How to Avoid False Conversions in Google Analytics
Don’t let false conversions lead you astray.
As an affiliate marketer, conversions are arguably the most important metric you can track. That’s because affiliate marketers are typically paid per conversion. The definition of a conversion depends on the advertiser – you could be paid per click, sale or lead. Regardless of the type of conversion you generate, you will want your Google Analytics account to report only those that are real.
Many affiliates use Google Analytics to track the performance of campaigns. False conversions reported in GA can cause you to make poor campaign decisions and influence your automated ad bidding, channel investment and health of your business. If you suspect your Google Analytics is overreporting wins, follow the steps below to prevent counting false conversions.
To make sure you are recording conversions correctly, you will need to investigate your website. Here is a checklist you can use.
- Which pages of your website are recording conversions?
If the answer is any page other than your thank-you pages, you have a problem. Your thank-you page is triggered once someone has performed a desired action like making a purchase or completing a form.
Use the Reverse Goal Path Report in Google Analytics to check which pages are recording conversions. To get there, log into your Google Analytics account. Next, click on conversions from the menu, then goals and reverse goal path.
In the report, the first column will display where your goal conversions are happening. If you are tracking events instead of page views, make sure your conversion event is set up to fire after the page view.
- Are you linking to thank-you pages?
Another way to mess up your conversion tracking is to accidentally link to your thank-you pages instead of a landing page. If you are tracking conversions based on a page loading, then Google Analytics will record a conversion every time someone loads the thank-you page whether they got there after completing an action or simply clicking on the direct link.
To check if this is your issue, use a tool like Screaming Frog. There is a free version you can download online. The tool will crawl your site and deliver a report. Check the report to see if your conversion pages show up. If they do, visit the page and replace the link with the correct one.
- Are visitors going straight to your thank-you pages?
Use segments in Google Analytics to determine if users are landing directly on your thank-you pages. You will want to create a segment that tracks any session where the first interaction was on the thank-you page. Next, you will want to identify which sources are bringing those visitors to your site. You will use a source/medium report in Google Analytics for that. Once you know the sources, you can begin to investigate what is causing the issue. Some questions to ask are:
- Is your tracking code broken?
- Is there a page in the conversion order that isn’t being tracked?
- Did a thank-you page get indexed by Google?
- Do you have any ads pointing directly to a thank-you page?
If the answer is yes to any of those questions, you will want to fix the issues immediately. Pause any ads with the wrong URL or update them. If Google has indexed your thank-you page, place the NOINDEX meta tag on each page you want removed. You can also log into your Google Search Console account and remove a page from the index.
If the issue is your tracking code, there are a few things to check:
- Are you missing tracking code on some of your website pages?
- Do you have different versions of Google Analytics on different pages? This can happen if you have multiple websites you manage.
- Have you set the wrong time zone in GA?
- Do you have useful information on your thank-you page? Users could be bookmarking it to come back to it later. To fix this, simplify your thank-you pages.
The above issues are just a few reasons why your Google Analytics account could be tracking false conversions. Review your account regularly to catch any irregular reporting or spikes in conversions. If you suspect your account may be tracking the wrong metrics, follow the steps above to address the issue and prevent inaccurate data from impacting your affiliate campaigns.