In this case an image says it all:
Looks familiar? No? I certainly hope this wouldn't happen to you. What happened in all these 3 examples is the start of a well implemented Google Analytics account. Before that the site's owner thought he had a lot of visitors that did a lot of small visits. While the real situation showed him there where a lot less visits, that lasted longer and had more pageviews. But he sold his advertising based on the skewed numbers...
This happens very often on sites that have some technical issues that need to be addressed before they are measured the way they should be. I will show you a list of reports you
can must check yourself to see whether you need to start worrying
The hostnames report can be found in "Audience" -> "Technology" -> "Network" -> then choose "hostname" as primary dimension. What you will see is a table with all the hostnames (domains) where your Google Analytics tracking code was fired:
This looks normal, I see my own domain, my 2 CDN domains and 2 Google domains for Google Translate and the Google Cache. If someone translates your site with Google's translate service your site will be shown at a Google domain, and the Google Analytics tracking will fire from there. But if you see multiple domains that contain your site, like this:
Than you could be in trouble. In this screenshot you see 2 domains, it could be that your visitors switch between them during their visit. Or they will visit the second domain if they want to checkout. What will happen is that they have 2 sets of cookies, and that means they will be reported as 2 visits with 2 source/mediums, with half the time-on-site, etc. Revenue could be attributed to a wrong source so your campaigns look like they don't convert. Your numbers don't represent the truth.
If you see more domains containing your site, be sure you implemented tracking for multiple domains.
This report can be found under "Traffic Sources" -> "Sources" -> "Referrals". Use the filter field above this table to look for your own domains:
If you don't get the message "There is no data for this view." you know there is something wrong. It looks like you send traffic from your own domain to your own domain (could be the same). And in the meantime when people take this step their cookies are reset or they just got new ones. And that's wrong: Google Analytics won't see these visits as 1 visit anymore. Possible causes are you didn't implement the multiple domain tracking correct, or you implemented 2 different Google Analytics scripts on the site in a bad way.
3. Traffic sources + conversions
Next thing you want to check is the revenue attribution to the traffic sources. Take a look at the "Traffic Sources" -> "Sources" -> "All Traffic" report and set it on the "Ecommerce" tab. If all revenue is attributed like this:
Then you have a tracking problem. All revenue is attributed to "direct" or your own domain, that could be caused by a wrong implemented tracking code or multiple domains.
Just as the previous report it's a good habit to check your browser report. On rare occasions your conversion process doesn't work on all browsers. Just check if the conversion percentage and revenue are normal for all of them.
5. Landingpages + bouncerates
Last report you definitely have to check is your landingpage report: "Content" -> "Site Content" -> "Landing Pages". Signals of a wrong implemented tracking code are wrong bouncerates:
If a page his bouncerate is 99% or higher it looks like the tracking on this page is wrong and people that click to a next page are seen as if it's their next visit. If the bouncerate is below 1% it could be that the same tracking code is fired twice on that page. Both signals can point at a tracking problem, at least, let's hope it's a tracking problem, otherwise you have more serious issues with your site
Special offer: Tracking Error Dashboard
I created a Google Analytics dashboard that shows all the reports in mentioned in this article. Put it in your Google Analytics account and see if your tracking looks right.
Attention: I used some filters in the widgets with my own domain name: change it to your own. Also change the "Goal conversion rate" to a specific goal or the "Ecommerce conversion rate" is that's more appropriate.
Share your errors in the comments, found something disturbing?