Introducing the Google Analytics Flash Audit
10/05/2011 | Written by | Categories: Announcements

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While looking at some retail websites recently, I realised that I always evaluate their web analytics set-up against a mental checklist.  The same approach applies to the implementation of any web analytics tool, modified based on the different types and levels of customisation available.

With Google Analytic’s lack of complexity (only five custom variables permitted), I have devised a format for a 1 hour web analytics audit of retail websites that use GA.  The audit is based on publicly available information, the web analytics implementation, with no access to the actual data is required.  My plan is to use the audits as blog posts, highlighting how these companies should have Google Analytics set up given the implementation and what more is possible.

If interested, feel free to request a Flash Audit for your organisation or a client you work with.  An outline of what will be included within each audit can be found below.  They will be free if for your own organisation or incur a small charge if for a client.  I should also be able to extend these audits to other sectors in the future if they prove useful so request away even if your organisation isn’t a retail business.

Basic Details

This section just lists the name and website for the company along with Visit numbers from DoubleClick AdPlanner to give a feel for their size.

Code on Website

More context information stating which version of Google Analytics code is present on the website and whether any other tools, web analytics or otherwise, are present as well.

Google Analytics Code

This section covers the current implementation of Google Analytics code on the website.  It includes whether the right basic code is in place and what customisation is in place.  There are three parts to this section:

Standard Code

  • Is the GA code on all pages and does it all use the same GA account number?
  • Is there any customisation of the basic code, maybe to allow for sub domain or cross domain tracking?
  • Are page names based on the URLs or are virtual page names being used?

Custom Tracking

  • Is there any custom tracking for custom variables, events or virtual page views?

Marketing Campaign Parameters

  • Within any marketing channels that the company can be identified as using, do links through to the website include campaign parameters?

Potential Configuration of Google Analytics

Given the observed implementation, this next section suggests what is possible within the configuration of Google Analytics.  There is obviously no visibility of what has been done but some ideas for a best practice configuration will be listed here.  Again there are various sections.

Page Names

  • What are the page names likely to look like by default in each of three areas of the website?
  • How could they be cleaned up by stripping out URL parameters or using profile filters?
  • The three areas are:
    • Ecommerce pages
    • Checkout Process pages
    • Non Ecommerce pages


  • What goals should be set up for this website?

Analyse the Ecommerce Funnel

  • Is it possible to create an ecommerce funnel for this retail website so that the weak points can be identified?
  • The stages of the ecommerce funnel are:
    • Ecommerce Visit
    • Get to Product
    • Create Basket
    • Commence Checkout
    • Place Order

Analyse the Checkout Process

  • Is it possible to identify all the pages in the checkout process so that performance through the process can be analysed?
  • This will vary from website to website but includes all pages directly within the process from the Basket page through to the Order Confirmation page.

Create a Merchandising report

  • Is it possible to create a merchandising report as described in this post on “What are the most important products on a retail website?”.
  • In order to do so, product level details needs to be captured for the Product Detail pages and as products are Added to Basket.
  • Without placing an order, it is not possible to identify whether the ecommerce code will allow for orders, units and revenue by product to be reported on.

Recommendations for an Enhanced Implementation

This final section of the GA audit includes some recommendations for additional information that could be captured if the implementation of GA was improved.  Relating it back to previous areas of the audit should highlight why the data would be useful.

Customisation of Standard Code

  • Does the company need to extend the code in some way to track visitors accurately e.g. add code to all pages, add code for subdomain tracking?
  • Do they need to add campaign tracking to their marketing collateral?

Custom Variables

  • What useful information could be captured through the use of custom variables?


  • Which actions on the website should be captured as events?

Virtual Page Views

  • Are there any views of the website which should be captured as a virtual page view?


Note that all comments made are based on observed implementation without access to the Google Analytics data.  For example, it is quite possible that code is not on particular pages but this was not discovered as those pages were not viewed.

Critically, I am not planning to place an order on each website and so will not comment on the implementation of ecommerce code or on the page name of the Order Confirmation page.

As Flash Audits are performed, I expect that this format will evolve as I discover what is useful and what recommendations appear consistent across all retail websites.  Ideally it will lead to a Best Practice Guide for implementing Google Analytics on retail websites.

Download Guide to Google Analytics Flash Audit

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