What is Default Page in Google Analytics?
Default Page is a setting in Google Analytics, which comes in handy for a couple of different scenarios. This feature can be found under the View Settings and should be setup in the same way for all your views. By default, when we create our Google Analytics account, the field is empty, as per the below example:
So, what is the Default Page used for? The Default URL field is used to help correct an issue with your website where it can load the same page multiple times. Usually, this is done by CMSes that have a webserver directory index meaning the user would see our page with index.html or default.aspx. (https://erudite.agency/default.aspx)
However, web servers are becoming more user friendly and are loading the index page in the background, invisible to the visitor. So, instead of having something like https://erudite.agency/service/index.php, you would see just https://erudite.agency/services/.
Do We Have a Google Analytics Issue?
Let’s continue with the homepage example, if we are able to load it through multiple URLs then that’s an issue that needs fixing. If a visitor is finding our homepage with two different paths, that means the two different links exist in the SERPs, throughout our website navigation/page links or even through other site’s links. This is not ideal for many reasons but sticking with our Analytics issue, this means that we will have different entities in our reports for the same page.
To check if this is the case, we can always look at our Google Analytics account, under Behavior > Site Content > All pages. You’ll be able to see something like this:
Having two entries for the same page makes reporting much harder and of course will add time to data manipulation. The easy fix would be to use our Default Page field by filling it with “index.php” (as per the above example)
Note: Having two different URLs for the same page will also have an impact on your site’s SEO.
Now that we have covered what the Default Page field is used for, let’s dive in and look at how we can fix our data split to make our reporting life easier.
We have a couple of options for how we can clean up our reports in Google Analytics, but with each of these fixes there are different implications to consider:
1. Adding the Default Page fix – as we stated before, this is the easiest way to fix your messy reports. Under your View Settings, under the Default Page option, fill in whether it is “index.php”, “default.aspx” or something else.
Google Analytics will automatically analyze any pages that end with a trailing slash and will automatically insert this default page name. Therefore, those two entities (e.g. “/services/” and “/service/index.php”) will be collated into one. Remember to verify if you need to add anything into the Default Page field and what it should be. Also, if you have pages with and without trailing slashes then you have a different issue and you should address that first.
2. Search and Replace Filter – This solution requires a little bit more setup time, but will bring more clarity to your GA reports. We need to create a new View Filter. As always, we will test our filter first in our Testing View before we move it to the main one. This way we can be sure we won’t skew any data.
Our filter should be easy to setup and should contain the following instructions:
Now we’ve removed the default page from our GA report, from now on we should only have one entity for our homepage.
3. Updating your website – this is the best option to be considered as it resolves any search implications along with the analytics issue. However, this method requires permanent change to your site and a developer’s knowledge is required. Having two different URLs for the exact same page creates a duplicate content issue because a search engine will interpret these two URLs as being unique. The link attribution is diminished bringing that page authority to half the authority level.
To fix this issue, we need our developer to instruct the CMS to drop the index.php extension from URLs and to create a 301 redirect from the old URL to the new one. Also, adding a self-referring canonical will reinforce the 301 redirect which will ensure any and all link authority is passed to the new URL.