Is Google Analytics your main source of insight into your website or store? Or even your sole source of insight? For many merchants and website owners, Google Analytics is the only analytics platform they use, which makes running it with proper data a critical step that is unfortunately often overlooked.
As with other analytics tools, there are drawbacks with Google Analytics 4, but for most, the GA4 features are more than enough to get valuable insights in their business performance. The problem is just that the features requires data to run, and gaps in the data collection, or incomplete data will prevent the features from running properly.
What good is sales and revenue reports if not all revenue is reported? And what about refunds, returns and cancelled orders? The default setup of a Google Analytics account reports only on web analytics metrics like visitors, pages viewed and bounce rate. While these are great insights and important in order to improve the site, they do not provide much insight into ones business.
To remedy this, it is possible to track e-commerce events in Google Analytics and get e-commerce specific reports. Many merchants also feed Google Analytics conversions to Google Ads for better marketing results. But the commonly available integrations with Google Analytics, for example by Shopify, does not cater for sending all data to Google Analytics 4. Rather it is a setup much more geared towards providing the baseline required for analytics.
What most websites Google Analytics data collection lacks
There are two main concerns when users collect data for Google Analytics. Either the data is incomplete, or the data does not hold all the features needed to properly represent a store or website in Google Analytics. This makes it hard to trust the data in the reports.
One reason that it is hard to compare analytics reports between, for example, Shopify and Google Analytics is that data often go missing on the way from Shopify to Google Analytics 4. It's been reported that up to 15% of the data never arrives in Google Analytics, causing incorrect reporting and in worst case decision making based on incorrect data.
The implications of missing data depends on what data is missing of course. And data collection will never reach 100% accuracy and completeness, but we can get very close. Missing just 5% of conversion will have a profound impact on your marketing attribution and thereby decisions on marketing spend. But missing 5% of page views, might not have the same substantial impact, although it will still present misleading analytics.
Incomplete data collection
Incomplete data may not be an issue for the most basic reports in Google Analytics, but as the saying go, you can't improve what you don't measure. And since the purpose of an analytics platform is to gain insights from which you can improve your business, the more complete data you feed, the more can be measured and improved.
Are you sending complete data to Google Analytics? Do you include refunds and cancelled orders? Even added and removed items from cart events are often missing from the standard Google Analytics integrations. These are data points that directly impact revenue reports, attribution reports, funnels and much more. Without them, reporting in Google analytics for e-commerce is incomplete and misleading.
Fill the gaps and collect all the data you need
In almost all cases, Google Analytics collects data from user behavior on a web page. This means that the user takes some action that is registered and sent to Google Analytics servers. Data collected is then processed and aggregated from user level to some less granular level for reporting, e.g. aggregated per day. If an event fails to be collected or sent from the web page to the Google Analytics servers, it goes missing and cannot be retrieved again. To prevent this from happening we can introduce fail safes. Or in this case, introduce server-side tracking in addition to the Google Analytics client tracking code.
Server side tracking
To send ensure important data points are sent to Google Analytics, we use server side communication to send data such as conversions, refund and cancelled orders. This way we can ensure conversions are properly tracked even if the website or online store fails to send the data via the browser.
Engage automatically checks incoming purchase events against what's been sent to Google Analytics, and if the purchase is missing, Engage will supply it server side. This way there is no need for manual controls and data imports to keep conversions data in Google Analytics up to date.
Refunds and cancelled orders
Refunds and cancelled orders are hard to track using the standard Google Analytics integration, but since platforms like Shopify send server-side events, we can track them and patch them through to Google Analytics.
Go beyond Google Analytics
One the many benefits with running Google Analytics through Engage is that users get a lot of other useful perks. For example, you may use Engage to send the same level of high quality data to other marketing tools.
Google Ads Enhanced Conversions
It is common to link your Google Analytics account to your Google Ads account to pass conversion data between the two. But Engage can track and send conversion data directly to Google Ads if you run a standalone setup or just have the two separated.
The Meta Conversion API
Use Engage to send your conversions server side to Facebook / Meta just like you send them to Google. Unfortunately, refunds and cancelled orders cannot be sent to Facebook using the conversion API as of now.
Own your data collection
The way Google analytics collect data from your website traffic leaves you without ownership of your valuable asset. By sending the data directly to Google Analytics you are practically giving it away and you can't use it for any other purpose. And as soon as the event data retention period expires, the data is practically lost for you.
Engage keeps event level data stored for you so it can be used elsewhere inside Engage or with third party integrations. You may even build your own data warehouse and gain full control of all your data.
Do not settle for poor data in Google Analytics. It will fuel dissatisfaction with the tool and mistrust in the reports. Worst of all, it may fool you into making decisions based on incorrect information. With relatively small means, like installing an app, you can improve the data in your reports and the overall information available to you.
Start to build your data assets for long term use and maintain ownership of your data to use it in whatever way you need or want to. It does not require any extra effort, just setup Google Analytics using Engage and you get the added benefits out-of-the-box. And when you're ready to use them, they will be right there waiting for you.