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Understanding Site Visitors with Google Analytics

What do all these people really want from you?

Understanding who your site visitors are is one of the most critical steps in optimizing your online presence. Google Analytics can help you to understand who your visitors are and what their expectations are. Yet, too often, companies focus exclusively on marketing or overall site performance, without taking the time to understand the types of people they are trying to interact with.

This article will not only challenge you to dig deeper into oft-ignored reports for insights, but it will also point you to some other tools to analyze the data.

Advanced Segments in Google Analytics

Advanced Segmentation is arguably the most powerful feature ever introduced to Google Analytics. It allows you to specify a set of criteria and view almost every standard report for just the visits that meet that definition without needing to reprocess data or wait for more data to fill in. New applications for Advanced Segments are still found everyday.

For example, use Advanced Segments to analyze every aspect of the visits that interacted with your gift module before noon but didn't complete a purchase. Create multiple segments and compare them against each other in the same report.

In short, Google Analytics now has a powerful ad hoc reporting mechanism.

Increase Website Conversion with Google Analytics

Google Analytics can tell you what's wrong with your site.

Google Analytics is a powerful tool for improving online conversions. It helps to answer two fundamental questions:

  1. How is my website performing?
  2. How is my marketing performing?

Understanding what is actually happening and why is critical. This article focuses on getting a comprehensive view of how your website is performing and what to change to increase conversions once visitors get to your site.

Using Google Analytics with Google Website Optimizer

Google Website Optimizer is great. It's a powerful tool for determining what kinds of changes to make to your site. Statistics-based recommendations are an analyst's dream.

The only drawback with GWO is that it's a binary measurement: did the visitor convert or not? Granted, you have some flexibility in defining what that "conversion" is, but it's still not a holistic view of what's really happening. You also have to predefine any measurements that an experiment may impact, and that's simply not possible in every scenario.

The solution to this is to use Google Analytics in conjunction with GWO.

Analyzing Keywords with Advanced Segments: How to understand the long-tail

Analyzing the keywords reports in Google Analytics can tell us a lot about the site and the visitors. We can see which sections of the site are most visible to search engines, and we can get a feel for what visitors are expecting when they come to the site.

The problem with keywords reports, though, is that they are so exhaustive. They include every single keyword that brought at least one visit. Every variation of misspelling of a phrase shows up as a separate keyword, even though it returns the same results. When you get into keywords that only brought one visit, it's difficult to discern what is meaningful and what is a statistical anomaly. The bounce rates, time on site and other statistics aren't very helpful at a micro level, because we can't usually extrapolate what to do at a macro level based on a single visit.

Editing Transactions - Refunds, Returns, Cancellations

One of the most valuable things in Google Analytics is the ability to tie an actual transaction value to campaigns and other activities. Unfortunately, Google Analytics doesn't take into account refunds, returns or cancellations. If there are enough of these, you may find that your ecommerce reports don't line up with reality.

The good news is there is a clean way of editing transactions after they have been reported in Google Analytics. It requires some custom coding, but it will bring your reports closer to reality.

Using Multiple Custom Variables in Google Analytics

Multiple custom variables are a new feature in Google Analytics. Used wisely, they can answer a plethora (yes, a plethora!) of questions that you could never get at before.

We've made a short list of use cases for custom variables. Some of them only apply to certain kinds of websites. The idea, though, is to give you ideas and spur your imagination. Your site already interacts with your visitors in intelligent ways. Use custom variables to bring some of that intelligence into your reporting.

Google Analytics Intelligence Reports

Analytics Intelligence for Google Analytics represents a step away from passive reports toward meaningful analysis.

Spotting undercurrents and long-tail trends has never been very easy with Google Analytics. You usually had to know what you were looking for. And if a negative trend was developing, it could sometimes take days or weeks before you spotted it.

Google recently announced a new feature that goes a long way toward solving this and should change the way you use Google Analytics. Analytics Intelligence automatically scans your reports and alerts you to any unusual trends in your traffic patterns.

New Annotations in Google Analytics

Annotations eliminate the need to write notes on your screen with markers.

The ability to create notes in Google Analytics reports has been a long-standing request from GA users. Google recently delivered by introducing Annotations to all GA accounts. This gives users the ability to make and share a record of any events that may impact the reports.

Tracking Emails in Google Analytics


Know which emails are working and which links are most effective.

Whether you send out marketing emails or occasional newsletters, you can use Google Analytics to track the effectiveness of your emails. You can also use it to determine how to format your emails and what types of information to include.

New Multiple Custom Variables in Google Analytics

Amid all the other information you can gather about a visitor and his visit, the ability to add dimensions unique to your site makes the reports more actionable.

Having a single user-defined variable in Google Analytics has long been a sore point for users. Google recently announced the rollout of multiple custom variables to every account. This addition can dramatically change the kind of analysis users can do with Google Analytics.

Multiple custom variables can be scoped to a visitor (as has always been the case) or just to a visit or even a page. They are very flexible and can be adapted to almost any scenario.

Mobile GA for Android Updated and Improved

Today v1.5 of Mobile GA was released. It includes more robust reporting features for Android phones and compatibility with the most recent Android updates.

Mobile GA continues to use the Google Analytics export API to securely access user's reports. It is a fast platform for checking the most important reports on the go.

New Google Analytics Features

At the E-Metrics Summit today, Google announced several advanced additions to Google Analytics. These additions bring Google Analytics more firmly into enterprise territory, and they will make deeper analysis and segmentation easier. They reflect an ongoing commitment at Google to keep Google Analytics abreast with changing needs in the industry.

Most of these additions will be rolled out to all accounts starting this week. You may find that they are already activated in your account. A few of them will roll out more gradually over the course of a few months.

Why is (other) Showing Up in My Reports?

Database Row Limits

Google Analytics uses database tables to store all the information it gathers for reports. Each table has a row limit. At last count, the limit was 50,000 rows. This means that each table can hold up to 50,000 unique entries.

This is how it works

  1. A URL is visited and data for the pageview is received (eg. which URL was viewed, how long was spent on the page, etc.)

Getting Around Google Analytics

Go from a Google Analytics hobbyist to an analyst in ten minutes with these tools.

The Google Analytics interface provides access to a number of tools that users often overlook. The interface is unobtrusive enough that sometimes users aren't even aware that they exist. These tools allow you to display reports differently. Using these tools will help you find trends and correlations in your data that aren't always visible at a quick glance. Mastering them makes a big difference between meaningfully analyzing your reports and just looking at numbers.