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.
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.
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):
I dug deeper to see what was going on, and here is the organic traffic from those days of “WTF happened?”:
This is how I felt:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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:
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!
3 thoughts on “When Google Analytics Filters Go Wrong”
Such a great reminder for everyone that if you forget in a rush could be costly.
Oh so true, Brandon. This was definitely a learning experience.
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