Articles written in October, 2009

October 20 2009

New Google Analytics Features: Powerful. Flexible. Intelligent.

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Earlier today at eMetrics in Washington, D.C., the Google Analytics team announced some awesome new features that will provide greater reporting capabilities, more flexible customization options, and add an element of insightful intelligence to your report data. How exciting!

Let’s review the newest features of the Google Analytics Product that were announced today as “Powerful. Flexible. Intelligent.”:

1. Expanded Goals – Expanded Goals now allow administrators the ability to add up to 20 Goals per profile, a 500% increase on the previous number of four goals per profile!

2. Site Engagement Goals – Site Engagement Goals now allow you to more robustly measure user-engagement and branding efforts off of your web site. Instead of only being able to define URLs as goals, you can now define the time on site or the number of page views as a goal in Google Analytics.

3. Expanded Mobile Tracking – Google Analytics will now have the ability to track mobile applications built for the iPhone and for the Android platforms. Mobile site owners will be able to install specified tracking code on their mobile site, which will allow them to analyze what actions are taken with a mobile application and what features are used.

4. Advanced Table Filtering – This will be enabled in all standard Google Analytics report tables and will allow users to filter rows based on metric conditions and combinations, just like a user can when creating an Advanced Segment.

5. Unique Visitors – This is a new metric in Google Analytics that will be available when creating a Custom Report. This makes it possible to see how many actual visitors make up any user-defined segment in a Custom Report.

6. Multiple Custom Variables – This is a highly flexible feature that allows multiple labels to be assigned to each unique visitor. In the past, users could only specify one label via a user-defined segment using the _setVar JavaScript function. Now, users will have the ability to create multiple variables for one unique visitor. These multiple custom variables can now be collected at the page, session, and visitor-level concurrently.

7. Advanced Segment and Custom Report Sharing – Even though this was already announced, this option allows users to share Custom Reports and Advanced Segments with each other via a permanent URL that can be forwarded or emailed to another user.

8. Intelligence Reports – Intelligence Reports will be part of a brand new report section which will feature pre-defined alerts for your Google Analytics account data. This is designed to alert a Google Analytics user to a significant change in data patterns over daily, weekly and monthly periods. This is just a part of the initial release of an algorithmic driven intelligence engine.

9. Custom Alerts – Need to set-up your own alerts with your own parameters? Now you can do just that within the Intelligence Report section of Google Analytics. Define your own set of rules and make your own determinations as to what is significant for your and your web site, and even let Google Analytics email you when an alert happens!

These features are very exciting, but they are only the beginning of greater things to come in 2010. These features are also being pushed out to users over the next few weeks, so check your Google Analytics account frequently (which you do already) and be the first person on your block to use them!

October 2 2009

Tracking Sub-Domains and Multiple Domains with Google Analytics

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There really isn’t anything better in the world than a properly configured Google Analytics tagging implementation. Well, actually, there are lots of things that are better, like Double Chocolate Chip ice cream and a live rock concert! But at this exact moment, no, there isn’t anything better than the comfort of knowing that your online presence – regardless of how many sub-domains or multiple domains it spans – is tagged perfectly and the cleanest possible data is being funneled into your Google Analytics account.

This is an important topic because there are lots of online storefronts, blogs, microsites, and other web site sections that are hosted on a sub-domain or a completely separate domain that are often forgotten about when it comes time for installing Google Analytics. When tagging isn’t present on a portion of your web site, not only does your bounce rate increase, you also start collecting “dirty data”, including self-referrals in your Traffic Sources section, along with a high than normal amount of direct traffic.

So, how do you implement Google Analytics across sub-domains or across multiple domains? It’s actually quite simple to do, as long as you follow the exact instructions outlined below. Let’s start first with the easy one, sub-domains. We’ll then work our way into the more complex one, multiple domains.

Tracking Google Analytics Across Sub-Domains
Let’s say that your web site’s URL is www.site.com. Let’s also say that your site’s blog is hosted on blog.site.com. Because of the way that the Google Analytics Tracking Code works, installing the code as is from your Google Analytics account will produce a lot of referrals from www.site.com or blog.site.com in your All Traffic Sources report. This means that the visitor’s original referring information (Google, Yahoo, Bing.com, etc…) will be lost if the visitor goes from your main site to your sub-domain site, or vice-versa.

To avoid this headache, simply update your Google Analytics Tracking Code to include the call to _setDomainName, as shown in bold below:

<script type=”text/javascript”>
var gaJsHost = ((“https:” == document.location.protocol) ? “https://ssl.” : “http://www.”);
document.write(unescape(“%3Cscript src='” + gaJsHost + “google-analytics.com/ga.js’ type=’text/javascript’%3E%3C/script%3E”));
</script>
<script type=”text/javascript”>
try {
var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“UA-XXXXXX-X”);
pageTracker._setDomainName(“.site.com”);
pageTracker._trackPageview();
} catch(err) {}</script>

This modified version of the Google Analytics Tracking Code will need to be installed on both your main site and the sub-domain site. If you have multiple sub-domain sites, then all of those will also need to have this exact modified version as well. Finally, be sure to change “site.com” within the Tracking Code to your site’s domain.

This is relatively easy for you or your webmaster to do.

Tracking Google Analytics Across Multiple Domains
Setting up Google Analytics Tracking Code on multiple domains is a bit tougher than setting GA up on sub-domains, but it’s definitely doable. The following instructions are what you’ll need to follow if you have multiple domains, for example, www.site.com and www.somethingelse.com.

There are a couple of different ways that you can pull this off in documentation online. However, this is our preferred way. First, you’ll need to use calls to _setAllowLinker and _setAllowHash in your Google Analytics Tracking Code on each multiple domain site, like the bolded calls below:

<script type=”text/javascript”>
var gaJsHost = ((“https:” == document.location.protocol) ? “https://ssl.” : “http://www.”);
document.write(unescape(“%3Cscript src='” + gaJsHost + “google-analytics.com/ga.js’ type=’text/javascript’%3E%3C/script%3E”));
</script>
<script type=”text/javascript”>
try {
var pageTracker = _gat._getTracker(“UA-XXXXXX-X”);
pageTracker._setAllowLinker(“true”);
pageTracker._setAllowHash(false);

pageTracker._trackPageview();
} catch(err) {}</script>

This is normally done without too much of a problem. The problems come about with this next item, which absolutely must be installed in order for multiple domain tracking to function. On every link to and from each domain, _link must be used, and on every form that takes a user to and from each domain, _linkByPost must be used.

For text links or image links, use _link as a JavaScript onClick event:

onclick=”pageTracker._link(‘http://www.site.com/page.html’); return false;”

You’ll need to update “http://www.site.com/page.html” in the above _link function with the full path that a visitor will be taken to on your own web site.

For submit buttons or “add to cart” buttons, use _linkByPost as a JavaScript onSubmit event:

onsubmit=”pageTracker._linkByPost(this)”

It bears repeating that either _link or _linkByPost MUST be used on links to and from each domain. A user may click on a text link that uses _link going from one domain to the next and not affect their tracking, but if they click on a link on the next domain that takes the same user back to the original domain, _link must be present on that link as well, or referring information gets lost and self-referrals start to occur in your Traffic Sources report.

Work closely with your webmaster or IT guru to make sure that _link and _linkByPost are used on every link or form on every domain. It may be tedious, but it’s critical for proper cross-domain tracking with Google Analytics.

We hope that helps you tag your sub-domains and multiple domains properly with Google Analytics. It’s a bit of extra work, but data that is as squeaky clean as possible is a fantastic reward for your efforts!

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