Troubleshooting Tools for Web Analytics
I recently read an article by a friend of mine Neil Mason, called – Tackling the basics of web analytics: Getting the right numbers right . To summarize, Neil discusses how difficult it can be to install even the most simplest of tracking tags (data collector beacons) across an enterprise web site. That is, a site that is large (thousands if not hundreds of thousands of pages of content), uses multiple technologies and has multiple stakeholders – often in different countries and sometimes different companies.
However, this fundamental step of getting the data in using page tags, is the key to everything else i.e. getting good, solid, accurate data in*. There simply is no point investing in analysis if the data is flawed. After all, garbage in = garbage out. And of course the web is ever changing, so maintaining data integrity is also key. Page tagging is therefore not a one time, "set it and forget it" process. It requires careful deployment planning and regular maintenance checks to ensure data holes are not appearing.
*I discuss this specifically for Google Analytics in a series of articles .
Six tools to help you troubleshoot web analytics
As page tag deployment is so important, I wanted to share which tools I use for troubleshooting implementations on a day to day basis. These are all free(ish) to use and are not specific to Google Analytics – they can help you sanity check any web analytics implementation that uses page tags.
Web Analytics Solution Profile (WASP) is a Firefox add-on developed by Stéphane Hamel based in Québec. I highly recommend this to anyone that needs to quickly check what web analytics tracking code is present on their pages. When I first tried this out it was able to track 20+ vendor page tags. Now its up to 121 and includes all the web analytics tools I ever knew of, plus Ad networks, behavioural targeting solutions and multivariate testing tools.
WASP works by executing the page tag detecting the cookies your browser sets when you view a web page. It then matches this to a known list of providers. The downside was that it could only be done on a per page basis. However, now even this have been overcome with the latest release including a site crawl that automates the process by following links within your web site. WASP is free for scanning 10 web sites upto 100 pages each (free to look at any web site on a per page basis).
- Web Developer toolkit
This is a firefox add-on that adds a menu bar to your browser with a whole range of useful features for anyone that has an interest in creating web pages. It has an excellent browser error console and DOM inspector, as well as quick lookup tools for cookies, source code etc. With over 8 million downloads, it is one of the most popular add-ons ever and is free.
- SiteScan GA
This is a Google Analytics service developed by EpikOne from the US. It is used for checking the existence of the Google Analytics Tracking Code (GATC) on your pages. The methodology is to first establish what web site pages you have in the Google Index (via a Google Search API call). Then it retrieves these URLs and performs a pattern match on the HTML source code looking for the GATC "signature" code. Its a very neat way of avoiding the overhead of crawling your web site (fraught with traps that can result in an infinite loop that can bring servers down!) and it is free for 5 web sites, upto 1,000 pages.The slight downside is that if your pages are not in the Google Index, then it cannot scan your pages. This includes e-commerce checkout systems.