3 Common Digital Marketing Analytics Pitfalls to Avoid

July 11, 2019

There’s an interesting paradox in the digital marketing and analytics landscape.

On one hand there’s a need to measure, test, and benchmark everything. On the other, it seems that the analytics are underused, underinvested, or simply stuck at a basic level. 

Digital marketing analytics

Data analytics for digital marketing is booming. In fact, over 70 million websites are using analytics tools. Google Analytics alone covers 40% of that. 

analytics usage graph

Image courtesy of BuiltWith

And that’s just the websites. Everything else is tracked as well: social media engagement, open rates, clicks, impressions and whatnot.

Now there are various digital marketing analytics software tools providing different insights, data and covering various markets. 

Find the best Marketing Analytics Software. Explore Now, Free →

Such an abundance of tools and solutions stems from the long-term emphasis that nowadays in marketing we can track and measure everything. Let's look at the following example in G2’s Digital Analytics Market grid:

 G2 Grid for Digital Analytics Software

For the first time, with digital and analytics in the mix, marketers and businesses could see where every cent of invested dollars went. But in the same time, it seems that the standard in digital marketing analytics did not evolve or haven’t been adopted much beyond basic metrics.

Events, conversions, funnels, attribution models are examples of untapped sources of insights for many. This article aims to explore the importance of digital marketing analytics through some common and easy to avoid pitfalls. 

Are digital marketing analytics important?

In short, they are. Having an ability to understand user engagement and pinpoint user acquisition from every strategy, tactic and investment is paramount for success.

For the first time in marketing history, digital marketers can help John Wanamaker to understand which half of the money is spent on advertising.

john wanamaker

And it’s not a small feat.

Today we can put an ROI on every lead, every prospect, and every sale that happens. We can easily identify sources where these leads came from and what did they do once they landed on our properties, though that power carries responsibility. 

Marketing today is not seen solely as a spend, but as an investment.

For instance, digital marketing will get bigger budgets. But the ability to show ROI is also crucial in this process. And there’s no other way to show ROI than engaging with analytics. Analytics can help discover missed opportunities, churn issues, and understand user engagement.

Digital marketing analytics pitfalls to avoid

It is a curious thing, that in this heightened importance of digital marketing analytics that they seem still stuck in the basics and often fail spectacularly.

The CMO Survey hints on the paradox as well: a boom in marketing analytics investment, but weak impact on business. 

cmo survey graphic 1

Graph courtesy of The CMO Survey 2019

Although there’s a clear increase of marketing analytics usage and investment (as shown above) the Survey further notes: “one reason for this may be that only 36% of marketers report they have quantitative tools for demonstrating the impact of marketing spend on company performance. Consistent with this, marketers report using experiments only one-third of the time to understand the impact of their marketing actions on customers.”

And that is really telling something is awry.

cmo survey graphic 2

Graph courtesy of The CMO Survey 2019

At Smartlook, a qualitative analytics solution for website and mobile apps, we also see that our users need and want to use digital marketing analytics to their betterment. And in the same time we’re helping them every day to get over some common hurdles.

What follows are some basic analytics pitfalls derived from professional experience and observation from forums, Quora, and clients, which can be easily mended or avoided. To note, although these pitfalls can be applied to the majority of analytics solutions and platforms, the following are based on Google Analytics. 

TIP: Write a review about your experience with Google Analytics or read real user reviews from other customers before diving in! 

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Analytics tags improperly configured and installed

This is not the most frequent pitfall, but it is most detrimental. First, here I’d note the difference between installation and misconfiguration. On the failed installation side improper analytics and tracking pixels, installation will make your all analytics efforts pointless. No data will flow, no users will be tracked and you’ll miss everything that is happening on.

Luckily, the lack of data usually raises some questions and all those who care about analytics will quickly jump to the case, research and ask around what is going on.

At the same time, misconfiguration is nefarious and not so easy to notice.

For a simpler explanation, let’s take Google Analytics (GA) here for an example. Misconfigured GA would happen in 2 distinct cases:

  1. Code placement or code issues
  2. Account, property, view or filter settings

In the first case the GA tag is properly installed, but also with other not so obvious issues. The tag can be inserted in the wrong place, or stripped by other elements of the page or with some white space, errors or custom tweaks that don’t work. This is a rather common fail when you’re using multiple tags within a tag deployment solution such is Google Tag Manager.

Second, the settings within GA can make all the difference. Applied filters, conflicting views or using tags on multiple domains or subdomains are just some setting examples that can completely, but quietly, skew your data.

Google Analytics Settings Panel and Critical Areas


Google notes at least 9 Common Tag Setup Mistakes in their help section. So what can you do to avoid improper tag installation and misconfiguration? 

The first thing you can do is to review, test, and verify your data.

You can do this by building or using a dedicated, non-indexed landing page and send some test traffic to it. Whether that means sending some test data (and GA case, observing the engagement in real-time report) or running a specific campaign via email or social media where you can compare the engagement reports. 

The second thing you can do is to be critical of the data you’re observing. If you see a bounce rate of 2% or average session duration of 15 hours that means something is probably wrong.

Next, you can use any similar third-party solutions to verify the data received. Sign up for any other similar solution out there and compare the data.

Now that you know your data is right is flowing in, don’t be focused on the simple metrics. Use analytics to truly understand your user behavior.

Related: Make sure you're targeting the appropriate niche so your messaging resonates with your target audience. A great example of this is our guide to golf course management.

Events are not tracked

Not tracking events is another common digital marketing analytics pitfall. And it’s a rather interesting that analytics practitioners miss this - since tracking events is powerful. In analytics, events are all user interactions that can be measured and analyzed.

Google defines events as content interactions measured independently from a web page or a screen load. Those interactions could be button clicks, downloads, form inputs, video plays, pop-up windows, scroll depth level and many more.

Event tracking is the core of website analytics and user engagement evaluation. Event analysis is especially useful for the conversion rate optimization, issue (bugs) discovery and user experience design. 

Why are events underused? Because they’re not simple to set up. 

google analytics event setup

Image courtesy of Search Engine Watch

This is the anatomy of Google Analytics Events. It’s pretty daunting to connect this with any click or action on the content. So how can you get around this and track events and better understand your user engagement?

First, take some time to familiarize yourself with events and how to track them in Google Analytics. Creating an event and tracking it in Google Analytics, whether you do it manually or via Google Tag Manager, will be a perfect introduction into the event tracking and interactions analysis.

Once you successfully create one or two events, you’ll immediately see how powerful they are and your perspective will change. As soon as you create automated event tracking you’ll significantly expand your horizons when it comes to digital marketing analytics.

Second, you can do is explore other solutions that specialize in event tracking and engagement visualization. Smartlook for example includes automatic events tracking and user engagement visualization. Meaning that, with little effort, users can use to measure and see how people engage with your content. 


User engagement, events, and metrics are important and have some value on their own, but without defined and tracked goals, it’s all pointless.

Goals are not tracked

Not setting up nor properly tracking goals (or conversions) is the most common fail in analytics. Conversion occur when a visitor to your website completes a desired goal, such as filling out a form or making a purchase or downloading your piece of content. 

In online marketing, tracking conversions is essential. The metrics associated are used as a core KPI for entire digital marketing performance. Even so, many fail to define and track conversions properly. 

This is because tracking goals and conversions require a strategic view and in-team coordination to get them all aligned and applied within existing processes. The number of campaigns, channels and products all significantly increase the complexity in conversion rate tracking.

So what can you do to avoid the conversion tracking failure?

First, learn about conversions, conversion types, attribution models and ways how you can measure them. There is no out of the box solution that can help you measure your goals without proper definition and conceptualization. 

Second, make sure you’re always tracking some kind of goal. These can really be anything. It’s important to get into the habit of measuring all campaigns and activities in comparison to set goals.

If you’re within a bigger team, reach out and align your conversions and goals with the rest of the team. Align your goals with the strategic goals. Make one inform the other and you’ll be happy in the long run.

Conversion tracking is important. It may seem daunting and complex. It may even be tough to embark on this endeavor.

Beyond measuring and tracking your performance, you can use them as a targeting method within the advertising platforms (like Google Ads and Facebook). And that is a huge perk in optimizing your campaigns and performance. 

The importance of digital marketing analytics 

The perks digital marketing brought in the marketing world is nothing short of revolutionary. As long as customers and companies are online, digital marketing analytics will be crucial for businesses and marketing.

It is interesting then that we can find some common pitfalls in the marketing analytics arena over and over. Some are basic, such are misconfigured analytics scripts and codes. Others, such event tracking and conversion tracking are slightly more complex. 

Luckily there’s a lot you can do to get over the core issues in your digital marketing analytics.

Education and the will to learn is crucial for a great start. Invest your time and resources into understanding analytics as a tool to help you achieve your goals. 

When you get comfortable within digital marketing analytics basics, try out other specialized solutions. Start your research on G2 and see what and how other people are using them. Find the highest-rated digital analytics software on G2 for free.

See the Highest-Rated Digital Analytics Software, Free →

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