Hi all, just a quick dip into website analytics today!
Over the years I have learned that watching your analytics like they are drying paint after you make big changes to the site is a great way to…. find errors and be disappointed! (Not kidding unfortunatly)
After most major website revamps I have been involved with, there have been one or more really stand out changes in the analytics, something that’s made me/some think – WOW, we have really done something big here, it’s working, we will be rich now! RICH!
A few days of celebrating later, however, it has always turned out to be something else, a blip, error, or misinterpretation. It’s not that the hard work doesn’t pay off – it’s always a good thing to improve your website. It’s just that major changes to a site can either change how your analytics look/function or cause technical problems which do the same thing.
For example, after I managed the phpList website revamp in 2016, the conversion rate appeared to go through the roof almost immediately: this later turned out to be a distortion, because we had removed so many pages from the old site and redirected them to the new community site at phpList.org.
I recently began the process of overhauling www.ethicalpets.co.uk – the eco-ethical online pet shop I run with my partner Joey. We:
- Switched from open-core Prestashop to open-source Thirty Bees, a prestashop fork
- Updated to the latest version
- Improved the navigability for mobile users, by making browsing easier
- Moved to a super-fast Linode server.
All of this happened over a few months. Then suddenly! WOW, our bounce rate halved and our page views doubled!
It seemed to good to be true! The bounce rate and page views had been fairly stable for a long time: the red line (bounce rate) had been getting higher (worse) following some speed issues with our web host / server, however, the bounce rate has always been higher than the page views, even going back years – the red line was always above the blue line.
Then, one day, between the upgrade and the server move, this all changed. The red and the blue line switched.
As I know how misleading these kinds of things are, I took some time to troubleshoot. Here is what I did
Troubleshooting sudden analytics changes
- Consider if the change could be real, if other things have also changed too: e.g. have you had more sales?
- Identify when the change happened
- Find out what you did on that day which could have caused it
- Check through diary, emails and notes.
- If you can find a specific thing, research how it might impact your analytics
- When you find a solution, implement a fix and check back a few days later to see if it changed the analytics!
I couldn’t narrow down exactly what caused mine, it didn’t happen on the same day as any major technical change that I had a record of, so I asked on the thirty bees forum. Two suggestions were made, one of which turned out to be right!
Inadvertently, two Piwik / Matomo tracking codes had been added, which effectively doubled the page views which, because they are expressed as a percentage, halved the bounce rate. During the upgrade we switched from a code in the website source files to a plugin, then, a few days later a problem with the source file lead to me restoring it from backup. The backup was from before we switched to the tracking plugin, so the original tracking code was added back in again, giving us two tracking codes! Problem solved?
Yes! Well, kindof. A week or so later, you can see the bounce rate is back where it usually is. However, the page views looks really low now, so I will have to trouble shoot the next thing! Because of step two in the trouble shooting, I know the issue isn’t “real” as our orders are coming in at the usual rate.