The Google Analytics team recognizes that data quality remains a big challenge for today’s analysts and marketeers. Discrepancies between data sources leads to declined trust in Google Analytics data and it undermines the credibility of analysts. Therefore, the Google Analytics team launched a new feature within Tag Assistant: session recordings. This helps you instantly validate Google Analytics implementations while browsing through a website. Generating error messages for possible data quality issues and even suggesting solutions.
During the Belgian Google analytics User Conference, we witnessed a demo of the tool by Ajay Nainani himself (part of the Google Analytics team). We must say that we were really impressed with what we saw. In just a few minutes, Ajay managed to locate AND fix a self-referral issue in the checkout funnel. In this tutorial we will walk you through how to install the Tag Assistant plugin and how to debug your own Analytics implementations.
Tag Assistant is a Chrome plugin developed by the Google Analytics team. This handy tool quickly checks if a Google Analytics tag (or any other Google tag, e.g. Trusted Stores, AdWords Conversion, etc.) is present on the page and if it is installed correctly. It mainly checked for things that could easily be retrieved from the page’s code (e.g. is the tag installed in the <head>section of the page). However, Tag Assistant does this in a user friendly manner which is welcomed by many less tech-savy Analytics users.
To install the plugin, open your Chrome browser and surf to the Chrome Web Store, search for theTag Assistant (by Google) plugin. Add the plugin to your browser. A new icon should show up right of your address bar.
Go to the website that you want to track, in our example we use the Humix website. Click on the Tag Assistant icon, this will open an overlay with an overview of the detected Google tags on the page.
Click on the Record button in the lower left corner of the Tag Assistant overlay. Your session recording starts now.
Go through the website, perform the actions that you want to test the measurement for. We tested the following page path: visit to the home page, click on the blog section, read a blog post and go to the contact section.
When you’re done, click on the Tag Assistant icon again and click “stop recording”. The Assistant shows a summary of the current recording. Click on “Show Full Report” to go to the reporting interface of Tag Assistant Recordings. In our case this included 4 pages (home, blog section, blog post, contact section) and 6 triggered tags.
The reporting interface of Tag Assistant Recordings has two main sections: Tag Assistant Report and Google Analytics Report. The first shows all the fired tags per page of the current recorded session. Similar to what you see in the overlay of Tag Assistant. The second report is the most interesting: the Google Analytics Report. This shows how the recorded data is processed by your current Google Analytics configuration.
When you click on the Google Analytics Report tab, you will be asked to select an Analytics view that you want to check the configuration for. Important to note that you need admin access to this view to be able to do this!
In the Google Analytics Report, check the Alerts-section. Here, anomalies and possible errors are highlighted. Click on a specific alert, and you’re automatically send to the page where this alert occurred.
In our test, the blog pages resulted in an alert stating that no hit was sent to Google Analytics from these pages. Indicating that tracking code might be missing on these pages. Or in our case, that something might be blocking the pageview tag from firing in Google Tag Manager for these specific pages.
We had indeed set up our Pageview tracking in Google Tag Manager to trigger on All Pages, except the Blog Pages. Off course, this was for the purpose of testing the Tag assistant. After deleting the exception for Blog Pages, we reran the session recording and the alerts were solved.
Another convenient feature within Tag Assistant Recordings is the possibility to review the current recording for an adapted Analytics configuration. If one of your alerts is due to a wrong configuration within Analytics (e.g. wrong goal set up) you can make changes to the configuration, press the “Update Report” button in the left column and the recording will be reviewed, taking the new configuration into account. So it is not necessary to go through the entire recording process again. Note that for changes within Google Tag Manager, like the example used in this tutorial, it’s not possible to use the update function.
We’re happy with this update of Tag assistant. The interface is user friendly and we’re sure the incorporated recording function will be very welcome to many analysts and developers. The fact that you can save and import recordings (as .har files) is also great. This enables testing by multiple people (on different devices and browsers), who can afterwards share their personal recordings with the analyst in charge of the implementation.
However, it is important to keep in mind that Google Tag Assistant works on every website, not only the ones that you have access to in Analytics. So, it is now easier than ever before to check, during a session, what kind of data a website is sending through to Analytics. Anyone can record his/her session and review which hits are being send to Google Analytics with what information. All of this was also possible before, but it required the necessary knowledge of code.
Jente De Ridder | 28 August 2015