Understanding Google Analytics Default Page Setting

When you navigate to Google Analytics Admin, you see the option to change view settings:

One of the view settings is ‘Default Page’:

Introduction to Default Page

Following is an example of a URL that points to a directory structure instead of an actual web page within the directory:

www.yourWebsite.com/

Another example of a URL that points to a directory structure instead of an actual web page within the directory:

www.yourWebsite.com

Other examples of URLs that points to a directory structure instead of an actual web page within the directory:

www.yourWebsite.com/shop/men/clothes

www.yourWebsite.com/shop/men/clothes/

Following is an example of a URL that points to an actual web page within the directory:

www.yourWebsite.com/shop/men/clothes/tops.php

Now when a user type a URL into his browser address bar that points to a directory structure (instead of an actual web page within the directory) then the web page which is served to him by your web server is called the default page.

A common filename for such a page could be index.html

So when a user type say www.yourWebsite.com/ into his browser address bar,  he is actually shown the contents of the default page (www.yourWebsite.com/index.html)

This default page may be visible or hidden from an end user depending upon, how your web server has been configured.

Note: If no default page is served then the web server would show an error page.

Sometimes the default page is visible to an end user and he can access the same web directory via different URLs like:

www.yourWebsite.com/

www.yourWebsite.com/index.html

Even though www.yourWebsite.com/ and www.yourWebsite.com/index.html are the same web page, they show up as two separate entries in your GA reports.

When you set ‘index.html‘ web page as your default page:

you tell GA to treat both www.yourWebsite.com/ and www.yourWebsite.com/index.html as same page.

So without default page setup, you may see the following two entries in your GA reports for any visit to the home page:

Once the default page has been setup and going forward, GA will consolidate the website usage data from two pages and may report it like the one below:

So any visit to the www.yourWebsite.com/ will be reported as a visit to the page www.yourWebsite.com/index.html

Another example

Let us suppose the following two URLs point to the same web page:

www.yourWebsite.com/shop/men/clothes/

www.yourWebsite.com/shop/men/clothes/index.html

Even though www.yourWebsite.com/shop/men/clothes/ and www.yourWebsite.com/shop/men/clothes/index.html are the same web page, they show up as two separate entries in your GA reports.

When you set ‘index.html’ web page as your default page:

you tell GA to treat both www.yourWebsite.com/shop/men/clothes/  and www.yourWebsite.com/shop/men/clothes/index.html as same page.

So without default page setup, you may see the following two entries in your GA reports:

Once the default page has been setup and going forward, GA will consolidate the website usage data from two pages and may report it like the one below:

Caveat

Use the ‘Default Page’ setting only when your website directories can be accessed both with and without default pages. Otherwise this setting could mess up your GA reports.

For example, if a web directory can be accessed only via a single URL say: www.yourWebsite.com/shop/men/clothes/

And you set ‘index.html‘ web page as your default page:

Then GA will report any visit to www.yourWebsite.com/shop/men/clothes/  as a visit to /shop/men/clothes/index.html

So basically append the request URI with ‘index.html’.

Overtime, GA could append all request URI in your reports with ‘index.html’:

Ideally a web directory should be accessible only via a single URL.

So if you ask your web developer to 301 redirect all default pages to their corresponding web directory then you won’t need to use the ‘Default Page’ settings. This is what I recommend.

For example, you can ask your web developer to 301 redirect www.yourWebsite.com/shop/men/clothes/index.php

to www.yourWebsite.com/shop/men/clothes/

I like to keep the ‘Default Page’ text field blank:

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My name is Himanshu Sharma and I help businesses find and fix their Google Analytics and conversion issues. If you have any questions or comments please contact me.

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