Articles written in September, 2010

September 20 2010

My thoughts on the Web Analytics industry

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A bunch of cross-country travel the last few weeks has provided me with a rare and unique opportunity: peace and quiet! For most fliers, the thunderous sound of a 737’s twin turbine engines are intolerable at best. For the price of $6 on Continental Airlines’ in-flight DIRECTV service, I can tune out everything and everyone and relax for a few hours. Add in a comfy neck-pillow and the fact that I’m barely 5 foot, 5 inches tall, which means no issues with leg room, and it’s heaven at 35,000 feet!

During all of this flight time and fresh off of attending our yearly Google Analytics Certified Partner conference at Google HQ in Mountain View, California, I’ve been thinking about where our beloved Web Analytics industry is, where it has come and where it is going to go in the not-so-distant future. What do you think about my thoughts?

1. We’re here to stay!
Web Analytics and the concept of a data-driven culture isn’t going anywhere – we are going to be around for quite some time. In fact, Web Analytics is going to start to drive the business decision-making process – it already has been doing just that at a number of organizations. Your organization / business should be next to adopt the idea of using data and analytics to drive your decision-making process, if your organization / business hasn’t done so already. Why should you continue to make hypothetical guesses about your website or marketing strategy when you can make educated, data-driven decisions?

2. Competition is great for everyone!
You’ve read about and probably also heard about the major acquisitions that have taken place in the analytics vertical over the last 12 months: Adobe acquiring Omniture, IBM acquiring both Coremetrics and Unica, comScore acquiring Nedstat, as well as other acquisitions and mergers that have shaped our current state of affairs. Eric Peterson, John Lovett, and other influential minds have already shared their thoughts and opinions about all of these moves on their blogs and websites, so I’ll save you about 5,000 words and simply tell you that these moves create competition. Competition always benefits the end consumer (all of us!), because the vendors will have no choice but to release new products, features, upgrades, bug fixes, and just about anything they can think of in attempts to satisfy all of our hungry appetites. Some things will be awesome, other things…not so much. It will be very interesting to see how the rest of 2010 and 2011 plays out, and what exact features and benefits we will all receive.

3. Dear WebTrends…
…you are the last remaining stand-alone “big fish” in the Web Analytics industry, and everyone is wondering when you’ll be gobbled up by some big company with deep pockets (like, Microsoft). I’d actually like for you to remain “independent”, because I think that will afford you the freedom to continue to develop your product as you want to, but I fear that it may not be possible in our current economy. Of course, I am not privy to your business model or your financial statements, so this is all pure and unrefined speculation on my behalf. My head is still spinning with acquisitions and mergers, but just from a “cool” standpoint, please remain un-acquired if at all possible.

4. One tool = one dimensional
One of the biggest issues facing our industry today are tool and vendor selection. Do you wonder why you can’t get the answer to some questions that seem very simple on the surface because you’re only using, say, Google Analytics? As great as Google Analytics is (and we love it – we’re a Google Analytics Certified Partner and everything), it can’t balance your checkbook, iron your clothes, or serve you coffee & donuts in the morning. It also can’t log-in to your mail server, your Microsoft AdCenter account or your Facebook page and retrieve data for you. Google – and this goes for any Web Analytics platform – can’t answer every question or help solve every problem. Once you understand this and you’re able to combine the power of multiple sources, you’ll advance your understanding of your audience and marketing efforts, allowing you to optimize them better than your competition.

What do you think about where the Web Analytics industry is right now? What are some of your thoughts? Drop us a line and let us know!

September 1 2010

Introducing Weighted Sort in Google Analytics

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Today on the Analytics & Site Intelligence blog, I’d like to introduce a brand new feature that may change the way you think about your report data.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever sorted by the Bounce Rate column within your Google Analytics account, only to be disappointed with the sheer number of single visit bounce rates at 100%! I know I have. Additionally, have you ever re-sorted that Bounce Rate column (clicked on the column heading a second time) and saw single visit bounce rates at 0%? How useful was that information?

Last week, the Google Analytics team introduced Weighted Sort, which applies statistical significance to column sorting. Now, when you sort your report table by Bounce Rate (or, any other computed metric, like Goal Conversion rate, Ecommerce Conversion Rate, or %New Visits), you will see a new check box that will appear above the data columns labeled Weighted Sort. When this check box is clicked, your data will no longer be sorted by Bounce Rate (or your computed metric of choice) – your data will now be sorted by its rank, or, its weight (hence the name!)

Let me show you what I mean, visually. First, the image directly below this sentence shows you a cross-section of the All Traffic Sources report, within the Traffic Sources section in Google Analytics. Notice that – by default – the report is sorted in descending order by Visits (symbolized by the downward-pointing arrow):

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Instead of viewing my All Traffic Sources report sorted by visits, I want to view the report sorted by Bounce Rate. So in this second image, I have clicked on the Bounce Rate column heading:

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As expected, I am seeing 100% Bounce Rate traffic sources with a few visits listed for each – which traditionally has not been very helpful. However, with the new Weighted Sort check box (as shown at the top of the image above), I can tell Google Analytics to disregard the traditional sorting method and apply statistical significance to give me a better read out of how my traffic sources are performing. Now, in the next image, check out the results:

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Even though some traffic sources with higher bounce rates are listed higher up within the report table now than other traffic sources, Google Analytics takes the volume of traffic (visits) into consideration with Weighted Sort. You’ll need to force yourself into the habit of looking at the far left of the report table, where the rows are numbered, to know where each item on your report ranks when you use weighted sort. Look at the very left of this last image and you’ll see each row numbered from 1 to however many rows of data your report contains:

weighted-04

Even though I used the All Traffic Sources report as my example for this blog post, you can use virtually any report in Google Analytics and enable Weighted Sort on it (for example, the Keywords report). Weighted Sort should give you a much better perspective as to how your data ranks from a statistical standpoint than the previous column sorting / ranking method that Google Analytics traditionally used.

Google Analytics’ new Weighted Sort feature should help take even more guesswork out of your day-to-day analysis equation – who doesn’t want that?

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