Why would I want to opt out of Google Analytics?
Is there even such a thing as a Google Analytics opt-out?
First, let me say that I am going to save my thoughts on Grammarly’s ability to hyphenate – or not – the term “opt out”, or “opt-out” for a separate post. I’ll add the link once it’s published.
Back to the question … and the quick answer.
Click on the links if you just want the instructions, or you can carry on and read the post.
It is possible to opt out of Google Analytics, and it’s probably something that you would want to do fairly early on.
Two things to consider:
- it makes little difference early on because you will have very few external visitors
- it makes very little difference once your site is established because you will have lots of visitors.
It’s clean and you know that whatever you can see on Google Analytics, it’s not because of you.
Google Analytics is useful if you want to see what people do. You probably don’t want it to be reporting on everything that you do.
How does Google Analytics work?
If you are signed up for Google Analytics, WordPress adds a bit of tracking code whenever you write a page. It’s the same for other blog hosting platforms too.
The tracking code is provided by Google, but you won’t see it unless you take a look directly at the page source. The tracking code is the key to letting Google in on the act, giving you access to the insights that come from Google Analytics.
None of this is automatic, if you want to benefit from Google Analytics, you first need to set it up. You can see how I set it up on the How I set up Google Analytics page.
Google Analytics mechanics
You don’t need to know how it works, you only need to know only what it does.
When you sign up for Google Analytics, you register your site with Google and Google provides you with a tracking code. The tracking code is added to every page of your site along with some scripting to make it all work. It is possible for you to do this manually, but it isn’t necessary. The web hosts, like WordPress, can do it all for you.
It all happens behind the scenes. The tracking code and the scripts are hidden from view, and they wait in the background …
Every time one of your pages is served, the code wakes up and tells Google what just happened. In simple terms, it’s sending the tracking code to Google Analytics for Google to add the action to the masses of data that Google has already stored. This happens for every page, for every view and for every visitor.
The information and insights provided by Google Analytics are possible because of the aggregation of all these little bits of data.
What’s wrong with Google Analytics?
Actually, not much. There are bits that might not give you exactly what you want, but that’s not why we’re here. This article isn’t about criticising Google Analytics, it’s about the impact you can have on what it’s telling you … and it’s about how you can prevent it.
It’s important to say first that the issue is not with Google Analytics. I would go as far as to say that it’s not even an issue. What we are talking about is a feature of the numbers themselves, it is not a feature of Google Analytics. When the volume of numbers driving the statistics is low, any peculiarity in the numbers will hide what’s really going on. It’s a short term effect. In the longer term, as your visitor volumes get bigger, the impact – of you – will get smaller.
If you have a thousand visitors coming to your site every day and viewing your pages, one more visitor – you – isn’t going to make a lot of difference. But … if you only have a couple of visitors a day, that’s not going to be the case … because you’re one of them.
You are not going to see an accurate representation of what’s going on if most of what’s going on is you!
Look at this … I had nearly 400 page views on April 30th, and 200 page views on April 19th. Not bad for a site that’s only a few weeks old! I must have been doing something right, yes? Well actually, No! Thing is, most of it is me.
At the time, I was having problems formatting a page and was trying some different approaches. As it happens, I have several browsers set up independently so I can see how things look in different environments. If you are interested in my approach, follow My Path and have a look at my desktop configuration. It’s not directly related to the question here, but it might give you some inspiration for setting up your environment … and you can learn from my experience. ?
Google Analytics does not automatically filter out your browser activity. Anything that you do outside the hosting space can be seen by Google Analytics and will be included in the reporting. I think there are ways of telling Google Analytics to ignore certain activities, but I haven’t got to that level of cleverness yet. I am writing for people like you and me. I am not writing for the techie wizards.
It isn’t a Google Analytics thing, and it isn’t a long term issue. As your volumes increase, the impact you can have by browsing your site will decrease.
What you do about it is up to you, whatever you chose is not going to change the world but it might make you feel better.
I think I might be a bit of a purist, but I don’t like the idea of my browsing affecting the reports that come out of Google Analytics.
When overall volumes are low, especially in the early days, Google Analytics shows spiky graphs when graphs shouldn’t be spiky. It doesn’t happen so much when volumes are larger, but I think it’s data that just shouldn’t be included.
Google Analytics opt-out.
Google Analytics is a powerful tool, but learning how to use it to your best advantage is going to take time and effort. It may be that you can set up the Google Analytics tool to ignore your own browsers, but it’s going to be fiddly and it would work by identifying and then ignoring the data. It’s an option but learning how to use Google Analytics is well outside the scope of this post.
Wouldn’t it be easier if you just didn’t send the data to Google Analytics in the first place?
If you are a registered user of Google Analytics and you are using it, you will have installed a Google Analytics identifier into every page on your site. Usually, your host platform will do this automatically after you have provided the identifier.
Then, every time the page is served, a bit of code on the page springs into life, gathers up the information and sends it off to Google Analytics. Google Analytics knows what you are doing, and whilst you might not mind, you know it’s skewing your stats.
If you want to, you can tell your browser to ignore this bit of code. You can install the Google Analytics opt-out add-on and your unfeasibly high browsing activity will not be recorded. Google can’t record what isn’t bein sent!
This option seems to be the easy option. After all, you’re not trying to do anything clever, you are just trying to avoid your browsing activity showing up in your Google Analytics reports. If you don’t want Google Analytics to be analysing your data, don’t send it.
So, there is a Google Analytics Opt-out Browser Add-on that does just this, and it is available for:
- Microsoft Internet Explorer 11
- Google Chrome
- Mozilla Firefox
- Apple Safari
I have tried it on Chrome, Firefox and Safari. I am assuming that IE and Opera are going to be similar. Whatever browser you are using, the process starts in the same place.
Click on the logos for step-by-step instructions for your browser.
I have made Google Chrome my go-to browser for blogging. It makes sense because Google is, without any doubt, the main player and all the Google extensions are likely to work better on the native browser: Chrome.
I use Firefox as it comes out of the box. There are no extensions, no gimmicks and therefore no external interference. I have it set up like this so that I can see what beginner.beginner.beginner.beginner.beginner.beginner.beginner.beginner.blooger.me looks like to people who aren’t me.
Before I became involved with all this clever stuff, my main computer was a MacBook Pro and I tended to use Safari. I also have an iPad and an iPhone and they’re all synced up. I felt that using Safari might not be the clean environment I was looking for.
For a long time, I have been a mac user. I like the mac and the apple ecosystem because it’s powerful, and it doesn’t need a lot of fiddling about to get stuff working. I have always had a PC too, but it’s a desktop and it sits at home. I didn’t use it much because Windows 8 was a bit rubbish, but I like Windows 10 and my default PC browser was Edge. It’s only recently that I have migrated to Google Chrome, and I have done it specifically to help build this site. I now use Google Chrome on the mac, and on the PC. I think Google Chrome makes sense.
What have we learned?
Google Analytics is useful, but not if it’s only recording you playing with your posts and pages.
Google Chrome is the easiest to install, but then I guess you might expect that. Firefox is tricky and so the guide is longer.
The fewer visitors you have – expected in the early days – the more you are going to impact the results.
Google Analytics opt-out is probably not the only solution, but it’s probably the easiest.
If you follow ALL the Grammarly guidance, it’ll look like you can’t write!
Google Analytics opt-out is available for five platforms.