How to do a basic digital analytics tracking audit in 30 minutes
Is a Digital Analytics tracking audit in 30 minutes possible?
Digital Analytics is an important part of any digital marketing strategy. But sometimes undertaking an in-depth audit is not completely practical, realistic or even necessary.
In this article, HammaJack co-founder Jacob Moran outlines how to do a Digital Analytics Tracking Audit in 30 minutes or less.
What does a Digital Analytics Tracking Audit include?
A Digital Analytics Tracking Audit involves looking at what tracking is currently deployed on the site and how it is configured. Generally, you will be trying to answer the following questions;
What are the ways in which tracking has been added to my site?
What is currently tracking things on my site and what is it tracking?
How trustworthy is the data that these systems are collecting?
What holes or issues are there in my implementation?
Digital Analytics Tracking Audits can range in size and complexity but, just like pretty much everything else you will ever do, you should approach an audit with Pareto’s Principle (more commonly known as the 80/20 rule) in mind.
For those who aren’t aware the 80/20 rule suggests that 80% of results will come from just 20% of the action, and this principle can save you a lot of effort in the long run.
At HammaJack we find that this means that a large chunk of a Digital Analytics Tracking Audit can effectively be completely for most websites or apps within 30 minutes.
Aside from being a nice parlour trick to bring out when meeting with prospective clients, this technique allows us to quickly understand the general state of play and then to get to actually fixing issues and analysing data rather than just documenting what’s happening.
How to do a Digital Analytics Tracking Audit
The below will address an audit where the organisation uses Google Analytics, as it’s still the overwhelming favourite in the industry, but the techniques could be used on other tools.
Firstly, you’re going to need some very helpful Chrome extensions (some of these exist, or have competitors, on other browsers as well);
Ghostery - a privacy ghosting tool that has the added bonus of easily telling you what tracking is currently on the site
GA Debug - A tool that posts all Google Analytics commands to the Console
Tag Assistant - A tool for auditing the overall health of all Google tags (Ads, Google Analytics, Optimize etc.)
Dataslayer - a DataLayer debugging tool for Google Tag Manager, Tealium etc.
Facebook Pixel Helper - a tool to help us understand what information is ending up in Facebook’s network
ObservePoint (Optional) - Does a similar thing to GA Debug and Ghostery but lays it out differently and works for other Analytics tools
Now, that the boring stuff is out the way, what do we do for the audit?
To start with go to the homepage, it will be the epicentre of tags and issues.
In your extension bar, your new trackers will start doing their work. Ghostery will tell you what’s loading, the Google tools will tell you if everything is firing correctly (and how it is being fired, i.e. straight on the page or through a container like Google Tag Manager) and the Facebook tool will tell you if it finds a working Pixel tag.
For most people their first thought will be something like “Damn, I’ve got a lot of tracking on my site I wasn’t aware of” and that’s pretty normal but it’s important you understand what they are all for.
Now we need to document all these trackers somewhere, like a Google Sheets.
What I recommend is that you copy and use something like this basic example spreadsheet we created.
Once you’ve documented all of the trackers on the homepage go through the other critical pages on your site and note any differences in the tracking. Key pages to look at are quote pages, customer portals and pages at the pointing end of your website goals (like purchase or contact pages). You might find some differences especially on sites that have a bigger digital marketing budget (which usually means more tracking) across the site, but generally what you see on the homepage will be a good gauge for the rest of the site.
Got a big list? Good.
Now we want to understand if they are all firing correctly, for this we have to turn off Ghostery, as its sole purpose is to stop these tracking tools from working.
Firstly, click through all of your extensions and look for red things, remember red is bad and green is good. Note down whatever has errors.
Once this is done open up your console (usually by hitting F12 or similar) and look for errors. Again red is bad and yellow is not great. Mark all these things down.
The general rule with this audit is if something looks weird, or you don’t know what is, note it down, as more information won’t hurt.
While you’re in the console look to see what is being sent to Google Analytics using the GA Debug extension. For example, when you scroll or click on something is it being tracked? How about when you watch a video?
For extra help here click “Preserve log” so you can see what’s being sent across pages.
After this is done go over to DataSlayer and see what extra information is being populated to the DataLayer. If it looks pretty bare then it’s pretty safe to assume we aren’t dealing with an in-depth tracking solution.
However, if there is a lot of specific information in it like there is in the screenshot, it’s safe to assume someone has put some effort into the tracking configuration.
Repeat this process across the most important pages on your site.
Once you’ve done this for 15 or so minutes you will have a pretty good idea of the state of the tracking on your site and you’ve achieved your objective.
Is that it?
At HammaJack we can spend several days on an audit, especially for larger clients. However, we find that after 30 minutes of looking through a website, especially one that we understand, we’ve got a pretty good idea of what the implementation is like.
After 30 minutes will you know everything about your site’s tracking? No. But you will have a pretty good idea of the state of it, i.e. is there too much tracking or is there not enough, is it all working or is it all broken, and most important what is tracking your site.
The next step is to get into these systems that are tracking your site and understand if you want them going forward. This can take longer, and involve a few awkward conversations. This is where a measurement plan can come in handy.
One final note
It is important, for the sake of your organisation, to also look internally and understand, as part of the audit, the data maturity of the organisation. How are they getting and using these, and other, data sources? Because at the end of the day, the data can be clean but if nobody trusts it or even looks at it, then it’s all a waste.