right side of the search results. However, when shoppers click on the website-link on the Google My Business listing, that traffic is counted in the Direct channel. Why is this? Who knows, but I would attribute it to a Google design flaw. This flaw can be easily remedied by the dealer UTM-tagging the website link on their Google My Business page. Once this link is UTM tagged, the traffic will then properly flow into the organic search channel.

4. Non-existent or Improper Goals– For many dealers, Goals are not in place for measuring website success or conversions. Google has automated “Smart Goals”, or sometimes agencies will set up other less-meaningful Goals for the dealership. For the dealership to truly measure success for their digital marketing campaigns, they need to set up Goals for meaningful conversions. Those conversions include email lead forms, chats, texts, click-to-calls, or phone calls. When I begin working with new dealers, this is one of their most consistent problems. They are either tracking the wrong Goals or have no Goals in place at all.

So, this article is not to discount the capability of Google Analytics; in fact it is quite the opposite. Google Analytics can be a very powerful tool, but it must be configured properly to deliver results that can help dealerships make the right decisions. Unless traffic is properly tagged and meaningful Goals are put into place, Google Analytics will deliver diluted results that will not be actionable for improving dealers’ digital marketing results.

If you are an automotive retailer or B2C business, I would love to help you better allocate your advertising funds, including analyzing your paid search and social media spending.  I can help you greatly improve your return on ad spend and gain more transparency with your digital marketing investments.

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