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Multiple Domains in Google Analytics

By default, Google Analytics creates a unique set of cookies for every domain.

****UPDATE: this article only applies to ga.js implementations

Google Analytics + Angelfish = Data Privacy

It's no surprise that Google Analytics is used by a staggering number of websites around the world. Google Analytics has lots of advanced reports, looks great, and it's free. But for all the features Google Analytics has, it doesn't give a complete snapshot of website activity.

There are a few reasons for this:

Urchin Software Discontinued!

In January of 2012, Google announced development of Urchin Software would be discontinued. We at Actual Metrics were disappointed to hear the news, although we can't say we were overly surprised. Google's focus on Urchin dwindled in 2011, coinciding with the launch of a paid version of Google Analytics.

Google TV and Web Analytics

This list might be disconcerting for web analysts. Google TV—and other emerging technologies—will turn web analytics on its ear.

Google TV is coming to consumers fall of 2010. Google announced a partnership with Intel, Sony and Logitech to essentially turn any HDTV into a dedicated media PC. Google released notes for developers who want to design sites that are TV-friendly. This all made me realize that Google TV will have a major impact on web analytics by redefining how we think about user behavior.

Here is a non-comprehensive list of ways Google TV may change the web analytics landscape.

Google's Secure Search Obscures Google Analytics Reports

Today Google announced a secure search page using SSL to encrypt data being sent back and forth during a search. This prevents other people from seeing what you are searching for on Google, although it doesn't change anything about what information Google stores.

One startling implication of this new technology is what it does to Google Analytics reports. In short, searches done from the secure search page will be tracked as direct visits (instead of google searches) in Google Analytics — and every other web analytics software. Even the keyword data is lost.

Google Analytics and Social Media Tracking

Many business are tapping into the value of social media. It operates unlike any other type of online marketing, and the rules are constantly shifting. With this shift in focus, web analytics vendors have started to announce partnerships or tools to integrate social media tracking into their product.

Companies using web analytics have to decide how they will track and measure their social media efforts alongside their online marketing and website traffic. How can social media be tracked in Google Analytics? How can a company compare their social media against their banner ads and cpc?

The short answer is, they shouldn't.

There are (at least) three reasons social media can't be tracked accurately in web analytics tools. Some kind of integration isn't intrinsically bad, but making web analytics software a one-stop source for measuring everything online is a mistake.

What iPads and Tablets Mean for Web Analytics

Things just got a lot more complicated

Web analytics software companies are still touting their (recent) ability to segment mobile traffic in reports. This is important primarily because people using mobile devices interact with sites differently than people using more conventional machines.

With iPads and competing tablets entering the scene, the terrain becomes a bit more complex. It raises important new questions for the web analytics industry and companies who rely on it.

Google Analytics Application Gallery

Google announced the introduction of an application gallery with tools for Google Analytics. We are proud that their list of tools includes two of our own: LinkTagger and Mobile GA.

We encourage users to leave comments and reviews for these tools.

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.