All posts tagged web analytics
It’s important for the Google Analytics novice to understand the distinction between macro and micro conversions, but it’s a simple one. Basically, macro conversions are the key objectives of your business model, and they vary company by company. A few examples:
- Selling products
- Generating leads
- Generating content/publishing
- Customer support
And while tracking these macro-conversions are one of the main reasons for using web analytics in the first place, typically only 2% to 4% of a site’s traffic ends up as a macro conversion. This doesn’t mean that the other 98% of traffic is worthless, in fact there is a lot of value and potential to be found within this group. There are many indicators of a future macro conversion all over your site, and they are called micro conversions.
Savvy web analytics users depend on micro conversions to tell a more complete story about what makes a site really hum. And by determining which visitor actions are leading to your site’s macro conversions, you’ll have the actionable data to optimize your site and fine tune it for your unique target audience. Not only that, through determining how well you’re engaging them, you’ll be able to build a stronger relationship with your visitors.
Micro conversions can be any number of things, and they are different for every unique site, but usually you want to look for actions that indicate some interest in your product/service or an interaction with the site’s main architecture. A few good examples of micro conversions for a typical website include:
- Adding products to the shopping cart
- Using live chat
- Playing games
- Watching video
- Subscribing to newsletters
- Sharing social media content
- Commenting on blogs
While these may not be generating immediate revenue for your business, they are strong indicators of a connection with your site. And it’s really that initial connection (after driving traffic to the site itself) that can lead to the macro conversions that your site is aiming for. In the next few posts, we’ll go over how to set up conversion tracking in much more detail.
When running a website, being able to figure out where your traffic is coming from and what it’s doing once it reaches your site is critical. Because of this glaring necessity, Google Analytics is arguably one of the best things that’s ever happened to webmasters, but it can also be an information overload to the uninitiated. Even those who have been using the tool for a long time often discover a new feature or a new way to take advantage of an existing one.
If you’re going to start using any version of web analytics, be it paid or free, learning the lingo is a good foundation to build upon. Once you learn some of the basics, the intuitiveness of many of these platforms, especially Google Analytics, will allow you to track and influence your site’s traffic and significantly increase its value.
Understanding some common terms in analytics is essential. For instance, “bounce rate” is a term that is thrown around frequently. The bounce rate is simply the ratio of people who visit your site and leave after seeing one page compared to the total number of visitors. “Unique visitors” is another term that is used often. This is a term that simply refers to individuals who come to your site for the first time. Also, learn your acronyms! Terms like CPA (cost per action), CPC (cost per click), and CTR (click through rate) are some of the most commonly referred to, and most important metrics within web analytics.
Identify Where Revenue Comes From
One of the nice things about using web analytics is that you can actually see exactly where your revenue is coming from by identifying which traffic sources produce the most sales or conversions. For instance, if people that get to your site from the search engines convert at a much higher rate than those who get there from advertising, you’ll know which visitors you want more of on your site. Additionally, you can create custom channels to segment the data even further. Find out which traffic sources are being used by people who have already been to your site, and which are being used by first time visitors.
Broaden Your View
Try to use a holistic approach to examining your website traffic. These means focusing on several key parameters in order to get a comprehensive idea of what is happening. Most people who use analytics focus on just one piece of data, like the overall number of visitors, or the keyword that is sending the most traffic, or with the highest conversion rate. These can only give you a skewed view of what’s happening. It’s just as important to focus on time on site and many other factors that aren’t always immediately obvious.
Use Calculated Metrics
When examining the traffic from your website, you need to use calculated metrics as much as possible. For example, using the ROI or return on investment metric will help you see exactly what you are getting out of the dollars that you’re investing in your site.
Another attractive feature of using analytics software is that it allows you to convert the data into graph mode. When you see things on a graph, they are much easier to visualize, especially historically. This allows you to figure out where trends are occurring and what is really happening on your site. Since numbers can only go so far to give you an idea of what is going on, using graph mode is the best way to get a bird’s eye view of what’s really happening on your site – the image at the top of the post being a great example of this.
In our ongoing effort to provide the highest standard of web analytics consulting, we’re introducing our new ongoing Google Analytics series today. We plan to cover both general strategies as well as more granular tactics that both web analytics novices and experts can glean helpful information from. To begin, we answer a simple question: what are the benefits of using web analytics?
Analytics is the difference between a good website and a great website. Without knowing where your traffic comes from or when and why it leaves, your website will not be able to become the successful website you want it to be. Google Analytics fulfills this essential need by creating a web analytics solution that can be used by both website owners and marketers to better understand their users’ experiences, optimize site content, and track marketing performance. In essence, Google Analytics is a lot like a football team’s video analysis personnel who monitor every play for exactly why it failed or succeeded. It’s not glamorous and it doesn’t come with a lot of thanks, but without it, any team is hard pressed to win.
Google Analytics is user friendly and intuitive to use, meaning anyone with a website can set up Google Analytics relatively easily and start tracking the traffic to their website in a short amount of time. The data is reliable, and for a free service, quite robust. Website owners can establish goals, track conversions, determine which keywords are driving people to their site, and with newer versions of Analytics, even determine what percentage of clicks certain buttons on a page drive. Once Google Analytics is installed it starts collecting all of this data and more about the website in order to help website owners make informed decisions that can help their websites succeed.
Regardless of your objectives for your website, it’s important that some sort of analytics tracking is established to monitor how your website is performing. Without analytics a website owners’ ability to grow their website into a successful, thriving business or community is almost impossible. Google Analytics is the best choice for any website owner looking to improve their website and have a myriad of tools at their disposal for little to no cost.
Keep coming back for more information about best practices for using Google Analytics, as we plan to cover many of its important aspects and how it can help your business in the posts to come.
The SEO industry has been crying foul since October over the controversial decision by Google to make Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) search the “default experience” for signed-in users. Why? Because SSL allows Google users to encrypt their search queries, and as a consequence, stops passing query data to analytics software – including Google Analytics. Once the switch was made, analytics users began to see “not provided” appearing in their data, indicating that the search had been encrypted and the keyword data was therefore not available.
Google’s reasoning, ostensibly, was to protect the privacy of its signed-in users. As they explain on their blog, “(Secure Sockets Layer) is a protocol that helps provide secure Internet communications for services like web browsing, e-mail, instant messaging, and other data transfers.” Though this may be true, there are a few glaring holes in this move towards increased “privacy”:
- Google’s rapidly expanding suite of services and social media encourages users to stay logged-in, depriving webmasters the necessary data on their users to improve their content and engagement.
- Part of the reason they made the switch was to reduce the effectiveness of their competitor’s products. Google has accused Bing of using Google data to boost their own search algorithm on a few occasions, and they’re attempting to block as much of this data as possible from being seen by anyone but Google.
- Google is giving PPC advertisers exclusive access to query data while refusing to provide insights to site owners who want to grow and improve the traffic organically. So it seems that the privacy protection does not extend to you if you click on a paid ad.
- It appears to be another bold move toward boosting their expanding social network, Google+. They crave the “+1”s that users add while logged-in, so that they can recommend sites to the people in your circles. Since their main rival at the moment, Facebook, has had a few major headaches in the past over privacy issues, Google continues to position itself as the more private, secure network.
But what benefit, if any, does this provide the user? The general consensus is that it does not accomplish much of anything, other than making analytics users’ lives more difficult. That, in and of itself, is not necessarily a horrible thing; however, if the user’s privacy and online experience is in no way enhanced by these changes, then it seems like a questionable decision .
And bear in mind that HTTPS (what shows in the URL field) is not a catch-all solution for online security. While it is good for protecting login pages and forms that handle sensitive information, essentially forcing much of the web to use this protocol could be considerably expensive, while providing minimal benefits:
- HTTPS uses more bandwidth, requiring more power and more servers.
- Pages usually load more slowly – especially on mobile devices and congested networks.
- Offers no real security advantages for static HTML pages – you can still be spied-on while browsing.
- It can cost a few hundred dollars per annum, per domain to set up HTTPS. For a small business that may be a prohibitive expense.
Obviously, we have not been thrilled with the news here at RSO. Not allowing us to see where some of our clients’ organic traffic is coming from (and it remains to be seen what percentage of the data is being blocked) is not so much detrimental to us, but to our clients’ business. Tell us what you think.
Google Analytics is one of the most widely used web analytics tools available, perhaps more than any other tool. The ability to track visitor behavior allows you to determine what is working for you, and what isn’t. That said, many people who use the tool have found themselves wanting more. Google has responded to these needs, and has now added new real-time capabilities.
In the past, Google Analytics was used entirely to measure the behavior of site visitors in the past. This is great for getting an idea of what worked in the past, but it doesn’t allow you to respond to problems and behavior as it is emerging. Real-time tools are nothing new, but in the past they were only available on paid services. Google’s software is available for free, so this will change the way many site owners approach the web.
Those who are already familiar with Google Analytics and like the interface will be happy to see that the real time interface fits right in. It maintains the same color theme and has a similar menu system. Real time is located in a drop-down on the left side of the home page of the analytics interface.
Options available include overview, locations, traffic sources, and content. Most people will be content to use the “overview” option, which includes a summary of all the most relevant information about what is happening on your site right now. This includes information about how many visitors are currently on the site, the top keywords, the top locations, and the most popular content.
One of the most helpful things about getting real time information is the fact that you can determine what time of day your site is busiest. This lets you make changes regarding when to submit new posts. It also allows you to determine what content is most popular during which times.
Real time is also very useful for visitors who are bringing traffic to their site through social media. By monitoring when a social media channel stops bringing in traffic, you will know when to post a new tweet or another announcement of Facebook, for example.
Perhaps the biggest complaint that most people have about the real time feature is the fact that it is “too” real time. In other words, it only tells you what is happening on the site right now. The standard analytics tool still offers information about daily traffic, but there is a gap between standard analytics and real time analytics. You can obtain information about the past several days, weeks, or months, and you can obtain information about what is happening right now, but you can’t obtain information about the past ten minutes or hours.
This means that in order to determine what times of day are most popular, you need to actually be in your analytics account watching what is happening. Taking full advantage of real time requires constant monitoring, which can be a little excessive.
All in all, the real time analytics update is a very helpful tool to take advantage of. It will be most useful for sites that need to change and adapt to the behavior of their visitors as it is happening. This means that blogs and news sites will benefit the most. Sites that want to make sure they are properly capitalizing on current events will be able to benefit from this tool more than anybody else.
More serious sites will need history of traffic throughout the day, rather than just what is happening right now. While they will not be able to rely on Google Analytics exclusively, they will be able to use it as a comparison in order to make sure that their other tracking software is working properly.
Google just announced last week that they are introducing a Google Analytics Premium Service geared towards their largest customers, some of the new additions announced in their Sept, 29th posting:
- Extra processing power – increased data collection, more custom variables and downloadable, unsampled reports
- Advanced analysis – attribution modeling tools that allow you to test different models for assigning credit to conversions
- Service and support – experts to guide customized installation, and dedicated account management on call – all backed by 24/7 support
- Guarantees – service level agreements for data collection, processing and reporting
GA Premium was developed in close coordination with the same large clients that it is intended for. During the extended pilot phase, Gucci, Travelocity, TransUnion, eHarmony and others. During this period, the Premium service was tailored to their needs and addressed their issues with the original Analytics.
So for a yearly fee, Google will provide a stronger server to run custom reports, a dedicated account manager, and a 24/7 support and service level agreement (SLA). What’s missing from the announcement? The price tag. Various sources have reported that it will be in the neighborhood of $150,000 per year. It may seem like a hefty price, but by comparison, paying over $100K a year for Adobe’s Omniture SiteCatalyst platform is not unheard of, and considering the size of most of these companies, $150k is a drop in the bucket.
Besides the price, this announcement begs two other important questions. The first is whether or not it’s worth the price. If you are already using a paid service and paying per pageviews or hits, GA Premium offers a higher level accuracy and can handle around 1 billion hits per month. It also allows you to switch back to the regular Analytics if you lose your web analytics budget, all without losing any data or having to switch tags again. Also, the premium version allows you to turn off data sampling at higher volumes, powering the collection and processing of this information at higher data limits (1 billion hits a month). The expectation, according to some analysts, is that reports should load faster and data will be fresher, even at these larger volumes. And lastly, you can now get 50 custom variables for advanced audience segmentation (it is currently 5), allowing for a more in-depth analysis and more accurate audience targeting.
The second question, understandably, is whether Google is now going to neglect the free version of Analytics. According to Google, this won’t be the case, and so far they have delivered on that promise by delivering a slew of powerful new updates over the past 3 months, and releasing Google Analytics v5 recently. This news is really just an indicator that Google is now targeting the enterprise level by addressing customer concerns over the limitations of their free service, and offering it at a comparable price to other web analytics services.
Metrics, a wise man once said, are not proxies for performance. The lesson here is about moving beyond easy to game metrics, and avoid getting trapped in the dangers of averaging. Averages are like a low-hanging fruit, irresistible for those who prefer working off the armchair, but when was laziness a virtue? You cant become an Analysis Ninja by worshipping at the altar of averages.
Averages are guilty of under-leveraging Analytics on the web and do not offer fresh insights. And therein lies the problem. Yet, most of us are prone to using averages as a default metric in our analysis. But why do we love averages while number crunching? Perhaps because it is a commonly accepted feed for any metric cycle and it is an easy way to aggregate the numbers or analysis or data.
Another issue with averages is that they lie smartly and persuasively. Here’s an example. Lets assume your Analytics throws up these numbers:
Scenario 1: Average time spent by visitors on your site is 60 seconds. This, let us say, is on par with the score for the previous year. What does it tell you? That your site is not slipping up on its performance, popularity and buzz value. Are you sure?
Scenario 2: You have segmented the data from your Analytics. And this is what it shows (additionally):
- Average time on site (all visitors): 60 seconds
- Visitors from social media: 35 seconds
- From Search Engines: 38 seconds
- Not from search engines: 75 seconds.
Now, you have real insight. You know the social media and search engine traffic are not staying very long and likely to be unqualified traffic. You also know where to focus your efforts so that you are able, empowered and competent to act on this insight. Proof enough that you should not bet all your cards on averages.
When you take the averages route in Analytics, you will get true lies”. In some cases, it may not have a strong bearing on your decision making arising out of such analysis. But in quite a few instances, it will give you perilously the wrong outcome.
Another example. Analytics tells you that 60% of your website’s visitors remain for 0-10 seconds. But wait. Nearly 40% of your visitors stay for 3-10 minutes!
Your averages tell you that your site is in ICU. Dig deeper and you will see that your site is actually far from sick with a small directed, focused dose of insight from Analytics. Find out why 40% of your visitors are interested, why a significant percentage of them are loyal, and how you can invest and leverage it to convert the remaining disinterested 60% of your visitors, so that you can add significant, tangible value to your site.
To leverage Analytics to the maximum one must avoid the dangers of averaging.
Setting up a profile or, better yet, profiles in Google Analytics can turn off minds that are not comfortable with figures, screenshots, and technical options. Yet, Google has made profiling one of the best features available in Analytics. It’s like an unknown secret yet very informative if used to your advantage.
To clarify, a profile allows you to:
1. Track a single web property (or specific pages from an existing web property)
2. Track multiple independent web properties (www.domain1.com and domain2.com) owned by an individual or organization
3. Determine which data from your site appears in the reports.
But why would I want to set up another profile, you ask? Here are just some of the benefits of profiling:
- Improve and control the flow of information about your website
- Manage multiple web properties
- Segment your visitors
- Set up reporting access for a variety of users
- Create custom reporting
- Reveal trends
- Track various, specific outcomes with goals
- Obtain information on internal search habits
- Establish a back up for your main profile
Below is great overview provided by Google of how profiles can work with a personal Analytics account and a company account (ex. googleanalytics.com) shared with co-workers.
Adding a profile is the easy part. The more challenging task is configuring your profile so that it is pulling in the appropriate data. There are a variety of options to make your account run more efficiently so make sure you do the following:
- Specify the Default Page option
- Apply AdWords cost data
- Consider adding the Site Search option
- Set up at least one goal
- Filter your results to set up different properties that will affect your reports
- Add other users whom you want to have access to this profile only
Here’s a few other important notes to keep in mind…
- When setting up an Analytics account, it is a best practice to make the first profile for a property the “master” profile. A master profile should have no filters so that it contains ALL historical data since tracking began. Once this is set up then leave this profile alone!
- Make a back up of the master profile. This should be common sense with no further explanation needed. Especially since it is very easy to accidentally hit the “delete” link by mistake. And once a profile is deleted, the profile data cannot be recovered.
- When you set up a new profile, tracking begins as soon as the tracking code is installed on the website and a visitor’s browser loads a page.
- When you add an additional profile from an existing website with its own profile, then the additional profile will not contain the historical data that you see in the first profile.
Setting up profiles rewards your effort with great customer insight. You can then leverage that insight to your advantage by developing better content or redesigning your page flow. The end result will help you market your product/service to your prospect-turned customer.
So, in the end, for all the negativity that profiling in the “real world” receives, this is one area of your life where profiling actually does some good.