Be Skeptical of Your Law Firm's Google Analytics, Google My Business & Search Console Data

Gyi Tsakalakis
August 29, 2019
Your law firm's Google Analytics, Google My Business & Search Console Data might be misleading you.

When you see spikes in traffic to your law firm's website as reported by Google Analytics data, I suggest you pause to corroborate the data with other sources. The same is true for Google My Business, and Google Search Console data. Most cases of spikes reported on social media are not actual spikes in qualified traffic. For the purposes of this post, we're going to focus on Google Analytics.

First, with respect to Google Analytics code, there are a myriad of explanations for spikes that have absolutely nothing to do with "real traffic." Before you start traveling down rabbit holes, take some time to learn how the GA javascript tracking code actually works. Next, consider what configurations make the most sense for your law firm. Think about what metrics actually matter to your practice. Hint: it's not bounce rate. It's probably also not pageviews, session duration, or other user behavior that doesn't translate into improvement of conversion rate of a meaningful metric. People at law firms, like so many other business owners, spend way too much time focusing on Google Analytics reports that have little real business value. Most law firms aren't ecommerce sites. If you manage your firm's Google Analytics account, be sure to build custom reports that provide meaningful insight into how people find your pages, use your pages, but most importantly, convert into something meaningful (i.e. qualified phone call, live chat, contact form fill, etc).

Second, beyond issues inherent to Google Analytics, to make matters worse, many unscrupulous law firm internet marketing vendors intentionally mislead clients with GA reports. Some common examples include:

  • Reporting on all traffic from all sources (i.e. direct traffic from countries in which you don't do business).
  • Manipulating the date range to compare unequal time frames.
  • Fake firing GA code.
  • Failing to properly configure GA to filter common spam / bot issues.
  • Limiting access to Google Analytics account data.

I can't count the number of times I've talked to lawyers who were told by their SEO consultant that their traffic from search engines has been steadily climbing only to find out it's either completely fake or not from search engines at all.

You should also be cautious about who you give admin access to and whether you have authorized a WordPress plugin to access your GA data. We regularly see law firm Google Analytics accounts that have admins who don't work with the firm. This can be a huge issue, particularly if the admin is working with a competitor. You should audit access to Google Analtyics, Search Console, Google My Business, and Google Ads accounts on a regular basis.

If you're looking for analytics help, we're happy to take a look. If you're interested in learning more about Google Analytics tracking I suggest the following resources:

Each of these have advanced step-by-step instructions for configuring Google Analytics accounts, tracking, and reports.

Admittedly, these issues can seem overwhelming. I've been doing this for over a decade, and I still regularly learn something new about issues related to analytics data. Here's my version of the minimum viable Google Analytics knowledge you need to avoid some of the most common problems:

  • Acquisition Report > All Traffic > Source / Medium: This is essential for distinguishing organic search traffic from Google Ads (formerly AdWords) from social media, from other traffic sources without a basic understanding of sources and mediums, you can't really know where visitors are coming from.
  • Audience Report > Location: If your law firm serves anything less than a global audience of potential clients, you need to understand the geographic location of visitors. In fact, my hunch is most of you should be filtering down to Region (state) and City.
  • Behavior Report > Site Content > Landing Pages: This report helps you understand the specific page your website traffic landed on. Ideally, you couple this data with acquisition, event (i.e. phone calls), and Goal conversions to see which are the top pages that are producing clients.
  • Conversions > Goals > Overview > Source / Medium: Ultimately, understanding which sources / mediums are converting into a valuable goal for your law firm is the only way to have any sense of whether or not your law firm website is actually "working." And really, this is only the first half. The second half requires marrying this data to client relationship management (CRM) data so that you can tie fees back to their original online source.

If you understand these basics, you'll be in pretty good shape. You'll also be able to sniff-out GA data issues and hold SEO vendors accountable. If you're already a Google Analytics pro, push the envelope by learning how some of the more advanced features can bring value to your firm. But don't waste time on reports that don't add value. Unless you do web analytics for a living, most of what's available in Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager will probably be overkill.

Gyi Tsakalakis
Co-Founder of AttorneySync
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