Pinpointing issues with bad data in Google Analytics can be difficult. There are so many reasons that might be preventing data from being reported properly, but usually it’s down to incorrect tracking code implementation or issues with the way in which your tracking code is firing.
Using debugging tools to identify what is going wrong can be time consuming, and often requires a developer to discover, diagnose and fix data issues.
This is where Google Tag Assistant can help. Previously, the Tag Assistant had relatively basic functionality – you could check the implementation of Google Analytics tracking code by checking the status of the tracking code on each page, but other than basic information on whether the tracking code was implemented correctly and links through to help pages if it wasn’t, this was about all Tag Assistant could do.
Google have recently announced that Google Tag Assistant can now make recordings to validate the tracking code on every page of the site. This is particularly handy if you know that somewhere on the site you are experiencing issues with data being collected incorrectly but have been unable to pinpoint exactly where – and why – it is happening.
How to record data using Google Tag Assistant
If you don’t have Google Tag Assistant already, it can be downloaded as an extension for Chrome.
You’ll also need to be associated with the Google Analytics property you want to record (i.e. you have sufficient permissions to view Google Analytics data).
Once you have downloaded the extension and confirmed that you have access to the Google Analytics profile you want to record, open Google Tag Assistant from your browser toolbar and hit record on the page that you want to begin your session on.
When you have completed the session, you can stop the recording and view the full report.
You’ll want to view both tabs in the report (Tag Assistant and Google Analytics) to verify that you see the intended tags.
Tag Assistant Report
The Tag Assistant report shows all the tags that fired on all the pages you visited during the recorded session. This includes Google tags including Google Analytics tracking codes, AdWords Tracking code, and DoubleClick Remarketing tags, as well as third-party (non-Google) tags.
The Tag Assistant report tab provides an overview of the tracking code implementation across all pages recorded, and will highlight any issues with implementation, as well as providing suggestions on how the page can be optimised to improve performance.
Basically, if your tag is green with a happy little face, you’ve nailed it and there are no issues with the way in which you’ve implemented the tag. If it’s blue, you’re probably not going to be encountering many issues, but it’s worth reviewing any suggestions.
If it’s yellow, you’re definitely going to want to review how the code has been implemented and you may well experience issues with tracking. And if it’s red, well, you’ve probably got some pretty major issues going on. Don’t just review this tab and assume everything is hunky-dory. You’ll also want to check the Google Analytics report as just because the code is implemented correctly, doesn’t mean there aren’t issues preventing the data from being captured correctly.
The Google Analytics Report
The Google Analytics report shows how your recorded data would look when processed by your current Google Analytics configurations.
Make sure all information in the flow section of the report is checked before deciding that there are no issues with the way data is being reported. Any issues will be highlighted as alerts at the top of the report.
Open the accordions on the Google Analytics tab to see details on the errors, along with links to advice pages in the Google Help Centre for resolving them.
You can then print the report as a PDF and send the details across to your developer to fix the issues. Alternatively, save the report (this will download it as a .harz file) which can then be uploaded using the open feature. This is helpful if you are intending on running multiple tests as reports are not stored once you navigate away from the page.
There are a few other features on the Google Analytics tab that can be accessed once you have recorded the data you need and have viewed the report. You can switch between views within your Google Analytics profile (handy if you created a new view and want to ensure that the goal configuration is consistent across all views).
You can also change the location to identify whether IP addresses are blocked (good if it should be excluding internal IPs) as well as to see how traffic is being reported from other locations (good if you think you may have accidentally excluded certain locations from Google Analytics by mistake, or want to test filters that have been set up on a view (perhaps to exclude referral spam from a specific geography).
Use the navigation to show details on certain sections of the report, or jump to the sections of interest.
When to use it
If you have been noticing some sketchy data in Analytics, or if you want to test the implementation of modified tracking code while a site is still in development, this is a great tool to do just that.
As Tag Assistant Recordings capture lots of different data events including purchases, logins, and downloads, you can see exactly where things are going bonkers. This is especially helpful for ecommerce sites that want to confirm that the checkout process is working correctly. Tag Assistant Recordings will capture the entire checkout process, which you can then review to ensure Google Analytics tracking code is working as expected .
Overall, the update to the tool is pretty fabby in my opinion, and will undoubtedly prevent a lot of people from tearing their hair out trying to identify tracking code issues.