Home | Search Engine Optimization | Technical SEO | When Google Analytics Filters Go Wrong

When Google Analytics Filters Go Wrong

John Doherty —  November 11, 2011
  • Buffer
  • Vote on Hacker News
  • Sharebar
  • Buffer
  • Vote on Hacker News

I recently made a mistake with my Google Analytics, so in the interest of transparency and a teachable attitude, I want to show you exactly what I did, what happened, and why you should not do it. Then, we’ll set one up correctly.

This ought to be fun. Let’s roll.

The Setup

A few weeks ago, Michael King and I were messing around with some Javascript and Analytics to pass rankings information into Analytics. We thought this would be heaps useful, and the Moz community agreed apparently by responding well to this post.

Later in the week I wanted to keep an even closer eye on my (not provided) keywords, which is another post all in itself probably as I am seeing a lot of crazy high numbers. A filter seemed like a wonderful idea. After all, why go through all the trouble of clicking through a number of  levels in GA in order to get to the info I need? Why not just create a filter that will do it for me? I’m lazy (not really, more like a fan of life-hacking), so this is what I set out to do.

I created a filter directly in my main Analytics profile (take note: do not do this). Here’s what happened.

The Results

I created the profile on Tuesday, apparently. The next day I saw some weirdly low numbers, but thought maybe my site just had an off day. Then after a few days, it wasn’t recovering. And during the Searchlove conference, my traffic still appeared weirdly low.

Here’s a screenshot from my Analytics (complete with narration):

Oh boy...

I dug deeper to see what was going on, and here is the organic traffic from those days of “WTF happened?”:

Click to Enlarge. I only saw (not provided) keywords!

My Reaction

This is how I felt:

Image Source

Since I had set up the filter directly in my main account, I simply had to delete the filter I created to correct the issue. The next day, traffic levels bounced right back to normal. The sad part is that I lost a week’s worth of data! Let’s explore the correct way to set up a filter in Google Analytics.

The Correct way to Set Up Filters

Now that you have seen the effects of what happens when you set up a filter directly in your main profile (and no, Google won’t/can’t repopulate the data that you filtered out), let’s look at how you set up a filter CORRECTLY in Google Analytics.

Step 1

First you must create a new profile under your same Analytics ID. Name it whatever you wish.

Here is where to locate the “+New Profile” button:

Click to Enlarge

Step 2

Next, name your profile. I recommend naming it something descriptive of the filter you will set up. Make sure to change the Time if it is not set to your time zone.

Click to Enlarge

Step 3

Now we are going to create a new filter. Click to the Filters tab when you are in your new profile. Then click New Filter.

Click to Enlarge

Step 4

Now you need to define your filter. One of the best and most useful filters you can create is to filter out traffic by IP. You can filter out your own internal IP addresses so that your own visits are not being counted toward the website visits. This gives you cleaner numbers. Here is how to create it:

How to filter out internal IP addresses from Analytics

Additional Resources

Here are some additional resources that I would recommend reading or watching and referencing continually when setting up filters in GA:

Read this: http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?answer=55492

Watch this: http://services.google.com/analytics/breeze/en/filters/index.html

Understand campaign variables: http://www.google.com/support/analytics/bin/answer.py?answer=55579


A final note: I realize now that really, I should have set up an Advanced Segment to filter down to only (not provided) keywords instead of a filter. Filters are a lot more high-powered and was way more than I needed. Once again, this is why you have your own website (or five) and test test test! This way, you don’t bork a client’s site!

John Doherty

Posts

I'm the new (as of October 2013) Online Marketing Manager of Hotpads.com, soon to be based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, explore new and interesting food in New York, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

3 responses to When Google Analytics Filters Go Wrong

  1. Such a great reminder for everyone that if you forget in a rush could be costly.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. SearchCap: The Day In Search, November 11, 2011 - November 11, 2011

    [...] When Google Analytics Filters Go Wrong, http://www.johnfdoherty.com [...]