The first half of this post has a quick look at some of the standard methods your conversions could go wrong with.
The second half in this post – Everything after "Filtering Conversions with Tag Manager" is an advanced method of intelligently filtering conversions using Tag Manager and cookies.
If you are sure that you have already covered your basics, you can just move on to the advanced section. I just think it's important to go through a few basic things before moving into more complex solutions.
Avoid false conversions
Aside from not recording important data, one of the best ways to screw up your analysis is to record the wrong thing and link it to all of the times when you recorded the right thing.
For example, counting conversions when they don't can impact automated ad bidding, channel appreciation, or even your business's performance. In this post, this issue is referred to as "incorrect conversions".
There are a variety of ways you can track conversions in Google Analytics and a variety of ways to screw it up. This post will focus on some of the top ways you can mess up conversions based on users filling out a form and then landing on a thank you page.
- Some useful tools
- Checking Things – How Might Users Accidentally Convert?
- How to protect goal-based goals from false conversions
- An ideal event-based goal approach
- How to protect event-based goals from false conversions
The following tools will help you with some of the reviews in this post.
Google Tag Manager preview
Google Tag Manager has a new preview that shows you what happens on a number of pages over time.
Adswerve dataLayer Inspector
This plugin summarizes the DataLayer information in the Chrome Console.
Analytics Tracking Monitor Plugin
I found this plugin very useful for checking what information is being sent to GA. A nice feature is to prevent hits from actually being sent to GA while recording what is about to be sent.
The Chrome Tag Assistant plugin shows you which Tag Manager tags are on the page. If you click to record the session, you will also get a breakdown of all the events on each page. That said, I don't rely on the records that much when I have Tag Manager access as there is a lot of useful information between the new GTM preview and the Tracking Monitor plugin.
I created a free Tag Mapper tool to make it easier to see the impact changes in Tag Manager can have. If you plan to change something in your GTM account, you can see what else could be affected. If you've noticed that something is broken, this can help you find the root cause.
To check things out
It can be tempting to jump straight to an overall solution. However, if you are recording conversions when you shouldn't, it could be because your website visitors are doing things they shouldn't.
Let's start with a quick rundown of the checks you should be doing to make sure the numbers don't look right by just ignoring issues on your website.
1. Do you only track conversions on thank you pages?
Check out the Reverse Goal Path report in Google Analytics to see if you are recording conversions on pages that shouldn't be you (e.g. every page on your website or something).
Conversions> Goals> Reverse Goal Path.
The first column on the left should show you where your goal conversions are taking place, unless you're doing something unusual. If you have a bunch of pages in this column that you weren't expecting, you'll need to change your conversion criteria.
Note that if you are tracking conversions based on events rather than pageviews and the wrong page is displayed in this left column, make sure that your conversion event is always triggered after your pageview.
2. Besides filling out forms, do you link to conversion pages in any other way?
If you're using goals based on a user loading a specific page (like a thank you page) and you know you only record conversions on thank you pages, you can also screw things up by accidentally linking to these thank you pages. If a user can click the wrong link and get to a conversion page, you need to fix it.
One way to check this is to crawl the website with a tool like Screaming Frog and see that your conversion pages are showing. If they show up at all, you know this is likely a problem. To find out how to fix the problem, you can select the relevant pages and see a list of the links to those links in the Inlinks section.
3. Do users land directly on thank you pages?
A quick way to verify that users are landing on your thank you pages is by using segments. If you create a segment where the landing page is your thank you page, you can get an idea of the number of times Google Analytics thinks people land on your conversion page.
Below is a screenshot of the segment interface. I chose to include any session where the first interaction was a user landing on a thank you landing page. As you can see, this was the case for 339 sessions on this website:
Once you see how often users land on your thank you pages, you can identify the sources that those users came from to the website.
In the following I have assigned a segment "Countries on thank you page" to the source / medium report. It looks like we're getting a number of face-to-face sessions, but also some CPC sessions and organic sessions elsewhere:
Please note that this is based on the assessment of Google Analytics. This doesn't necessarily mean that users will land directly on these pages from ads. In this example, we know this isn't always the case, and sometimes it's a symptom of our tracking code being corrupted or confused in other ways. Even so, there are a few things we should investigate.
- Do we have ads or other activities that link directly to conversion pages?
- Are our conversion pages indexed in Google?
- Do we have a page in the middle of our conversion flow that is not being tracked?
- Is our tracking code broken or are local users doing things that would confuse GA?
3.1 Do you have ads or other activities that link directly to conversion pages?
I won't be able to walk you through all of this, but all advertising platforms should allow you to check active landing pages. It's also important to make sure you don't have affiliates linking directly to conversion pages – either accidentally or maliciously – as you may be paying them a lot more than they make.
It can be more difficult to review unpaid links like social media activity. Still, it's worth spending the time checking this out. If you find yourself linking to these conversion pages by mistake, you can work with relevant teams to set guidelines for doing so in the future.
3.2 Are your conversion pages indexed in Google?
Google can be a common cause of problems with conversion pages. It's a starved crawler. It follows links inside and outside your website. If there is a machine-crawlable link to your thank you page, it will likely be found.
A quick way to see if Google has saved your thank you pages (and may send users directly to them) is to search for the pages in Google.
"Site:" will only filter Google results on pages on your site. Using "inurl:" filters the results only on pages that contain a specific string.
Below is an example of a review we did for one of our customers. We noticed that the index has a lot of thank you pages (over 600). Some of these pages were fine, but they highlighted some conversion pages that we needed to look at:
3.3 Is your tracking code broken or doing things onsite that would confuse GA?
We don't have time to go through all of the things that could go wrong here. Some things to check are:
- Are you missing the tracking code on some pages? You may not be able to record the user before they land on the thank you page.
- Do you have different versions of Google Analytics on different pages? This, in turn, can lead to confused or split meetings.
- Do you insert UTM parameters in internal links? Any website crawler should help you find this.
- Did you set the wrong time zone in GA? Sessions cannot exceed "midnight". If so, GA will split them into two separate sessions.
- Are you adding important information to the thank you page that could result in users bookmarking the page, or are you trying to come back to it later? One solution is to include next to nothing visitor-specific on the thank you page and reassure them that you are emailing them details. It's worth testing this out to make sure it doesn't compromise visitor confidence.
- Do you have forms that take more than half an hour to fill out and that have not recorded any interactions in the meantime? You can avoid this by splitting the form into different pages and tracking when visitors fill out a form field or encounter errors. Aside from what we're looking at in this post, all of these things should help you make your forms more user-friendly.
Once you have them all enabled, you can start looking for ways to better filter your conversion data.
How to protect goal-based goals from false conversions
If you've set your goal type to "Goal" in Google Analytics, it means that every time GA records a pageview for a particular page, it counts as a conversion.
You can choose to require users to visit other pages using a funnel first to achieve your goals. When you edit the goal and turn on Funnels, you can specify the steps that will lead to the goal. This means that you can ensure that you are not recording target conversions when users land directly on your thank you pages.
You can also use it to separate different types of target conversions. For example, if you use the same thank you page for multiple forms, you can have one goal where the funnel is going through one page of the form and another goal is going through another page.
This works if you:
- Have a smaller (and fairly static) number of different goals.
- There are a small (and fairly static) number of ways that users can legitimately achieve any goal.
However, funnel steps don't allow regular expressions, so they're not very flexible. You can also Only use funnels with goal-type goals. So funnels do not help if:
- Your goals are event based.
- There are many ways that users can achieve a goal.
- You have multiple teams managing the website and it doesn't make sense to keep track of all the ways users can achieve a goal.
You should be aware that if you have any form issues like internal UTMs or session timeouts, these form funnels could mean that you will no longer be recording some of the conversions you have converted should Be. Seriously, make sure these issues are resolved.
The ideal approach: event-based goals
The ideal approach is to use event-based conversions instead of goal-based ones. You'll work with your developers so that when you fill out the form, you're telling GA that an event has occurred, rather than waiting for GA to see a page on a thank you page. GA then records each instance of this event as a target conversion.
Below are the criteria for an event-based target conversion, in case you haven't seen it before and are having trouble imagining how it's set up. It records a conversion for this goal every time GA receives a "Thank_you_page" event:
The reason for this is that you only record a conversion when the user actually does what you want them to do. Most pageview-based conversion goals are just trying to guess what the user did. Because of this, problems arise with goal-based goals, e.g. For example, if users land directly on your thank you page without filling out the form they are supposed to fill out.
You might think that leaving this "ideal" solution in the mail this "ideal" solution is a bit strange, but I do this because it is often not the easiest solution. It can take most of the work on the developer side, and you could be using something built into your CMS that your development team has to work on, or worse, you could be working with an outside forms solution that they have to hack into.
I am addressing this solution these If you haven't already, you need to convince someone to do so. Your first question might be "Have you considered other options?" Having this conversation, you can say:
- We made sure that conversions are only recorded on the correct pages.
- We have made sure that users are not visiting these pages in a way that we can prevent.
- We made sure there weren't any other problems tracking the website.
- Our conversion data is polluted in a way that we cannot prevent as we have to rely on thank you page views.
- We cannot filter out these conversions with Google Analytics.
- The best way to make sure our data is correct is by using events. The most accurate events to use occur only when the user is doing exactly what we want.
- If you can help me I will be your best friend.
An alternative to Google Analytics funnels
The event-based solution described above may turn out to be impossible. Life has its frustrations, we soldiers go on.
An alternative is to switch to event-based conversions whatever and use Tag Manager to do everything yourself. With the Tag Manager and Cookies, you can create a more flexible version of the GA funnel to send conversion events only when users land on a thank you page visited a qualifying page. How does this work? In summary:
- When a user visits one of your qualifying pages, please enter one cookie in your browser.
- When the user loads a thank you page, look for the cookieIf there is one, send a conversion event to Google Analytics. If not, don't do it.
- Then delete the cookie.
That's you habit Make note of the following incorrect conversions:
- Users land directly on thank you pages.
- Users who accidentally click thank you pages when they haven't visited the appropriate form.
- Users who leave the Thanks tab open or bookmark it and click it again later when their GA session ends.
The following section deals with specific Tag Manager terminology (the most confusing thing is that a "Custom Event" and a "Google Analytics Event" are two completely different things).
Knowing some terms
I've color coded the Tag Manager terminology blue and all Google Analytics terminology in orangeHowever, if you get lost, you may want to read around or speak to a knowledgeable colleague or advisor.
event: Something we send to Google Analytics to record a specific action.
Custom event: Something that happens on the website that we can use as part of the criteria for a tag manager trigger.
Trigger: A set of conditions that we set in Tag Manager. If these conditions are all met at the same time, the trigger will be Fire and normally activates a label.
label: Something in the Tag Manager that works something. That sounds vague because it can be almost anything you send from you event to Google Analytics to completely rewrite the page.
variable: Information in the Tag Manager that we can easily refer to triggers, Keywords, or others variables.
Data layer: Structured information on the page that makes it easier to pass information to the tag manager.
How to filter conversions with the Tag Manager
1. Make sure that Google Tag Manager is installed on your website
It has to be on each side. Google has released a Tag Manager Quick Start Guide if you need more guidance.
When switching from the standard GA code to the Tag Manager, make sure you don't include both GA and Tag Manager or you will count twice.
2. Notify Tag Manager each time a thank you page loads
We'll assume that your thank you pages are all the same type of page, so you can reasonably tell your development team, "Please make this change to all of our thank you pages." Ask them to add something like the following script.
If you need to test this process out before engaging the developers, you can try adding the code yourself by pasting it into the console using Chrome DevTools.
When the page loads, this script adds information about the Data layer. The Tag Manager recognizes the change and you can use it as one of the conditions for a trigger. In this case the tag manager would recognize a Custom event is called conversion when this data is added. We'll come back to that.
3. Notify Tag Manager each time a qualifying page loads
We also assume that there are some similarities between your qualified pages. For one, they all likely have a form. You can coordinate with your development team to automatically add / activate a script every time one of these forms is added.
In this case, a is displayed Custom event Called qualification. You can test this again by pasting it directly into the console.
4. Set a cookie when a user lands on a qualifying page
You use your "qualifying". Custom event as criteria for a trigger. Below is a screenshot of the trigger setup:
5. Get the cookie value
Use a day manager variable to ensure that you recognize the value of the cookie, which shows you the current value of your "qualified" cookie each time you check it.
6. Determine whether you should filter the conversion
In step two, you created one dataLayer event This will occur on all of your final conversion pages.
Now create one trigger what fires at your "conversion" event.
Then create one label what is activated by it triggerand creates another Custom event.
Below is the custom HTML code to add. It will check that your qualifying cookie is set to "true". This indicates that the user has already visited a qualifying page in that session. If it's true, create another Custom event called "create_filtered_conversion". If it's wrong, you don't. In any case, delete the cookie by specifying that the expiry time is far in the past.
7. Send event to GA
First, create one trigger that is waiting for the "convert_confirmed" event.
Then create one label, activated by the trigger above that sends the relevant event according to GA. The specifics of the event Sent to GA can be anything you want. All you have to do is make sure they meet your GA criteria goal in GA.
If youIf you
8. Don't turn off your old conversions right away
One nice thing about this is that you can run it along with your existing conversion tracking to see how often conversions are being filtered out. Let your old conversion setup run for a while (how long depends on how often you get conversions).
Look at the two numbers and see if you are filtering out a lot of conversions. This check will help you identify errors in the old or new setup.
Let me know what you think
Google Analytics will never be a perfect record of everything on your website. However, these reviews and processes should help you weed out some of the possibilities that can mislead you.
What do you think? What BA improvements do you think people have been missing? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @ robinlord8.