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Ouch Google: Random Sites appearing as popups in Google Analytics

27 October 2011 BY

Things at Google are not really going smoothly at the moment so it seems. There is lots of talk about privacy, Google not living up to their mantra (don’t be evil) and they are looked at with a lot of critical sight.

The finding which Col Skinner (aka @SEOSherlock) did and which was ‘broken’ on the 3 Door Digital website by Alex Moss sure will not help. Google seems to have made a huge mistake in Google Analytics which could have major privacy consequences. Clicking on a link in the exit pages overview opens up a random domain.

The sceenshot which Skinner has taken can be seen here:

I couldn’t replicate it myself, but many others, mainly in the UK, could.

Alex explains how you can try this:

1. Log into any account report then go to Content -> Site Content -> Pages / Landing Pages / Exit Pages
2. Click on the “open in new tab” icon to the right of any pages.

How big of a mistake this is remains to be seen, I don’t think there is any really ‘dangerous’ data which gets opened up, but the fact that Google made this mistake is surprising, interesting and alerting.

With their new ‘privacy’ SSL rules and the new paid version of Analytics being rolled out this is, to say the least, a bit uncomfortable for Google.

AUTHORED BY:
h

Bas van den Beld is a speaker, trainer and online marketing strategist. Bas is the founder of Stateofdigital.com. -- You can hire Bas to speak, train or consult.
  • http://www.sebastiancowie.com/ Sebastian

    Just tried this and have managed to replicate the issue. Bit bizarre really.

  • http://www.econtrolling.de Markus

    I don’t get it – in my account the link takes my to the URL on *my* website. Seems this bug depends on a certain configuration? Maybe missing Site configuration in the account?

  • http://www.koozai.com Anna Lewis

    I’ve seen this in the other content reports too, not just exit pages. It works for some accounts but not others – not sure if it might be dependant on whether you’ve entered a default page or not? Not tested this theory thoroughly yet but the default page has changed the results seen in one of my accounts, will have a closer look later.

  • http://www.barker.dj dan barker

    It works for me too – on several accounts/profiles.

    It’s a really ugly, awful coding error. But… I can’t understand what the privacy issue is?

    dan

  • http://www.codecomputerlove.com Keir Gibson

    It’s not just doing it on the exit pages for me, doing it from landing pages, pages in site content and more. What I have seen is that when you have a window open with the website you are tracking, e.g. http://www.example.com and then click on one of the pages in GA to open up in a new window the proper page appears related to http://www.example.com. If you don’t have that website open and refresh GA then click on the same thing you have clicked on, a random site appears.

    I emailed one of the websites that appeared asking them if they had ever visited or linked to the website I am tracking and they replied saying no, they have never.

    Hugs not bugs! :)

    • http://www.koozai.com Anna Lewis

      Having the page open didn’t work the same for me as it did for you Keir, in fact, it worked the other way round. Also from the websites I’m seeing, they’re very niche so it’s very unlikely anyone will have visited or had any link with them! I even had a Dutch site appear the first time which really confused me (nothing against Dutch, I was just doubly confused by the wrong site and the wrong language!).

  • http://www.codecomputerlove.com Keir Gibson

    mmmmmm strange. The sites its pulling are really random, I got a .fr domain and moonfruit subdomain. You are right Anna there is no relation, I just had to see if there was any link between the sites I was seeing and the site I am tracking.

  • http://www.blackfriday2011.com Rebecca L.

    I was able to duplicate it as well. All of my clicks go to the same personal injury law firm. Kinda makes you wonder what the heck is happening at the Googleplex..?

  • http://www.websonic.nl Michel

    Tried it in Analytics and confirmed it. First time I got a unkown Russian and later a Swedish Tumblr blog :-(.

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